Oakland’s redistricting commission poised to approve map

OAKLAND — Many months after it started the process, a city commission is poised to officially approve a political map that defines seven new districts for city council and school board elections over the next decade.

After an intense hours-long debate last week, the city’s redistricting commission decided on a map that will change the political boundaries of some neighborhoods in the city, although not as drastically as some of the draft maps considered by the commission in recent months would have.

By law, the political districts must be redrawn every 10 years to reflect population shifts documented by the latest census. This is the first time an independent body of Oakland residents drew new boundaries, a task previously performed by elected officials who sometimes stand to gain politically from the outcome.

The boundaries help determine who runs for office and how much clout individuals and community interest groups within those districts have in voting for their representatives.

The map chosen by the commission is now posted to the redistricting commission’s website, where Oaklanders can view it for the next two weeks leading up to the next special meeting, during which the commission is expected to formally adopt the map.

The changes the map makes to the current districts include extending the boundary of District 3 across Interstate 580, extending the southern boundary of District 1 into part of the Adams Point neighborhood, and extending District 4 into more of the Oakland hills that have been part of District 1 since the last redistricting process.

The Oakland Redistricting Commission decided on a map that, if officially adopted this month, will determine the political boundaries for city council and school board races for the next ten years. (Courtesy City of Oakland and Redistricting Partners) 

The new map will move the boundary of District 5 up toward I-580, bringing the Bartlett neighborhood — a residential area below I-580 and below the Laurel and Dimond neighborhoods — from District 4 to District 5.

Among the most controversial decisions for the commission during its last meeting Jan. 26 was whether to put the Coliseum complex in District 6 or District 7. After hours of debate, the commission ultimately decided to move the Coliseum from District 7, where it currently is, to District 6.

The Coliseum and the BART station have been in District 7 for more than 20 years, and while no one lives on the Coliseum property, some commissioners said during the meeting that District 6 residents lived closer to the site than the District 7 residents who were separated by industry yards to the complex and thus should have a closer tie to it by being in the same district.

Others argued that the Coliseum should stay in District 7 because it’s an economic engine: as the A’s are slated to leave the Coliseum behind for either the Oakland waterfront or Nevada, a development group has an exclusive negotiating agreement to explore bringing other sports teams, office space, retail and restaurants and housing to the 120-acre site.

After several informal polls among the commission during its meeting over where to put the Coliseum, some commissioners changed their vote in order to reach a quorum needed to approve the map, and put the Coliseum in District 6.

The Oakland Redistricting Commission decided on a map that, if officially adopted this month, will determine the political boundaries for city council and school board races for the next ten years. This map compares the current boundaries with the redrawn lines of the new map. (Courtesy City of Oakland and Redistricting Partners) 

The chair of the commission, Lili Gangas, voted against the approved map, citing the Coliseum placement as the reason and the communities in District 7 that have long worked to engage with the city on issues relating to the Coliseum’s future. Commissioners Amber Blackwell and Gloria Crowell joined Gangas in voting “no” on the map, but with nine other commissioners voting to approve it, the map was decided.

It will need at least nine votes to be officially approved, which is expected to happen later this month.

The commission did not meet its Dec. 31, deadline mandated by the Oakland City Charter to adopt the map. Under the law, the City Attorney has to submit a petition to Superior Court to temporarily draw the district boundaries, which City Attorney Barbara Parker did earlier this month, but it’s a temporary move until the commission approves the map. The commission will continue to hold special meetings until they adopt a final map.

No meeting has been put on the public agenda yet, but to follow the issue or view more information about the process, visit https://www.oaklandca.gov/boards-commissions/redistricting-commission.

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