Conflict Builds Around Development Restrictions


With a month to go before Election Day, the rhetoric is heating up on both sides of the campaign over Measure S development restrictions.

It’s one of the most consequential matters for the future direction of Los Angeles to be put before voters since the failed secession votes 15 years ago that would have broken off San Fernando Valley and Hollywood from the rest of the city.

Measure S, or the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, would place a two-year moratorium on most major mixed-use or residential projects in Los Angeles and make approvals for those projects more difficult after that.

Proponents, including activist residents in Hollywood and other communities impacted by major developments, added nearly $500,000 in contributions last month to their fundraising totals, almost all of that from chief sponsor AIDS Healthcare Foundation, according to campaign filings with the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission. They spent $630,000, leaving a cash balance of about $100,000.

Some of that money has gone to billboard advertisements that have sprung up around town. Supporters have also held several press events, trying to tie major project developers to President Donald Trump or his investments and playing up allegations of pay-to-play politics at City Hall.

One such allegation concerns residential towers near local freeways built by downtown area developer Geoffrey Palmer, who gained notoriety last year as the single largest donor to Trump’s presidential campaign. The allegation cites campaign filings showing Palmer has given more than $23,000 to city of L.A. officeholders and notes that residents who live near freeways have higher rates of respiratory and lung ailments.

“One of Trump’s biggest financial backers, Geoffrey Palmer, is one of the worst offenders of building Black Lung Lofts in Los Angeles,” Measure S campaign director Jill Stewart said in a statement before a press conference late last week in front of one of Palmer’s buildings.

Palmer has never spoken publicly and has refused interviews about his donations to Trump. He declined to respond to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, opponents of Measure S finally kicked off their campaign last week with a press event headlined by Mayor Eric Garcetti. Many of the participants in that press conference reiterated their opposition at the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual board chair inauguration event later that evening. The coalition of opponents includes business groups, developers, nonprofit affordable housing developers, labor unions, and most of the city’s elected officeholders.

Opponents, who added $300,000 in January to their fundraising totals and spent $700,000 last month, had $65,000 in the bank as of Jan. 21. They contend the measure will bring almost all development in the city to a halt, not just for two years during the moratorium, but for years afterward in what they are terming a “silent moratorium.”

They say Measure S could block attempts to develop housing for the homeless that voters approved $1.2 billion in bond financing for in November.

“Los Angeles is a city that welcomes everyone, and we never want to turn our backs on our residents – but that’s what Measure S would do,” Garcetti said in a statement. “Measure S will raise rents and will stymie our work to house the homeless.”

Rent Reined In

It’s now official: On Jan. 24, the Beverly Hills City Council voted unanimously to boost relocation fees for apartment tenants evicted without cause and limit rent increases to 3 percent a year, down from the 10 percent a year that had been in place for 30 years.

The ordinance took immediate effect, meaning the reduced rent increases started for any annual rental term renewals on or after Jan. 25, according to a city press release. Relocation fees for tenants evicted without cause now start at $9,050 for a single/studio apartment and range up to $21,650 for a two-bedroom that is equipped for special needs tenants.

The council also voted to establish a registry database of all the estimated 8,600 apartment units in the city to aid in health and safety inspections as well as the enforcement of rental rules.

The city estimates that up to 60 percent of the city’s 35,000 residents live in rental housing.

Staff reporter Howard Fine can be reached at [email protected] or (323) 549-5225, ext. 227.

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