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The Moment Of Truth For That Terrible NIMBY Ballot Measure Is Nigh
March 7 is election day for Angelenos. The city will be voting on a host of issues, including who will be our mayor, a sales tax increase aimed at funding services for the homeless, and how the city treats land development over the next two years and beyond. The latter issue, on the ballot as Measure S (a.k.a. "that terrible NIMBY ballot measure"), maybe be one of the most existential issues facing city voters in recent history.
According to Ballotpedia, Measure S will create "a moratorium on construction that increases development density for up to two years," and will permanently prohibit project-specific amendments to the city's general plan—meaning, if a developer wants to add density to a lot not zoned for higher density, the developer cannot petition the city to "up-zone" the lot for that specific project, but must wait for the city's general plan itself to be updated.
The measure was created and written by the Coalition to Preserve LA, which has received almost exclusive funding (some $4.6 million worth) from the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. If you're questioning the non-profit's connection to urban planning issues, so are we. When LA Weekly posed the question to Michael Weinstein, founder of AHF, and father of Measure S, he responded in a particularly dodgy way.
"We're a corporate citizen," Weinstein began at his office in Hollywood. "This is our international headquarters. Why not? Why are we being asked the question and not all the business groups and the people who want to build anything they want? Why is it somehow less valid for us to be concerned about what happens in a community that we've invested in?"
Some have suggested that Weinstein's involvement was sparked by the two-tower Palladium Residences project that was proposed across the street from the AHF building—the towers would block Weinstein's office's views of the Hollywood hills. Weinstein has denied the claims.
Regardless of Weinstein's or the AHF's involvement, the ballot measure has brought the city to a crossroads: continue down the path of urbanization, or keep the city's current level of density.
As we've reported before, Mayor Eric Garcetti and the entire L.A. County Board of Supervisors have already reached their decision on the measure. They (as well as us here at LAist) urged Angelenos to vote no on Measure S.
“Los Angeles is a city that welcomes everyone, and we never want to turn our backs on our residents—but that’s what Measure S would do,” Garcetti wrote in a press release. “Measure S will raise rents and will stymie our work to house the homeless."
Proponents of Measure S have painted the issue as a strike back against corruption at City Hall, and a panacea to gentrification. However, limiting construction of new housing stock would increase the speed of gentrification (which is already an incredibly complex issue), not decrease it.
The L.A. Times editorial board, which sided against Measure S, says that, "The measure would do nothing to create more affordable housing or to protect existing affordable housing." This goes without saying that we need to facilitate the building of more units, as we're mired in a crushing housing crisis—a recent report said the Southland will need to build 68,000 new homes a year to keep up with demand. The Times also notes that it's unreasonable to stop all amendments to the general plan, as "the existing city’s land-use plans are so out of date and so riddled with inconsistencies that it’s not unusual to need a zone change to build a simple apartment building in a row of existing apartment buildings."
As for the corruption claim, we're still waiting to hear from Weinstein and the AHF on why millions of dollars of AHF money should be spent on this ballot measure, and not sticking to the foundation's mission statement of ridding "the world of AIDS through a network of pharmacies, thrift stores, healthcare contracts and other strategic partnerships."
According to the Los Angeles Daily News, with the threat of Measure S passing, the city council has approved a measure to update the LA's community plans more rapidly than in the past—a strategy that would cost the city $10 million a year, or $5 million more than it already does.
The plan for accelerated revision will “help alleviate some of the concerns about Measure S, which is not to do as many general plan amendments, not to do as many zone changes as we have in the past," said Councilman Jose Huizar.
Oh, and for the record, the Weinstein and the AHF were also vehemently opposed to Measure M, which increased funding for mass transit projects around the county.
Don't worry, Michael Weinstein. We'll keep building Los Angeles into the world-class metropolitan it is, and we'll leave some space in it for you, too (we just can't promise a view of the hills).