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Tower District leaders upset Fresno redistricting map splits neighborhood into three council districts

A Fresno City Council redistricting map that will go for a final vote next week has many Tower District residents voicing concerns about the new dividing lines. The map expands the area from two council districts to three.

Fresno City Councilmember Miguel Arias chaired the committee that drafted the map. He said the committee drew on public input to create the map that addressed major population deviations that had developed over the past decade.

"The current district map that we have has one council member with 10,000 more residents than another. And that imbalance had to be addressed," he said.

In addition to District 1 and District 3, Map 111 now adds District 7 representation. Arias acknowledged the situation wasn’t ideal.

"It's not a perfect map to have multiple council members represent one neighborhood. Unfortunately, since we're limited to 7 council members, that's going to result in having three council members represent the Tower District that goes from downtown all the way to Shields Avenue."

Arias said resolving the neighborhood representation split would need a public vote to allow for the creation of nine council districts instead of the current seven.

Tyler Mackey, executive director of the Tower District Marketing Committee criticized the map for breaking up historical neighborhoods.

“It's literally dividing Fresno High neighborhoods, historic neighborhoods into separate districts, versus keeping them intact which is what they as a community feel that they are,” he said.

He said the Tower District has long struggled as a divided district and the new map will only complicate that.

“We already see such challenges in the Tower District with the preservation of just the Tower Theater itself,” he said.

Michael Birdsong is a member of the newly formed Tower District Specific Plan Committee, which works to protect historic neighborhoods. He was concerned with how the map drew lines into residential neighborhoods instead of major streets.

“So if you lived on one side of the street, you might be in District 3, if you lived on the other side of the street, you might be in District 7, depending on how it was carved out,” he said.

Birdsong pointed out divisions in historical districts like the Wilson Island Tract near Fresno High and the Porter Tract near Fresno City College.

Arias maintained that drawing lines into neighborhood streets allowed districts to gain and lose the necessary amount of residents to reach the ideal population deviation of 1%. He argued that giving the Tower District more representation would ensure more resources. A final vote will take place next Thursday, Dec. 9.

Soreath Hok is a multimedia journalist with experience in radio, television and digital production. She is a 2022 National Edward R. Murrow Award winner. At KVPR she covers local government, politics and other local news.