Guide to Measure LA, the $5.3 billion community college bond, on 2022 midterm ballot

Adult students in the English as a second language class make their way on Los Angeles City College campus.
Los Angeles City College is one of nine campuses that would benefit from the $5.3 billion bond proposal on the November ballot.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

The Los Angeles Community College District is asking voters to approve a $5.3-billion construction bond that would cost homeowners from about $88 to $157 annually in property taxes for the next 40 years to finance renovations and upgrades on its nine campuses.

The measure on the Nov. 8 ballot would be the largest bond in district history and requires 55% voter approval to pass. It would build on the more than $9 billion in bond measures voters have approved for the district over the last two decades.

Here’s what you need to know about Measure LA.

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What would the bonds pay for?

Money from the bonds would finance a multitude of projects across the community college district, which encompasses a 900-square-mile area of Los Angeles County, from San Pedro to San Fernando and Malibu to Monterey Park.

Projects include updating buildings, installing new technology in classrooms, upgrading athletic fields and improving infrastructure such as sewer lines, outdoor lighting and sidewalks.

“We have a very large need to upgrade, to modernize, to improve the teaching and learning conditions,” said LACCD Chancellor Francisco Rodriguez. “Students deserve equitable learning environments.”

About $1.4 billion would go toward modernizing buildings built before the 1970s. Dozens of buildings in the district were built about 60 years ago and are in need of repair, said Reuben Smith, a vice chancellor who oversees facilities in the district.

“Thirty years, 40 years is typically the life of a building,” he said. “We’re not looking at just improvements for the sake of improvements.”

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Nov. 1, 2022


One example is the communication studies building at Los Angeles City College, according to Mary Gallagher, the college’s president. The building houses editing bays from when the structure was built in the late 1960s, but are now unnecessary because students can edit video from their computers.

Gallagher said she would like to convert the space into classrooms where aspiring writers, editors and actors would have space to collaborate. The rooms would be equipped with technology such as large screens, where students on campus could interact with their off-campus peers over videoconference.

The bond proposal is supported by the American Federation of Teachers 1521, a faculty union, as well as groups representing workers in trade and vocational careers.

Nursing students at Los Angeles Harbor College need classrooms equipped with modern technology to match the experience they would encounter in a workplace, said Lynn Yamakawa, who directs the college’s nursing program.

“Practice labs — they have to look like where the student is going to work,” she said. “This bond would give us the ability to … evolve as our healthcare environment evolves.”


How much will it cost?

All property owners, including commercial building owners, would pay up to $25 per $100,000 of assessed value over the next 40 years for the bonds. The estimated annual property tax payment for most homeowners would range from about $88 to $157, according to the district, but could cost more for high-valued homes.

Julien Lafortune, a research fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California who focuses on education finance, said the district might not be able to fund as many projects with the money it borrows because of inflation and rising costs.

“With inflation, the amount of buildings they’ll be able to buy with that will go down,” he said. “Then the amount of interest they’ll have to pay on those bonds will also go up. So that’s more money that has to be paid over time through property tax collections.”

While it might not seem like a good time to borrow money compared to a year or two ago, Lafortune said that interest rates were much higher in general in the 1990s.

“It still may not be that bad if you’re kind of looking at it over the long run,” he said.


Who opposes the measure?

Trustees in the Los Angeles Community College District voted 6-1 in July to put the bond measure on the ballot. The sole trustee who voted against it, Ernest Moreno, questioned the need for construction projects when the district has lost tens of thousands of students over the last several years, and when about half of classes are still remote.


“Somebody has to bring up the elephant in the room,” Moreno said during a discussion before the July vote. “I honestly believe this is an inappropriate time and essentially an irresponsible act on our behalf to pursue this bond.”

The community college district also has a checkered history with projects financed through bonds. In 2011, The Times uncovered financial waste, nepotism and mismanagement in projects paid for through bond measures.

District leaders say they have implemented a series of reforms since then, and assign independent auditors conduct financial reviews of its bond program.

More recently, a construction company filed a civil suit against district trustees, alleging corruption and fraud over a long-delayed theater project at Los Angeles Valley College.

The Los Angeles Community College District allowed its consultants to delay construction of an L.A. Valley College performing arts center so they could enrich themselves with additional compensation, a lawsuit alleges. College officials decline to comment.

Aug. 4, 2022

The lawsuit followed a finding from an independent arbitrator who concluded the district violated state requirements for “good faith and fair dealing” in construction projects. The district was ordered to pay $3.2 million in compensation to the company, Pinner Construction Inc.


Earlier this month, state Assemblymember Lisa Calderon (D-Whittier) wrote a letter requesting a state audit of construction management practices in the Los Angeles Community College District.

Calderon referred directly to the bond measure in the letter, according to a copy provided by an attorney for Pinner Construction.

“It would be critical for the district to hear from the State Auditor before that measure goes to voters,” she said.

Rodriguez said the district has strict measures in place to ensure transparency and accountability, including a facilities committee and an civilian oversight committee that meet regularly to receive updates on construction projects.

“We understand that the public gives us a tremendous responsibility in its trust, and its resources,” he said. “We’ve had hundreds of projects underway. This is the only one that we’re aware of that’s gone to arbitration or [is] now seeking legal remedy.”


Past coverage

California community college students say taking classes online allows them to juggle work and family, and pursue their dreams of higher education.

Oct. 10, 2022

The University of California plans to offer conditional admission to students who aren’t eligible as first-year applicants as long as they meet course and grade requirements at a community college.

Sept. 22, 2022


L.A. Times Editorial Board Endorsements

The Times’ editorial page publishes endorsements based on candidate interviews and independent reporting. The editorial board operates independently of the newsroom — reporters covering these races have no say in the endorsements.

The L.A. Times’ editorial board endorsements for statewide ballot measures, elected offices in Los Angeles city and county, L.A. Unified School District board, L.A. county superior court, statewide offices, the state Legislature and U.S. House and Senate seats.


How and where to vote

Ballots will be in the mail to all 22 million registered voters in the state no later than Oct. 10. Californians can return ballots by mail, drop them at collection boxes or turn them in at voting centers. They can also cast ballots early at voting centers or wait until Nov. 8 to vote at their neighborhood polling places.


Californians can register to vote or check their status at

Here’s how to vote in the California midterm election, how to register, what to do if you didn’t get mail ballot or if you made a mistake on your ballot.


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In the November midterm election, California is one of the battlefields as Democrats and Republicans fight over control of Congress.


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