Malibu spared upheaval in redistricting debate


The county Board of Supervisors’ decision to approve new legislative maps that are largely unchanged could be challenged in court by Latino advocacy groups.

By Knowles Adkisson / The Malibu Times

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors last week approved new redistricting maps that leave the current boundaries of the five supervisory districts, including Malibu’s, relatively unchanged.

The result allayed fears by city officials who had worried an alternate map would be chosen that would have divided Malibu from neighboring cities and grouped it with South Bay cities.

Malibu City Councilmember Lou La Monte said the vote comes as a relief, as Malibu will remain with other cities with shared interests.

“I think it’s a victory for common sense and I think that ultimately it’s going to work out much better for Malibu this way than the other plans,” La Monte said.

Supervisor Gloria Molina and Latino activists had pushed for a second Latino-majority supervisory district. Redrawn maps proposed by Molina and county Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas would have substantially altered the current districts. Under both proposals, Malibu and other North Bay cities would have been grouped with port cities in the South Bay, such as San Pedro and Long Beach. Mayor John Sibert said that would have been disastrous, because those areas do not share the transportation corridor formed by the Pacific Coast Highway, and the 101, 10 and 405 freeways.

Following about six hours of public comment at the county board’s meeting Sept. 27 at the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration, the supervisors voted 4-1 in favor of a map proposed by Supervisor Don Knabe, which leaves district lines largely unchanged with favorable results for incumbents Knabe and Michael D. Antonovich, both of whom are Caucasian. Supervisor Ridley-Thomas ultimately switched sides to support the plan favored by Knabe, Antonovich and Malibu’s representative Zev Yaroslavsky.

Ridley-Thomas’ switch gave that side the minimum four votes needed to approve the new lines. That averted the possibility that a three-person panel comprised of elected officials District Attorney Steve Cooley, Sheriff Lee Baca and Assessor John R. Noguez would redraw the boundaries if the supervisors could not reach an agreement by Oct. 31.

The result did not sit well with Latino advocacy groups, who have threatened lawsuits challenging the vote as a violation of the Federal Voting Rights Act. The act states that minorities must have an equal opportunity to elect candidates of their own choosing.

Although Latinos comprise 34 percent of the voting age population (and almost 50 percent of the total population) in Los Angeles County, only one of the five supervisory districts contains more than 50 percent of eligible Latino voters.

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund stated prior to the vote it would sue if the county did not create a second Latino-majority district.

Molina, who in 1991 became the first Latina elected to the county Board of Supervisors after a federal court ordered the county to redraw her 1st district after finding decades of discrimination diluted the Latino vote within the county, was the lone dissenting vote. She predicted the lines would be decided in court once again.

“The last time major redistricting took place at this county in 1990, it was done by court order-not by the supervisors themselves,” Molina said in a press release after the vote. “So I expected that might happen again.”

Knabe cheered the result.

“I’m white, I’m a Republican, I live in Cerritos, and yes, I’m running for reelection,” Knabe said. “But the bare suggestion that I can only provide an outstanding level of service for the people who look like me is frankly insulting.”

While acknowledging the issue “could continue to generate controversy with potential litigation,” Yaroslavsky also applauded the vote in a blog post afterward.

“It keeps together communities of shared geographic, economic and environmental interests,” Yaroslavsky said, “while remaining fully compliant with the federal Voting Rights Act, which protects the crucial electoral interests of minority groups.”