City Council to consider two proposals that include UC Berkeley student district

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Berkeley City Council passed a motion Tuesday night to continue considering two redistricting proposals that both include the creation of a UC Berkeley student district.

One of the selected plans was submitted by the Berkeley Student District Campaign, a group that aims to give students more representation in city government through the creation of a district with a student supermajority. A student supermajority would increase the likelihood of a UC Berkeley student being elected to Berkeley City Council.

“It’s important to note how historic of a move the council took last night (by) indicating that one of their top proposals is one submitted by students,” said Shahryar Abbasi, ASUC external affairs vice president. “It’s quite a shift in the discourse and the dialogue.”

About 45 UC Berkeley students, including Abbasi, attended the City Council meeting in support of the campaign. While seven different plans were considered at the public hearing Tuesday night, only two did not include a student-majority district.

The only remaining competition to the Berkeley Student District Campaign is the “simplicity” plan, which focuses on straightforward district divisions. The plan’s author, Eric Panzer, openly endorsed the Berkeley Student District Campaign’s plan and said that he hopes his proposal will be considered only as a “worthy alternative.”

The City Council may favor Panzer’s plan due to its clarity, according to ASUC External Affairs Vice President Redistricting Director Noah Efron.

“There are certainly some council members who want clean lines on their map,” Efron said. “The council still has full control.”

Throughout the hearing, multiple City Council members expressed their support for a student-majority district, which has never existed in the city of Berkeley. The only UC Berkeley student to ever hold a seat on the City Council was current State Assemblymember Nancy Skinner, who served from 1984 to 1992.

The plans were made possible by the passage of Measure R last November, which amended the existing city charter to eliminate the 1986 boundary lines and adjusted the district boundaries to reflect the city’s updated population.

According to ASUC External Affairs Vice President-elect Safeena Mecklai, a student district would allow students a say in major city issues like safety, economic development and other issues that impact students and residents equally.
“I think we would benefit from more voices of young people,” said Councilmember Jesse Arreguin last night. “It accomplishes the goal but keeps a lot of major neighborhoods intact.”

The next public hearing, during which the City Council is slated to select a plan, will be on July 2.

Though the meeting will take place during the summer, Mecklai said the campaign plans to build a coalition of students to attend and express their support.

“We certainly took (last night) as a great victory, and it certainly feels more tangible now than it ever has,” Efron said. “(But) until we hear that they have officially adopted it, we won’t be celebrating.”

Contact Claire Chiara at [email protected].