Measure S is advertised as a radical fix to business as usual, ending cronyism between big developers and City Hall. But it will worsen, not help, our housing crisis.
In terms of our city’s land-use politics, the proposition is a continuation of the “homeowner revolution” that began 50 years ago — an attempt by homeowners to perpetuate a low-density, single-family Los Angeles, one that resembles a suburb more than a global city.
Our housing crisis has many sources, but among the most important are the exclusionary zoning policies pushed by anti-growth advocates. A growing body of research shows that zoning itself is a major culprit in the lack of housing, particularly affordable housing. Zoning also plays no small part in the maintenance of racial and income segregation.
Major cities around the world — including New York, London, Paris and Tokyo — have embraced cycling to ease congestion and improve public health. Los Angeles has joined this movement in recent years and made important strides in becoming cycling-friendly.
The Los Angeles City Council approved an ambitious bicycle plan in 2011, providing a blueprint for the development of infrastructure for cyclists. Since then, the city has seen a significant expansion of bike lanes and other important features, such as physical buffers that protect cyclists from motorized traffic.
In 2015, the Mobility Plan 2035, also passed by the City Council, brought even more new bike lanes to L.A. and provided a vision for a more balanced transportation network throughout the city. That same year, Mayor Eric Garcetti signed an executive directive proclaiming L.A. part of the “Vision Zero” program, an international initiative to eliminate traffic fatalities in participating cities by 2025.
City Hall is handing out runaway “spot-zoning” exemptions to luxury developers to build whatever they desire, wherever they desire to build it. The result: standstill traffic, environmental damage, pay-to-play tactics and skyrocketing rents.
Measure S gives the decision-making process back to the people. It makes City Hall work for us, not for the developers, special interests and lobbyists.
As a two-term mayor of Los Angeles, I speak from a place of both experience and deep concern for our city. I know how the city works. The current political environment is rife with corruption and backroom deals servicing land speculators and luxury housing developers over the needs of citizens. If passed, Measure S will hold our elected officials accountable again.
Critics of Measure S, including Eli Broad, Mayor Eric Garcetti and the Times editorial board, say that our housing crisis stems from a housing shortage and that only more building will solve the problem.
But developers build luxury and market-rate housing, which doesn’t meet L.A.’s real needs. Rental units built over the last decade require an income almost double the average Angeleno’s. That’s not a solution — it’s an insult.
Market solutions do nothing to address displacement. They treat renters’ homes — our connection to our neighborhoods, families and friends — as interchangeable units. Tenants know what new development means: When local property values rise, so do our rents. Landlords are incentivized to harass us, scam us, even evict us so that we might be replaced with higher-rent-paying tenants or profit-maximizing Airbnb units. They are also incentivized to remove rent protections completely.
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.
Supporters of Measure S say it will stop mega-developments that worsen traffic. But in fact, the measure will do little to improve traffic. Congestion has many causes and possible cures, none of which are addressed or advanced by Measure S.
Traffic is growing in L.A. because the population and economy are growing. Though it is true that bigger buildings produce more traffic on nearby streets than the vacant lots and smaller buildings they replace, denser development near stores and offices lessens traffic overall.
In neighborhoods of higher density, more people walk and bike. More people also ride mass transit because service is best where density is higher. This is why California’s greenhouse gas reduction law requires each region to plan denser housing along transit-rich corridors. When people in dense communities drive, they make shorter trips, because more destinations are close by.
Proponents of Measure S are asking to reduce traffic where they live while creating more traffic everywhere else.