Broad Measure S Opposition Coalition Rallies Against “Scorched Earth” Housing Ban

Yesterday's Vote No on Measure S rally at the Casa Heiwa apartments courtyard. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.
Yesterday's Vote No on Measure S rally at the Casa Heiwa apartments courtyard. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Yesterday, opponents rallied against Measure S, calling it a “scorched earth” moratorium on new housing in Los Angeles.

Measure S, also called the “Neighborhood Integrity Initiative,” would stop most housing development by temporarily banning zoning changes. After a two-year moratorium, Measure S would require the city to update its neighborhood plans (this update process has been stalled by the same litigious anti-growthers that are pushing NII), but would continue to restrict “spot-zoning” General Plan changes for individual developments.

The rally location was chosen to showcase recently-built affordable housing that would be prohibited in the future if Measure S were to pass. Coalition speakers gathered in the courtyard of Little Tokyo’s Casa Heiwa, a mixed-use 100-unit apartment complex built by the nonprofit Little Tokyo Service Center in 1996. Though Measure S has a supposed exemption for some types of zoning changes for developments that are 100 percent affordable housing, the exemption prohibits General Plan amendments. Under Measure S, affordable housing projects could potentially build extra height in a residential zone (such as going from two to four stories), but could not build affordable housing on land zoned for parking or industrial uses. No changes would be allowed for mixed-use projects that include some affordable and some market rate housing.

Rally speakers included elected officials, affordable housing residents, nonprofit developers, and representatives from labor, business, environmental, and social justice organizations.

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti stressed that if Measure S passes, it will worsen L.A.’s housing crisis by raising rents and blocking city efforts to develop housing for the homeless. Los Angeles County Federation of Labor leader Rusty Hicks pointed out that Measure S would not prevent undesirable by-right development, including mansionization.

Though some well-intentioned anti-gentrification leaders have warmed to Measure S, based on its promise to stop some luxury housing development, overall the initiative would likely worsen gentrification and displacement. Measure S would restrict the quantity of new housing being built, thereby driving up housing/rent costs because of supply and demand.

One aspect of Measure S that Shoupista Streetsblog readers will find especially pernicious is the initiative’s insistence on enforcing L.A.’s outdated suburban-scale parking requirements. Measure S specifically limits the city’s powers to approve variances that reduce required on-site parking. This flies in the face of a recent transit-oriented development study that concluded that U.S. cities build excessive unused parking. That study found that, even at peak times, L.A.’s Wilshire Vermont Station Apartments parking spots were only two-thirds full. Adhering to unneeded parking requirements drives up the cost of housing, but right-sizing parking requirements near transit would be prohibited under Measure S.

Streetsblog Los Angeles officially opposes Measure S. SBLA encourages readers to vote No on S on March 7.

There is a lot of misleading information in circulation about NII, so SBLA encourages readers to use your networks to help set the record straight. The March election will very likely have low voter turnout, so it is critically important to vote no, to encourage your friends to do the same, and to get involved in efforts to defeat this destructive housing ban. To volunteer, go to the Vote No on Measure S website.

For more Measure S background, see earlier Streetsblog L.A. editorials by Brian Addison and Shane Phillips.

  • HollywoodBoy

    City Controller Ron Galperin put out a report that for all
    the density bonuses the developers have received for the 7 years – 2008- 2013,
    which should have increased affordable housing, only 329 units were built that
    were put on the market at market rate. A mere 47 per year. When in a
    decade more than 22,000 market rate RSO units were removed, which is 2200 a
    year. Surely Streetsblog cannot expect us to believe that continuing with the status quo is a good thing? SBII is doing nothing but confusing the issue over its mission to create more biking and get rid of parking. Nothing really to do with housing or the market rate. Go ahead. Vote against measure S and watch your rent increase. Do the work, go deep, get the facts. You aren’t getting them from this blog.

    http://www.lacontroller.org/density_bonu

  • Justin Runia

    Does anybody know where the Fight for the Soul of Cities people are on this? I asked them to comment through Facebook, but haven’t gotten anything back yet. Are they the “anti-gentrification leaders” alluded to in this article? On the one hand, this doesn’t seem like something they can address using their playbook, on the other hand, it seems pretty darn germane to a group which claims to be invested how and why cities are developed.

  • LAifer

    Nope nope. You just co-opted a report that actually called for things that Measure S would make much more difficult. Here were the recommendations from Galperin’s report (straight from the link you provided):
    — Create additional incentives, such as additional density or permitting micro units;
    — Streamline processes through modifications to the current process of site plan review and expedited processing of Environmental Impact Reports;
    — Conduct a legal analysis of what opportunities might exist, within the density bonus program, to allow market-rate developers to create income-restricted units off-site — or to pay equivalent values into a fund which would build income-restricted units throughout Los Angeles;
    — Review how Area Median Income (AMI) levels are defined for the purpose of the density bonus program so that it is more aligned with state policy.

    The first recommendation would be inordinately more difficult under Measure S. The second recommendation is worth noting as the Measure S proponents are notoriously litigious and have held up various projects in the courts using the EIR/EIS process. The third recommendation is interesting, but it would be much more difficult to provide housing “off-site” when the number of available sites is severely limited by Measure S. And the fourth recommendation is curious, but worth noting that Measure JJJ – approved by voters in November last year – provides for requirements to include affordable housing in projects that could no longer get built under Measure S.

  • HollywoodBoy

    Thanks for the points. I had read those. As for the proponents being litigious, they couldn’t be if the law were constantly given the run around, as in the case of Target. And only 3% of projects in the state are challenged in court. Those are his recommendations. But it still takes a City Council to pass it. This would give them two years to do so. It is not like Measure S doesn’t have a sunset clause built in.
    As far as incentives go, what makes you think the new incentives will create a difference in the developer behavior or the City’s ability to have staff to monitor what is in process. For 10 years to have passed, and the Controller’s office to issue the report and not planning, that stinks.
    As far as expediting the EIR process, speed is not contingent on Measure S. Planning is already responding with ways to speed the process, ideas include independent contractors, not paid by the developer. It will be how the city decides on that one.
    As stated above, it is a two year moratorium on asking for spot zoning. Once again, we lost 22,000 units from spot zoning, with only 329 market rate units built.
    Show me how the City and developers are going to change their behavior the gutting communities to get a payout from the system? Developers get grant money to build around transit stops. The City gets Federal and State aid to help in this. Finally, Galperin’s report shows how faulty the system is. We should be taking corrective measures. Measure JJJ does do some of that, but it would have never gotten onto the ballot if it weren’t for Measure S prodding opponents to do so.

  • Joe Linton

    They are not the “anti-gentrification leaders” I was referring to. The only official supporter that fits that category is Las Familias Del Pueblo – see supporters here http://la.streetsblog.org/2017/01/24/cartoon-tuesday-where-are-those-measure-s-supporters/ But there are few anti-gentrification individuals who I’ve heard mentioned in conversation that they are in favor of S because it will stick it to luxury housing developers.

  • Justin Runia

    Thanks!

  • HollywoodBoy

    LAifer, thanks for the response.

    Thanks for the points. I had read those and took note.
    Galperin raises some good fixes. But it still takes a City Council to put them in play. Measure S would give them two years to do so. It is not like Measure S doesn’t have a sunset clause built in. What is at issue is behavior, the behavior of City representatives and developers.

    To your points, there is an assumption that their behavior will change. But as Dr. Phil likes to say on his pop psychology show, the biggest determining prediction of behavior is past behavior.
    As for the behavior of the litigious proponents, would they be if the zoning wasn’t constantly given the run around, as in the case of Target? People should be able to know what is going on in the Community they commit to.

    The LA weekly had a report a few years back showing that under Villaraigosa and LoGrande heading the Planning Department http://www.laweekly.com/content/printView/2166348
    more than 90% of variances were granted. It was post the announcement of the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative when Garcetti accepted LoGrande’s resignation and brought in Vince Bertoni. Direct result of Measure S? It seems pretty apparent. And giving variances doesn’t even take into account officials looking the other way and not even granting the variance, as in the case of Garcetti and Target. That action was what brought on the lawsuit. You could see that a happening a mile away. So we can assume that lawsuits will continue, as that is the behavior that has been seen.

    Only 3% of projects in the state are challenged in court under CEQA. The California Enviornmental Quality Act is to protect people’s quality of life. Usually the lawsuits are to those projects that threaten the quality via environmental concerns, including noise and pollution. So one could actually view the lawsuits as a result of representatives turning their back
    on their constituency, as is the case with Garcetti and the Council no allowing Target to be built per code, which Target was willomg to do, put in underground parking. But Garcetti refused that option.

    As far as incentives go, I do not believe that “:incentives”
    will necessarily create different behavior by developer behavior with the City’s inability to have staff to monitor what is in process. The Controller’s report proves the point. For 10 years to have passed, and the Controller’s office to issue the report and not City Planning, that is a broken system.

    As far as expediting the EIR process, speed is not contingent on Measure S. Planning is already responding by presenting to City Council ways to speed the process, ideas include independent contractors for the EIR not paid by the developer, which Measure S demands. Time will tell how the council will decide on that one. But I doubt the council will chose favorably. If they create a pool of companies from which to choose, it will tip to the developers benefit, because developers will choose the consultancy that has had favorable results in the past.

    As stated above, Measure S is a two year moratorium on asking for spot zoning. The report, and your response, very much appreciated, still doesn’t change the fact that we lost 22,000 units with only 329 market rate units built. How much of that was due to spot zoning, I can’t track. If someone could, who has the time, prove me wrong or prove me right. It would be appreciated.

    The whole point – for me is how can we really expect the City and developers to change their behavior, gutting communities to get a payout from the system? Developers get grant money to build around transit stops for Metro (measure M was just passed. It doesn’t just go for rail and busses. Moneys go to development projects as well). The City gets Federal and State aid to help in this.

    Finally, Galperin’s report shows how faulty the system is.

    We should be taking corrective measures. Measure JJJ does do some of that, but that measure would have never gotten onto the ballot if it weren’t for Measure S prodding opponents to put it there.

  • sahra

    The anti gentrification folks that support S are the Tenants Union and Damien Goodmon’s coalition – in fact, he just opened a Yes on S office in Jefferson Park on Wednesday.

  • Daniel

    anyone ever wonder where he got the money for that? he just pinballs from one “cause” to the next with no consistency and drops each one in sequence

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