The BSDC map approved by Judge Grillo will be used in November, unless an appeal overturns the decision.
The BSDC map approved by Judge Grillo will be used in November, unless an appeal overturns the decision.

Judge Evelio Grillo ruled today in favor of using the council-majority-approved district lines in the November 2014 election. Grillo heard closing arguments in City of Berkeley v. Tim Dupuis and Mark Numainville Tuesday.

In a 35-page opinion, Grillo determined that the council-approved map, also called the BSDC map, “is the one that best complies with meeting the mandates of equal protection and minimizing any disruption to the election process.” 

“Obviously I am disappointed,” said Councilman Jesse Arreguín in an email to Berkeleyside. “I hoped that the judge would have given more consideration to the several alternate maps submitted which were constitutionally compliant and complied with the City Charter, rather than entering the political thicket and picking a map that was stayed by a successful citizens referendum.

“This ruling sets a terrible precedent and encourages cities to purposely time their action on a referendum so as to inoculate it from challenges and renders the citizens right to a referendum as a futile exercise of democracy and makes a referendum essentially meaningless,” Arreguín said.

According to Arreguín, one of the three council members named as parties of interest in the redistricting suit, referendum proponents have not yet decided whether to appeal the ruling. The city’s lawyer, Margaret Prinzing from Remcho, Johansen & Purcell, had no comment on the decision.

Read more about the redistricting battle in past Berkeleyside coverage.

The alternatives considered by the judge — the 2002 district map, the MAPMINDS proposal submitted in 2011, the minimum deviation map presented to the council this month, and the USDA map introduced in mid-2013 — were rejected for a variety of reasons. According to the ruling, the 2002 map “raises a serious equal protection concern,” because of the unequal populations in districts. The MAPMINDS map predated Berkeley’s Measure R, setting new districting rules. The judge writes that it had not been reviewed for compliance by city staff, the public or the council under the amended City Charter. The judge rejected the minimum deviation map because of “the lack of verification and analysis and the lack of opportunity for comment.” The USDA map, the judge wrote, “was twice considered and twice rejected by the City Council, the legislative body charged with reapportionment.”

Grillo’s ruling points out that if the redistricting referendum passes fails in November, the City Council will need to start the redistricting process over and consider alternatives to the BSDC map. If the referendum fails passes, the ruling says, the BSDC map will be used for all future elections until the next decennial redistricting process (wrongly described by the judge as a “centennial redistricting process”). (Update The actual wording of the referendum will be “Shall ordinance No. 7,320-N.S. be adopted?”, referring to the BSDC map.)

The other contentious issue in Tuesday’s hearing, whether the Brown Act had been violated by council actions, was, according to the judge, rendered moot by the City Council’s approval Tuesday night of an item that “cured or corrected these claimed Brown Act violations.” In the decision, Grillo writes that the city had 30 days from notice of a challenged action to “cure or correct,” and the 30 days ran to May 3.

Update, 5:50 p.m. Councilman Laurie Capitelli said he was “relieved” by the judge’s decision.

“I’m looking forward to doing more productive work,” he said.

Judge plans to rule today on Berkeley redistricting lines (04.30.14)
Op-ed: How to see through the fog of redistricting (04.30.14)
Op-ed: It’s time to compromise on Berkeley redistricting (04.29.14)
City of Berkeley heads to court over redistricting lines (04.09.14)
Official pushes for independent redistricting panel (03.20.14)
Berkeley redistricting maps to be on November ballot, judge to choose which lines to use (03.12.14)
Council majority pushes redistricting decisions to March (02.26.14)
Berkeley redistricting referendum effort prevails (02.03.14)
Long-time Berkeley progressives back referendum drive (02.03.14)
Redistricting opponents secure signatures to secure vote (01.22.14)
Op-ed: We don’t need a redistricting referendum (01.10.14)
Tight deadline to get redistricting referendum on ballot (01.03.14)
Berkeley redistricting map splits council, community (12.18.13)

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Lance Knobel (Berkeleyside co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine...