Redistricting Battle Heats Up as Perry, Pacheco Vie Downtown

by Howard Fine

It's quickly becoming the most contentious redistricting issue in town.
L.A City Councilmembers Jan Perry and Nick Pacheco are pulling out the stops in their squabble over which one will represent downtown after the district lines are redrawn.

Perry, whose 9th District encompasses most of downtown, is trying to fend off a bid from Pacheco to have much of the area transferred to his district. The City Council Redistricting Commission last month recommended sticking with the current boundaries; the City Council itself has until June 30 to uphold the commission or make changes.

The once low-key battle has stepped up in intensity in the last couple of weeks as the council prepares to hold hearings on the issue. There have been opeds from supporters of both camps, and on May 10 Perry and Pacheco appeared on KCET-TV (Channel 28)'s "Life & Times."

Perry argues that downtown should not be divvied up among several councilmembers. Pacheco says he's restoring things to the way they were before the last redistricting battle 10 years ago, when a sizeable portion of downtown was transferred to the 9th District, then represented by Rita Walters.

Both Perry and Pacheco deny the fight is about race, although some have suggested that Pacheco wants to add downtown's largely Latino residential base to his own district.

There is one other issue underlying the debate that hasn't been mentioned by either side: redevelopment. Just last week, the City Council approved a massive $2.4 billion redevelopment project for downtown. Whoever represents downtown will get credit for bringing jobs and investment to the area, and that certainly would make for great re-election campaign material.

Mysterious Galanter E-mail

Two weeks ago, L.A. City Councilwoman Ruth Galanter sent a bombshell of an e-mail to constituents. It claimed that L.A. Mayor James Hahn is backtracking on his pledge not to expand LAX beyond 78 million annual passengers by quietly pushing an expansion plan through the airport staff and commission.

"We hear from several sources Mayor Hahn's 'Fifth Alternative' to the LAX Master Plan will handle 88 million annual passengers," Galanter said in her e-mail.

Also, Galanter said in the e-mail, "the new plan will designate Manchester Square, near the 405 Freeway, as the major terminal entrance for airport passengers."

If true, the plan could rapidly become a political firestorm, since Hahn has invested so much rhetoric and action (in the form of directives to develop an airport at Palmdale) to keeping the 78 million cap. And it would certainly rile residents in the Manchester Square area, who long have been fearful that their land would be taken for airport expansion.

But LAWA Commission President Ted Stein a Hahn confidante denied any such plan, and Galanter has refused to name her "sources."

Borough Politics

The borough proposal recently aired by L.A. City Councilmembers Wendy Greuel and Janice Hahn was late in coming. So late, in fact, that many have been left wondering if it's a serious proposal to create New York-style boroughs or simply a tactic to divert votes from the secession measure likely to be on the Nov. 5 ballot.

On that issue, the jury is still out, said California State University Fullerton science professor Raphael Sonenshein.

"If they put together a well-thought-out proposal, it could very well win on the merits," Sonenshein said. "But that's a big if."

On KCRW's "Which Way, LA?" Greuel flatly denied this was an attempt to divert votes from secession. But she also acknowledged that two months was too short a time frame to come up with such a detailed proposal to place on the Nov. 5 ballot by the end-of-July deadline. So appearing on the ballot would be a timetable committing the city to deadlines to come up with a borough system, not the plan itself.

Staff reporter Howard Fine can be reached by phone at (323) 549-5225, ext. 227, or by e-mail at

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