Xan Joi stook outside Berkeley Bowl on Dec. 24 to collect signatures to force a redistricting measure to go on the ballot. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

With only two weeks left to collect 5,275 signatures to force a city council redistricting measure on the ballot, members of the Berkeley Referendum Coalition are holding a rally on Saturday to train volunteers.

Those who are opposed to the redistricting plan approved by the City Council in December plan to meet at Mudracker’s Café at 2801 Telegraph Ave. at 11 a.m. to kick off an intense weekend of voter education.

“We are training people how to get signatures,” said Alejandro Soto-Vigil, an aide to City Councilman Kriss Worthington who is helping plan the campaign. “We are going to be sending teams out, generally two people per team, to certain blocks throughout the city of Berkeley, dispatching them to supermarkets, BART, and the neighborhoods that are going to be adversely affected by the redistricting.”

About 45 people showed up to the first meeting on Dec. 21 and organizers hope many more will turn out this weekend, said Soto-Vigil.

The Berkeley Referendum Coalition hopes to overturn a new redistricting map that they believe creates a less progressive District 7 and which is aimed at forcing out Worthington, said Soto-Vigil.

The City Council on Dec. 17 adopted by a 6-3 vote a redistricting plan that included a student-majority district, but one that did not contain the student co-ops on the north side of campus that have traditionally been strong supporters of Worthington. The council adopted a plan known as the Berkeley Student District Campaign (BSDC) map that is concentrated on the south side of campus near Telegraph Avenue. This map included many fraternities and sororities, whose members many be less politically liberal than Worthington.

The council rejected another map that was introduced late in the process known as the United District Student Amendment (UDSA). That one had the co-ops.

After the vote, supporters of the UDSA map decided to collect signatures for a referendum to put the issue before voters.

Xan Joi collected a number of signatures in late December. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

But they only have 30 days after the passage of the vote to collect signatures – and the first two weeks coincided with the winter holidays and the end of the UC Berkeley semester. That meant that those most invested in the student majority district – the students – were not around either to sign the petition or to collect signatures. That has hurt the cause, said Soto-Vigil. The signatures must be turned into the City Clerk’s office by Jan. 19.

The start of the referendum drive “came exactly at a time when students were leaving., residents were on holiday, the city hall was closed for at least two weeks,” he said. “We are more vacated at this time than any other time of the year.”

Still, there were volunteers on the street throughout the last two weeks. On Christmas Eve, as last-minute shoppers rushed into Berkeley Bowl to buy holiday fixings, a volunteer named Xan Joi stood gamely by the front door trying to get people to consider signing a petition. She said she had been there a half an hour and had already collected 20 signatures.

Read more about the redistricting process on Berkeleyside.

Redistricting map splits council, community (12.18.13)
Redistricting map approved, referendum idea looms (12.04.13)
Berkeley council may consider 2 campus district maps (09.12.13)
Redistricting meeting sheds light on past process (08.09.13)
Berkeley Council denies last-minute redistricting proposal (07.08.13)
Berkeley council to consider two city redistricting maps (05.08.13)
Redistricting plans focus on student-majority district (04.26.13)
Berkeley could face most dramatic redistricting in 27 years (01.11.13)
City defers redistricting, plans charter amendment (01.18.12)
Cal students file redistricting proposal with the city (09.30.11)

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Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman...