Mayor Garcetti says he will bar private meetings between developers and planning commissioners

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Last month, backers of the anti-development Neighborhood Integrity Initiative wrote an open letter to LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, vowing to submit signatures required to place the measure in front of voters in March unless the mayor began instituting a few key changes to the city’s planning process.

Well, the mayor didn’t respond to the letter in a timely fashion, the signatures were submitted, and the measure is headed for the March ballot.

Nonetheless, it seems that Garcetti is still willing to try meeting at least one of the group’s demands. Specifically, the mayor plans to bar private conversations between developers and members of the city’s planning commission.

As the Los Angeles Times reports, Garcetti announced his intention to issue an executive directive forbidding such communications in a letter to Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. The organization has been the largest backer of the ballot measure by far, donating more than $1 million toward the effort since the beginning of the year.

According to the Times, Garcetti also promised to speed up badly needed changes to the city’s 35 community plans. Garcetti announced plans to update those plans earlier this year—partly in response to pressure from supporters of the ballot measure. Critics, however, weren’t thrilled with the three year timeline for the project.

City Councilman David Ryu, who campaigned on promises of a more transparent planning system, joined the mayor in concern over the influence of developers on members of the planning commission. He introduced a motion Wednesday seeking to block these meetings.

Was it enough to impress supporters of the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative? So far, it doesn’t seem like it. Neither Garcetti nor Ryu are seeking to restrict meetings between developers and city councilmembers, something that backers of the ballot measure had requested in their letter to Garcetti.

According to the Times, the mayor has argued that he has no power to limit meetings between citizens and their elected representatives (planning commissioners are not elected, but are unpaid officials appointed by the mayor). Jill Stewart, who leads the Coalition to Preserve LA—the group behind the ballot measure—isn’t buying this argument.

Stewart says that her group is still fully committed to the initiative, and will see the mayor in March. “I think it’s more likely that the mayor would endorse us than we would withdraw the measure,” she tells the Times.

If passed, the initiative would halt most major development projects for two years and force the city council to abide by the city’s decades-old general plan until it can be updated.

In recent months, a group of developers, labor groups, and homeless advocates has come together to fight the initiative, arguing it would threaten jobs and worsen the city’s shortage of affordable housing. So far, they’ve raised more than $800,000.

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