About 125 community leaders and activists from the San Fernando Valley attended a meeting Tuesday night to discuss their concerns about revamping City Council Districts 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 12.
It was the ninth of 15 community meetings in the first round of public hearings for the Los Angeles City Council Redistricting Commission and the resounding message was: “Keep our neighborhoods in one district.”
The public comment kicked off with two city council members. Tony Cardenas, who represents District 6, which includes where the meeting was being held at the Van Nuys City Hall, pointed out that Van Nuys was once split up between seven districts.
“It is important to listen to the people as part of this process,” Cardenas said.
Paul Krekorian of District 2 said, “I have the most awkward, gerrymandered district in the city, but I love it. They elected me twice.”
“I have 11 neighborhood councils in my district and only two are entirely within my district," Krekorian said. "The other nine are shared with other districts.”
Pointing to people in the audience, he said, “Some of the most active community leaders are here from the most active parts of the city. Take very seriously the public comments that you will be hearing.”
Some people in the audience, such as Juan Salas, only just heard about the meeting. He said he found out about the meeting just two hours before it started, and he ran over to urge the commission to keep his District 6 intact.
“I am a simple man, and politicians, they make things real hard for regular people to understand,” Salas said. “My district runs from Northridge to Sun Valley across the whole Valley. Keep Council District 6 in the heart of the Valley.”
Other people in the audience, such as Barry Johnson, came well-prepared with posters and maps drawn to show how to keep Studio City in one district. “Then, I went on to do all 15 districts," Johnson said. "It was very user-friendly.”
Johnson practically did all the work for the commission. His maps (all available for view at www.redrawla.org) addressed all the concerns brought up in the two hours of comments and kept most of the neighborhood councils intact. Now, 60 of the 93 neighborhood councils are split up between districts, and under his re-mapping, only 10 are divided.
Studio City Neighborhood Council Vice President Lisa Sarkin, who has been on the council since 2007 and chairs the land use committee said, “Studio City is divided up into three council districts and I have to talk to six different people to get anything done.”
Alan and Beth Dymond of the Studio City Residents Association spoke. Alan said, “I have lived here for 25 years and I do not want to see it carved up. It does not make sense.”
Laurie Cohn, director of Save L.A. River Open Space and a Studio City resident, said it makes no sense to share a district with the Westside or Hollywood. “We do not have the same interests as over the hill,” she said.
Studio City Neighborhood Council members Lana Shackelford, who lived in the area for 15 years, and Richard Niederberg, who lived in the area 58 years, also spoke to keep the area intact.
“We are part of a barbell-shaped district, and although I have worked and enjoy the company of my friends in the Sunland-Tujunga area, we are not the same community, nor have the same concerns.”
Likewise, Cindy Cleghorn, of the Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council, said, “We do not have anything in common with community to the west, to Pacoima. We are not a freeway off-ramp community.”
Nina Royal of the Sunland-Tujunga Council added, “We have nothing in common with Sylmar or Pacoima. They are urban and we are rural.”
Jeff Woodruff, of the Foothill Trails Neighborhood Council who presented his own maps, put it more bluntly: “I’m not used to sidewalks. We need to stay in a district with common interests—areas along the rim of the San Fernando Valley with low density.”
Steve Leffert of the Lake Balboa Neighborhood Council pointed out that the actual lake that his community is named after is in a different district than the community. “It does not make sense,” he said. “I would like to have that section of Council District 12 lopped off to make more compactness for us.”
Mike O’Gara of the Sun Valley Neighborhood Council said the East Valley rural communities should remain together rather than split between Districts 2 and 6 as they are now. And Gary Aggas of that council said, “We are horse people, and it is the equestrian community that binds us. We share the same roads, we share the same concerns of the increasing numbers of homeless, and yet we are in two council districts."
Imelda Padillo from the Sun Valley Neighborhood Council offered a plea from students aged 14 to 21 that she works with, asking that their school communities not be divided into two districts.
“It’s only in the Valley where there are such drastic splits dividing our community,” said Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association President Robert Anderson. He said he is concerned that the Sherman Oaks section of Ventura Boulevard is split between two districts and should be in one single area because of the Ventura Boulevard Corridor Specific Plan. “We can support six districts in the San Fernando Valley.”
Stuart Waldman, of the Valley Industry Commerce Association, pointed out that Districts 4 and 5 are not elected by a majority of Valley residents and if you have to share a district with an area over the hill, it should be one shared district, not two.
“No district should be shared with people over the hill in the Westside, it’s a whole other planet,” said Cherie Mann of the Greater Granada Hills Neighborhood Council. “It’s a horrible drive over the hill. You need to be logical, you need to follow natural boundaries.”
One couple from Encino said they didn’t want to share a district with Westsiders, and a man took a bus in from Hollywood to try to figure out why his district includes parts of the Valley.
A Northridge woman, through a translator, talked about crime in her area, and Dennis Kilbourn of Panorama City said the business community of his town was divided into two districts and that did not seem logical.
Arleta Neighborhood Council President Sergio Ibarra said he disagreed with some of the other speakers about differences in their communities, but he did agree that communities should stay within the same district. “Arleta once had Japanese farmers, so we have a Japanese community, and we also have a significant Filipino community, so keep Arleta together.”
Ginny Hatfield detailed the Valley Village community where she serves as vice president of the neighborhood council. “It looks a little like Iowa, which is significant since they’re holding their primaries today.” She added that the new Congressional boundaries cut one-third of Valley Village off into a new district and added, “We are a small but cohesive community and would like to keep together.”
Arturo Vargas leader of the Redistricting Commission, said there are more meetings scheduled. (Go to www.redistricting2011.lacity.org for the full schedule.)
“We encourage all of you to present maps of what you would like to see,” Vargas said. Map software training sessions are planned for Jan. 7 to 13.
It is soliciting ideas through a first round of public hearings and then will have a second round after reviewing maps. The commission must present a plan to the City Council by March, and then the council must make a decision by July 1.