Los Angeles rejects major anti-development measure

Measure S Dies

Los Angeles rejects major anti-development measure

Los Angeles voting on a ballot initiative that would halt development in the city for two years. (Courtesy Josh Rose)

Los Angeles voters resoundingly defeated a proposed initiative that would have strictly limited new construction in the city yesterday, dealing a death-blow to the region’s nascent Not In My Backyard (NIMBY) movement.

The measure, known popularly as the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, but represented on the ballot as Measure S, went down in defeat after garnering only 31.2% of votes cast. The initiative, which proposed freezing development in the city for two years on projects that require discretionary approval by city agencies, was widely denounced across the city’s pro-development and pro-housing communities as a project-killer that would have not only halted the continued development of market-rate projects across the city but would have also ground to a halt much of the development associated with affordable, supportive, and transitional housing projects, as well. The initiative was strongly opposed by city leadership, including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

The pro-Measure S campaign courted controversy in recent weeks as it sent out misleading campaign materials to city residents implying that the mayor was actually in support of the initiative. Campaign organizers—the initiative was almost entirely funded by the Los Angeles AIDS Healthcare Foundation—also sent out English language mailers styled after eviction notices that caused caused confusion and panic among the city’s non-English-speaking communities.

Rusty Hicks, executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and anti-Measure S advocate, told The Los Angeles Times, “Defeating Measure S has spared our city from a future that would’ve meant fewer jobs, fewer funds for critical public services, fewer new homes for those who desperately need them, and even less affordable rents.”

Measure S stoked much anxiety among the development community and forced developers of several projects to rush ahead with formal filings with the city to prevent being precluded from moving forward should the initiative have passed. Now that Measure S has been soundly defeated, however, developers can likely take a breath.

Voters also approved Measure H, a ballot initiative aimed at raising Los Angeles County’s sales tax by half of a percent in order to fund the development of new units of transitional and supportive housing for formerly homeless individuals. Plans for the measure have yet to be worked out, but advertising for the initiative indicated that the increased funding would help transition 45,000 families into stable housing and prevent an estimated 30,000 more families from losing their dwellings through new housing assistance. The passage of Measure H—passed with 67% of voters supporting the measure—follows the success of the City of Los Angeles’s Measure HHH during November’s election. That measure called for the city to raise $1.2 billion in bonds to build 10,000 units of new supportive and transitional affordable housing across the city. As the favorable news for Measure H came across the wires last night, Phil Ansell, head of L.A. County’s Homeless Initiative told the Los Angeles Times, “Measure H revenue will enable the most comprehensive plan to combat homelessness in the history of Los Angeles County.”

Last night’s results, coupled with the passage of Measure HHH and Measure M, a county-wide transportation initiative aimed at vastly expanding the region’s public transit system, indicate that Los Angeles is embracing urbanism and densification with a renewed vigor. The success of these measures—and the dismal failure of Measure S—indicates to city leaders what many have known for long, that Los Angeles is vastly under-developed and is in serious need of increased transit-oriented development, especially affordable housing. Signs point to L.A.’s mayor supporting the popular calls for urban investment. Following Garcetti’s re-election win last night, the mayor told local affiliate NBC4, “We always have to ask: What voices aren’t we hearing? Who don’t we see? Who feels defensive right now? And stop thinking about the most powerful man in the country and start thinking about the most vulnerable people in our city.”