NEIGHBORHOODS LA--The Beverly Wilshire Homes Association (BWHA) has been a strong supporter of Measure S, the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, over the past year. These are some of our reasons:
First, if LA voters approve Measure S on March 7, they will force the City of Los Angeles to finally update its legally required but largely outdated General Plan. The many decades of City officials “planning” Los Angeles through the gyrations of speculative real estate markets would finally end.
Second, these General Plan updates must be based on extensive community meetings held on evening and weekends, not just comments on websites, a few public workshops, and daytime public hearings. Once the City Council adopts new General Plan Elements (chapters), future General Plan amendments can only apply to significant geographical areas, no longer to single parcels. Furthermore, these General Plan amendments must be based on a convincing case of public benefits, no longer just private gain. While the City of LA’s Charter already presents these stringent criteria for General Plan amendments, Measure S fortifies these Charter provisions to avoid any resumption of pay-to-play at City Hall.
Third, Measure S not only promotes transparency at City Hall, but also ensures that our elected officials properly govern a city of nearly 4,000,0000 residents and work force of 2,000,000 employees through a carefully prepared, updated, and properly implemented General Plan.
Fourth, Measure S also stops the City Council from adopting parcel level zoning and planning ordinances to feather the nest of their major campaign contributors. The L.A. Times calls this soft corruption because real estate interests engage in pay-to-play to obtain special treatment from elected officials for their properties. This is why these City Hall players have lead the charge against Measure S, including the four large real estate firms funding the no on S campaign: Westfield Shopping Centers, Palladium, Crescent Heights, and Eli Broad.
Fifth, because this is such an important voter initiative to curtail the outsized influence of big real estate companies at City Hall, there is ample reason why so many different groups already support or should support Measure S. This not only includes neighborhood groups, like the BWHA, but also labor, environmental, and affordable housing groups. It is high time for them to take a stand with their constituents, not their donors.
Since the anti-S campaign cannot fess-up and tell the truth “We want to stick with the status quo since it allows us to make sky-high profits through unplanned sky-high buildings.” Instead, they have resorted to a series of bogus claims that the Beverly Wilshire Homes Association wholeheartedly rejects:
Bogus Claim 1 - Measure S will stop development in Los Angeles: Simply wrong. Measure S would not impact any public works projects and only affects a small percentage of real estate projects, mostly luxury buildings. Each year LA’s Department of Building and Safety processes 100,000 permits. Of these, only about 600 projects involve the City Council legislative actions targeted by Measure S.
Bogus Claim 2 - Measure S is a housing ban. Also simply wrong. Many of LADBS’s 100,000 annual permits involve housing, and they will continue to be processed by-right. This includes residential projects built on commercial lots, where LA zoning laws permit by-right construction. Furthermore, about 80 percent of the 3,000 annual building permit cases that City Planning reviews do not involve any City Council legislative actions. These cases, too, are exempt from Measure S, as are 100 percent affordable housing projects.
Bogus Claim 3 - Measure S stops the construction of affordable housing. Totally wrong. Only 2 percent of new housing in Los Angeles is affordable, and according to the Department of City Planning’s Citywide Metric’s report, this 2 percent is built through density bonuses, not the parcel-specific City Council spot-zone change ordinances and spot-General Plan Amendments that Measure S targets.
Bogus Claim 4 - Measure S is a job killer. Also wrong. This claim is based on a Beacon Economics study paid for the big real estate companies funding the no on S campaign. But, it is built on a faulty assumption; if real estate firms can no longer obtain pay-to-play spot-zones for their unplanned projects in Los Angeles, they will bolt to other cities. There is no evidence for this claim. Nearby well-planned cities that do not engage in these unethical planning practices, such as Pasadena and Santa Monica, generate many construction jobs without dishing out spot-zone changes and General Plan amendments LA-style.
Bogus Claim 5 - Measure S promotes urban sprawl. This claim, too, is bogus. Los Angeles’s adopted General Plan is anti-sprawl, and Measure S calls for these official documents to be updated and then meticulously followed, not overturned on behalf of big developers with big pockets. Sustainability policies and programs are laced through the new Mobility Element, as well as the older elements, such as the General Plan Framework, Land Use, Air Quality, Open Space, and Conservation. Anyone who claims that a voter initiative to strengthen LA’s General Plan is really a stalking horse for sprawl has clearly never bothered to read the planning documents they so glibly malign.
Pro-S organizations, like the BWHA, now encounter newly minted bogus claims on a daily basis. We attempt to debunk them as quickly as we can. But, if you think we have missed one, send an email to email@example.com, and I will get back to you directly or through this CityWatch LA column.
(Dick Platkin is a former LA City Planner who reports on local planning issues for City Watch. He also serves on the board of the Beverly Wilshire Homes Association.)