City of Berkeley to create independent redistricting commission

City Hall
Jenna Wong/File
The city of Berkeley opened the commission application to Berkeley residents Sept. 8. It is set to close Oct. 9, and the commission's members will start in January.

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The city of Berkeley is creating an independent redistricting commission that will adjust City Council district boundaries every 10 years after the 2020 census. 

In 2016, Measure W1 was passed with approximately 87% of the vote, which changed the city’s charter and moved the responsibility of redistricting from the City Council to an independent commission. The city opened the application to Berkeley residents Sept. 8 and it is set to close Oct. 9, with the commission members starting in January.

“The commission will carry out its duties by conducting a series of public meetings and public hearings to discuss changes in the City Council districts, to hear input from the public, to also review proposed plans by members of the public and decide how to best adjust the City Council district boundaries,” said city clerk Mark Numainville.

Numainville added that every Berkeley resident who wants to serve on the commission is encouraged to apply. Eligibility requirements, however, do limit those who can apply, with city employees, mayor employees and residents directly related to the mayor or City Council members being ineligible. 

The city has advertised the position in local newspapers, put up posters in grocery stores and asked Berkeley Unified School District, City Council members and community organizations to inform their constituents and members. Numainville added, however, that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted outreach for the commission. 

“COVID has sort of taken away our ability to do in-person outreach,” Numainville said. “But since that has occurred, we have done significantly more virtual and advertising outreach to make up for that.” 

According to Numainville, if the pandemic continues into 2021, the commission will hold its public hearings online and will operate like the city’s other legislative bodies.

Once the application closes, eight applicants from each district will be chosen at random. They will then choose the remaining five members according to their own criteria, Numainville said. Afterward, the commission will meet and start developing a new map for the City Council districts.

“There are certain guidelines and regulations that any redistricting effort has to adhere to with regard to districts,” Numainville said. “(They) are contiguous and compact, and take into account communities of interest and that are also at equal population, that they are equal in population as they can be.”

Robson Swift is a city government reporter. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @swift_robson.