LOS ANGELES — City voters defeated a hotly debated initiative aimed at limiting development by blocking general plan amendments for two years while county voters narrowly approved a measure that raises the sales tax one-quarter cent to support services for the homeless March 7.
Measure S — the anti-development measure on the Los Angeles city ballot — was handily defeated by voters with nearly 69 percent of voters opposing it. The initiative was the most expensive — and in many ways the most bitter — campaign in the Los Angeles city election.
Still, its supporters say their measure has prompted change at City Hall.
“We not only exposed corruption but we began a process of reform,” said Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which largely bankrolled the campaign in support of Measure S. “We built a citywide movement and we planted the seeds of change. Los Angeles will be a better place to live as a result of the Yes on S campaign.”
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, however, argued the measure went 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.
Mayor Eric Garcetti, City Controller Ron Galperin and several City Council members, including Jose Huizar and Marqueece Harris-Dawson, actively campaigned against the measure.
But despite the opposition, some of its provisions did lead to changes in development oversight at City Hall.
In February, the council approved a motion that calls for an ordinance requiring the city to update its community plans every six years and requiring developers to select environmental impact report consultants from a pre-approved city list.
Measure H, the county’s homeless measure had 67.44 percent of the vote after election night’s unofficial tally, just above the 66.67 percent threshold needed for approval.
The Board of Supervisors declared homelessness a countywide emergency and chose the sales tax hike over a number of other funding alternatives, including a millionaire’s tax, a parcel tax and a special tax on marijuana.
Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who has called homelessness “the moral issue of our generation,” told City News Service that “Los Angeles County has the dubious distinction of having more homeless people on its streets on any given night than any other county in the United States.”
“We have a responsibility to fight homelessness and restore dignity to these people who are living in inhumane conditions.”
There are roughly 47,000 homeless people countywide, according to a point-in-time count in January 2016. That total reflects a 19 percent increase since 2013, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.