With one week left before the L.A. City
Redistricting Commission must approve and send a
final set of maps with the new City Council districts
on to the governing body of the municipality, the
proposals were still a work-in-progress Wednesday,
when commissioners met.
That is true for two of the council districts most
affiliated with the African American community.
In Council District 9, the new maps released this
weekend were a bittersweet victory for some in the
community. The commissioners put the community
of Watts back in Council District 15, and longtime
Watts activist Tim Watkins said he had very mixed
emotions about the “victory.”
“We originally wanted to be in Council District 9.
That was what I was advocating for, to be in CD 9.
And the reason was that with downtown as our
neighbor on the other end of the district, we would
have a powerful opportunity to launch an enterprise
that would take advantage of this strip of city. We
want to see cultural tourism take place between
Imperial Highway and First Street. . . . “We are fighting
to make (all of Watts) a destination rather than
just the Watts Towers.”
But when he saw the commission remove most of
downtown from the district and add a number of
housing projects, Watkins said he had a change of
heart and advocated for leaving Watts in Council
District 15 rather than being in an area that would
become the poorest in the city.
The WLCAC leader says cultural tourism is the
homegrown solution to beginning to definitively
attack the poverty that has dogged Watts for decades.
He says the infrastructure is in place to ramp up a
cultural tourism program that would include Watts
residents creating businesses where they made and
sold their own mugs, silk-screened items, blownglass
creations and other handcrafted sellables. There
is also a state-certified transportation hub with 17
buses that could serve as the foundation of a tour
In addition to the removal of Watts from the 9th
District, the commission included USC in the district,
and while the university is an important
resource it is a nonprofit that does not add tax increments
needed to help fuel economic growth.
A district spokesperson also noted that the L.A.
Live Sports and Entertainment Specific Plan area has
been sliced in half and put into two districts as has
the fashion district and Alameda Corridor.
In addition to the loss of the economic development
elements, the district also lost population.
The 8th District has lost the Coliseum, USC, all of
Expo Park and Leimert Park, Baldwin Hills, Baldwin
Village, Baldwin Vista and Village Green but retained
just a tiny portion of Westchester. The removal of
Leimert Park means the loss of revenue from the economic
development happening on and around
Crenshaw Boulevard, such as the $40-million renovation
the mall is undergoing, as well as the Vision
Theatre and Marlton Square restoration. And the
removal of the some of the upscale residential neighborhoods
means fewer property tax dollars.
Current 8th District Councilman Bernard Parks
has been fighting the stripping of the district, and has
indicated that if some key changes are not made, he
might consider legal action.
The next step in the process is that the redistricting
commission will vote Feb. 29 on the tweaking
and readjusting done Wednesday, and then send the
final maps to the L.A. City Council for approval. The
proposals are supposed to go to the Rules and
Election Committee, chaired by Herb Wesson, who
will make the decision on whether the committee
will discuss the maps or whether they will go to the
full council for debate.
The council must approve the maps by July 1.