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Disney, L.A. Chargers and USC among major donors to Measure H

Disney, L.A. Chargers and USC among major donors to Measure H
The proposed sales tax increase under Measure H would fund homeless programs if it passes Tuesday. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Labor unions, builders, real estate and investment companies, entertainers, lawyers and nonprofits have recently given hundreds of thousands of dollars to bolster the campaign for Measure H, the proposed sales tax increase to fund homeless programs.

Measure H on Tuesday's ballot would generate a projected $3.55 billion over 10 years. The quarter-cent tax increase would raise the sales tax rate to 9% across most of Los Angeles County and up to 10% in a few communities. Because it would increase taxes, it requires a two-thirds majority to pass.

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A surge of support in the last two weeks of February brought in $200,000 from Wanda America Investment Holding Co., a subsidiary of the Chinese company that is buying Dick Clark Productions and is building a mixed-use tower in Beverly Hills; $100,000 from Disney Worldwide Services Inc.; and $50,000 each from the L.A. Chargers and USC.

The Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, the California Medical Assn., Onni Contracting California Inc. — a subsidiary of the Canadian company that owns the Los Angeles Times building — Mercury General Corp., sports executive Casey Wasserman, construction management firm HNTB Corp., former Mayor Richard Riordan, Brookfield Properties Management, philanthropist William Bloomfield and the Downtown Women's Center each contributed $20,000 to $30,000.

Measure H was placed on the ballot by the Board of Supervisors in December. If it passes, the funds will be spent exclusively on homelessness programs including rental housing, homeless prevention and case management and clinical support for homeless people who have been housed.

Measure H is designed to complement Proposition HHH, the $1.2-billion housing bond measure approved by Los Angeles city voters in November.

Voters gave Proposition HHH a resounding victory with 77% in favor, validating polls that consistently showed homelessness as among the voters' highest concerns.

Pollsters say the countywide measure faces a greater challenge because the electorate is older and more conservative than in November's election. Tuesday's ballot includes no state or federal races, making voter turnout harder to gauge.

"Some cities have nothing else on the ballot," said Steve Barkan of SG&A Campaigns, who is managing the campaign for Measure H. "In others we're competing for attention with campaigns that have been saturating mailboxes."

By Thursday, the campaign had reported raising just under $3.4 million.

There has been no organized opposition to Measure H, and no group filed a ballot argument against it.

However, Larry Buford, a South Los Angeles resident who lives next to a recently completed homeless housing project, posted a critique of the measure on a community news website, saying he thinks it lacks transparency.

"What's disturbing is that not a hint of how the funds will be apportioned has been rolled out before the vote," Buford wrote.

In an interview with The Times, Buford complained that the project near his home was approved by the county with insufficient parking despite community opposition.

Los Angeles County officials plan to appoint a panel of 50 people engaged in homelessness issues to recommend how the funds will be spent. The group will hold meetings open to the public and is scheduled to make its recommendations to the Board of Supervisors in June.

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