Stephanie Phonvongsa explains the redistricting proposal to a gathering audience. Photos: Robert Mills

By Robert Mills

Nine students met on the steps of Old City Hall Tuesday to submit their redistricting proposal to Berkeley City Council. Their pitch came early in the game – with the deadline for initial submissions agreed at last night’s council meeting as September 30.

The students are summer interns at City Council and will return to different schools in the fall. Audrey Gutierrez and César Perez attend Berkeley Community College. Ché Sanders and Jacquell Simpson hail from Berkeley High School. John Nguyen and Gianna Albaum attend UC Berkeley. Beatriz Andrade comes form Sequoia High School in Redwood City, and Saori Matsuoka and Stephanie Phonvongsa attend UC San Diego.

City managers announced a call for redistricting on July 11, and the group arrived with their plan eight days later. They are the first to submit a proposal this year.

“We want to show that there’s no need for a delay,” Phonvongsa said.

According to the group, the proposal is one of “maximum participation and minimum deviation,” meaning that they adhered to a policy of equal population, simple-line separations, and a model that more closely resembles the boundaries established in Berkeley’s 1986 city charter. The group decided not to enter the current debate about a student supermajority district.

Students convene outside Old City Hall before presenting to City Council

Ché Sanders from BHS said the plan is an attempt to balance out Berkeley’s eight council districts, adding that it achieves approximately 0.25% or less deviation from the goal population in all districts.

“We possibly have the lowest deviation ever for a redistricting,” Sanders said. “We’re very confident.”

Audrey Gutierrez said the group hopes their proposal will encourage more Berkeley residents to submit their own redistricting proposals.

“It’s really about civic engagement,” Gutierrez said. “It’s thrilling to be a part of such a landmark Berkeley decision. I’m a lifelong Berkeley resident, and being a part of a group that seeks to empower all voices of Berkeley in redistricting reaffirms my Berkeley roots.”

Following a press conference on the Old City Hall steps, Sanders and Phonvongsa presented the plan to the council. They will see the results of their efforts in December, after City Council members review all other submissions.

Every 10 years, the City of Berkeley reviews its council district boundaries to account for shifts and changes in the population. The redistricting process is based on the population figures provided by the U.S. Census Bureau. Berkeley residents interested in drafting their own redistricting proposals can acquire a redistricting packet from the City Clerk Department.

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