Opinion

Measure S is a proposition on the March 7 ballot that aims to slow growth and development in Los Angeles by placing a two-year moratorium on projects that require a zone change, a height district change, or an amendment to the city’s general plan. It would also reduce the city’s ability to change planning rules for a single development.

Offered here are arguments for and against the ballot measure.

Against

Measure S does nothing for South Los Angeles

A homeless encampment on a South Los Angeles vacant lot that was supposed to be developed into an entertainment district, on May 27, 2016. (Los Angeles Times)
A homeless encampment on a South Los Angeles vacant lot that was supposed to be developed into an entertainment district, on May 27, 2016. (Los Angeles Times)

The signs of growth and development across much of Los Angeles — soaring cranes, new businesses, street improvements — have been slow to arrive to South Los Angeles.

Remnants of the 1992 civil unrest are still visible here, and the lack of government and private investment is part of a long-term pattern of neglect. As development slowly starts to make its way south of the 10 Freeway, residents are concerned that it won’t deliver the affordable housing and high-paying jobs that the community urgently needs and deserves.

Planning and development haven’t been kind to South L.A., and it’s easy to understand the anger and mistrust that resulted in Measure S. The proposition has raised important questions about who are the winners and losers in the city’s planning process.

But the initiative’s one-size-fits-all approach would stymie much-needed growth in underserved neighborhoods. At best, Measure S falls short of offering real solutions to build a better city. At worst, it would be catastrophic for the future of South L.A.

In our long-ignored neighborhoods, concerns about poor planning are more pressing than ruined views or lack of parking.

In our long-ignored neighborhoods, concerns about poor planning are more pressing than ruined views or lack of parking. The chronically high unemployment rate can be tied directly to a lack of strategic planning that might have lured high-paying jobs. Here, where oil is drilled next to homes and it’s easier to buy fast food than affordable produce, residents suffer from disproportionate rates of heart disease, asthma, diabetes and obesity. We have less than one acre of park space per 1,000 residents, compared with almost 200 acres per 1,000 residents in Westside neighborhoods. With little affordable housing, residents live in overcrowded conditions. The area has among the city’s highest fatality rates for people who walk and bike.

So while we do not support an initiative that co-opts the concerns of low-income communities of color, we firmly believe that the status quo is unacceptable.

The residents of South L.A. have long stepped up to fill the void left by City Hall. Community organizations have worked to demand better retail options than the proliferation of liquor stores we once had. Residents have been engaged in efforts to convert underutilized vacant lots into green spaces and to bring healthy eating options and produce stands into the area. We joined conversations to help set a vision for the long-awaited community plans for South and Southeast Los Angeles , which will update growth guidelines and build much-needed housing near transit stations.

South L.A. doesn’t need growth for growth’s sake. We need thoughtful investment that serves our residents, and representation in the planning process so that we cease to be a dumping ground for projects that other communities don’t want.

Developers shouldn’t be the only ones to benefit from construction projects. Investment in our neighborhoods should come with a promise of employment and housing for people who are being priced out of their homes. We should take advantage of growth to create pipelines to the jobs of the future, create green space and add healthy retail options that all residents can enjoy.

Here is just one example of what’s at stake. My organization, Community Coalition, recently renovated our building, which now serves as a vibrant community hub in the heart of South L.A. We intend to use this space to engage the people of South L.A. and help them get a fair share of the city’s new prosperity. If Measure S had been in place, the renovation could have been stalled or prohibited due to outdated zoning requirements for the area.

Residents of South L.A. — and all city voters — should channel their frustration with the planning process not into a vote for Measure S, but into civic participation.

Alberto Retana is the president and CEO of the Community Coalition.

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