Population shifts spur Oakland to redraw council boundaries, this time, with public’s help
on October 13, 2021
Oakland is redrawing its council district map to address population shifts revealed in the 2020 Census, and this time, Oaklanders can have a say.
The City Charter states that Oakland must adjust council district boundaries to reflect population changes in the decennial U.S. census data, a process known as redistricting.
According to 2020 census data, Oakland’s population increased by nearly 13% to 440,646 since 2010. Driving that trend were a 28% increase in the city’s Latino population and a 14% increase in its Asian population. However, the population of those who identify as Black only, dropped by 14% to 93,820.
Since the redrawn map will be used in the City Council and school board elections, it directly influences residents’ access to policy-making and governing for the next 10 years.
The Oakland Redistricting Commission is overseeing the process. The commission has three public hearings, including at 6 p.m. Wednesday, and hopes to finalize the new map by the end of the year.
The current district map was drawn in 2013 by city officials. The following year, the city charter was amended to establish an independent commission of 15 volunteers to maximize the public’s input.
“One of the biggest differences between 2013 and now is that the commissioners are citizens. They are inherently interested in public engagement,” said Corey Alvin, a planner and environmental coordinator from the city’s Bureau of Planning, who is assisting in the redistricting process.
The U.S. Constitution requires the population in each district to be substantially equal, so everyone has equitable representation in the government. A district must be one contiguous area and ensure the integrity of communities of interest.
Communities of interest are groups that share common characteristics, interests, or concerns. These groups ought to be included within a single district for fair representation during the elections.
Samuel Cheng, who manages the Vietnamese American Community Center of the East Bay’s food distribution center, believes the current boundary of District 2, which includes Chinatown as well as East Lake Merritt, should remain intact.
He said people tend to think of Chinatown as a separate entity from the rest of the Lake Merritt neighborhoods. They overlook the fact there are many Chinese and Cantonese-speaking residents living in East Lake Merritt, where the majority of the Asian population originates from Southeast Asia.
Working with Chinese and Cantonese seniors living in East Lake Merritt, Cheng found they still go to Chinatown for basic medical and social services, often because of the language barriers they encounter in other neighborhoods.
He believes the current District 2 treats the Asian community around Lake Merritt as a cohesive unit — a mapping that will help Asian residents on both sides of the lake to receive necessary resources.
Benjie Achtenberg, a redistricting commissioner who lives in District 6, said the commission is working on giving residents online access to a free mapping tool that would enable them to draw proposed districts.
“I think it’s really important that people take advantage of every opportunity they can to run the government in a way that benefits them,” Achtenberg said. “We want to draw the lines that can empower people to elect someone who can truly represent their interests in the City Council.”
This story was updated with additional census information.
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