FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Equitable and agreeable City Charter reform in a city of nearly 4 million people is a complex process. We will continue to do our best to provide comprehensive and concise information throughout this site, but as you can imagine, there is quite a lot to cover. We have compiled some common questions and our answers here, divided into several categories that you can navigate:
As Los Angeles City Charter reform is an ongoing process, we will continue to update this site with additional resources, information, and details on upcoming public hearings and related community events. If you have any additional questions, please reach out to us at FairRepLA@gmail.com
FAIR REP LA
Who makes up the Fair Rep LA coalition?
Fair Rep LA is a coalition of Los Angeles- and California-based advocacy groups organizing around expanding LA City Council and the city adopting an Independent Redistricting Commission for more Equitable and Accountable Representation. Visit our About Us page to learn more.
When and why did the coalition form?
The coalition formed in October of 2021 after witnessing the controversial process of redistricting the city council boundaries.
Is there a resource to learn more about LA city government if I am new to the topic?
Yes! One of the Fair Rep LA coalition members, LA Forward, has a fantastic resource that gives an overview of local government and how to get involved as an advocate for good government practices. Their “LA 101 Guide” is a comprehensive education website that has this description: “From the LA County Board of Supervisors to the LA City Council, the guide explains the systems and the connections among them, but most importantly, how you can get involved in making Los Angeles a fair, flourishing place for everyone.”
Want to watch a short video about the LA 101 guide? See their LA 101 Guide Animated Short youtube video.
We also highly recommend the book, Los Angeles: Structure of a City Government, written by Raphael Sonenshein for the League of Women Voters of Greater Los Angeles. Since the topic of local government can be complicated and lengthy, this ebook is an exemplary overview that explains how local government works.
CHARTER REFORM BASICS
What is a Charter City, and why does it matter?
A chartered city differs from what are known as general law cities, due to having a city charter. A city charter is the city’s version of a constitution and it “creates institutions of government and allocates power among the city’s council members, mayor and professional staff.” Any amendments to a city's charter must go to the ballot – only the voters of the city get to ratify amendments to their city's charter. Los Angeles is a charter city, meaning that our redistricting commission and council size are codified in our charter, and those processes can only be amended by an official charter amendment.
How is it that LA city has so much power to govern locally and be independent from the county and state governments?
Within the California Constitution, “charter cities and counties have exclusive authority to regulate and determine their own municipal affairs, free from intrusion by the state.” This is known as “Home Rule,” and gives rights to charter cities, like Los Angeles city, to make most local decisions, especially as it pertains to elections, how land can be used (aka zoning laws) and municipal business (general city structure and operations).
What is Charter Reform?
Charter reform is the process of changing the city charter, which must be put before the voters as a Charter Amendment Ballot Measure. A charter reform measure can be placed on a city election ballot by one of these options:
- By a majority vote of the LA City Council
- By an Appointed or an Elected Charter Reform Commission
- Via a petition signed by 15% of the total number of registered voters in the city. As of March 2023 there are 2,123,531 registered voters in the city of Los Angeles, and 15% of that would be 318,530 signatures needed for such a petition.
For more details on how to get a Charter Amendment on a Ballot, see the LA City Ethic’s Commission’s Memo, “Overview of How a Charter Amendment is Placed on the Ballot.”
What is a Charter Reform Commission?
Such a commission works to make changes to the charter when reform is proposed. These temporary commissions are only created and in session during times of charter reform. A Charter Reform Commission could be composed of members elected by the public, but in the past the City Councilmembers have also appointed such a commission. The commission’s charter reform propositions are then put on the ballot for voters to pass.
LA CITY COUNCIL
What does the Los Angeles City Council do?
Los Angeles City Council is a body of city representatives who each represent distinct geographic districts, elected by those districts for four year terms. The decisions of these representatives affect all city departments and every aspect of Angelenos lives.
From the LA City Council website: “The City Council is the governing body of the City, except as otherwise provided in the Charter, and enacts ordinances subject to the approval or veto of the Mayor. It orders elections, levies taxes, authorizes public improvements, approves contracts, and adopts traffic regulations. The Council adopts or modifies the budget proposed by the Mayor and provides the necessary funds, equipment, and supplies for the budgetary departments. The Council confirms or rejects appointments proposed by the Mayor and prescribes duties of boards and officers not defined by Charter.”
From the coalition member LA Forward’s LA 101 Guide: “Council members are in charge of creating all laws that legislate how civilians and businesses operate, as well as overseeing and giving final approval on budgets for the City of Los Angeles. Within their own district, Councilmembers wield significant power, especially over how and which development projects are approved.”
How many Councilmembers make up the Los Angeles City Council?
LA City Council has 15 members that represent 15 council districts. The wording of “districts,” “seats,” and “members” are used interchangeably when talking about the size of LA City Council.
15 members = 15 seats = 15 districts.
What is a Council District, or CD?
A council district is a geographic section of the City that is defined by boundaries redrawn every 10 years following the US Census. There are 15 council districts that make up the Los Angeles City Council, with each council district represented by a single council member. Sometimes “CD” is used as an acronym for “Council District." For example, “CD1” means Council District 1. To see a map of the current 15 council districts, visit this interactive link.