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Korean Group Threatens Lawsuit

By Aaron Blevins, 3/22/2012

Coalition in an Uproar Over Redistricting


Following the Los Angeles City Council’s 13-2 approval of the city’s new district lines, the Korean American Coalition-Los Angeles has threatened to sue, alleging that the council did not adequately represent the city’s Asian population in the process.

A map shows the final recomendation for the Koreatown District. (photo courtesy of the L.A. City Council Redistricting Commission)

Grace Yoo, the coalition’s executive director, said the coalition is proceeding with its lawsuit, which alleges violations of the Equal Protection Clause, the Brown Act, the Los Angeles City Charter and the Voting Rights Act. She said the suit will contain individually-named plaintiffs, though they have yet to be determined.

“I think it’s incredibly disheartening that the democratic process has been waylaid by too much politics,” Yoo said.

Korean-Americans in Koreatown had been lobbying to have the Wilshire Center-Koreatown Neighborhood Council included in a single district, offering the potential for an Asian-American to win a city council seat. Instead, the new district lines split the neighborhood council’s old boundaries, which were smaller, into two districts, 13 and 10. For the last 10 years, the neighborhood council had been split into Council Districts 4, 10 and 13.

“This is not feasible,” Yoo said.

She said Asians and Pacific Islanders make up the second largest minority group in the city, yet the demographic has only had one Asian-American, Mike Woo, elected to the city council. According to the 2010 Census, Latinos are the largest minority group in the city with a population of 1.84 million. The Asian population totals 426,959, while blacks or African Americans have a population of 402,448.

The two dissenting council votes came from Bernard Parks, 8th District, and Jan Perry, 9th District, the council’s only African-American members. According to a letter addressed to city attorney Carmen Trutanich by Nathan Lowenstein on behalf of Parks and Perry, they believed that the council’s Redistricting Commission used race as a driving motivation to segregate voters into districts. The letters contends that the commission, in drawing a map for council consideration, violated the Equal Protection Clause and the City Charter.

“Should the city council adopt the Redistricting Commission’s plan, or one that is substantially similar to it, the end result will almost certainly be needless litigation,” Lowenstein wrote.

Yoo said she felt that the public information aspect of the redistricting process was a formality. She said representatives of Koreatown have made a point to be outspoken about what she believes is a pointless process.

“We’re going to continue, and that’s why we’re going off to the lawsuit,” Yoo said. “They’re not listening.”



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