While most of the attention on Election Day will be on the presidential and U.S. Senate races and statewide ballot initiatives, there are plenty of local ballot measures that will impact business.

Countywide, there’s Measure M, which would hike the sales tax to generate roughly $860 million a year to fund major transportation projects such as a rail tunnel under the Sepulveda Pass and rail-line extensions in the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys. The measure would extend the most recently enacted half-cent sales tax hike, Measure R, and institute a new half-cent sales tax increase, keeping both in place permanently. The Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and most other major business groups in Los Angeles County support the measure, saying it will create construction jobs and help ease congestion. But it faces an uphill battle to get the required two-thirds majority and opposition has been increasing in several south county communities that feel projects in their region are slated for the too-distant future.

Turning to the city of Los Angeles, the chamber and most major business groups are supporting Measure HHH, a $1.2 billion bond measure to build thousands of housing units for the homeless.

On the other hand, the chamber and other business groups are opposing Measure JJJ, the “Build Better L.A.” initiative that would create affordable housing set-asides for major residential development projects that need zoning changes and require those projects to adhere to prevailing wage standards. The initiative is sponsored by a coalition of labor and affordable housing advocates who say it will boost the supply of affordable housing. The chamber and other opponents argue the opposite, that the measure will result in increased building costs that will drive away residential developers.

Development measures are also on tap in two other cities: Beverly Hills and Santa Monica.

In Beverly Hills, Beverly Hilton Hotel owner and developer Beny Alagem has put his Hilton condominium tower project to voters as Measure HH. This project calls for a 26-story condo tower, instead of two smaller towers he initially proposed, and 1.7 acres of garden space. The ballot measure faces opposition from China’s Dalian Wanda Group, which has been going through the city’s extensive permitting process for its own condo project next door. The measure has split the city’s business and political leadership.

Meanwhile in Santa Monica, that city’s chamber, developers, and many nonprofits are opposing Measure LV, which would require an extensive new permit process for most development projects exceeding 32 feet in height, roughly three stories. The measure was placed on the ballot by a residential group called Residocracy that claims too many development projects have been approved, resulting in gridlock on city streets.

Along with state Proposition 64, which would legalize recreational marijuana in California, local pot regulation measures are on a number of city ballots as well.

Voters in Long Beach will weigh in on two measures: One would impose taxes of up to 12 percent on marijuana dispensaries and related businesses to raise a projected $13 million a year to fund general city services. The other would repeal the city’s ban on marijuana businesses and allow 32 retail marijuana businesses to set up shop.

Voters in Avalon on Santa Catalina Island will decide whether to allow two dispensaries in that city and impose a 12 percent transaction tax on sales of marijuana products. Voters in Carson are looking at imposing a tax of 18 percent of gross sales on all cannabis-related businesses and a $25-a-square-foot tax on cultivation space.

Finally, there is the usual collection of cities looking to boost sales taxes, this time Downey, Lynnwood, and Santa Monica. Lynnwood’s proposed increase would be a full cent, which is unusual as most local sales tax hikes are a half-cent.

Statewide Consequences

Several state ballot measures also could impact business.

Proposition 55 would continue the income tax hike enacted four years ago on high-income individuals, many of whom are small-business owners; the state’s major business groups have not vigorously opposed the measure. Proposition 56, which would hike taxes on tobacco and nicotine products, has drawn a mixed response from business groups: The California Chamber of Commerce is neutral, while the L.A. chamber supports it.

Proposition 61, which would prohibit any state agency from paying more for a prescription drug than the lowest price paid by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, has drawn opposition from both the state and L.A. chambers.

Business groups statewide are also lining up against Proposition 53, which would require major public infrastructure projects of more than $2 billion to be put to a statewide vote.

Staff reporter Howard Fine can be reached at hfine@labusinessjournal.com or (323) 549-5225, ext. 227.

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