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As redistricting deadline looms, UCSD students still hope for change

UC San Diego's campus is shown in this undated aerial photo.
UC San Diego
UC San Diego's campus is shown in this undated aerial photo.

UC San Diego students are still hoping the city of San Diego's independent Redistricting Commission will draw their campus into one new City Council district after commissioners settled on a preliminary map that splits the campus into two districts.

The draft preliminary map chosen on Nov. 13 groups the UCSD campus west of Interstate 5 with La Jolla and Pacific Beach in a reconfigured District 1, while the eastern portion of the campus, which houses mostly graduate students, would be in a new District 6 with University City and Mira Mesa.

Dozens of students began showing up to commission meetings in the summer pushing for all of UCSD to be drawn into a new District 6. They said students have little in common with the mostly white, wealthy homeowners that dominate La Jolla politics.

Aidan Lin, a UCSD sophomore and associate vice president of local affairs at Associated Students, said La Jolla's wealth and political power would inevitably drown out the voices of students if they were to, for example, lobby their councilmember to support new affordable housing or density in the area.

"At the end of the day, even if students speak up and we participate and we're present, there are other communities who always will prevail just by the nature of how these lines are drawn," Lin said.

That dynamic was on display, Lin said, when commissioners rejected the idea of grouping all of San Diego's most populous coastal communities, from La Jolla to Point Loma, in a new District 1. Lin said commissioners fretted over how Point Loma residents would feel about that map, even though the neighborhood hadn't been organized or shown up to meetings.

"It feels like we have to bring like 10 students or 50 students to just kind of get one point across, and that's very taxing on us as students," Lin said. "The commission seems to do a better job of imagining what Point Loma's concerns are over listening to what the students and the AAPI community is present and telling them in these commission hearings."

The students' desires aligned closely with a large coalition of other community groups seeking, among other things, an Asian American empowerment district where people of Asian descent make up at least 40% of the population.

The preliminary map commissioners chose as a starting point for future deliberation does include a District 6 with an Asian voting age population of about 40%, based on the latest census data. But the campus would still be split along the I-5 freeway.

Lin said he fears his peers, many of whom are engaging in local politics for the first time, would be discouraged if they can't see their activism bear fruit.

"If youth are the future … then I think that we should have a say and we should be involved in this process and listened to," Lin said. "And if that isn't the case, I think it will have negative impacts on the next generation of San Diego leaders."

As redistricting deadline looms, UCSD students still hope for change