Los Angeles’ Koreatown Fights City Hall

     LOS ANGELES (CN) – Los Angeles’ redrawing of City Council districts has left the 120,000 residents of Koreatown a “captive minority” in their own neighborhood, with an Asian voter registration of just 9.2 percent, residents claim in Federal Court.
     Five Koreatown residents sued the City of Los Angeles, fighting what they call an “unconstitutional ordinance” that redraws City Council districts.
     They claim the alleged gerrymandering violates the 14th Amendment, the City Charter and the California Constitution.
     Plaintiffs Peter Lee, Miri Park, Ho Sam Park, Geney Kim and Yonah Hong ask the court to appoint an official to redraw the district boundaries, and seek a referendum on whether the redistricting ordinance should be overturned.
     “(B)y enacting the redistricting ordinance, the city redrew city council district (‘CD’) 10 for the explicit purpose of increasing the percentage of registered African-American voters in CD 10,” the complaint states. “Indeed, an appointee of the redistricting commission that drew the new district boundaries acknowledged, both orally and in writing, that his goal in redrawing the boundaries of CD 10 was to ‘protect the historical African American incumbents in this district [CD 10] by increasing the black voter registration percentage and CVAP #s [citizen voting age population] accordingly,” the complaint states. (Brackets in complaint.)
     The residents identify the redistricting commission appointee as (nonparty) Commissioner Chris Ellison.
     The redrawn district has left Koreatown “artificially split” into City Council Districts 10 and 13, according to the complaint.
     The residents says the city refuses to budge because if Koreatown gets its own City Council district there will be fewer African-American voters in District 10.
     “Furthermore, the city moved certain key and historically African-American neighborhoods from neighboring CD 8 into CD 10. In doing so, the city ignored the voices of numerous residents of historically African-American neighborhoods in CD 8, which had asked during the redistricting process for their neighborhoods to be kept intact and in CD 8. The city also jettisoned from CD 10 substantial portions of the ‘Palms’ neighborhood in the formerly western portion of CD 10, in which African-American Americans were a minority,” the complaint states.
     The plaintiffs claim the district was redrawn for “predominantly racial reasons” and that the city disregarded “unanimous” requests to keep Koreatown in one piece.
     Though a redistricting commission held public hearings in late 2011, public comments were “passively received,” and the actual line-drawing was conducted behind closed doors, the plaintiffs says.
     “The redistricting commission also ignored numerous traditional redistricting criteria in drawing CD 10. The redistricting commission exempted CD 10 from its own stated desire to keep neighborhoods and communities intact. It created a district that was not contiguous and compact; more than one media commentator referred to the district’s appearance as that of a ‘fat turkey.’ And it severely underpopulated CD 8; in a single swoop CD 8 went from one of the most populous districts in Los Angeles to one of the least populous districts,” the complaint states.
     The 120,000 residents of Koreatown have seen their political power dwindle as their community has been sliced and diced into several districts over several decades, according to the complaint.
     “The end result has been that Koreatown, while populous and contributing significant tax dollars to several districts, has not been able to obtain anything close to its fair share of funding. To this day, Koreatown has no park or recreation center, no athletic facilities, no community center, no performing arts center, no senior citizen housing, and a shortage of affordable housing,” the plaintiffs say.
     The redrawn map, the City Council approved in March and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in June, made the Korean-American community in District 10 a “captive minority with an Asian voter registration of 9.2 percent,” the residents say.
     The plaintiffs are represented by John Karaczynski, with Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.

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