Oakland residents from all corners of the city gathered last week and churned out 30 new proposed redistricting maps for the City Council to consider as it debates how to redraw the lines that define voting districts in Oakland.

Those additional maps, counted as of Friday, bring to 45 the total number of proposed maps the City has at its disposal to consider when it meets in October to discuss redistricting boundaries. Members of the Oakland Votes coalition said they plan to bring the maps to City Hall on Thursday.

At issue is how to carve seven voting districts into Oakland so that the principles of the U.S. Voting Rights Act of “one person, one vote” and representation of “communities of interest” are represented. At a meeting last Wednesday about redistricting hosted by Oakland Votes, attendees were asked what “communities of interest” define them or are important to them. For some it was ethnic communities, for others it was where their children attended school or what transit systems they relied on.

Oakland currently has seven voting districts. But every ten years after the U.S. Census, cities are required to look at whether their voting districts still allow fair representation of their citizens. If population counts have shifted too much in any districts, or beyond a 10 percent threshold, then some redistricting is supposed to be done and done in a way that allows citizen input. The Oakland City Council voted this summer to look at the entire city in its redistricting after it realized that at least three of the districts would, by law, need to be reconfigured.

A slew of community groups and interested residents have gotten involved. Four: the Urban Strategies Council, Oakland Rising, the League of Women Voters of Oakland and ACCE Refund California have formed the Oakland Votes Redistricting Coalition, which hosted last Wednesday’s meeting.

“Democracy is about people having the power to get things done. The fact that 52 people came out to draw a map is great, that’s democracy,” said Esperanza Tervalon-Daumont, the chief executive of Oakland Rising, who led the meeting. “My hope is you get enough maps that look kind of similar, then (the City Council) will have to take into account what the people of Oakland want,”

About 52 people attended, including City of Oakland planner, Devan Reiff, who is overseeing the redistricting process (Contact him at dreiff@oaklandnet.com) and some Oakland Unified School District board members. Attendees broke into groups circled around tables holding big blueprint maps of the City. After talking about why, and if, districting matters and communities of interest and fairness in Oakland politics, participants took colored markers in hand and drew on the blueprint maps district borders that sense to them.

“Outreach is so critical, and each one of you represent 10 or 15 people when you consider your friends or family,” have similar concerns, said Reiff. He said that of the 15 maps the City already has received, eleven are from the public, one map is from City Council member Desley Brooks and three from the city’s consultant on the redistricting process, National Demographics Corp.

The 30 maps created were handed over to Steven Spiker, the Urban Strategies data chief and the co-founder of OpenOakland, an open data initiative in which residents work with the City in making city and county data available and accessible to everyone and which is trying to foster public-private partnerships around delivery of city services.

According to the plan, Spiker will create digitized versions of the hand-drawn maps.

Anybody actually can make a digital version of their proposed map using the Maptitude map making application found on the City’s web site at Oaklandnet.com/redistricting.

The neighborhoods getting the most focus, it seemed, at the meeting and in redistricting generally are:

  • Maxwell Park, which is currently split into three districts as part of districts 3, 4 and 5;
  • Chinatown, which currently is an underpopulated district (District 2) which does not include neighborhoods considered logical parts of that district such as the east shore of Lake Merritt,
  • and whether to split East Oakland from the Hills or to maintain Districts 6 and 7 as each partly East Oakland and each partly Hills neighborhoods.

The City Council Rules Committee will consider the many proposed maps at an Oct. 3 meeting.

Two weeks later the full City Council will debate proposed maps on Oct. 15. The public is invited to any and all meetings.

About The Author

Barbara Grady is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can reach her at barbara@oaklandlocal.com

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