Inside Garden Grove’s Contentious Effort to Draw New Voting Districts

When Garden Grove City Council members vote on boundaries for new city council districts tonight, they will be making the biggest change to the city’s elections system in sixty years.

The change is the result of the settlement of a California Voting Rights Act lawsuit by a Latino resident and unsuccessful city council candidate that alleged the city’s at-large elections system diluted the vote of Latino residents, who make up 37 percent of the city’s total population but have never held elected office in Garden Grove.

Tonight’s final public hearing on the district boundaries will likely be contentious, as there is still strong disagreement among residents on major aspects of each of the five map proposals.

Although those involved in the mapping process mostly agree about how the east and west sides of the city should be divided, there is division between residents over how the lines should be drawn in Central Garden Grove.

Central side by side 1

There’s disagreement on how to draw the lines in central Garden Grove. Vietnamese residents want to see two districts with an Asian majority. Members of the Central Garden Grove Neighborhood Association don’t like how these three maps cut into a neighborhood that was the center of community organizing in 2003.

A map submitted by resident Kim Nguyen divides central Garden Grove into one district north of Chapman Avenue and two districts to the south, vertically divided by Brookhurst Street.

The county’s League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), South Vietnamese veterans groups and the Union of Vietnamese American Student Associations (UVSA) have backed Nguyen’s map because they believe it gives both ethnic groups “equal” representation, with two majority districts each.

That same praise has angered other residents who question why race should be the leading factor in how districts are drawn. Others oppose Nguyen’s map because they believe drawing two districts along Brookhurst is counterintuitive to how residents live and interact, and because the line would cut into a central Garden Grove neighborhood that has been the locus of community organizing for over a decade.

Another map submitted by Planning Commissioner Andrew Kanzler uses Garden Grove Boulevard and the 22 Freeway as a dividing line. This map creates two racially competitive districts north of Garden Grove Blvd., and a majority Asian district south of the street, where the Little Saigon business district is centered.

Supporters of this map believe that creating two competitive districts is more representative of the city’s racial diversity, while some Vietnamese American leaders have objected to the consolidation of Little Saigon into one district, arguing that it would pack Vietnamese voters into one district and reduce the number of council seats available to them.

A third map drafted by the city’s paid consultant David Ely, is meant to be a compromise of the two public submissions. According to Ely, it includes two districts with an Asian plurality but divides the Central Garden Grove neighborhood into two districts, rather than three districts as seen in Nguyen’s map.

Two other maps emerged within the last week as a compromise between residents concerned about the division of central Garden Grove and those concerned about preserving the voting power of Vietnamese and Latino voters.

sidebyside compromise 1

District 3 in the map on the left encompasses the entire neighborhood that Central Garden Grove Neighborhood Association members don’t want to see split up.

A map created by members of the Central Garden Grove Neighborhood Association — Bert Ashland, Maureen Blackmun and Stephanie Klopfenstein — focuses on capturing an entire central neighborhood within district three.

The neighborhood was a hub for organizing around a 2003 referendum to block plans for a gated community by Brandywine Homes, during which members of the Neighborhood Association gathered more than 8,600 signatures.

That map also has two strong Asian districts and two strong Latino districts.

Latino advocates, however, are still concerned about whether the Neighborhood Association’s map weakens the electoral chances for Latinos. Although the total number of Latino residents is about the same, the advantage Latinos have over Asian and White residents is lower when considering citizen voting age population, an important metric for a group that has lower rates of citizenship.

eligible latino voters


In Nguyen’s original map, Latinos have a 3.3 percent advantage over Asians among eligible voters. In the Neighborhood Association’s map, that advantage is just 0.8 percent.

Should Race Be a Factor?

One of the guiding principles behind how districts should be drawn is that residents with similar interests should be grouped together. Shared interests could be defined by a number of factors, like whether those residents speak the same language or live in the same apartment complex.

In general, the federal Voting Rights Act is intended to protect the right to vote of minority groups.

When it comes to political participation, some people view racial identity as a divisive factor. They believe that once a minority group is able to vote, it’s up to them to organize and get involved. Others place an emphasis on barriers to voting, such as low rates of citizenship, language, or the structure of an electoral system that make it difficult for a group to have their voices heard in politics.

The support for Kim Nguyen’s map has alarmed some residents who worry that divvying up districts based on ethnicity will only fuel racial competition, rather than collaboration.

“I believe this map process has gotten very racialized and I don’t like it,” said Liz Raganold at a public hearing on April 12. “I think now communities of similar interest still gravitate and flock together, especially if they need each other’s help.”

Others see Nguyen’s map as a power play for Vietnamese voters and have questioned whether special interest groups or the Democratic Party are behind the swell of support for her map.

At the April 12 public hearing, resident Josh McIntosh questioned the number of new faces, who had never been to a council meeting or participated in civic life before, now coming forth to support Nguyen’s map.

“Kim Nguyen pops on the scene — you have a very well-organized bunch of people who we’ve never seen or heard before. Somebody’s behind this, and they’ve got something very big at stake with her map,” McIntosh said. “Is it about power? Is it about getting more votes for Little Saigon?”

Those comments have rankled Vietnamese and Latinos advocates. Benny Diaz, the president of Garden Grove LULAC, objected to the accusations of hidden political motives behind the support for Nguyen’s map.

“So it is ok to have an organize residents of Garden Grove, central Garden Grove residents or anything else, but Latinos can not [sic] organize too and [neither can] the Vietnamese?” wrote Diaz in a Facebook group for Garden Grove residents. “Since when this groups think they represent what is good or bad for Garden Grove?”

Demian Garcia-Monroy of Orange County LULAC said that while the ideal voter would examine candidates’ views and record, for many voters, race is still an important factor.

“The realities of a campaign, whether we like it or not, is that race becomes a big issue. Not everybody votes the way they should. People vote with someone of their background because they feel comfortable that they understand them,” Garcia-Monroy said.

Contact Thy Vo or follow her on Twitter @thyanhvo.

  • BeeBee.BeeLeaves

    Benny Diaz has some nerve yapping about central GG, now known as South Central.

    When our Old Orange Grove village was going to be eminent domained, it was our friends and neighbors from Central Garden Grove Neighborhood Association, the very people he discriminates against because they are Caucasian, who helped our East Garden Grove neighborhood. They helped walk streets, coordinate meetings, assign action to fight eminent domain from his loveydoveypalsywalsy “distinguished” Bulldozer Broadwater. Where was his LULAC when my Latino neighbors were about to lose their homes and neighbors to a resort? Not helping the neighborhood that is for sure. GGNA tries to bring neighbors together for helping neighbors and has done so on many occasions over the years with East GG residents. LuLuLuLAC has never but now it is instrumental in dividing neighbors and neighborhoods. And claims unity when they unite folks against central GG, there’s those evil white people again, to break up neighborhood unity. Forked tongue.

    • Silence Dogood

      WOW, the haters of the Kim Nguyen map have lost their sh_t so much they created new words for the English language. #loveydoveypalsywalsy

      • BeeBee.BeeLeaves

        Yep. Its kinda like kissya$$y.

        • Silence Dogood

          Or you are a douchiebaggy.

          • BeeBee.BeeLeaves

            Divisive words from a divider.

  • BeeBee.BeeLeaves

    We were not divided before.
    We are now.
    We thought the bulldozing days were over, but they are not.

    This issue should have gone to the voters in the first place. Instead, it went to litigation. We hire a consultant and for all his time and work and many revisions based on district meetings – meetings where many of the lobbyists voicing support for Kim were never ever seen – it is all ignored. The maps went from being about neighborhoods to being all about race. Neighborhoods lose yet again. What a waste of time and money and trust. Slice that middle, that history, heart, health and hope of Garden Grove, with a sharp knife and go, skip, skip, skip, and be wonderful!

    What a rabbit hole.
    A three path rabbit hole.
    House successfully divided.

    We were never racially divided until LULAC and MALDEF and their pal Shenkman decided we should be. Then again, Council should have put this up for vote by The People who have voted, and who do show up to vote. Quite a shame it wasn’t. Instead, factions, operatives, and resentments. The first cut is the deepest. It will take a long time to heal the betrayal.

  • Jane Rands

    I’m curious to know what happened at the GG Council Meeting.

    Fullerton City Council will be selecting a map on May 17. The only map the hired demographer David Ely discussed in any detail at the Public Hearing on April 19 was one In which historic downtown Fullerton is divided up so much that my 1924 home 2 blocks from Euclid is in the same district as CSUF on the east side of State College!

    I’m curious why the state standards that are intended to keep negiborhoodd together and not combine unlike neighborhoods isn’t being respected.

    I’m all for district elections and increasing minority voter participation. But I think it can be done in a way that reflects neighborhood indentity.

    • BeeBee.BeeLeaves

      Consultant Ely was very good about keeping neighborhoods together. In our city, his efforts for us were hijacked by political operatives.

  • Paul Lucas

    I dont know a whole lot about developing these maps for districts but when I looked at Kim Nguyens map it really looked to me that Latinos get thrown under the bus. Is anyone else seeing that or am I wrong or just a little wrong?

    • Silence Dogood

      No you are 100% wrong. Take a look at the numbers for district 5 and 6, Kim Nguyen’s map has the highest percentage numbers for eligible Latino voters. Apparently math was not your strong subject.

      • BeeBee.BeeLeaves

        District 5 and 6, and District 1, never changed in this process despite the community meetings and citizens’ input at those meetings. That is not the problem.

        The problem was that in all the district community meetings that were held none of the folks in the Kim faction came to contribute. They pop up like Jack in the Box people out of some secret box they were held in, hollering “Map 1” at the Council meetings. Were they paid?

        The Central Garden Grove land, voter grab, now affectionately (rolls eyes) called South Central because that is what it has become, completely dishonors our neighborhoods’ historical and relationship development which has east west meridians. It is an obvious attempt to secure an agenda. And saying that the Vietnamese and Latino joint venture is “historical” is pitting those two groups against the White folks and is a not very neighborly way of saying you stuck it to your Caucasian neighbors. Central GG neighbors shut up and shut down when for over 15 years they were the ones who helped the villages in “Latino” east GG on many occasions, as neighbors helping neighbors. Where were the Latino activist groups and leaders. Oh, that’s right … No.Where.To.Be.Found. Desaparecidos! And now they have the audacity to hurt our central neighbors who have always been there for the very unidos east side villages. Nervio tremendo.

        The lawsuit should have never happened. The decision should have been made by the voters during the upcoming elections.

        • Silence Dogood

          You are such an idiot. And it is impossible to argue with an idiot. Your only arguments resorted to making up lies(like they were paid) and claiming you “heard” things. No you didn’t hear things, you made things up. Your side and the Central GGNA were the racists, it was obvious in the comments and the speeches, which I went back and watched. You all couldn’t even agree on where your neighborhoods began and ended, it kept changing. You GGNA folks make me sick to my stomach. Why don’t you go burn a cross or something.

          • BeeBee.BeeLeaves

            You have proven the us versus them point. Perfectly. Read what you wrote.
            The paid person, know her.
            And you are dealing with someone with Mexican and Chinese blood, in district 6. So keep your burning crosses comment in your own front yard and out of all our neighborhoods. Andale, chapo! Apurate.

  • Josh McIntosh

    Regarding the statement “Supporters of this map believe that creating two competitive districts is more representative of the city’s racial diversity, while some Vietnamese American leaders have objected to the consolidation of Little Saigon into one district, arguing that it would pack Vietnamese voters into one district and reduce the number of council seats available to them.” This is silly. We have a majority of Vietnamese Councilmembers now, without having districts. The largest racial group in the city are people of Vietnamese heritage. They live in every proposed district. Little Saigon was the starting point 30 years ago, where they came together for shopping, dining, cultural events and such. It has expanded through conurbation and reached all of our neighborhoods. The Vietnamese residents vote. They not only vote but they run for office. Historically they have been leaning Republican and supporting right wing Viet candidates. However, there is a Democratic movement swelling amongst the younger generation and I believe that we are witnessing a strategic takeover for the Dems by way of extending districts to gain more territory. By the way, I love Bernie Sanders. I consider myself a Liberal Libertarian. I’m registered with the Green Party. However, this is not about a national party, this is about Garden Grove. A lot of us feel that GG has been reduced to a political stepping stone for candidates seeking higher office. I think that there are powers bigger than any neighborhood group of concerned residents, who regularly participate and work hard to keep our city accountable and moving in the right direction. My gut tells me there is something bigger behind this.

    • Silence Dogood

      Your gut is wrong.

  • Josh McIntosh

    Josh McIntosh I still believe that Kanzler’s map is the fairest of them all. It offers three mixed residential zones while also giving each major ethnic group a designated zone. I really wish we could keep the Main Street and Civic Center, the heart of the city, in one, central district. It is smack dab in the middle of the city. It’s also where I live. I am very concerned that there is an ominous force, yet to be revealed, behind the movement hoping to extend Little Saigon all the way up to Chapman Ave. This whole district election process was meant to give the East Side Grovers (Chicano majority) a seat at the table which has been dominated by Caucasian and Vietnamese politicians, with many beginning through appointments from the Planning Commission. Now it seems that that the main focus has been to increase the reach of Little Saigon’s politicians. As a 40 plus year resident and homeowner, I know where our different neighborhoods begin and end. As I have stated several times, look at the markets and restaurants if you want to know what area you’re in. Tonight’s City Council meeting will certainly be interesting.

    • BeeBee.BeeLeaves

      Land grab.