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Berkeley Redistricting Proposal: Keep Neighborhoods Intact

Vincent Casalaina believes that Berkeley's "communities of interest" need to be preserved.

By Vincent Casalaina 

When I looked at most of the plans that were put forward for redistricting Berkeley's council districts, I was taken aback by the way the lines were drawn. I believe the most important thing to consider in redistricting is the preservation of neighborhoods (communities of interest) within council districts.     

There is no question that Berkeley's population has grown dramatically in the last 10 years after years of steady decline. Even though the ordinance says we need to maintain the original district boundaries as much as possible, there have to be some major shifts in the council district lines if we are going to maintain one person/one vote in Berkeley (view current Berkeley council district maps here.) That’s clear from all of the redistricting proposals put forward. 

The most intense growth has taken place in District 7 and District 4. Both of these districts need to lose population by moving large swaths to other districts. The question is how to decide on a city-wide basis what the rationale would be for the changes. What is the philosophy that will be used to divide up the city into council districts? 

If you've lived in Berkeley for very long, it's relatively easy to identify communities of interest and see how they came into being — usually around a particular problem, be it land use, violence, or a shopping area that the community uses. In Berkeley, many of these communities of interest can be identified from the neighborhood associations that have flourished. 

When neighborhoods are split amongst several council districts, it leaves neighbors unable to coordinate their efforts to elect candidates that support their particular interests. 

Starting with this premise and the idea that major arterials (streets) often define the boundaries of those communities of interest, I developed a redistricting plan that would keep as many neighborhoods as whole as possible and would include almost no strange bumps and twists. 

My proposed map for redistricting Berkeley can be found above, to the right of this article (use the magnifing glass symbols undernneath the image to zoom). The map shows the blocks that are moved from one district to another outlined in red. You can see that they represent only a small proportion of the total blocks in the city. Almost all the blocks that moved are adjacent to major arterials and that the major arterials form the primary boundaries of all the districts.

When you analyze my proposed map, you see that the most major shift was to include the Northside student housing that had been in D7 (Worthington) and D8 (Wozniak) into D6 (Wengraf). It never made sense to have this arm of D7 and D8 stretch across campus just to pick up students. 

To balance that, the northern section of D6 (Wengraph) moved to D5 (Capitelli) (everything north of Marin and west of Grizzly Peak — using the arterials as the dividing line).  

D8 (Wozniak) also lost the east edge of Willard to D7. This is one half of the change to put the Willard and LeConte neighborhoods in one district. 

To balance that, D8 (Wozniak) added the Bateman neighborhood from D7 (Worthington). This change is similar to the plan submitted by the Bateman neighborhood themselves. The change is bounded on the north by Ashby, the east By College, the south by the Oakland border and the west by Telegraph. 

D7 (Worthington) also gained most of the west edge of LeConte down to Shattuck from D3 (Anderson). This is the second half of the change to put the Willard and LeConte neighborhoods in one district. 

To balance that, D3 (Anderson) added the Halcyon neighborhood from D7 (Worthington). This change is similar to the plan submitted by the Bateman neighborhood. Again, the neighborhood is kept whole and not broken up into random sections in order to meet the one person/one vote standard. 

D7 (Worthington) still needed to shed more residents and so most of the northern end of the district was shifted to D4 (Arreguin). 

D4 (Arreguin) needed to lose residents and gave up most of the south end of its district to D3 (Anderson). 

D4 (Arreguin) also gave up some residents to D1 (Maio), 2 (Moore) and 5 (Capitelli). As much as possible those changes followed the major arterials. 

It’s true that there is no student majority district, but students form a significant voting block in more council districts under my proposal. They still have very significant numbers in D4 (Arreguin), D7 (Worthington) and D8 Wozniak. They have increased numbers in D3 (Anderson) and D6 (Wengraf). Their numbers remain essentially unchanged in D1 (Maio), D2 (Moore) and D5 (Capitelli). 

Finally my tract block worksheet shows that the average deviation for my plan is .06 percent, with the largest variation being 100 residents:

  2010 actual 2010 Equal 2010 prop 2010 dev D1 13,080 14,073 14,053 -20 D2 13,381 14,073 14,141 68 D3 13,024 14,073 14,037 -36 D4 15,605 14,073 14,107 34 D5 12,709 14,073 13,973 -100 D6 12,883 14,073 14,026 -47 D7 16,623 14,073 14,127 54 D8 15,275 14,073 14,053 -20     112,584 112,517  

*Column 1 (2010 actual) is the actual population in each of the eight existing council districts at the time of the census.
Column 2 (2010 equal) is the ideal population for the council districts ie all with exactly the same population.
Column 3 (2010 prop) is the population in each of the eight proposed council districts.
Column 4 (2010 dev) is the deviation from the ideal population in each of the proposed districts.

I hope this plan will help you envision a Berkeley where neighborhoods are kept whole and the entire city can move forward together.        

For those who would like a more detailed explanation. I have a copy of my proposal map as a Photoshop document that has a layer for each of the blocks moving from one Council district to another. I also have the full track block sheet that breaks down the changes by each census block that is moved. I'd be happy to send that along to anyone who'd like it.You can reach me at ProBerk@aol.com.

What do you think of this redistricting proposal? Let us know in the comments. Information about redistricting can be found on the City of Berkeley's website.

Upcoming redistricting events:

The City of Berkeley plans to publish all redistricting proposals on the city’s website by Nov. 3.

On Nov. 9 at 5:30 p.m., hosted by the League of Women Voters at the Berkeley Senior Center. 

The council will hold a public hearing Nov. 15 on proposals to adjust district boundaries.

BerkeleyAccountableSchools October 31, 2011 at 04:16 PM
I agree with the principle of organizing by neighborhoods as a proxy for communities of interest. Students living in group housing account for more than half of the 'dramatic growth' that you've observed, but being a student in a dorm is a "weak category" with which to organize voting blocks in a community that needs to plan with greater perspective and long timelines. I wasn't able to zoom very far in on your map -- would be a lot easier to assess if I could read street names.

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