Re-carving Pasadena

Separate task forces consider City Council and school board district boundaries

By Justin Chapman, Pasadena Weekly, 1/12/2012

Wednesday night marks one of the last opportunities people will have to review the work of a special task force charged with redrawing the boundaries of Pasadena’s seven City Council districts.
The redistricting effort, which is mandated every decade to include demographic changes reflected in the US Census, has been headed by former Councilman Bill Crowfoot, an Assistant US Attorney and two-term Pasadena councilman who served from 1993 to 2001.
After nine meetings since August, the only thing that appears clear — with another meeting set for Feb. 1 and a tentative final session set for Feb. 15 before the nine-member Redistricting Task Force’s recommendations go to the Council for consideration — is that all seven districts will continue abutting Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena’s main commercial artery.
Meanwhile, the Pasadena Unified School District has commissioned a task force to essentially do much the same thing. PUSD’s nine-member Districting Task Force is reviewing the 1999-2000 City Charter Amendment proposal for sub-geographic district elections of Board of Education members and using 2010 Census data and public input to determine geographic regions for seven school board seats. This means the selection method for PUSD board members would change from current at large elections to district-based elections, similar to how City Council elections are set up. 
The PUSD Districting Task Force, which next meets Saturday morning, has a bigger area to consider than the city’s task force, because PUSD also encompasses the unincorporated community of Altadena and the city of Sierra Madre. PUSD and the City Council appointed three members each to the task force, with one member appointed by the Sierra Madre City Council and two appointed by LA County Supervisor Michael Antonovich, whose supervisorial district includes Altadena.
The task force is also required to ensure compliance with the Voting Rights Act. At its Nov. 15 meeting, members voted unanimously to follow four other criteria for drawing up seven new school district boundaries: socio-economic factors; race, ethnicity and linguistics; natural geographic boundaries; and school attendance zones, including school locations and student attendance patterns.
“I favor it, because it brings a more local democracy,” said PUSD Board member Ramon Miramontes. With districts, he said, “The average person, the average parent can now run. They can walk the district. They don’t have to raise the $50,000-plus. So I think we’re going to have a stronger pool of candidates.” 
Pasadena Unified’s task force has six scheduled public hearings left in order to receive community input on the process, following the first hearing, which took place Jan. 3. A special election set for June 5 will allow voters to decide on a City Charter amendment allowing for the creation of PUSD electoral districts.
It’s still unclear whether Altadena or Sierra Madre will get their own sub-district seats on the school board, though at the joint meeting between the Pasadena City Council and the PUSD Board of Education last January, a few school board members expressed doubt that would be the case.
“I know there’s been some discussion floating around,” said Board member Ed Honowitz. “If we divide [the district] evenly by seven, it’s not going to fall exactly like that. There won’t be a separate city of Sierra Madre representative, for instance.”
John Pappalardo, PUSD’s chief finance officer, told the Weekly that with roughly 206,000 people in the school district, there needs to be about 29,000 people in each sub-district.
“Since Sierra Madre has about 15,000 residents and Altadena has about 42,000 residents, each could be split into part of one or two sub-districts. So it’s going to be up to the community to weigh in and decide how these lines are drawn,” Pappalardo said. 
“Some Altadenans say they want their own seat, but another thought I’ve heard from Altadenans is that they want to be part of multiple sub-districts, so they’ll have more representatives and more access in the school district. Those are issues that will come up during the public hearings,” he said.
“There are a lot of people who do not venture into the political realm at PUSD because it’s at large,” Miramontes said. “For you to run in West Altadena and go all the way to Sierra Madre, imagine the types of communities you’d have to touch bases with. You can’t really win a school board race without tens of thousands of dollars in mailers. Now with districts, you’ve made it viable for the average Joe or Jane to run. Now it would take seven to 10 [thousand dollars], and they could make up for the lack of money by walking and meeting the voters.”
In city redistricting efforts, consultant Douglas Johnson said criteria for that task force included compliance with the Voting Rights Act and ensuring that each district is equal in population. 
Of two sample maps being considered, the second would have the greatest effect on District 5 — Crowfoot’s former district, which is located roughly in the center of northern Pasadena and was carved out of parts of Districts 2 and 3 in the early 1990s to increase voting opportunities for the growing number of Latinos living there.
Although Crowfoot is not Latino, he speaks Spanish fluently. Since Crowfoot left office, the district’s council seat has been occupied by his former field representative, Councilman Victor Gordo.
Between 2000 and 2010, the city’s total population increased by 3,186 residents, or 2.4 percent. Districts 3, 4, 6, and 7 increased in population slightly, while Districts 1, 2, and 5 decreased, with District 5 seeing the largest decline in Latino and African American residents.
“That district’s had the greatest decline in population, so it has to grow and expand somewhat,” said Crowfoot. “It’s interesting, because it illustrates how some areas of our city are stable and people want to continue to be part of the same neighborhoods in which they’ve established good relationships with their neighbors and council representatives, while in other parts of the city new neighborhoods have been created that weren’t around when the last Census was done. This is unusual, he said.

The next meeting of the Pasadena Redistricting Task Force is set for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Villa-Parke Community Center, 363 E. Villa St., Pasadena. For more information, call (626) 744-4124. To view the sample maps, visit
The next meeting of the PUSD Districting Task Force is set for10 a.m. Saturday at the Western Justice Center, 55 S. Grand Ave., Pasadena. For more information, call (626) 396-3600 ext. 88159 or visit