Last November, the Los Angeles county passed the Build Better LA Initiative, an initiative encouraging building affordable housing and hiring of local labor. This March, the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative is on the ballot. The Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, also known as Measure S, may sound great in theory. It's "an initiative to change the city's laws governing changes to the general plan and development projects." However, all it will ultimately do is cost Los Angeles billions in revenue, increase real estate prices, and increase the homeless population.
Simply put, Measure S will put a stop to any construction projects that "increases development density" for at least 2 years and then make city staff do all environmental impact reports and have a public review of the city's general plan every 5 years. In other words, Measure S will stop any development for the foreseeable future. This may be hyperbolic but anyone who needs the City of Los Angeles to do anything knows it takes forever (again I know forever is an exaggeration but it does not happen quickly or efficiently). Advocates state this measure is to stop corruption caused by deep pocketed developers paying "political contributions" to city officials to get their projects approved. The measure does not mention changing the corruption in the city planning process or developer contributions.
The Measure S moratorium on certain development projects is designed to end after 2 years or when the city council passes both of the following:
- An updated General Plan Framework
- An updated community plan text and zoning map for a particular community plan area
Measure S does have a few exceptions to the 2-year development ban. Those include:
- Any development project that is restricted entirely to affordable housing units and that could be completed through zoning or height limit changes without amending the city's general plan.
- Any permit required to comply with an order from the Department of Building and Safety to rebuild a structure after destruction by a natural disaster—such as a fire or an earthquake.
- Development or construction projects that have a vested right under state or city law.
To qualify as affordable housing, each unit in a building would have to be affordable to a household that makes no more than 80 percent of the area's median household income, which determined by the California Department of Housing and Community Development. As of May 24, 2016, Los Angeles County's median household income for a family of four was $64,800. A residential unit would be considered affordable requires housing to cost no more than about 30 percent of a household's income level. The recently passed Build Better LA Initiative requires all development projects that include 10 or more residential units and require changes to the General Plan or other zoning/construction rules would have to make a percentage of the units affordable for low-income and working residents or pay a fee to fund affordable housing and enforce laws that protects renters. This legislation was intended to work for both lower-income residents as well as developers that have to meet certain margins to move forward with projects. Is it a perfect solution for lower-income residents? No, because of the loophole where developers can pay a fee to fund affordable housing and enforce laws that protects renters. Even with it's imperfections it much better than stopping all development.
"We need to fix L.A.'s planning process, but Measure S goes too far and will destroy jobs, immediately harm our fragile economic recovery, and stop efforts to build affordable housing and address the homelessness crisis. Vote NO on S, it is a poorly written law that goes too far and hurts our city and residents."
-Alan Greenlee, Executive Director, Southern California Association of Non-Profit Housing
Measure S might have good intentions (if you ignore the fact that their biggest donor and driving force, Michael Weinstein, President of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, has poured close to 3 million dollars into Measure S propaganda instead of spending that money on AIDs healthcare in part because of a development project that will block the view from the AHF headquarters) but it's not well designed. The original name of this measure is the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative. These citizens want their neighborhoods to maintain their character and charm; they feel developers have created a "manhattanization" and "mcmansionization" of the neighborhoods by tearing down the charming homes that were once there. To be frank, not every house that has been torn down was a charming cottage. There are plenty of dilapidated homes that need aggressive fixing. Drive through any neighborhood, look for Mediterranean monstrosities built in the 1990s and it's obvious this trend has been around for decades.
Yes changes need to be made to the General Plan and Development but Measure S will do more harm than good. This initiative wants to stop all major construction plans for 2 years in hopes the General City Plan can be fixed. If supply was close to the demand in Los Angeles, I would seriously consider this. Los Angeles is is at least 382,000 units short of demand according to a recent Harvard Study. This ban will make it virtually impossible to get those units built. Without those units rents will increase, as will purchase prices, which is great if you already are a homeowner, like most of the supporters of this measure. Many homeless people are now homeless because they can't afford the rising housing costs. Putting a stop to the back-door deals between city officials and developers needs to happen, unfortunately this measure does not address how to stop the practice developers from getting their projects approved with the help of campaign contributions.
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