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A Bunch Of Celebrities Just Supported That Terrible NIMBY Ballot Measure

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Editor's Note: As of December 2016, the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative is known as Measure S.

Proponents of the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative—an anti-development local ballot measure that will likely be voted on March 2017—met with Mayor Eric Garcetti on Wednesday to present a list of demands, saying they will halt their campaign if the mayor agrees to the conditions within a week. Amid the hostage negotiation tactics, the measure's backers also announced an A-list roster of names who signed onto support their efforts, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Joaquin Phoenix, Chris Pine, Kirsten Dunst, Chloe Sevigny, and Garrett Hedlund.

We know local ballot measures are boring and unsexy but please bear with us for a minute, because this one is important, and it's purposely confusing. The so-called Neighborhood Integrity Initiative (NII) is a wolf in sheep's clothes if there ever was one. The NII is supposedly aimed at stopping "mega-development," but it would also essentially freeze all new major construction in L.A. at a time when the city desperately needs more housing, and is just beginning to reshape itself as a more dense, transit-friendly and integrated city.

What's particularly confusing about the NII campaign is that it correctly diagnoses many things that are wrong with the city's convoluted and out-of-date planning process, as Hillel Aron masterfully explained earlier this year in the L.A. Weekly. The problems the NII speaks to are very real, but the reactionary proffered solutions are anything but. Los Angeles is at a crossroads: a less car-centric, less-segregated, far more livable city is very much within reach, but it won't be achieved if we cripple future growth, and preserve our disconnected urban fabric of sprawl. Passing the NII, as Streetsblog explained, "would short-circuit Los Angeles’ (albeit imperfect) effort to reshape itself along a growing network of high-quality transit corridors, bike lanes, and walkable streets."

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"[The Neighborhood Integrity Initiative] punishes younger people and people who are new to the city," UCLA urban planning professor Paavo Monkonnen told Streetsblog, explaining that by restricting growth and opposing change, the campaign's proponents are essentially saying, "We don't want different kinds of people living here." Perhaps it is telling that the initiative's backers have named themselves the "Coalition to Preserve L.A." If passed, the NII would certainly preserve a Los Angeles, but it would be the least inclusionary, most pessimistic version of ourselves; a low-rise city that dwells behind steep gates and remains separated from its fellow citizens.

This would be our Brexit.

Update [11:30 a.m.]: And here's a statement from the Mayor's Office about yesterday's meeting with/list of demands from the backers of the NII:

The Mayor's office is reviewing this request. Mayor Garcetti is already leading one of the City's most ambitious efforts to reform the development process in LA. Almost 6 months ago, the City announced its most aggressive schedule to update community plans and the general plan, and new efforts to increase transparency with the EIR process. We will continue to advance this reform agenda and look forward to working with all stakeholders.