At the Palisades Rotary Club meeting on Feb. 2, one member asked the News to do a story about Measure S, the controversial initiative on the March 7 ballot that seeks to amend city laws related to the general plan. “My mailbox is full of flyers for and against,” he said. “I don’t know what to do.”
Basically, by voting yes, residents endorse a two-year moratorium (or until the city updates its general plan) on some development. It does not stop development that adheres to zoning.
A no vote means that nothing changes; it’s business as usual in Los Angeles construction.
Interestingly enough, the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously on Feb. 8 to require regular updates to outdated community plans. The vote triggers creation of a new ordinance mandating that those plans be updated every six years. Over the past decade, just four of 35 community plans have been updated.
Why the sudden rush to implement this ordinance before the March 7 election? Is it because Measure S resonates with community members because developers have been able to get spot zoning and variances in height and density for pet projects?
Is it because developers pay for the environmental and traffic studies that are done for those developments? Another provision in the ordinance approved by the City Council states that developers will no longer have free reign over who gets to write their environmental impact reports—instead, they’ll have to choose from a list of city-approved consultants. This closely mirrors another provision of Measure S. Hummm, what a coincidence! So maybe Measure S is onto something? Councilmember Jose Huizar told the City News Service that he does not support Measure S, but he credits it with bringing some of the city’s planning issues “into the public debate.”
Maybe it needs to be more than a debate. Maybe it’s time to examine the impropriety of developers making major contributions to the mayor and various councilmen or their foundations? Miraculously, despite community or sometimes even the planning commission’s objections, a project is green-lighted, such as the Sea Breeze project in the Harbor Gateway or the Cumulus skyscraper project in South Los Angeles.
Measure S would also require hearings about major developments proposed for a neighborhood be held in the neighborhood rather than downtown.
For example, if the project is in Venice, key meetings and hearings would be held in Venice, making it easily accessible for residents to attend.
In a Jan. 31 L.A. Times story, Mayor Eric Garcetti warned that the passage of the measure would undermine efforts to house the homeless, using funds from Measure HHH, a $1.2-billion bond measure approved by voters in November.
Jill Stewart, campaign manager for Yes on S, responded on February 7 that “the measure restricts, for two years, L.A. City Hall’s approvals of luxury towers on land where such mega-developments are not allowed. During the two years, Measure S pushes City Hall to approve 100-percent affordable housing projects.”
When Stewart spoke to the Pacific Palisades Residents Association in October, she noted that “since 2000, the city has allowed 22,000 affordable units to be destroyed” and “Los Angeles now has a glut of luxury condominiums.”
A recent Wall Street Journal article, “Luxury Apartment Boom Looks Set to Fizzle in 2017,” backs Stewart’s alle- gations. “Landlords of upscale properties across the U.S. are bracing for rough conditions in 2017 that will likely force them to slash rents and offer deep concessions as a glut of supply brings a seven-year luxury-apartment boom to an end.”
Besides Mayor Garcetti, 11 City Councilmembers and three L.A. County Supervisors, there are a wide range of organizations opposing Measure S, including the L.A. Chamber of Commerce, the United Way, various labor unions and homeowner associations, the ACLU and advocates for affordable housing and the homeless.
Garcetti has warned that if Measure S is approved, thousands of workers in the construction industry could face unemployment. And the L.A. Business Journal editorialized, “Passage of Measure S would stymie efforts to bring affordable and workforce housing to Los Angeles.”
Measure S supporters argue that their goal is to temporarily halt mega-developments in areas not zoned for them. All other construction, including affordable housing and housing for the homeless, should continue.
The News thinks a two-year moratorium on spot zoning and green-lighting large developments that involve payoffs to politicians might be a good idea. Two years is a short time to try a bold new approach for regulating growth in Los Angeles.