Berkeley redistricting: How new City Council boundaries could affect you

Berkeley’s Independent Redistricting Commission is expected to make its choice for a new map over the coming weeks.

a map of the city council districts
The current City Council district map was approved after the 2010 census. You can see a higher-resolution version of the map here. Credit: City of Berkeley

The effort to redraw the lines of Berkeley’s City Council districts could lead to big changes in how students and West Berkeley residents are represented. The updated boundaries could also draw multiple council members out of the districts they currently represent.

Or the new map could look basically the same as the current one.

That’s the range of options before Berkeley’s Independent Redistricting Commission, which last week released four “draft maps” for how the city’s eight council districts will look for the next decade.

Berkeley is using an independent commission for the first time in this round of redistricting, which is based on the 2020 census, and the process is expected to reach its crucial final stages in the coming weeks.

Now the commission wants to hear from the public about the four draft concepts — you can check the maps out below, and share your thoughts either by emailing redistricting@cityofberkeley.info or by taking part in a virtual commission meeting planned for 6 p.m. on Thursday.

The commission is expected to continue making changes to the draft maps and narrowing its options during two more meetings on Feb. 17 and 28. At the second of those meetings, members plan to select their choice for the new council districts, which will get a final vote from the commission on March 16; the map would then go to the City Council for adoption.

If the commission sticks to its schedule, the new boundaries could be in use for this November’s elections. Or, if the city sees a repeat of the contentious debate over new council districts that erupted during the redistricting process a decade ago, they may take longer to go into effect.

Below is a look at each of the four draft maps, which have been given a color-coded nickname by the commission.

Map 1: Amber

The “Amber” map would keep Berkeley’s City Council districts essentially the same.

This map would essentially preserve the status quo, with only minor changes to each of the existing City Council districts. Its tweaks mostly aim to have district borders better correspond with major streets.

The most noticeable change is that the map would smooth out the odd current shapes of districts 4 and 7. The last time Berkeley redrew its council boundaries, the rules of the process required that no current members could be drawn out of the areas they represented; as a result, those districts included awkward extensions to capture the homes of their representatives at the time, Jesse Arreguín and Kriss Worthington.

This time around, the commission has been directed not to consider the homes of current City Council members at all when drawing its lines. This map wouldn’t draw any council members’ homes into new districts.

Map 2: Blue

The “Blue” redistricting map would create a second district with a large percentage of UC Berkeley students, and would group all residents west of San Pablo Avenue into a single district.

If you’re looking to shake up the City Council, the “Blue” map would do just that.

This map would make both of the two most dramatic changes the redistricting commission is considering: Merging much of West Berkeley into a single district and redrawing Central Berkeley’s District 4 to create a second seat representing a large share of college students and renters.

As a result of this map’s changes, half of the City Council’s members would be drawn out of their districts.

The Berkeley Independent Redistricting Commission will discuss these maps and take public feedback Thursday night. Click here to find out how to join.

The map would extend the border of District 2, which now covers the southern half of West Berkeley and is represented by Councilmember Terry Taplin, to include all residents west of San Pablo Avenue. District 1, now represented by Councilmember Rashi Kesarwani, would, in turn, pick up some neighborhoods south of University Avenue and east of San Pablo that are now in districts 2 and 4.

The map would shift Councilmember Kate Harrison’s District 4 to the east, where it would pick up several blocks surrounding the UC Berkeley campus, including portions of both the Southside area around Telegraph Avenue and the Northside neighborhood around Hearst Avenue. Just over 90% of the proposed district’s residents would be renters, compared to about 80% in its current configuration.

Kesarwani and Harrison would both be drawn out of their current districts in this map, as would councilmembers Ben Barlett and Rigel Robinson.

Map 3: Maroon

The “Maroon” map would create two student-focused districts, but would not affect West Berkeley’s representation.

The next two maps would enact each of the potential changes to student and West Berkeley districts individually. The “Maroon” map would create a second student-focused district, while leaving West Berkeley mostly unchanged.

When Berkeley last drew its council maps, the creation of a district with a large student majority was a key sticking point in what turned into a years-long process. This time around, criteria laid out by the redistricting commission’s members called for preserving at least one student district and looking into adding a second.

Much like in the “Blue” map, this proposal would extend District 4 into student-heavy neighborhoods around UC Berkeley. The homes of both Harrison and Robinson would be drawn into different districts in this configuration.

Map 4: Orange

The “Orange” map would reshuffle West Berkeley’s districts, while leaving student representation approximately the same.

Finally, the “Orange” map takes on the changes in West Berkeley while leaving the downtown and campus districts more or less the same.

Like in the “Blue” map, this option would see District 2 include all areas west of San Pablo Avenue. The new District 1, meanwhile, would pick up the Poets Corner neighborhood, as well as some pieces of what is now District 5, giving it a simpler northern border.

Nico Savidge is Berkeleyside's senior reporter covering city hall. Email: nico@berkeleyside.org. Twitter: NSavidge.