BERKELEY -- A reconfigured map of City Council districts map that amplifies student voices in UC Berkeley-area District 7, but excludes north-of-campus co-ops and dorms from the district, won council approval Dec. 3.
Dueling proposals authored by UC Berkeley students were at issue, both increasing the number of student-age residents in District 7 from the current 70 percent.
The Berkeley Student District Campaign map, winning the council vote 6-2-1 -- with Councilmen Kriss Worthington and Jesse Arreguin opposed, Councilman Max Anderson abstaining -- is drawn so that about 85 percent of its residents are age 18 to 28. The losing United Students District Amendment plan included about 90 percent student-age residents.
Backers of both maps agreed a concentration of student-age residents in a single district would likely increase student political power in local government.
The city is required to redraw district boundaries every 10 years based on census data to maintain about the same number of residents in each district. This revision places about 14,000 people in each of Berkeley's eight districts.
Attacking the BSDC map as a "partisan gerrymander proposal," District 7 Councilman Worthington said co-op and dorm residents on the north share interests with students south of the Cal campus. Moreover, these students add diversity and progressive views to the district, he said, arguing that by removing the co-ops from District 7, the BSDC map opens the door for the election of a moderate rather than progressive District 7 council member. (The current District 7 includes the north side co-ops, but not the dorms.)
"What is happening will affect ... all the progressive people across the city who have counted on District 7 to bring a progressive voice to the City Council," Worthington said. "By kicking out the co-ops who were in District 7, you will limit the progressive voices that will be able to vote in the District 7 election."
Worthington warned that if the council approved the BSDC map, it would likely face a referendum.
Councilman Laurie Capitelli accused Worthington of gerrymandering. "Sitting at the dais tonight the alleged 'most progressive individual' on the council is telling us that we need to gerrymander to make sure all the co-ops are together ... to make sure we have a progressive district in Berkeley," Capitelli said. "I am deeply offended by that."
Capitelli further argued that the south and north sides of campus face different problems, with elevated south-of-campus crime and questions of economic development unique to Telegraph Avenue.
While most of the two dozen speakers addressing the council were students, neighborhood activist and former mayoral candidate Jacquelyn McCormick disparaged both proposals for splitting communities represented by neighborhood organizations.
"The neighborhoods are a 'community of interest,'" she said, contending state redistricting law calls for maintaining such communities.
"The neighborhoods have ... been ignored."
James Chang, Berkeley student cooperatives vice president of external affairs, asked the council to keep co-ops in the district. "All the co-opers are asking for is to be part of the political discussion and voting process in regards to student issues," he said.
But Pavan Upadhyayula, a senator with the Associated Students of the University of California, said that in order to include the north side co-ops, the USDA map removed students living south of campus from District 7. "The ASUC has been very careful not to engage in illogical and partisan arguments that some students are more important than others because of where they live," he said.
After losing the vote, Stefan Elgstrand, USDA map author, said he thought it likely that USDA map proponents would launch a referendum drive.
If so, they have 30 days from the Dec. 17 final approval of the ordinance to collect about 5,200 signatures to place the referendum on the June or November ballot.
A successful referendum would bring redistricting back before the City Council.
Worthington, however, said in a Dec. 5 phone interview, that he thought successful petitioning for the referendum would pressure the council to compromise, as it did in 2000.
Rather than asking voters to decide, he said, the council could adopt a compromise plan.
Maps of the current council districts and the two reconfigurations considered are online on the Berkeley page at insidebayarea.com.