Opposition from an unusual alliance of business, labor, and nonprofit groups to the anti-development Measure S has failed to quash a fierce campaign by supporters, leaving the initiative’s fate too close to call days before the election.

Measure S proponents, a coalition of community activists and homeowner groups bankrolled by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, have virtually matched the fundraising of the ballot initiative’s opponents, which include almost every major business organization and real estate industry trade group in town.

The campaigns have each raised more than $2 million in support since Jan. 1, pushing each side’s total fundraising close to $4 million – money the groups are pumping into voter outreach efforts.

“Often when a measure is opposed by almost the entire civic elite, as this one is, the proponents have a difficult time raising funds,” said Fernando Guerra, director of the Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University in Westchester. “But this time, Michael Weinstein and his AIDS Healthcare Foundation have matched the opponents just about dollar for dollar.”

Guerra said that makes the outcome more uncertain, especially in an election where turnout is expected to be at or lower than the 18 percent seen eight years ago, the last time an incumbent mayor was up for reelection against relatively unknown and underfunded opponents, as Eric Garcetti is this year.

The only public polling so far came last week, when Probolsky Research of Newport Beach released an independent poll taken in mid-February showing likely voters in the March 7 election rejecting Measure S by a 46 percent to 34 percent margin, with 20 percent undecided. But that poll had a relatively small sample size of 300 and a large margin of error of nearly 6 percentage points.

The voters’ decision will have far-reaching impact on the future of development and growth in Los Angeles.

Development battle

Measure S stemmed from a single development dispute.

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation had opposed the proposed Hollywood Palladium Project by L.A. developer Crescent Heights across from the foundation’s Hollywood headquarters. As the project moved forward, the foundation took legal action to stop it and crafted Measure S to limit not just that development but most major construction throughout the city.

Measure S would impose a two-year moratorium on all major commercial and multifamily residential projects that require a zone or height limit change or an amendment to the city’s general planning document. After that two-year period ends, the measure would limit the ability to change city zoning and planning rules for development projects. For example, new mixed-use or residential projects would not be permitted in industrial zones, such as downtown’s Toy District.

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