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Census count leads to shift in district lines

By John Geluardi Daily Planet staff
Friday August 10, 2001

Now that the 2000 Census has been released, Berkeley has begun the process of reshaping the city’s eight districts, which could shift the balance of power on the City Council.  

According to the 2000 Census, Berkeley has a population of 102,743 people, an increase of 19 people since 1990. But there were population shifts within the city throwing off the balance that each district must maintain as required by the City Charter.  

The City Clerk is accepting redistricting proposals from anyone who wishes to submit one until Aug. 15. According to City Clerk Sherry Kelly, each submission will be presented to the City Council for review.  

“Anyone who is interested is submitting a plan is welcome to,” she said. “Even if they just want to submit a footprint, the department will include demographic analysis so each proposal has an equal presentation.” 

Districts should have 12,850 residents each, and are required to have redrawn boundaries by the end of December.  

What’s possibly at stake is the political future of at least two councilmembers who may be affected by redrawn lines. Two adjacent districts in the southeast corner of the city, districts 7 and 8, showed a collective drop of nearly 3,000 residents. Two others, District 1 and District 2 showed no population change at all and the remaining four districts showed modest increases of 1 to 8 percent.  

In addition, a May 23 report by the city manager, suggests that the 2000 Census seriously undercounted the residents in districts 7 and 8, which are largely populated by students. The undercount could result in a cut in the dollar amounts of population-based federal grants, which fund a a variety of city services. The city lost an initial federal court case challenging the undercount and the case is currently being appealed, according to Deputy City Attorney Prasanna Rasiah. 

District 8, which is represented by Councilmember Polly Armstrong, needs to be redrawn to accommodate another 1,600 residents. District 7, represented by Kriss Worthington, needs to expand by 1,300 residents. 

District 8, considered to be a moderate politically, is tucked away in the southeast corner of the city. In order to increase its population, the most apparent solution – the City Charter mandates the districts not be drastically changed – is to move its western boundary line several blocks west into District 7, which is considered progressive politically.  

The result could be that Armstrong, who won handily in 1998 with 58 percent of the vote, could become more vulnerable to a progressive candidate in the November 2002 election. 

Armstrong said that her district already includes large numbers of students and renters and that she is not too concerned about the redrawing of district lines. 

“ I have really liked serving my district for the last seven years and I’m going to run a tough campaign and hope the voters in my district agree with my evaluation of what the job is,” she said. 

If Armstrong loses her council seat to a progressive the power balance on the council, which is now five progressive to four moderates, could swing further to the left, according to Rent Stabilization Board member Paul Hogarth. 

Hogarth is working with some UC Berkeley students to present a redistricting plan that would attempt to put as many students, many of whom live in districts 7 and 8, into one district. 

In addition, depending on how the district lines are drawn, progressive Councilmember Kriss Worthington, who lives near eastern border of the District 7 borderline, could wake up one morning in moderate District 8.  

Worthington also did not seem concerned about the redistricting and said he thought it would be interesting to have citywide participation in the process. 

“I think anyone who is interested in submitting new districts based on student population or racial population or whatever community, should do so,” he said.  

Worthington is running for the California Assembly, but if his bid fails, he could be scrambling for reelection against incumbent Armstrong.  

The City Council will hold a public hearings on Sept. 12 and another on Sept. 25, after which the council is expected to make a decision on new district lines. 

For more information about submitting a redistricting plan, go to Berkeley’s website at or call the City Clerk’s Office at 981-6900.