University and Exposition Park to remain in District 9

Image of the Expositon Park Rose Garden with plots of roses leading up to a building.
Exposition Park and USC have been in the same district for decades and identify closely with each other, according to University officials. (Colin Huang | Daily Trojan)

Following months of councilmember debates and multiple drafts regarding redistricting, the Los Angeles City Council Redistricting Commission held that USC and Exposition Park will remain in City Council District 9, according to a draft of the redistricting map finalized Nov. 9. 

The decision, which follows debates between Councilmembers Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Curren Price over whether USC should reside in District 8 or 9, must be completed by Dec. 15. 

The redistricting process faced scrutiny 10 years ago following then-Council President Herb Wesson’s removal of USC and other institutions from District 8, allegedly to punish past councilmembers of Districts 8 and 9 for being at odds with him.

The Council moved USC and Exposition Park from  District 8 to  District 9 in 2012 and will remain in Price’s District 9 as part of the recently finalized draft. 

Harris-Dawson proposed to move USC and Exposition Park back into District 8 last Tuesday because of the area’s large population of Black constituents, according to the Los Angeles Times. Moving the University’s wealth and resources into the District 8, Harris-Dawson said, would provide needed resources for the community he represents. 

However, Price argued that the University’s resources would better serve his district, which comprises a majority of Latinx residents and includes the highest concentration of poverty in L.A. 

Gloria Molina, a Fall 2021 Fellow at the Center for the Political Future and the first Latina member on the L.A. County Board of Supervisors, said in an interview with the Daily Trojan that she believes USC and Exposition Park should remain in District 9. Molina said she was surprised by arguments that suggested USC should move to District 8 because it would be an important asset for the Black community, as District 9 is a “very highly” Latinx district. 

“The argument is kind of petty and ridiculous,” Molina said. “Instead of talking about the richness of constituents that they represent and the opportunities they have to better serve those constituents, [councilmembers] are talking about these assets, or these resources, which is not the most significant part of the role and responsibility.”

Only three of the 14 councilmembers, including Harris-Dawson, voted in favor of the proposal to move USC into his district.

Sam Garrison, senior vice president of University Relations, said redistricting allows different neighborhoods with distinct identities to be fairly represented in politics. In 2008, Garrison helped lead a California statewide ballot called Proposition 11 to establish an independent redistricting commission to ensure fair representation across the state.

“The fabric of the neighborhood includes how it is represented in local government, and that is essential to the current process [of redistricting] on making sure that the city’s redistricting is completed fairly,” Garrison said.

Image of a large fountain in the middle of Exposition Park
Exposition Park and USC both moved from District 8 in 2012 and will remain in District 9 as part of a draft of the finalized redistricting map. (Colin Huang | Daily Trojan)

Garrison said he agrees that USC and Exposition Park are beneficial to their district because of their cultural, educational and economic power. 

“Expo Park is an incredible cultural and community resource with the parks, the museums, certainly with the Coliseum and with Banc of California stadium,” he said. “They’re city and regional assets that accrue back to the entire region.”

Garrison said USC does not have a preference on its district placement as long as the University remains in the same district as Exposition Park because of how tight knit the USC community is to it. 

“We did not take any position on what district the University Park Campus and Expo Park should be,” Garrison said. “Our focus has been keeping us intact as we have been for decades.” 

Mindy Romero, director of the Center for Inclusive Democracy at the Sol Price School of Public Policy, said “very flagrant attempts” were previously made to misuse the redistricting process in California. 

“It’s a careful attempt at gerrymandering districts in order to benefit one party or another,” Romero said. “We’ve seen the effect of that on real outcomes in communities, and this 10-year process. I think it’s more important than ever.”

Romero also said she believes that splitting communities through district lines requires serious consideration beforehand as the goal of redistricting is to “keep communities whole.”

“In local, state and national redistricting conversations, it’s always a flag if a known community is split,” Romero said. “[The redistricting] at least deserves additional attention and debate in terms of whether that’s appropriate.”

In a statement to the L.A. City Council Redistricting Commission, Garrison said that USC and Exposition Park have been in the same district together for decades and identify closely with each other. 

“This is consistent with decades of previous redistricting efforts that recognized the close relationship between USC and Expo Park that dates back [to] the late 1800s,” Garrison’s statement reads. “USC has long viewed our campus and Expo Park as extensions of each other … We are part of the same community and have longstanding, recognized boundaries and street lines.” 

Ordinance consideration will be made in a council meeting on Dec. 1 after one more state-required hearing.