On October 10th, the City Council finalized a measure to be placed on the March 2024 ballot that, if approved by Irvine voters, would expand the Council to seven members — a Mayor elected by all of the City’s voters; and six Councilmembers elected by the voters in their geographical district.
As part of the process, the Council also selected the final map that will be implemented if Irvine voters approve the City’s transition to district elections.
The current Council consists of a Mayor and four Councilmembers, elected “at-large” by all voters in the City. With more than 300,000 residents, running for Council has become difficult for grassroots candidates because of the influence of big money, and the inability of candidates to meet with a large number of voters. Transitioning to district elections is viewed as more equitable because it opens the campaign process to a wider group of candidates who do not need large donors in order to win. It also ensures that all areas of the City are represented. (Three of the five current members of the Council live in the area south of the 405 Freeway.)
Back in January, the Council approved the drafting of the ballot measure, which kicked off a months-long process of map-drawing for the districts. The City worked hard to maximize citizen participation to ensure that the final map was fair to all of the City’s neighborhoods and to its various ethnic and socio-economic groups.
Since April, fourteen community meetings and five public hearings have been held across Irvine to discuss maps proposed by residents and by National Demographic Corporation (NDC), which was retained by the City to lead the effort. A website, drawirvine.org, enabled all Irvine residents to submit their own map for consideration. Dozens of citizen-drawn maps were submitted, reviewed by NDC for compliance with state and federal laws, and then put before the City Council during the five public hearings.
Dr. Justin Levitt of NDC, who has worked with hundreds of cities and public agencies on districting/redistricting projects, said that Irvine produced the most citizen-drawn maps of any client he’d worked with.
During the October 10th Council meeting, it came down to two main contenders, Map 151 and Map 163. The majority of public commenters endorsed Map 151, noting that its districts are more compact, the most contiguous in nature, and are walkable districts with villages kept intact.
Mayor Farrah Khan, along with Councilmembers Larry Agran and Mike Carroll agreed that Map 151 was the most equitable choice. All three voted to support Map 151.
Public commenters in support of Map 163 were mostly UCI students who favored it because the Park West apartment complex, which houses a number of students, would be included in the student-dominated UCI district. However, others then argued that the majority of the renters in the apartment complex are working families and young professionals, with no connection to UCI.
Councilmembers Tammy Kim and Kathleen Treseder agreed with the UCI students, voting against Map 151. Kim and Treseder complained that Map 151 did not support their two priorities, which were districts with Asian and Pacific Islander (API) voter-age populations and renter-majority districts.
However, their arguments were contradicted by the facts. Map 163 would create districts with API voter-age populations ranging from 29 percent to 44 percent while Map 151 creates districts with API voter-age populations ranging from 27 percent to 50 percent. And, Map 163 would create only three renter-majority districts while Map 151 establishes four renter-majority districts.
To review Map 151 in detail, click here.
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