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New: Redistricting: An Open Letter to the Berkeley Community from the Berkeley Neighborhood Council (Comment)

By Jacquelyn McCormick, Berkeley Neighborhood Council Redistricting Committee Chair
Tuesday June 18, 2013 - 10:02:00 AM

Not so very long ago, Berkeley proclaimed itself to be a “City of neighborhoods.” Not so much now. Under the quiet and persistent guidance of the present Mayor and Council, policy and practice emphasis has steadily shifted away from neighborhoods and their well-being and preservation to individual buildings and their height and bulk.

This point was driven home on May 7, 2013 when the Council approved a motion by Council Member Gordon Wozniak (seconded by Darryl Moore) to eliminate from Council consideration the map submitted by the Berkeley Neighborhood Council (BNC). This was done even though there was no question that the BNC map was the only redistricting map submitted which was based on the dual principles of creating a majority student district and keeping neighborhood groups together under one Council representative. It was clear that keeping neighborhoods together strengthens neighborhood input; splitting neighborhoods between representatives results in no one on the Council being accountable.

The Wozniak/Moore motion focused Council consideration of redistricting on just two maps. The Berkeley Student District Campaign (BSDC) creates a student supermajority in one Council District (7), a majority in another District (4) and a near majority in a third District (8). The other accepted map, Edge Simplicity, was submitted by Eric Panzer and selected because Council Members liked its “clean” lines even though its author stated it was just an exercise and he favored the BSDC map. Since the BSDC map was clearly the one most favored by the Council, this statement will focus on the strengths of the BNC map compared to the BSDC map. 

Here are some facts about the BNC and the BSDC that everyone needs to know: 


Is the main student district only “gratuitous” as claimed by the students pushing for approval of the BSCD map?  

NO. The BNC map creates a supermajority student district (District 7) that has more students in it by at least 640 people than does the proposed BSCD supermajority student district! 


Where are the differences?  

While the BNC map does not include the Greeks (sororities and fraternities), the BSNC map does not include the Student Co-Ops north of the campus and two huge student dorms. 


Are some students more “student” than others?  

The fact is that the BNC map strengthens the creation of a student district more than does the BSDC map. 


Should maps considered by the Council recognize Communities of Interest? 

YES. State law requires consideration of Communities of Interest and defines them as a contiguous population which shares common social and economic interests that should be included within a single district for purposes of its effective and fair representation. By any one’s definition a student district is a Community of Interest and a neighborhood is equally a Community of Interest. 

The BSDC map makes up the difference in its main student district population by including in their proposed supermajority student district a significant number of blocks in the residential LeConte and Willard neighborhoods that are continually plagued by Southside Plan student-oriented development encroachment. 


Should these neighborhood groups be divided in such a manner without consideration of the State requirement to consider keeping Communities of Interest intact?  

The BNC map says both students AND neighborhoods are Communities of Interest and must be recognized as such. 

The BSDC map continues to ignore the State’s direction regarding Communities of Interest by dividing the Dwight-Hillside neighborhood and continues the weakening of a voice for neighborhoods in community affairs, by dividing the Live Oak/Codornices Creek (LOCCNA), Spruce Street, Halcyon, and Milvia Alliance neighborhoods. Additionally, the BSDC maps rejects the opportunity to right a long-standing injustice by not recognizing the hundreds of residents of West Berkeley who have been struggling to gain recognition as a neighborhood and gain Council representation for over 50 years. 


Is the claim that it would be “too big” a valid reason for rejecting the formation of a West Berkeley Council District? 

NO. A comparison of the BNC and BSDC maps of perimeter miles around Districts 1 and 2 (the Council Districts most affected by the creation of a West Berkeley Council District) shows that the BNC map with the West Berkeley District has a perimeter of 2.84 miles larger than the BSDC map, but in District 2 the BSDC map has a perimeter of 3.04 miles larger than the BNC map. A comparison of perimeter miles around other districts between the two maps show minor variations among the various districts. Seems pretty much a draw and shows the “too big” argument to be a classic red herring. It should be pointed out that, practically speaking, the BNC proposed West Berkeley District is probably the easiest area for Council candidates to walk, while more compact Districts like District 6 in the hills are very difficult to walk because of the topography. 

Only the Berkeley Neighborhood Council map addresses both objectives of creating a Student District and recognizing that a fair and just city is indeed a City of Neighborhoods. The City Council should ensure there is minimal impact to neighborhood groups and consider them as strong a Community of Interest as that of the students. Neighborhood populations are not transient and are more permanent in nature and decisions made by the Council have a long term impact on their residents livelihoods and quality of life. Neighborhoods throughout the City need to unite to ensure there is a place for you at the table of civic affairs. 

The Neighborhood Council redistricting map can be seen here (pdf) 

The time has come for all everyone concerned about the principles of fair council representation and that neighborhoods are communities of interest to sign on to this statement. Tell your Council representative to reverse the Wozniak/Moore motion by adding to their consideration the BNC map. 

All it takes is for you to email BNC your willingness to sign on to this statement at