LOS ANGELES (CNS) — Los Angeles voters solidly defeated Measure S, an hotly debated initiative aimed at limiting development by blocking General Plan amendments for two years.
The initiative was the most expensive — and in many ways the most bitter — campaign in the Los Angeles city election.
The measure would have halted all General Plan amendments, or special permission to developers known as “spot zoning,” for two years while the city updates its General Plan and community plans that guide neighborhood development.
The measure’s backers argued that City Hall is plagued by a “pay-to-play” climate in which wealthy developers who contribute money to elected officials’ campaigns get spot zoning requests granted while the proliferation of high-rise towers and other expensive developments have caused increases in the cost of housing.
Opponents argued the measure goes too far, saying a halt to all General Plan amendments would undercut the city’s efforts to build affordable housing and housing for the homeless while severely hurting the local economy.
Officials also argued that updating the General Plan and community plans within two years is not possible.
“We have been committed for 15 months, and so many of you have joined the team. And you said we cannot let this happen to our community,” Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Gary Toebben told a crowd of Measure S opponents in downtown Los Angeles. “We cannot put people out of work. We cannot take homes away from people. We cannot let Measure S devastate our community. And so far tonight it looks like the public agreed with us.”
Rusty Hicks, executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, credited a wide-ranging coalition for helping defeat the measure.
“This could not have happened without business, labor and community organizations that were the true face of this coalition going around, knocking on doors, making phone calls, talking to friends and family, boots on the ground, making a difference,” Hicks said.
The AIDS Healthcare Foundation bankrolled the measure by supplying nearly all of the $3.2 million the campaign received this year as of March 1, compared to the roughly $5.9 million opponents of the measure have raised from developers, labor unions and other organizations.
Mayor Eric Garcetti, City Controller Ron Galperin and several City Council members, including Jose Huizar and Marqueece Harris-Dawson, actively campaigned against the measure.
Critics said the AHF’s entry into the housing debate is not in its purview, essentially amounting to a misappropriation of its funds. The AHF, under the direction of its longtime CEO, Michael Weinstein, sued the city in 2016 over its approval of two 28-story towers next to its Hollywood headquarters, and some have questioned if Weinstein’s battle against development is personal.