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City nets 4 redistricting plans

By John Geluardi Daily Planet staff
Friday August 17, 2001

By Wednesday at closing time, the City Clerk’s Office had received four proposals to redraw the boundary lines of the eight council districts in order to distribute the city’s population equally within each. 

Two of the proposals appear to be designed to create a large block of like-minded voters, another was incomplete and a fourth was inspired by the mathematical challenge of regrouping large numbers of residents while minimally moving boundary lines. 

The city is required to redraw the lines every 10 years based on the population numbers tabulated in the Decennial Census. According to the 2000 Census, Berkeley gained only 19 people in the last 10 years, but there were significant population shifts within the city. 

Based on the total population of 102,743, the city must redraw the district boundary lines so each district contains as close to 12,850 people as possible.  

The City Charter prohibits large variations in the shape and makeup of the districts by requiring boundary lines not be moved significantly from their original 1986 positions.  

The one plan that appears to meet that criteria was submitted by Michael O’Malley and David Blake who said they were challenged by the mathematical aspects of the project. The two men, who reluctantly agreed to be refereed to as math nerds, worked on the complex project by painstakingly adding up the residents of each block and then adjusting the lines by no more than one block from the existing lines. 

“We kept very close to the original lines,” O’Malley said. “In our plan there’s only two blocks that were not formerly on an existing boundary line.” 

Sitting at a local restaurant on Thursday, the table covered with maps, charts and Thai food, the two men were pouring over the other three redistricting proposals. 

“This proposal was done with a computer program,” Blake said with disdain and then, after some shuffling of documents and serving plates, held up a sheaf of well-handled yellow paper covered with pencil marks and eraser smudges. “You want to see our high-tech system?” 

Two of the other proposals were less focused on the mathematical challenges and sought instead to increase a political power base within certain districts.  

The Associated Students of the University of California submitted a plan that drastically altered the shape of districts 7 and 8. Josh Fryday, vice president of ASUC External Affairs, said the design sought to create a newly formed District 7, in which 71 percent of the voters would be under the age of 24. 

The ASUC members said their goal was to elect a student to the City Council who would represent them on issues of housing, transpiration and safety. 

Another group of 25 people most of whom belonged to either the Panoramic Hill Neighborhood Association or the Claremont–Elmwood Neighborhood Association, submitted a plan that increased the number of homeowners in District 8. 

In order to create the new district, the group moved District 8’s western boundary six blocks into the southern portion of District 7. The result is a fairly large deviation from the current boundary lines. 

“We thought this plan made the most sense to keep a neighborhood feel,” said Mary Ann McCamant. “The boundary we propose is made up of a lot of single-family homes and people who are fairly active in homeowners’ associations among which there is a lot of cross fertilization.” 

McCamant said issues the neighborhoods have in common are traffic on Ashby Avenue, impacts related to Alta Bates/Summit Medical Center and a controversial proposal for new lighting at Memorial Stadium on the UC Berkeley campus. 

Berkeley resident Elliot Cohen submitted an incomplete proposal. Cohen was not available for comment Thursday but he wrote on the submission form that “the deadline came faster than I thought!” He also offered to complete the proposal if he could be allowed more time. 

City Attorney Manuella Albuquerque issued an opinion on Thursday in which she said the predominant factor in deciding the city’s new boundary lines will be the requirement of the City Charter that the lines be minimally changed. 

She said in her opinion that the City Council can consider changing district lines to include communities of interest, but “they must do so only within the constraints imposed by the City Charter.”  

The City Council will hold public hearings on the redistricting proposals Sept. 13 and 25. A decision on the new district lines is expected Oct. 2.