Anti-Development Measure Trounced at Polls; Sales Tax Increase for Homeless Services Appears to Squeak By


Measure S, the measure that would have restricted major developments in the city of Los Angeles, was overwhelmingly defeated at the polls on Tuesday, prompting a sigh of relief from business groups, developers and affordable housing advocates.

Meanwhile, Measure H, a countywide quarter-cent increase in the sales tax strongly backed by business groups, appeared to be eking out a narrow victory, with support barely exceeding the two-thirds majority needed to pass.

According to election results from the County Registrar-Recorder’s office early Wednesday morning, nearly 69 percent of L.A. city voters rejected Measure S.

The measure’s overwhelming defeat was greeted with relief from business group that campaigned vigorously against the measure.

“Tonight, Los Angeles can breathe a great sigh of relief,” Gary Toebben, chief executive of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement Tuesday evening. “And 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.”

Measure S would have imposed 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 have limited the ability to change city zoning and planning rules for development projects. The measure also would have required the city to more frequently update the 35 community plans that make up the general plan. The city had recently taken some steps in that direction.

Supporters said the measure would rein in what they see as a corrupt city planning system in which developers make campaign contributions and get City Council approval for their projects in return. They said this produces developments out-of-scale with neighborhoods and contributes to ever-worsening traffic.

After the measure’s trouncing at the polls, supporters said their campaign changed the debate over development in Los Angeles.

“The Coalition to Preserve LA made history in this campaign,” Michael Weinstein, president of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the measure’s key funder, said in a statement Tuesday night. “We not only exposed corruption but we began a process of reform; we built a citywide movement and we planted the seeds of change. Los Angeles will be a better place to live as a result of the Yes on S campaign.”

Meanwhile, county Measure H, the quarter-cent sales tax increase for homeless services, was garnering 67.4 percent of the vote with 100 percent of precincts reporting. That was just over the 66.7 percent supermajority needed to pass.

But with some absentee and provisional ballots yet to be counted, the margin was still too close for a final call early Wednesday morning.

The measure is intended as a companion piece to Measure HHH, a $1.2 billion homeless housing bond passed by city of L.A. voters in November with 77 percent support. It would raise the county’s sales tax by a quarter-cent for 10 years, generating roughly $350 million a year specifically earmarked for homeless services, such as social workers reaching out to the homeless and on-site clinics at shelters and housing facilities to administer financial benefits and treatment referrals.

The aim of both measures is to put a significant dent in the region’s escalating homeless problem. Last year’s count of homeless found nearly 47,000 throughout the county, and homeless encampments have sprung up in nearly all of the county’s 88 cities.

Turning to other ballot proposals around the county, Los Angeles City Measure P, which would extend the maximum period for leases at the Port of Los Angeles to 66 years from the current 50 years, passed with 66 percent of the vote. Backers said the measure will make it easier for the Harbor Department to sign up new long-term tenants for long-awaited waterfront redevelopment projects.

But just up the coast, in Redondo Beach, 57 percent of voters supported Measure C, which restricts waterfront development. The vote dealt a serious setback to El Segundo-based CenterCal Properties’ plan for a $400 million development along the Redondo Beach waterfront that would include a market hall in addition to hotel, office, and retail space, along with a restored lagoon.

Public policy and energy reporter Howard Fine can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @howardafine.

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