Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti accused the backers of a controversial ballot measure of a "dirty trick" Wednesday after they used his image in a campaign message.
"They are well aware I strongly oppose Measure S," Garcetti said. "The Yes on S Campaign should cease and desist from any suggestion that my position on Measure S is anything but a strong no."
Measure S would impose a number of restrictions on real estate development, including barring city lawmakers from approving changes to the General Plan — a document that governs development across Los Angeles — in order to allow individual projects in areas where they would otherwise not be permitted.
Backers say it would thwart oversize projects that displace residents and ruin neighborhoods, while opponents counter that it would eliminate jobs and ramp up rents. Garcetti has come out against the ballot measure, arguing it would undermine efforts to house the homeless.
In a recent message emailed to supporters, the Measure S campaign included an image of a smiling Garcetti next to the words, " 'Exceptions to the General Plan must become the rare exception to the rule...' I agree." Below the Garcetti quotation was the campaign logo for "Yes on S."
The Garcetti quotation nearly mirrors the wording of a September letter the mayor sent to ballot measure supporter Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. In that letter, Garcetti said that he shared the goal of "a fair and transparent planning process" and agreed with many of his concerns.
But the mayor urged Weinstein to "forego a costly and potentially divisive ballot measure campaign," arguing that the city was already making changes that would accomplish their goals. Garcetti campaign adviser Yusef Robb said the quotation was being used "way out of context," giving the false impression that Garcetti backs a ballot measure that he firmly opposes.
"This is clearly and unequivocally an attempt to deceive voters," Robb said.
Ileana Wachtel, a spokeswoman for the Yes on S campaign, initially said the Garcetti letter showed that "he agrees with Measure S." When a reporter pointed out that the letter urged Weinstein to abandon the ballot measure, Wachtel replied, "We're saying Mayor Garcetti agrees that 'exceptions to the General Plan must become the rare exception to the rule.' That's all."
Wachtel added that the mayor and other city leaders had failed to follow through on promised reforms, such as banning private communications between real estate developers and his appointees on the Planning Commission. The Garcetti campaign said he is still planning to do that; a similar proposal by City Councilman David Ryu has not yet been heard in committee.
"This was just a friendly reminder on what these City Hall insiders promised and what they've yet to deliver to the voters of Los Angeles," Wachtel said.
She did not answer questions about how many people had received the message and whether the campaign would continue to use the image of Garcetti. The Yes on S campaign put up a blog post Wednesday stating that Garcetti had agreed with "key reforms" it had proposed, though it also noted that the mayor was a "vocal critic" of the measure.
Measure S will go before voters on March 7.