Every 10 years, the boundaries of Oakland’s City Council and school board districts are redrawn based on new U.S. Census data. And in each prior decade, the very councilmembers representing those districts had the final say about where the lines were drawn—until now.
Control over district boundaries was taken away from the City Council in 2014 after voters approved a ballot measure to establish an independent commission to oversee and ratify any changes to Districts 1 through 7, following the 2020 U.S. Census.
The Oakland Redistricting Commission is now getting to work. Wednesday at 5 p.m. begins the first of four scheduled town hall meetings, the first opportunity for residents to identify “communities of interest” which may be impacted based on population and demographic changes since the 2010 census.
“We encourage all Oaklanders to attend and provide input on the redistricting process,” Commission Chair Tracy Richmond McKnight said in a press release. “This is the first time the new maps will be approved by the community and we need your help in ensuring your priorities are met.”
McKnight is one of 15 members of the commission. The selection process began with a pool of 40 applicants who were interviewed by a screening panel which then nominated 30 of them. Their names were assigned to ping pong balls and six were randomly drawn from a spinning lottery drum by City Clerk Asha Reed, with Deputy City Administrator Richard Luna observing. The raffle-like selection process was broadcast by the city and recorded on video.
Those first six commissioners then selected the other nine members. Under Measure DD, the members cannot hold appointive office or work as staff or a consultant for the city or school district, or lobby the city or school district on behalf of any client until four years after serving on the redistricting commission.
The public hearing portion of the meeting on Wednesday starts at 6 p.m. and can be accessed via Zoom. That meeting, and the one scheduled for Sept. 8, will focus on communities of interest, which is defined as “a population that shares common social or economic interests that should be included within a single City Council district for purposes of its effective and fair representation.”
Luna wrote in a memo to the commission that census data should be available in mid-September and the first draft maps could be produced in early October. The commission is also holding public hearings on Oct. 13 and Nov. 10.
Dec. 31 is the deadline for a majority of the commission to approve and finalize new district maps. They would first be used in the November 2022 election, when City Council and OUSD districts 2, 4 and 6 are on the ballot. In 2024, voters living in odd-numbered districts cast ballots.
Oakland did not always have district-based elected seats. Prior to 1980, the city had a system of “at-large” elections, which virtually shut Black and Latino residents out of local politics. You can read more about that history here.
To figure out which district you currently reside in, and if you live near the district’s border, visit http://gisapps1.mapoakland.com/councildistricts/.