Members of the public have submitted 19 proposals for redrawing Los Angeles County supervisor districts, setting up potential conflicts between a range of geographic, ethnic and political interests.
The proposals vary in their goals, with some looking to grant more political power to ethnic groups like Latinos or Asians and another seeking to keep the entire San Fernando Valley intact in a single district. One proposal even seeks to expand the number of supervisors to 16.
A county committee is expected to sort through the plans and make a recommendation by next month, with the Board of Supervisors required to give final approval by Oct. 31.
The county is required to adjust the boundaries of its five supervisorial districts every 10 years, based on the most up-to-date census figures, to ensure their populations are nearly equal.
The redistricting process, though often seemingly arcane to the public, often triggers fierce political fights as its results can determine whether incumbents have a better or worse chance of returning to office.
Two of the supervisors who are up for re-election next year urged the Boundary Review Committee not to split up communities already joined together in their districts.
"Redistricting should reflect communities of interest and city boundaries," said Supervisor Michael Antonovich. "The Voting Rights Act is clear that communities are to be respected over any efforts to gerrymander."
Onhis website, Supervisor Don Knabe urged supporters to fill out a form letter to Curt Pedersen, who chairs the Boundary Review Committee, and say "We do not want to see our neighborhoods, communities, and cities divided into separate districts."
"The Fourth District boundaries, as currently drawn, should be maintained as much as possible," the letter added.
Martin Zimmerman, an assistant chief executive officer for the county, said the districts have grown "out of balance" based on the 2010 census. He noted that since the county's population was estimated at 9.8 million, each of its five districts should have about 1.96million residents.
Currently, the 5th District - which is overseen by Antonovich and includes the northwest San Fernando Valley, Glendale and Pasadena - has 2.08 million residents, or 6.4 percent higher than the target number.
The 1st District, meanwhile, has 1.89 million residents, or 3.6 percent lower than the target number. The district includes East Los Angeles, Bell, La Puente, Baldwin Park and Pomona, and is headed by Supervisor Gloria Molina.
The Boundary Review Committee, composed of 10 members appointed by the Board of Supervisors, is looking over each of the proposals and will submit a report next month.
At present, the San Fernando Valley is split between the 3rd - the seat held by Zev Yaroslavsky - and 5th districts.
The plan submitted by Christopher Kan called for placing virtually the entire San Fernando Valley under the 3rd District. He said it "provides fair and effective representation by grouping together people with like interests and concerns," and "enhances opportunity for all voters by more accurately delineating community and cultural boundaries."
Alan Clayton, an activist who has a long history of redistricting work on behalf of the Latino community, submitted two plans, each with different partners.
Both plans sought to divide the San Fernando Valley among the 1st, 3rd and 5th districts.
Steven Ochoa, national redistricting coordinator for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, also submitted two plans, both of which were incomplete.
He sought to "create two Latino Section 2 mandated districts along with preserving an effective opportunity district for the African-American community."
Allan Chan called his the "Minority Empowerment Plan." He said, "Asians are the largest growing group in California but do not historically have the infrastructure to gain power."
He said his plan would "pool the community of interests of Chinese in Chinatown, east and west San Gabriel Valley communities while keeping other communities of interest together like blacks and maintaining the district population balance."
Two plans were submitted by people who do not live in the county.
Christopher McClellan is in Utah, and Keith Privett is from Illinois.
Two other plans were scrapped - one because it was withdrawn by its author, and another because it called for dividing the county into 16 districts, three times more than is legally allowed.
The Boundary Review Committee is supposed to submit its recommendations next month to the Board of Supervisors, which must hold two public hearings.
Once adopted by the board, the new redistricting plan will take effect in the fall.