Long Beach Independent Redistricting Commissioners discuss initial map-drawing directions that the city's consultant, Redistricting Partners, will try to incorporate into maps expected to be made public at its Oct. 20 meeting. Photo by Jason Ruiz

Long Beach Independent Redistricting Commissioners gave their initial instructions to map drawers Wednesday night for what they’d like to see reflected in preliminary maps that are expected to be presented to the commission at its Oct. 20 meeting.

The 13-member commission is charged with redrawing the city’s council district lines that will dictate who can run for which City Council office, and who can vote for them, for the next 10 years.

However, a late release of Census data has forced the commission into a condensed timeline to approve a final map. The commission has until Dec. 7 to approve a map but the current schedule could see it approve one by Nov. 17.

Early suggestions from commissioners included trying to consolidate all of the area west of the 710 Freeway into one district. The area is currently split among the city’s 1st and 7th City Council districts but maps returned to the commission could see it consolidated into one area that could include the Wrigley neighborhood.

There was also support to put the California Heights, Bixby Knolls and Los Cerritos neighborhoods into one district. Those are currently split between the 7th and 8th districts.

Commissioners nearly unanimously asked for the maps to be drawn so that more than one district touches the airport—the airport is currently located entirely in the 5th City Council District—after months of public testimony from residents that their voices are excluded from airport decisions because the boundary of their home districts doesn’t touch it.

The Whale’s Tail, a relic of the city’s gerrymandering past, that was drawn to include parts of El Dorado Park into the city’s 4th District appears to on its way out after nearly all commissioners said it should go away.

“Get rid of that,” said Commissioner Thomas Cooper. “For whatever reason that was put in, that’s just plain stupid.”

An illustration showing how district lines have shifted in Long Beach over the decades. Illustration by Dennis Dean.

Commissioners also requested to have the maps drawn so that parts of Cal State Long Beach were added to the city’s 4th District and to have certain ethnic minorities like Black and Cambodian populations kept in one district to the extent possible so their political voices are not diluted.

The city’s charter lists a number of criteria the commission must follow when drawing maps and not breaking up existing neighborhoods is one of them but Paul Mitchell, owner of the city’s consultant, Redistricting Partners, said those populations would be given special consideration.

“A community like that, even though it’s not in the existing neighborhood structure, one of those plans will put a higher priority on unifying them instead of keeping together existing neighborhoods,” Mitchell said.

It’s unclear if all of the commissioner’s requests can be squeezed into one map. Uneven population shifts in the city over the past decade will require restructuring all of the districts west of Signal Hill while those in East Long Beach saw relatively static population shifts.

The maps presented to the commission at the Oct. 20 meeting will be whittled down to a handful of draft plans.

There will be several maps presented to the commission on Oct. 20 but only three can be advanced to the next stage of the process. Those three maps will be circulated publicly for a week before a scheduled community feedback hearing on Oct. 27, which is reserved exclusively for public comment on the maps.

At the Nov. 10 meeting the commission will try to select a single map as the final proposed map. That will require a supermajority of the commission’s (9 of 13 votes) support before it would advance to a final map hearing on November 17.

The Nov. 17 meeting is scheduled to be a straight vote on the single plant that advanced but if the commission can’t approve the plan with a supermajority vote they would have to propose a new final map and pause again for a week to allow the public to review the map before taking a final vote again.

While the city charter allows the commission six months from when it received Census data to complete maps, Los Angeles County election officials have set a December deadline for final maps to be submitted for consideration for the June 2022 election.

The city has identified Dec. 7 as the last possible day the commissions could approve a final map and still turn it in to the county on time to be used in the 2022 primary election. Deputy City Manager Kevin Jackson said the city was considering adding more dates to allow more time for public feedback but added that the commission was likely stuck with the proposed schedule.

“There’s not a lot of room, or hardly any room to add additional dates,” Jackson said.

[Editors note: A previous version of this story said the commission has 12 members, it has 13 members. The story has been updated.]

A whale of a tail: How one of the most gerrymandered parts of Long Beach came to be

Census data is out; here’s what it means and what happens next


Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @JasonRuiz_LB on Twitter.