Which way for LA? Planned transit and density through Measure S or the unplanned jumble that Measure S opponents hope to maintain.

I certainly appreciate the resourcefulness of the real estate moguls opposing Measure S, the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative. It is easy to appreciate their dilemma. They can’t exactly go to the public and state the truth. “We have a successful business model, and we want to keep it. Paying off elected officials so we can build our lucrative real estate projects where we want them is working out just fine for us, so why upset the apple cart?” 

Instead, they have to pay big bucks to PR firms to create AstroTurf organizations that then claim their unplanned and therefore illegal projects are actually creating a tidy, well planned city. As for the supporters of Measure S, they are then tarnished with the claim they are clandestine advocates of urban sprawl hiding behind support for a strong General Plan for Los Angeles. Creative and convincing to some low information voters? Yes. Correct? Absolutely not. It is just more of the fake news and “alternative facts” we have recently heard so much about. 

So, what is a wrong with their roundabout claim that LA’s General Plan, both existing and presumably when Measure S accelerates its update, is really a blueprint for urban sprawl? And what is wrong with their parallel argument that left to it momentum, land use decisions based on developers maximizing profit for individual parcels will somehow produce a Los Angeles that turns its back on sprawl in favor of a planned and sustainable city? 

The answer is plenty! 

The claim that supporters of the General Plan and its update – the essence of Measure S -- are supposedly opposed to density and instead really want sprawl is absolute nonsense. 

Measure S supporters, such as myself, have clearly laid out what we want, directly and by implication: 

  • A well planned city, including areas for high density, through an updated and unwavering General Plan.
  • Planned alternative transportation modes, including those funded through Measure M, which LA County voters adopted in November 2016.
  • Adherence to the City Charter’s provisions regarding General Plan amendments: “conformity with public necessity, convenience, general welfare and good zoning practice.”
  • Systematic updates of the General Plan, including its Community Plans, based on extensive outreach to all Los Angeles neighborhoods.
  • Orderly implementation of the General Plan through planned density and planned alternative transportation modes, per Measure M.
  • Careful, annual monitoring of the city’s General Plan, including its implementation programs.
  • Regular mid-course General Plan corrections when annual monitoring reveals that adopted plans are not achieving their objectives. 

Measure S supporters have also clearly stated what we do not want

  • Unplanned development based on market whims.
  • Weak EIRs and Statements of Overriding Considerations that allow unmitigatable levels of Green House Gases.
  • Pay-to-play pat-a-cake between developers and elected officials so illegal projects can get spot-zones and spot-General Plan amendments.
  • Auto-centric shopping and luxury towers that obtain their spot-zones and spot-plan ordinances through phony, unmonitored claims of being transit-oriented. 

None of this remotely translates into support for urban sprawl, and, in fact, LA’s adopted plans have been distinctly anti-sprawl since the 1970s Concept Plan. This early plan evolved into the General Plan Framework, and its Transportation Chapter is also anti-sprawl, and is the new Mobility Element that the City Council recently adopted. 

Furthermore, there is not the slightest chance that the update of the existing General Plan triggered by Measure S will somehow promote a decentralized, sprawl-prone city. That era is long gone, and this allegation is just the contrivance of worried beneficiaries of the status quo, those who are funding the opposition to Measure S.

While I see no evidence that this information about the actual anti-sprawl content of the prior, current, anticipated General Plan will have much impact on the true believers who imagine that unrestrained market forces beneficially shape LA’s land use patterns, I hope this information will sink in among those who sensed but could not quite identify the deceptive arguments from the anti-S groups.


 (Dick Platkin regularly reports on planning issues for CityWatch. Please send any comments or corrections to rhplatkin@gmail.com.)