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

guide service.

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.