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Proposed Santa Monica Council Map Places Three Incumbents in One District
By Jorge Casuso
November 26, 2018 -- A map submitted by plaintiffs last week in a voting rights lawsuit against the City places three council members in one district, while leaving three districts without current representation.
The plaintiff's map -- drawn by demographer David Ely, who has drawn districts for Los Angeles, Pasadena, Whittier, Garden Grove and Palmdale -- carves the 8.3-square-mile City of some 92,000 into seven districts with approximately 13,000 residents each.
None of the Councilmembers lives in the two districts that include the Mid City, Wilmont and Northeast neighborhoods (4 and 5) nor in the proposed district that includes Downtown (6), which has seen a residential boom over the past 20 years.
The districts are based on the boundaries of existing neighborhoods, although some have fewer than 13,000 residents and others have more, said Kevin Shenkman, the plaintiffs' lead attorney.
The map was submitted last week as a proposed remedy to the at-large election system Superior Court Judge Yvette M. Palazuelos found was in violation of the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA).
The plaintiffs' attorneys also called for a special election in April ("Plaintiffs in Voting Rights Suit Propose District Map, April Election," November 20, 2018).
City official said they would submit thier response to the court on Friday.
An election under the proposed map remains only one option the judge will entertain, and the City has said it plans to appeal the judge's decision.
"I can neither discuss strategy nor predict what a court will do," said McKeown. "All the scenarios being suggested by the plaintiffs’ attorneys are speculative."
That hasn't stopped neighborhood activists and potential candidates from scrutinizing the boundaries and speculating on potential races.
The biggest political shakeup would take place in the North of Montana District, an area comprised of the City's most affluent homeowners.
Davis and Himmelrich both own homes within the proposed boundaries, and a showdown between the two incumbents has been expected if Districts are adopted.
But the inclusion of McKeown -- who is the Council's lone renter -- came as a surprise. McKeown lives in the Wilmont Neighborhood, which has the highest concentration of renters in the City.
But in order to add the necessary number of residents to the North of Montana District, Ely extended the traditional boundary along Montana south to Idaho, Shenkman said.
McKeown, whose rent-controlled apartment sits between Idaho and Montana, was not pleased.
"Their proposed map bends accepted neighborhood boundaries to put the only renter left on the City Council into a single-family electoral district, which may be revealing of their disregard for renters."
Shenkman seemed surprised when told by The Lookout that the proposed North of Montana District includes three, not two, incumbents.
"I swear we didn't do that intentionally," Shenkman said, "but I'm not shedding a tear right now."
While the proposed Montana district would have three incumbents if a specal election were to be held, and Districts 4, 5 and 6 would be up for grabs, the three remaining districts have Council members living there.
Mayor Ted Winterer lives in the proposed Ocean Park District (7), Terry O'Day lives in the Pico District (1) and Councilmember-elect Greg Morena, who will assume his post next month, lives in Sunset Park (2).
Councilmember Tony Vazquez, a Sunset Park resident, is expected to step down after winning a seat on the State Board of Equalization.
The Council has 30 days after he vacates his seat to appoint a replacement. If it fails to do so a special election would be held.
Councilmember Pam O'Connor, who like McKeown lives in Wilmont, lost her bid this month for a record seventh term.
Supporters of district elections are holding a demonstration before Tuesday's Council meeting to protest the City's decision to appeal.
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