The Irvine City Council will revisit the topic of implementing council districts, along with the aspect of council expansion during the upcoming city council meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 10. The topics were agendized separately by Irvine Vice Mayor Tammy Kim and Irvine Mayor Farrah Khan.
In a Dec. 1 memo, Kim wrote that she supports expanding the city council from five to seven members, and requested to discuss the topic with the council. In the memo, Kim cited U.S. Census data that indicates Irvine is the largest Orange County city with only five city council members.
At 309,000 residents in 2021, according to the U.S. Census, each member of the Irvine City Council currently represents 61,800 people. An additional two council members would shrink the representation size down to approximately 44,000 residents per member.
“By comparison, Anaheim’s seven city council members each represent around 49,000 constituents despite being a large city,” Kim’s memo read. “In Santa Ana, which has a nearly identical population size to Irvine, each council member represents around 44,000 people.”
Kim did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday, but she spoke about districting in Irvine previously.
Last year, the topic of district elections and council expansion was brought forward by Irvine Council Member Larry Agran. In his presentation, Agran said the topic of switching to district elections from at-large elections should be placed on the midterm ballot.
While the Council ultimately voted 4-1 to discuss the topic in a closed session, Kim was unsupportive of districting in the city of Irvine, but did support the idea “overall.”
Prior to the November election, Kim said she viewed district elections or “districting” as a “political ploy” under the guise of better representation. Kim also pointed out that there is no data to signify district elections would be necessary for Irvine.
More recently, Khan requested the topic of council expansion be discussed during the Jan. 10 meeting. In a separate memo, dated Dec. 14, Khan referenced Kim’s request to address the topic.
“Given the nature of that particular topic, I am requesting that we also discuss the possible establishment of City Council districts.”
In a phone interview with Irvine Weekly on Friday, Jan. 6, Irvine Mayor Farrah Khan said she believes that council expansion should not occur without council districts.
“I don’t see any benefit in expanding the council without there being districts, so that’s why I submitted my memo,” she said. “I think what’s going to be important is that the districts are used mainly for electing people rather than committing them to just that area. What we don’t want in the long run is individuals in one particular area, not looking at the city as a whole, because sometimes that ends up being detrimental.”
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