Redistricting: Watts new?
What's the opposite of "I told you so"? Because whatever it is, I need to say it about the draft map proposals released Wednesday by the Los Angeles City Council Redistricting Commission. Blogging on the recently concluded special election in Council District 15, I said there was just no way that Watts was ever going to be severed from the distant harbor.
But except for gaining or losing a few blocks at the far northern end, where Watts joins South Los Angeles and the central city, Council District 15 doesn't change. It can't, and it won't, because it has nowhere else to go. It's fenced in by the harbor on the south and the very strange shape of the city boundaries from there northward. Unless more territory is annexed to or detached from Los Angeles, this district will look pretty much the same in 50 years as it does today.
Never mind. The proposed map moves Watts out of the 15th and makes it part of a Council District 9, which traditionally takes in most of downtown but now would go only as far north as Olympic Boulevard.
Is that good or bad? It's different, and it could be good, although I'd be interested to know what Watts residents think. I suspect that many of them might like to finally be severed from San Pedro, the harbor community that always controls the election of the 15th District council member because it's where most of the money and most of the votes reside.
Every council member from that district, going back at least to World War II, has been a San Pedro resident. And it must be extraordinarily hard for the District 15 members not to promote the interests of their neighborhood and its very distinct demographic -- families with roots in fishing, shipping, loading, unloading and moving freight, largely white with a strong Italian, Croatian and Greek ethnic identity -- as opposed to Watts, with its distinct history and largely African American and Latino immigrant demographic, as well as environmental degradation, dense public housing problems and persistent gang crime.
Of course, not every community can have its own district. Communities must be joined with others that are like them -- or very unlike them. So would Watts now instead be pushed around by wealthy and gentrified downtown?
Perhaps not. The Bunker Hill and Flower Street office towers would be excluded, as would most of the 1920s bank buildings that are now condos and apartments. A lot of the conversation is going to focus on how the northern two-thirds of downtown would now be united as part of the same 14th District that includes Boyle Heights and far-away Eagle Rock. But the 9th District, in addition to Watts, would include downtown's Staples Center, L.A. Live and, assuming it gets built, Farmers Field football stadium.
So is this now the Anschutz Entertainment Group district, and will Watts now become the afterthought of AEG, instead of remaining the afterthought of the Port of Los Angeles? Could the AEG connection be better leveraged to help fund improvements in Watts?
Don't know the answer yet. Let's watch and listen.