Berkeley City Council postpones decision on new student district

Alison Fu/Staff

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After extensive discussion Tuesday night, the Berkeley City Council decided to postpone a historic vote on the ASUC-backed redistricting map that would create a student-majority district for the first time in Berkeley.

The City Council was originally slated to take its first formal vote to approve the Berkeley Student District Campaign map at its Tuesday meeting. However, the council decided to delay its decision after listening to almost 20 students voice their concerns about the omission of Northside student cooperatives and dorms on the east side of campus from the map’s proposed student-majority district.

This will provide the city with more time to analyze another proposed map — the United Student District Amendment — which would also create a student-majority district but suggests different boundaries.

“Nine co-ops and three dorms are currently excluded in the BSDC map,” said ASUC Executive Vice President Nolan Pack during the public comment session of the meeting. “The students would really appreciate more time to talk about a more inclusive student district.”

The BSDC map, proposed in 2011, includes the entire UC Berkeley campus as well as the majority of Southside but not the three residence hall complexes in the Foothill area or the Berkeley Student Cooperative on Northside.

USDA, an alternative map introduced in July, is an amended version of the BSDC that incorporates those areas in its student-majority district. The new map, however, does not include a large area where students commonly live south of Dwight Way and significantly shifts the boundaries of neighboring districts, noted Councilmember Susan Wengraf at the meeting.

“This is just trading one group of students for another,” Wengraf said.

Berkeley residents also voiced their concerns at the meeting, unhappy that the proposals could split their longstanding neighborhood communities apart.

“Neither of the student groups have attempted to collaborate with their neighbors,“ said Berkeley resident Jacquelyn McCormick during public comment. “Berkeley neighborhoods have not been considered as a community of interest in this process.”

However, Safeena Mecklai, ASUC external affairs vice president said she has attended public forums where community members spoke, and they have taken their concerns into account while creating the BSDC map.

The council most likely will not be able to adopt any map for a first reading until November, said Anthony Sanchez, legislative aide to Councilmember Jesse Arreguin.

The redistricting deadline is Dec. 31st. Because the final map must be adopted 30 days before the deadline, the council may need to call a special meeting in November.

The timeline of the map may change depending on how quickly city staff members can analyze the USDA map, according to Sanchez. He said the council’s decision last night would give the ASUC more time to discuss the issue at their senate meeting Wednesday night.

“This does a good job of allowing the city and community to weigh in,” Mecklai said. “I’m interested to see what happens next.”

Contact Alison Fu and Gladys Rosario at [email protected].