Four draft maps proposing potential Berkeley City Council district boundaries for the next decade were discussed at the Independent Redistricting Commission’s, or IRC’s, Jan. 27 meeting.
The amber, orange, maroon and blue map were drawn under the direction of the IRC. Based on the commission’s analysis and testimony from the community, the orange, maroon and blue maps have been eliminated from consideration — leaving only the amber map and future proposed maps.
“I think it is very easy to be cynical about politics these days, but local government is actually an opportunity to make a difference in your own lived experience as well as the future generations of UC Berkeley students,” said Ben Gould, one of the founding members of Berkeley Neighbors for Housing and Climate Action, or BNHCA.
Berkeley City Council districts were first drawn in 1986, according to City Clerk Mark Numainville. Numainville noted that redistricting is permitted every 10 years to account for population changes. The IRC, a commission comprising 13 citizens with no involvement in the City Council, was created by a ballot measure in 2016 amending the city charter.
Numainville added that the draft maps were created by the map drawing subcommittee with technical assistance from city staff and mapping software, while also incorporating public input.
“The redistricting commission is a big opportunity to amend these historical wrongs in terms of gerrymandering and cracking the student/renter vote to ensure fair representation for underrepresented communities,” Gould said.
The amber map resembles the existing council district boundaries most greatly, according to Gould. He added it contains clean, easy-to-understand lines, with “little other changes.”
According to the IRC website, some modifications include the unification of Poets Corner in District 2 and LeConte neighborhood in District 3. Another adjustment moved Foothill into District 7 from District 8.
Of the maps released, the BNHCA stated in its letter to the redistricting commission that the amber map “best reflects” community interests across the city of Berkeley.
However, Gould said he believed that although the amber map did the “best” job of representing community interests compared to the other draft maps, it did not do a “good” job of it.
The orange map has many similarities to the amber map, with Districts 3-8 remaining the same, Gould said.
Districts 1-2, however, have slightly different configurations, including Poets Corner neighborhood being moved to District 1.
Additionally, a single West Berkeley district has been created west of San Pablo Avenue, including the area around San Pablo Park.
The maroon map shows variations on two student-focused districts in West Berkeley, according to the IRC website.
It is similar to the amber map, Gould added. However, a portion of Northside south of Leconte Avenue was moved into the north student district in District 4, according to the website.
Also, the Panoramic Hill neighborhood and the Clark Kerr Campus from District 8 were moved to District 7, the south student district, the website states.
The blue map contains the most differences from the previous redistricting, Gould noted.
“It contains variations on two student-focused districts and a map with a north to south orientation for a single West Berkeley district,” the redistricting website states.
This map unifies the Halcyon, Bateman and LeConte neighborhoods in District 8, while also unifying the Lorin neighborhood in District 3.
What’s to come
Following the end of the meeting, the IRC decided to amend the amber map and requested the creation of a new map with student/renter focused districts, Numainville added.
The commission’s Feb. 17 and Feb. 19 meetings will discuss the revised amber map and the additional proposed maps, according to Numainville. During both of these meetings, the commission can still request further modifications for new maps.
The IRC will select the final map Feb. 28, which will officially be adopted March 16 once it receives majority approval.
Gould and Numainville said they encourage community and student participation in the redistricting process. Gould, for one, developed and analyzed 14 possible configurations for two student/renter districts in order to assist the map drawing subcommittee.
ASUC Executive Affairs Vice President Riya Master sent a letter to the commission and gave comment at the Jan. 27 meeting to advocate for a version of the proposed map — a combination of the blue, amber and orange map — that she believes will better represent the student population.
“Students make up a third of the Berkeley population,” Master said. “Right now we only represent one district in the City Council. That’s disproportionate representation.”
Involvement in the redistricting process does not require the creation of a completely new draft map. Gould and Numainville detailed other forms of student involvement, including showing up and commenting at the next commission meeting or sending written comments to the redistricting email address.
Public displays of the redistricting maps are located at Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union Building on the entrance. Master added that students can look on the easels to determine if it accurately represents what they want their city to look like.
A previous version of this article may have implied that redistricting every 10 years is unique to the 1986 Berkeley charter amendment. In fact, redistricting every 10 years after the census is the rule for every level of government.
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that following the end of the meeting, the IRC requested the creation of two new maps with student/renter-focused districts. In fact, the IRC commission did allow the subcommittee to create just one new map for the next meeting if it could incorporate all of the commission’s directions in one map.