First published in the Jan. 15 print issue of the Glendale News Press.
A recently finalized political map splits Glendale in half, a change that has angered some members of the Armenian community concerned that the shift will weaken its political voice.
South Glendale has been absorbed into a different state Assembly district than north Glendale, Burbank and La Crescenta-Montrose, while the entirety of Glendale was redistricted away from Burbank in the state Senate, though it remains connected with La Crescenta-Montrose and La Cañada Flintridge. Because of the new representation maps, which an independent California commission draws following each U.S. Census, this year’s elections will bring south Glendale a new state assemblymember.
The reshaped districts, which essentially go into effect starting with the California primary election in June, place south Glendale — generally south of Milford Street or Lexington Drive — within the same boundaries as East Los Angeles, Echo Park and Lincoln Heights.
The California Citizens Redistricting Commission submitted its final maps — which will remain in effect for the next decade — in late December. Besides setting the stage for a change in cities’ representatives following this year’s elections, in some cases, the new maps alter the voting populations of each district, potentially strengthening or weakening certain groups’ political influence.
The Armenian National Committee of America lobbied the CCRC for weeks to convince members to avoid separating districts with significant Armenian populations — particularly Glendale, Burbank and La Crescenta-Montrose. Sarkis Simonian, chairman of ANCA Burbank, told the News-Press that moving south Glendale into a different Assembly district will weaken the Armenian community’s voice.
“Unfortunately, every iteration of maps released by the redistricting commission has been worse than the one before, regardless of the thousands upon thousands of calls, letters and emails sent by residents educating the commission about the Armenian community and vital roles of keeping Burbank and Glendale together,” Simonian said. “At this stage, the only conclusion a reasonable person will come to is that the split is intentional to weaken the Armenian voice in the district.”
State law requires the CRCC to draw district lines by certain criteria, with the foremost guidelines being that boundaries must have roughly equal population and comply with the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits redistricting that discriminates on the basis of race. The CRCC also cannot draw boundaries based on communities’ relationships with their current political representatives.
For example, when the CCRC drew district lines in 2011, less than 18% of voting-age citizens in Assembly District 43 — which includes Glendale — were Hispanic, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. In the newly drawn Assembly District 44 — which includes north Glendale and Burbank, and adds Sunland-Tujunga, but excludes LCF — just over 18% of voting-age citizens are Hispanic. About 11% of Assembly District 44’s voting-age citizen population is Asian, compared to the 13% of Assembly District 43 in 2011.
The voting-age citizen population of South Glendale’s new district, numbered 52, is more than 50% Hispanic, nearly 31% white, 15% Asian and 2.7% Black.
Because the population estimates were from 2011, it’s unclear how much of the shift resulted from redistricting rather than demographic changes that have occurred since then.
Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, who is running for reelection to represent California Assembly District 44, could continue to represent north Glendale, while state Sen. Anthony Portantino, who oversees Senate District 25, will remain the city’s representative in the California Senate.
U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, a Burbank Democrat who represents the 30th Congressional District, also announced recently he is running for reelection in the district, which will continue to include all of Glendale and much of the rest of his current region.