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Measure seeking to halt L.A. 'mega-developments' goes to March ballot

An initiative seeking a two-year ban on zoning changes that would allow for high-density construction around Los Angeles is heading to a popular vote after the City Council on Friday approved placing it on the March 7 ballot.

The unanimous decision on the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative came after months of heated debate, and as L.A. is experiencing a building boom.

Proponents of the measure say the planning process at City Hall is rigged by deep-pocketed developers, who use contributions and gifts to obtain building variances for so-called mega-developments that otherwise wouldn’t be approved. They also argue that what they call spot-zoning — where changes to the city’s general plan are made on a case-by-case basis — of multistory structures increases traffic congestion, reduces the quality of basic city services and allows building heights too tall for a neighborhood’s character.

“Refusing this measure sends a clear signal: Who really runs this city,” resident Susan Hunter said during a council committee hearing before the vote.

Members of the Coalition to Preserve L.A., which is backing the measure, also say they want a comprehensive update to the general plan.

Opponents, however, argue that the measure would drive up housing prices, making it harder for residents to find affordable shelter and worsening the city’s homelessness problem. According to representatives of labor and business groups, the measure is being advocated by people with “not-in-my-backyard” attitudes.

Adam Murray, executive director of the Inner Law Center, called the initiative “anti-growth” and said it would  “exacerbate our affordable housing crisis in the city.”

City Council President Herb Wesson acknowledged the “emotional” atmosphere of the debate during a committee hearing before the full council vote. Then he pointed out that supporters had gathered the signatures needed to put the measure on the ballot, and recommended that it be done.

Earlier this year, the council approved two residential towers — expected to rise as tall as 30 stories — adjacent to the Hollywood Palladium. The AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which is located in a nearby office tower and is backing the Coalition to Preserve L.A., has criticized the project as being too dense.

Adam.Elmahrek@latimes.com

@adamelmahrek

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