Measure S passes, solidifying student majority district


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Measure S passed early Wednesday morning with 64.16 percent of votes in favor, reinforcing the boundaries of a majority student-aged district that spans much of the Southside area.

The passage of Measure S establishes an ultraconcentrated student majority in District 7 with the aim of giving students a stronger voice on Berkeley City Council. The district now covers three major student residence halls and most Greek houses in the Southside area.

Representatives of the Berkeley Student District Campaign, the organization that drafted the new map, now have a final decision after a year of political and legal negotiations with opponents. The ASUC’s former external affairs vice president Safeena Mecklai oversaw the drafting of the BSDC map during her time on student government.

“I have been the constant optimist since we started this whole redistricting thing,” she said before votes were counted. “When we started the redistricting process, not one person thought it was possible, but we made it happen.”

The BSDC district lines encompass a population of 86 percent student-aged residents but came under fire for excluding Northside cooperative houses, which some consider to be more progressive. The BSDC map eliminates from the student district the voices of half of the co-op students, according to Zury Cendejas, vice president of external affairs at Berkeley Student Cooperative.

City Council originally considered seven maps, including the United Student District Amendment’s proposed lines that included the co-ops, but ultimately voted 6-3 for the BSDC map in December 2013.

In response to these concerns, a referendum successfully overturned the City Council vote and suspended the BSDC map. In March, the council chose to let citizens decide the issue on Tuesday’s ballot.

If Measure S had failed, the city would have returned to 2002 lines, and student-district advocates would have had to start the redistricting process once again.

Stefan Elgstrand, campaign president of “No on S” and author of the USDA map, called the successful BSDC redistricting an act of gerrymandering, saying it has created a more conservative district by eliminating progressive Northside voices. But he’s not considering the Measure S failure a loss.

“Regardless of what happened in this election, we continue to gain momentum,” he said. “The City Council all agrees that redistricting is the way to go, so in 2016, we’ll make sure the citizens of Berkeley draw the lines so that it’s fair to all groups.”

But the BSDC lines, according to Mecklai, were more extensively vetted and drafted than those in the USDA alternative. The map established by Measure S was seen at 17 public meetings and forums before it was presented to City Council.

The student district is now set until the city changes its lines again, as it does every 10 years to account for population shifts.

Contact Arielle Swedback at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @aswedback.