Opinion: Don’t be fooled by the ‘Yes on S’ campaign. The L.A. Times opposes Measure S


Hello, voters of Los Angeles. Have you been getting lots and lots of mail from the “Yes on S” campaign? Have you read the fliers and seen lots of seemingly positive quotes from the Los Angeles Times Editorial Board?

Just wanted to make sure you know that the Editorial Board, which researches and takes positions on issues, is adamantly, vociferously and super-duper opposed to Measure S. Here’s our full “Vote no on S” recommendation.

In fact, The Times has criticized the measure since it was first proposed in November 2015. Why? For several reasons, but the first is the fact that a ballot measure is a terrible way to conduct planning. It allows special interests with lots of money (in this case, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation) to take advantage of low-turnout elections to impose self-serving policies without the analysis and discussion that would occur in the usual legislative process.


Measure S would impose a two-year moratorium on all real estate projects that require a General Plan amendment, zone change or increase in allowable height. In addition, Measure S would enact a permanent ban on General Plan amendments for any property less than 15 acres (pretty much all properties.) The Times Ed Board has consistently argued that a moratorium on construction could cause serious harm in a city that has an affordable housing crisis and isn’t building enough units to meet the needs of current and future residents.

Measure S taps into a very real and legitimate discontent with the city’s land-use and development approval process. The Times has advocated for reform. The measure would require that the City Council and mayor update the General Plan and the community plans and bar developers from hiring their own consultants to produce traffic studies and environmental impact reports. The good news is that the City Council and Mayor Eric Garcetti have begun to make these reforms so there’s no need for Measure S. Nevertheless, these are the two tiny slivers of policy in the initiative that the Times Ed board actually likes and which the “Yes on S” folks repeatedly quote from our editorials.

For example, the mailer snips one line from a May 17 editorial headlined “Housing for the homeless is a crisis. The anti-density movement could create one for the rest of us.”

Here’s what they snipped: “The city of L.A.’s out-of-date, broken planning system has failed to foster development that protects and enhances the city.”

Here’s what they left out: “The answer is not to halt construction and freeze California in time. That’s a recipe for higher housing costs, more homelessness and greater inequality.”

From a March 21 editorial headlined “Garcetti, Council need to fix the development process before voters do it for them,” the mailer skipped the criticism and instead snipped this compliment from an editorial:


“The heart of the initiative has real merit. It would force city leaders finally to reform L.A.’s outdated planning and Byzantine, borderline corrupt development approval system.”

Here’s what they left out: “But why impose a potentially harmful moratorium to get good planning reform? While the rewritten initiative is better than the previous version, having voters set development rules into stone is a terrible way to plan L.A.’s future.”

These are just a few examples of the “Yes on S” folks taking information out of context. The campaign has been criticized by Garcetti for including his image in a campaign message, suggesting he supports Measure S, when in fact he opposes it.

Another mailer says “Yes on S” will “House our vets,” which is just not true. Measure S does NOTHING for homeless veterans. In fact, “S” would make it harder to build housing for homeless vets because of the moratorium and permanent ban on General Plan amendments. A proposed development in Little Tokyo that includes apartments for homeless veterans and low-income families would be stopped because the project requires a zone change. That’s why virtually every nonprofit that works on homelessness and affordable housing opposes Measure S.

So, to repeat, the Times Editorial Board opposes Measure S. It won’t help the homeless or produce more affordable housing. Vote no.

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