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Updated: Berkeley Council Considers Redistricting and New Location for Meetings

By Becky O'Malley
Tuesday January 17, 2012 - 08:33:00 AM

Tonight's Berkeley City Council meeting, the first for 2012, has a few controversial items which might bear watching, either streamed tonight or in video form tomorrow. We’ll try to check out what happens, and if there are any truly dramatic moments we’ll post a video excerpt for your amusement.

First up is a public hearing on neighbors’ appeal to the Zoning Adjustment Board’s approval of the big Parker Place development proposed for the current Berkeley Honda dealership site on South Shattuck.

UPDATE ON WEDNESDAY MORNING: Developers Ali Kashani and Mark Rhoades got their permits after accusing the neighbors of being chronic litigants, for which they the developers were roundly scolded by some councilmembers. 

Then there’s another public hearing on the six qualifying proposals for how and when Berkeley City Council districts should be redrawn to reflect the 2010 census. Two camps have emerged in the discussion. One, led by progressive Councilmembers Arreguin and Worthington, urges prompt adoption of one of the plans. 

Worthington issued this statement on his position: 


If Berkeley City Council redistricting is not done in time for the Nov 2012 election Berkeley stands at risk of disenfranchising up to 4,300 residents. These residents deserve the chance to vote in the 2012 City Council elections.  

According to the new U.S Census numbers, the 8 City Council districts have very unequal populations. 

To be true to One Person One Vote, each district needs 14,073 residents. 

District 2 is short by 692 

District 3 is short by 1,049 

District 5 is short by 1.364 

District 6 is short by 1,190 

Total short for 2,3,5,&6= 4,295 

There are 6 viable proposals that have been submitted for where to draw the lines. 

If the City Council adopts one of those proposals, or anything close to the 1986 boundaries then thousands of additional people will be allowed to vote in the November 2012 City Council elections. 

Unfortunately, Councilmember Wozniak has repeatedly proposed to delay redistricting because there is a proposal submitted to create two 80% “student supermajority ” districts. 

It would be illegal for the City Council to vote to adopt that proposal because it conflicts with the City Charter by not coming close to the 1986 boundaries, and by kicking two Council members (Arreguin & Worthington) out of their districts. 

That proposal can be placed on the ballot as a Charter Amendment for the voters to decide. 

If we delay and wait to see what happens with the controversial Charter Amendment, thousands of voters will be denied their chance to vote for City Council in 2012. 



A District 8 resident forwarded to the Planet this statement he received from Councilmember Wozniak: 



If you have received a notice telling you that the legal and democratic process of redistricting is going to “disenfranchise” voters in Berkeley, It’s important for you to know that this is factually incorrect and misleading. There are about 4,000 Berkeleyans who will end up in a different City Council district in order to achieve equal representation. Because City Council elections are “staggered” (that means half are voted on in 2012 and half in 2014), some people who were scheduled to vote for City Council in 2012 will now vote in 2014, and vice versa. This process is known as election deferral.  

This is a routine process, made necessary by the fact that redistricting must ensure equal representation. Please note that this will have no affect [sic] on anyone’s ability to vote for President, Governor, ballot initiatives, Mayor, etc. It only affects voting for City Council for a small fraction of people. 

Some people want you to think that this constitutes disenfranchisement to confuse you. Disenfranchisement is when someone takes away your ability to vote - think literacy tests or “Voter ID” laws. Deferral simply means you now vote for City Council in Presidential years (2012, 2016) instead of gubernatorial years (2014, 2018) or vice versa. Remember, one’s ability to vote for any office other than City Council is unchanged! “Deferral” and “disenfranchisement” are NOT the same thing. Do not let anyone lead you to believe they are! 



Tonight the council could vote to send any of the six proposals to staff for drafting a final redistricting ordinance, or it could vote to postpone redistricting until after the group which wants Berkeley to create two council districts with student majorities has the time to amend the city charter by initiative, which could take at least two years. 



Even if one of the six plans now before council is adopted, the student-district initiative could be proposed and adopted on the same timetable which would be used if redistricting were postponed. If and when it passes, it could replace any plan adopted this year. 

UPDATE: Redistricting stalled. See The Editor's Back Fence for a full rant. 

Wozniak is also floating a proposal which would change some of the quotas for retail businesses in the Elmwood shopping area, located on College between Webster and Russell. If the Council is sympathetic to the concept, it will be sent to the Planning Commission for further study and possible implementation. 

Finally, the council will receive a staff report on new locations for City Council meetings, which recommends that the staff be asked to report back by May 1, 2012 on the cost, schedule, and viability of three new options: Berkeley Community College Auditorium, Longfellow Middle School Auditorium and North Berkeley Senior Center Multi-Purpose Room. The wording of the staff report as submitted is ambiguous, but it appears that the meeting room now being constructed for School Board use on the Berkeley Unified School District’s West Campus is still in the running for council use as well. 

UPDATE: Thumbs down for now on West Campus and Longfellow. BCC and the Senior Center are still in the running. Berkeley High's Little Theater has been added.