By Justin HAGER
Local residents from across the foothill communities of the San Gabriels are expressing concerns over proposed maps presented by California’s Citizens Redistricting Commission. With less than a month remaining before a court-mandated deadline, the Commission faces the monumental task of finishing the district boundaries that will determine the electorate for the next 10 years of U.S. congressional, state Senate, state Assembly, and state Board of Equalization elections. After decades of political gamesmanship and gerrymandering by both parties, the passage of Proposition 11 in 2008 finally led to an independent bipartisan redistricting commission.
While the first goal of the Redistricting Commission is to try and create districts that have approximately the same number of people, California’s process also seeks to create more regularly shaped districts that unite communities of interest (people with shared cultures, histories, economies or other values or identities). These considerations were, in part, responsible for the creation of the new 43rd Assembly District in 2010, which united the communities of the Crescenta Valley, including La Cañada Flintridge, with Glendale, Burbank and the Los Feliz and Silver Lake neighborhoods of Los Angeles. The new district had a shared history from its founding as the Rancho La Cañada to its more recent economic history with both the film and television and aviation industries. Assembly District 43 also streamlined partnerships such as the Montrose Search and Rescue Fire and Emergency response team, the LA River Revitalization Project, Chandler Bike Path and the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority. Perhaps most importantly, Assembly District 43 fully encompassed the entirety of both the cities of Glendale and Burbank and their corresponding school districts. For residents of these communities, including the residents of Crescenta Valley who live within the boundaries of the City of Glendale or whose children attend a GUSD school, the 2010 redistricting process provided them with a unified voice that they could use to exercise influence as a unified community.
The newly proposed maps, which were first presented by the Commission on Nov. 2 and were significantly revised just one week later would once again divide the Crescenta Valley and surrounding communities and school districts into multiple districts. Burbank, Sunland and Tujunga would join with San Fernando, Sylmar and Sun Valley to form a district that sits roughly between the 210 and 5 freeways. The northwestern portion and the Montrose/Verdugo City portions of Crescenta Valley that are formally part of the City of Glendale would be grouped with the rest of Glendale and a large swatch of City of Los Angeles neighborhoods that extends all the way to the borders of West Hollywood. And the southeastern portion of the Crescenta Valley and the City of La Cañada would be grouped with Pasadena, Monrovia, portions of Duarte, Claremont, Upland, Wrightwood, Lytle Creek, Crestline and Lake Arrowhead to form a massive district that stretches more than 80 miles from end-to-end and connects the border of the City of Los Angeles to the border of Big Bear Lake. A similar map with similar concerns was presented for the newly drawn Congressional District.
Beyond the massive scale of the proposed district, there are also concerns about the lack of communities of interest. While both history and big institutions such as the Angeles National Forest, CalTech, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and high school athletics competitions create logical connections between the Crescenta Valley, Altadena, Pasadena and even Monrovia or Duarte, those connections become tenuous at best with the addition of communities that sit beyond the Angeles Forest and outside of Los Angeles County. Similarly, residents of the Crescenta Highlands are unlikely to have too many overlapping communities of interest with a densely packed urban area like Hollywood. Meanwhile, those same boundaries will also divide the Glendale Unified School District, and many of the other projects and partnerships mentioned in this article into multiple Assembly and Congressional districts.
Put simply, a drive across the Crescenta Valley from La Cañada to Tujunga would cross three different state assembly districts and two congressional districts.
The options to reelect Laura Friedman to the Assembly and reelect Congressman Schiff to the country’s House of Representatives would be taken away from many voters who would fall into newly defined districts. Any project in the Crescenta Valley or within the GUSD or other shared resource that requires state or federal aid would need the support of multiple elected officials, each of who might have little reason to care about such a small corner of their district.
Conversely, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory would no longer find its mailing address in one Assembly district and its campus in another; reconnecting with Pasadena does have potential benefits, especially for communities like La Cañada Flintridge and the unincorporated areas of CV that are serviced by the Altadena Sheriff’s station.
Regardless whether or not voters support the proposed maps or oppose them, it is advised that they have their voices heard by submitting feedback at www.wedrawthelinesca.org.