City Controller blasts AIDS Healthcare Foundation for pushing Measure S

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The AIDS Healthcare Foundation is the main financial backer of Measure S, an effort to block some real estate development projects citywide in Los Angeles. Those behind the measure have claimed it would benefit AIDS patients,many of whom are struggling to pay the bills as LA’s housing costs skyrocket.

But on Friday, the Los Angeles City Controller and the head of the Los Angeles LGBT Center pushed back, arguing the March 7 ballot measure would only exacerbate the area’s affordability crisis.

“The foundation’s president Michael Weinstein has sadly injected his organization into a debate over land use that has nothing to do with HIV or AIDS or healthcare,” City Controller Ron Galperin said Friday. “And, in the process, unfortunately, AHF is squandering millions of dollars that should be spent on HIV prevention and treatment.”

Measure S would curtail real estate development by barring projects that require zoning or height district changes or General Plan amendments that result in “more intense land use.”

The Los Angeles Times calculates the foundation has so far donated $4.6 million to pass Measure S. Weinstein has said AHF is fighting “social justice battles against governments that fail to serve the people.”

“We have witnessed how San Francisco, where AHF has clinics for testing and treatment, has become a rich ghetto,” he told the Times. “Low-income people by the tens of thousands have been displaced and diversity is harder and harder to find. The same thing is unfolding in Los Angeles.”

That argument is strongly refuted by experts and data, which show LA needs to build more housing—not less—in order to bring down the escalating cost of housing.

A recent report by the Lewis Center at UCLA says zoning and height district changes and General Plan amendments are “important tools to build higher density,” and thus increase the number of housing units. It has found that as many as 27 percent of all housing units built from 2011 to 2016 used those tools.

Measure S would also hamper the construction of affordable housing. Developers say that in order to build affordable housing projects they routinely ask for amendments to the general plan, for example, to rezone land from industrial to residential or turn parking lots into mixed-used properties—and that would not be allowed under Measure S.

The measure does not contain provisions that would trigger the construction of more affordable housing or preserve the city’s existing affordable housing stock. It would not prevent developers from knocking down buildings where rent is capped under rent control or deed-restricted for tenants with low incomes.

“As a member of the LGBT community, it pains me to have to stand here and criticize AHF,” Galperin said. “But I am compelled to do so.”

Construction underway on the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s affordable housing project in Hollywood.
Jenna Chandler

Galperin spoke Friday at the Los Angeles LGBT Center, which is constructing about 200 new housing units for low-income seniors and homeless youth on a plot of land across the street from its headquarters off Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood.

That project would not have been built under Measure S, said Lorri L. Jean, CEO of the LGBT Center, because it required zoning changes.

LA has the largest homeless population in the U.S., and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force estimates that 20 to 40 percent of all homeless youth identifyasLGBT.

“The crisis has a particularly devastating impact on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, especially the most vulnerable in our community, youth and seniors,” she said. “It’s virtually impossible for these members of our community to find affordable housing in Los Angeles. That’s why we’re building more.”

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