City Council sets timeline for Berkeley redistricting

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Berkeley City Council unanimously voted at its meeting Tuesday night to establish a timeline to begin the redistricting process.

The passage of Measure R — which will amend the existing city charter to eliminate the 1986 boundary lines and adjust the district boundaries to reflect the city’s updated population — may result in substantial changes to district lines, including the possibility of forming a student supermajority district.

“By updating the outdated redistricting rules, Berkeley voters sent a clear message that districts should represent communities of interest, including students,” said former ASUC external affairs vice president Joey Freeman. “We certainly plan on submitting a new map that will establish a student supermajority district.”

Despite student efforts to create such a district in the past, the current — and controversial — boundaries divide the city in such a way that it has not been possible to create a supermajority district of UC Berkeley students since the redistricting rules were established in 1986.

Community members have until March 15 of next year to complete and submit their proposals to the city.  The proposals will then be presented to the council for discussion at two public hearings, currently set for May 7 and July 2.

According to Jacquelyn McCormick, a city resident and former mayoral candidate, there are no guarantees that the council will follow through with the proposed communities of interest boundary lines.

“The problem with the process is that while the public will produce maps for the council to either accept or modify, (the council is) going to have full discretion in drawing those lines,” she said. “The students want a district, (but) there’s no guarantee that that’s what they’re going to get.”

Once the council chooses a proposal, it will adopt the new boundaries after two readings of the ordinance on Sept. 10 and Sept. 17, 2013, respectively.

According to Councilmember Kriss Worthington, if the public is not in favor of the district lines, residents can initiate a referendum after the first and second reading of the selected map, which could prevent the council from adopting the district lines in time for the next election.

As of the current timeline, the redistricting process is set to be completed by Dec. 31, 2013, and will be in effect by the 2014 election.

Daphne Chen covers city government. Contact her at [email protected]