Voters to decide on anti-development measure in March

LOS ANGELES — The City Council chose to place a measure on the March ballot that would temporarily halt some large developments in the city until plans for neighborhood development are updated and other changes are made.

The measure was put forward by the Coalition to Preserve L.A., whose members contend the city’s process for approving big projects ignores limits on height and density, and other guidelines, set by residents.

The measure, called the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative by its supporters, would temporarily ban, for up to two years, projects that are denser, taller or contain more floor area than is allowed in existing zoning and land use rules for the area.

Under the city’s existing planning rules, in order to build many of the projects that are being proposed, developers must ask the city to grant exceptions, known as general plan amendments.

Proponents of the ballot measure contend the process has become standard practice and creates cozy relationships between City Council members and developers.

“Our measure allows 95 percent of all development to continue while the greediest 5 percent of developers are put on a timeout while we force the City Council to come up with a real plan for Los Angeles,” Coalition to Preserve LA campaign director Jill Stewart said.

“How are they going to improve the roads, get the water we need and fix the infrastructure to accommodate the City Council’s desired huge projects? Our ballot measure forces them to answer these crucial questions and follow our zoning rules, instead of ignoring them as they have in recent years. It will also force them to address the growing luxury housing glut of 15 percent vacancies — three times what is healthy — that has left L.A. with ghost condos and empty penthouses while rents skyrocket and homelessness spikes. Again, this City Council has no plan.”

Grace Yoo, an attorney and co-founder of the Environmental Justice Collaborative, detailed how a 27-story luxury housing skyscraper was approved by City Hall for a low-slung, working-class section of Koreatown. The community overwhelming opposed the mega-project, but the City Council and Mayor Eric Garcetti didn’t listen to them.

“The residents are tired of the city bulldozering over them,” Yoo told the council Sept. 30.

Opponents say the measure ignores the power of homeowners associations, and that it would worsen an existing housing crisis by preventing more units to be built. Homeless housing units would also be halted under the measure, according to its critics.

“This poorly written ordinance goes way too far,” said Gary Toebben, president and CEO of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce. “Damaging our city’s economy means moving hundreds of thousands of Angelenos one step closer to homelessness. Please stand with working men and women, homeless veterans and families, and join us in defeating this overreaching initiative at the ballot.”

“The Neighborhood Integrity Initiative is an anti-worker housing ban,” said Rusty Hicks, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO. “It would hobble our construction industry. It would make it impossible for people in Los Angeles to find the jobs and housing they need to stay here. And it would make our homelessness crisis worse.

“Bottom line, the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative is bad for workers, bad for businesses, and bad for Los Angeles.”

The City Council had the option of adopting the ordinance the way it was written by proponents, but decided instead to put the issue to voters in March.

Council President Herb Wesson said he supported placing the measure on the ballot because he does not feel “there is anything close to a consensus as to what Angelenos want to do on that.”

“It’s now up to the voters, and we’ll see what happens in March,” he said.


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