A decisive defeat for Measure S: LA voters reject anti-development measure

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Angelenos on Tuesday resoundingly voted down a ballot measure aimed at limiting the construction of big, tall buildings in the city of Los Angeles.

Measure S—an initiative supported by residents frustrated with large-scale development—took a beating at the polls, winning just 31.15 percent of votes, when it needed a majority to pass.

Launched and funded primarily by the nonprofit AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the measure would have placed a two-year moratorium on buildings that did not conform with the city’s outdated General Plan, which is like the bible for zoning and land-use.

A statement from Gary Toebben, CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, which opposed Measure S, was forward-looking.

“Tomorrow, the coalition that formed to defeat this dangerous initiative will continue advocating to make Los Angeles better—pushing for updated community plans, transparency in government, and the creation of the housing at all levels that Los Angeles needs to truly thrive,” he said.

Freezing construction—even temporarily—in one of the priciest housing markets in the U.S. would only worsen LA’s affordability crisis, housing advocates had warned. And, critics said, Measure S would have hampered efforts to build more affordable units.

Construction in Hollywood.
Jenna Chandler

But the measure would have also mandated a number of reforms to the city’s planning system, including barring developers from writing their own environmental impact reports, a practice that Measure S supporters say has led to projects getting too easily approved. It would have also forced the city to review its very old community plans, which guide development in individual neighborhoods.

Some of those reforms are already underway. The City Council voted last month to update its community plans every six years. It also voted to make developers choose from a list of city-approved consultants when writing EIRs.

Those steps led AIDS Healthcare Foundation president Michael Weinstein to declare that his controversial push for Measure S was not a “losing campaign.”

“This will go down in history as a campaign that didn’t win the vote that had the best results,” he said. “Nobody in this campaign has defended the current system.”

That’s true. Even Mayor Eric Garretti, who handily won reelection Tuesday night, acknowledged that, “the diagnosis is agreed upon by all of us.” But he opposed Measure S, calling it the wrong “prescription.”

The election results are not likely to put to rest a heated battle over the future landscape of Los Angeles.

Some of the same people who pushed for the passage of Measure S sued the city over an update to Hollywood’s community plan. In Granada Hills, neighbors are fighting a 440-unit apartment complex. That project conforms to that neighborhood’s newly rewritten community plan, but some residents say it’s too big.

Measure S supporters have also argued the construction of market-rate housing has displaced low-income renters and that developers have too much sway with elected officials, who routinely approve requests to build taller or to amendment to the General Plan.

But critics said Measure S would have done nothing to help either of those issues.


We’re tracking results from the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder as they trickle in. Measure S needs a majority of votes to pass. Follow along.

1:30 a.m. with all precincts reporting:

Yes

31.15 percent

68.85 percent

1:15 a.m. with 1,239 of 1,396 precincts reporting:

Yes

31.76 percent

68.24 percent

12:41 a.m. with 1,159 of 1,396 precincts reporting:

Yes

31.82 percent

68.18 percent

12:25 a.m. with 927 of 1,396 precincts reporting:

Yes

32.37 percent

67.63 percent

12:05 a.m. with 815 of 1,396 precincts reporting:

Yes

32.59 percent

67.41 percent

11:47 p.m. with 668 of 1,396 precincts reporting:

Yes

33.44 percent

66.56 percent

11:30 p.m.: The No on S campaign declared victory in a press release, saying its coalition had united to defeat Measure S.

In a statement, Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Gary Toebben said, “tomorrow, the coalition that formed to defeat this dangerous initiative will continue advocating to make Los Angeles better—pushing for updated community plans, transparency in government, and the creation of the housing at all levels that Los Angeles needs to truly thrive.”

11:24 p.m. with 501 of 1,396 precincts reporting:

Yes

35.06 percent

64.94 percent

11:05 p.m. with 339 of 1,396 precincts reporting:

Yes

36.23 percent

63.77 percent

10:45 p.m. with 266 of 1,396 precincts reporting:

Yes

36.99 percent

63.01 percent

10:24 p.m. with 110 of 1,396 precincts reporting:

Yes

39.03 percent

60.97 percent

10:05 p.m. with 82 of 1,396 precincts reporting:

Yes

39.88 percent

60.12 percent

8:25 p.m. with59 of 1,396 precincts reporting:

Yes

40.56 percent

59.44 percent

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