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Viewpoints & Ideas: Vote No on Measure S To Keep the Eastside Livable

Viewpoints & Ideas is where Eastsider readers can express their opinions, start a conversation and share ideas on neighborhood  issues,  problems and potential.  An opinion piece in support of Measure S can be found here.

By HECTOR HUEZO

The backers of Measure S on the March 7th ballot argue that shutting down certain kinds of new housing construction will “save our neighborhoods.” The truth is it will hurt them instead: fueling gentrification and displacement, raising rents and costing good construction jobs.

When my grandparents moved to the United States to escape civil war in El Salvador, they first came to Boyle Heights. When my wife’s grandparents first moved to California they also called Boyle Heights their home. This neighborhood has long served as a landing spot for new Americans and that core value is something Los Angeles has held on to.

We saw this when thousands recently flocked to LAX and other major airports to tell the president, and the world, that “immigrants are welcome here”. But once we welcome them, where can they live? If our grandparents arrived here today, they would be forced to pay high rents for increasingly hazardous living conditions.

The simple truth is that for decades, our city has not kept up with the demand for housing. Without new housing, prices go up. Look at Silver Lake, Echo Park, Elysian Valley or Highland Park. With limited offerings, the wealthy bid up the homes of working class residents. As rental vacancies dry up, landlords raise the rents higher and higher. Not all gentrification happens the same way but LA’s version will be because of a generation that failed to build new homes.

We have to build, and affordable housing must be part of that mix. Last fall, my wife and I knocked doors and dialed phones to pass Propositions HHH and JJJ. HHH would fund the construction of the housing we need to end chronic homelessness. JJJ would create more affordable housing wherever developers use zoning changes and General Plan Amendments—necessary and long overdue tools, especially when building near transit.

We were overjoyed to see Los Angeles voters pass both with overwhelming majorities. But Measure S would undo the will of those voters. Its so-called “affordable housing exemption” overlooks what developers need to build affordable housing, especially near transit – a clear sign that its proponents failed to work with the communities and organizations already working to make Los Angeles more affordable and equitable. Measure S overrules JJJ entirely, by banning the tools that would require developers to build the affordable housing that voters demanded.

Measure S won’t stop development, but it will definitely stop good development—the kind of building along transit corridors that offers residents connectivity to work, school and less reliance on cars. Instead, it will encourage worse development: fewer homes near transit, less affordable housing, more demolitions, displacement and crowding as developers with limited options max out what can happen under existing and outdated zoning rules. We’ll get more cases like Highland Park’s Marmion Royal, where tenants decided to strike after their landlord raised rents because their building was not protected by rent stabilization laws. Measure S would do nothing to stop that.

The fight over gentrification will shape the Eastside for the near future. If we want to keep our neighborhoods affordable, especially for our most vulnerable residents, we have to stop Measure S.

Hector Huezo is a Board Member of the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council and is the Chair of the Alliance of River Communities, comprised of 14 neighborhood councils along the Los Angeles River and Arroyo Seco. He is a volunteer in the campaign against Measure S

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43 comments

  1. while i don’t necessarily support Measure S, I do think the Eastsider should have someone write a pro piece so that the readers can have both sides of the story.

    • Hi, Kevin. We have asked the Measure S campaign for an opinion piece as well.

    • Under the current system, developers are encouraged to build huge mega structors. By changing the zoning it increases the land value before anthing is even build.
      They can then sell that land for profit. Happens all the time..

      • Buildimg on major transpertation corridors is futile if all thats build is Luxury apartments and condos with undergroud parking. These people do not use public transportation as ridership is down in the city despite the addition of thousands of new units on major transportation corridors…

        • Measure S blocks the ability to lower parking restrictions on these transit corridor developments. The cost of these parking restrictions limits developers to building luxury developments. In addition, because of high land costs, affordable housing will only be able to be built in non-traditional/non-residential areas. Measure S blocks these zone exemptions. Look at who is funding Measure S. Rich people who want to keep the rent on their properties high and their views unblocked by the poors.

          • Look at who are contributing funds in Opposition:

            Below are the top donors in Opposition to Measure S:[18]

            Donor Cash In-kind Total
            CH Palladium, LLC $506,000.00 $12,000.00 $518,000.00
            Westfield DD&C, LLC $100,000.00 $0.00 $100,000.00
            Central City Realty, LLC $95,000.00 $0.00 $95,000.00
            LA Chamber of Commerce $30,000.00 $30,000.00 $60,000.00
            Planning Arch. Engineering $50,000.00 $0.00 $50,000.00
            SunCal/Sixth and Alameda, LLC $50,000.00 $0.00 $50,000.00
            The following donors gave $25,000 or more in opposition to Measure S:[18]

            Eli Broad
            Proper Parking Company No. 2
            Lowe Enterprises, LLC
            AEG and Affiliated Entities
            Bookfield Financial Prop, L.P.
            Holland Development, LLC
            Kilroy Realty, L.P.

            Garcetti and the ACLU are opposed

      • Thanks for link. After reading more about this Measure, including this link, I am most likely to vote against it, despite Garcetti and ACLU endorsement!

  2. Until ALL apartment buildings require rent control, I’m not sure how anything is going to get fixed.All these new apartment buildings these mega buiders are constructing are RENT CONTROL EXEMPT. The real issue is the shrinking amount of rent control buildings built before 1978 cannot handle the massive amount of housing needed but all these massive, new complexes are not and never will be under rent control, this includes all the lofts being constructed downtown and the refurbished post 1978 apartment buildings in Highland Park like the Marmion Royal. Developers make bank while small time, mom and pop apartment owners are burdened with a limited 3percent rent raise each year. NOT FAIR.

    • agree 100% but measure S will make this problem even worse. it will block construction of even 100 percent affordable housing projects, with every unit set aside for low income families, if the project requires a general plan amendment, which most projects need because our community plans are so outdated.

      • That is incorrect! Measure s does not effect 100 percent affordable housing projects, if anything like that were to even exist. Those are specifically exempt from measure s. Read it!

        • The 100% affordable exemption is BS. Here’s why — it only exempts affordable developments that do not require general plan amendments and similar variances. But ask any affordable housing advocate or nonprofit developer and they will tell you that almost all affordable projects require some kind of variance.

          Many are built on old industrial properties (like the LALGBT senior housing project in Hollywood that is proposed for some abandoned warehouse properties). Many are built on main streets where they replace ugly mini-malls with mixed use projects (retail on the ground floor and apartment above). Many are larger than the original outdated zoning in order to take advantage of new transit lines. Most build less parking than the code requires because low-income families don’t need two spaces per unit. All these things require general plan amendments.

          The City of LA has bid out a dozen underutilized parking lots for affordable and homeless housing, but 10 of them would require a general plan amendment. So the 100% affordable exemption is nothing more than an empty claim. Vote NO!

          • Affordable housing does not need a General Plan amendment. Affordable buildings are usually built using wood, and wood structures cannot exceed 4 stories according to DB&S. So Measure S allows 100% affordable housing to be built even with a zone change and a small height variance. The point is that affordable housing isn’t being built NOW. If the City really cared about building affordable housing they would have updated the General Plan and made space for affordable units along with adequate parking. But they have not done that. The City’s focus has been on building expensive market rate units. That’s not what the People need. We need housing we can afford! Vote Yes on S!

          • 100% affordable housing is not being built because it is not profitable to do so anymore with all the red tape we’ve piled on over the years (multi-year approval processes, minimum parking requirements, restrictions on granny flats, etc.)

            The only way 100% affordable projects get built in LA is with $$$$ taxpayer subsidies… and that’ll never scale to make any kind of dent in the market.

            Density bonuses are typically an exchange for a small percentage of affordable units… over time that adds up. It’s also a lot smarter than clustering all the subsidized housing in one building (AKA housing projects.)

            Sure, it’s an imperfect solution. But adding more supply (even if it’s overpriced) puts downward pressure on older, nearby buildings.

            Truth of the matter is the same folks pushing this agenda are the ones that sue every time City Hall tries to address any of these issues above board. Exclusionary zoning ensures that wealthy homeowners’ property values will continue to skyrocket, while working stiffs and younger generations are priced out of LA full stop.

        • you read it! the exemption does not apply if you need a plan amendment, regardless of how affordable the project is.

          http://la.curbed.com/2017/2/15/14625926/new-affordable-housing-skid-row-project-plan-weingart

          this is 407 units on skid row, 100% affordable housing for the city’s neediest people, and it would be illegal under measure S because the lot isnt currently zoned for housing and needs a plan amendment. please try to be informed when you are arguing about something so important!

        • Yes it does. YOU need to read the fine print. General amendment changes are not allowed. A majority of affordable housing projects require one since they are built on land that was previously zoned for something else

    • I think the answer might be the other way around – eliminate rent control entirely, and end Prop 13. If you have a rent-controlled place or own something that is paid off, you have no incentive to move or sell. Adding rent control to every building will slow development to a crawl and doesn’t solve the problem of there not being enough housing in the first place.

      We have to build. With investments in public transit, we can build further away, but we will need to build everywhere, and build a lot. Everyone whining about the “character” of their neighborhood changing with construction needs to remember that their neighborhood “character” is going to turn into a rich enclave if anti-development measures are passed. I expect some are okay with that – I’m not.

  3. Great to see a No on S recommendation. S is a disaster

  4. There is no question that we need density, and it’s inevitable. I also happen to love the design of some of the future buildings. But why does it have to happen unplanned, in congested areas, and based on developers pay-to-play? I just listened to a great KCRW broadcast where they had both viewpoints. It was Dick Platkin, a former planner for the city of Los Angeles who worked on the city’s general plan, and Mark Vallianatos of the pro-development group Abundant Housing. Bottom line is that density can be achieved in LA in the areas that permit it. No one has provided how many of these areas are left to develop. And where is the proof of this piece to claim that there is no zoning for density along the transit corridors? That’s a big claim to throw without data. The people against it are acting like everything is already used up, but Dick Platkin says many of the big developments could still be done, just not in the area where the developer insists on doing it. Sometimes the appropriate zoning was just a couple of blocks away. I read the entire Abundant Housing LA piece and it’s also missing and twisting information and lies about the endorsements in favor of the measure. Again, yes LA needs density, the point of Measure S is to make sure it’s happening in the right areas, and not in the areas where developers make the most profit. If anyone could dig up concrete data about how much density-allowing zoning areas are left in LA it would solve the issue on wether breaking the zoning laws is necessary to solve the housing crisis, or if it is in fact a big lying scheme from developers to get their way. If zone breaking is a must, wouldn’t LA still need time to update the General Plan so LA isn’t growing in an unplanned, uncontrolled, and disastrous way?

  5. I suggest voters go to the following website which gives good information on both sides regarding Measure S, including donations and names of supporters of each view. In box with individual’s names be sure to scroll down.

    https://ballotpedia.org/Los_Angeles,_California,_Changes_to_Laws_Governing_the_General_Plan_and_Development,_Measure_S_(March_2017)#Background

    In my opinion the fact that Eric Garcetti and the ACLU are against this measure is enough to make me vote Yes.

  6. The crux of the matter is that Los Angeles has been building mostly expensive, market rate units. LA has been building without an updated General Plan using “spot zoning” to insert larger than allowed developments that contain none or very few affordable units. Developers pay-to-play City Councilpersons to help them get their special favors, a zone change or General Plan Amendment, and the community is cut out of the discussion. The General Plan for Los Angeles has not been updated in over 20 years. How do you build and plan for the future without a General Plan? Not very well. The result is chaotic. Tenants are evicted due to the State’s Ellis Act, rent stabilized apartments are torn down and expensive apartments are built in their place. The State’s Costa Hawkins Act allows landlords to raise the rent of vacated apartments to market rate. There is very little protection for tenants in this scenario. The opinion piece posted in the Eastsider by Hector Huezo makes arguments in favor of building more housing, he talks about providing housing for immigrants. But immigrants can’t afford $3500-$5000 per month rent! What is needed is more AFFORDABLE housing and SMART planning. Measure S mandates that the General Plan be updated so that affordable housing can be planned with community input, puts a moratorium on “spot zoning” which breaks zoning laws for an area. Affordable housing is exempt from the moratorium therefore, 100% affordable housing can be built. Building by right continues. What we have to do is convince the City that the people need affordable housing, stop corruption, and have City leaders fund working people’s housing. Vote Yes on S!

    • LA has been building various kinds of market rate units, depending on the neighborhood. Nevertheless, the cost of land affects the price of the unit. The cost and availability of land on the Eastside, near multiple job centers, is high due to demand and location.

      Affordable housing can’t be built without subsidies: that is a fact, due to the cost of construction and the cost of land. And when any housing is built to increase the supply, there will be a decrease in rental price in the older units which become less desirable to the more affluent renters or buyers.

      So, the argument that “100% affordable housing can be built” is disingenuous at best.

      Vote No on S, it is fraudulent marketing, and will only make the cost of housing higher.

    • Youre basically making up arguments and view points to fit your already predetermined mind set. Its very simple. S stops new development. Do you think it will stop people from moving here? Obviously not. These newcomers will be fighting for the same units as everyone else. Since there wont be any new inventory, guess what is going to happen to existing prices? They are going to go through the damn roof. ANY new inventory puts downward pressure on all housing prices. Simple supply and demand. Imagine if we didnt have all the new units that were built over the last few years… imagine how expensive housing would be then??

  7. Barring a calamity, Los Angeles will continue to grow less affordable regardless of how people vote on S.

  8. Almost forgot – I support S and start from the following base of-
    #0 – Fail to Plan, PLAN to FAIL or PLAN to PROFIT…in a perfect market there is no profit….Ours ain’t perfect but it can be better…
    #1 General and Comm plans can be completed in 24 months
    #2 Housing and commercial elements of GenPlan and ComPlans would be completed in 6mon via internet online versions with weekly and daily updates – using the well-used/developed/linked ZIMAS-base—-PLUMAS #x All LACity Libraries would become neighborhood webinar sites with training thru library staff and local links
    #3 Publ Comments via Webinar/Online Learning
    #4 Provide links for Plan-Zoning-Infrastructure-Transit and Economics-Property/Commercial Revenues
    #5 Current ComPlan arterial zoning is sufficient to increase commercial space by x50-90% and residential by 125-200+%
    #6 Parking can be reduced for TransitDependent Development TDD…and displaced to more appropriate locations;
    #7 SCAG and City must provide population growth, household size, and employments and GenPlan Page
    #8 Provide Env. and Econ. – EIR data base and models
    #9…S can be done easily…with available human and digital resources

    • I can’t concentrate on your post without knowing if your “#” are related to another documente or perhaps to the Comments here on Eastsider. The abbreviations and acronyms don’t help either. I think you have some valuable points…could you please make it a bit easier to understand?

  9. JJJ is full of loopholes so developers actually don’t have to build affordable housing. LA Times recommended No on JJJ so the basis of invalidating JJJ is actually a reason for YesonS. https://www.google.com/amp/www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-measure-jjj-20160923-snap-story,amp.html?client=safari

    • If you want more affordable housing then both S and JJJ are counterintuitive measures.

      Local housing is expensive because a lot of people want to live here, and yet we continue passing these laws which make development more and more expensive and difficult, so that only those with very deep pockets, teams of lawyers and connections at City Hall can pay-to-play.

      What you’re left with is a very minimal amount of gold plated publicly subsidized housing (great for a handful of poor people, but will never scale to make much of an impact); or super expensive market rate housing for the luxury tenants on the other end of the spectrum. Huge donut hole in the middle.

      Affordable housing need not be a government program. Just streamline the zoning for granny flats, backyard duplexes, and small additions to underutilized commercial lots around the city, by right. No parking requirements, no environmental reviews, traffic studies, or lawsuits. Let the market sort it out, instead of trying (and failing) to micromanage every aspect of land use.

      Kinda like how Sunset Junction, Highland Park, Little Tokyo, Los Feliz, Venice, Larchmont, etc. were all originally built… mom and pop investors and minimal hassle from City Hall.

  10. My story is very similar to that of Mr. Huezo, except that my family came from Mexico and we landed in South Central LA. We wished we could have lived in Boyle Heights. I, on the other hand, support Measure S and am volunteering for that campaign. Unfortunately for Mr. Huezo, he will not get one of those much desired “affordable” housing units labor, our politicos and developers are promising. A perfect example of the absurdity of our system Measure S is trying to address is the Reef project in south Los Angeles, a 1,440 unit development with another 200+ hotel room in south central Los Angeles. With a median income of 32K per year, no household in that community, not one, in that community will be able to live there, not one. Even a single in that development would require those households to spend every single penny, not eat, drive, buy clothes, every single penny, to live in one of those units.

    Mr. Huezo thinks that 5% “affordable” that they are now promising under JJJ is a good deal. So a community gets 950 market rate units that no one in that community can afford, and they throw you a bone of 50 units. Do the math. It will not be long before you lose that community, that is what will happen in South Central LA, Hollywood and Boyle Heights. Mr. Huezo may be a nice guy and he may be great company, but these units are not for him or his parents or people that look or sound like him. Start looking for a place in Palmale, Lancaster, Riverside or San Bernardino. Measure is S isnt a magic bullet and cure all, by its very nature it merely pauses the current broken system and forces our politicos to do what they were hired to do.

    • I agree the system is broken, and the Reef project is problematic for the reasons you mentioned. If Measure S was just a set of reforms that mandated regular community plan updates, restricted financial contributions from developers to city hall etc, which it does in part, I would be all for it.

      Measure S, however, goes way beyond this and was designed by a handful of rich NIMBY homeowners looking to capitalize on this popular frustration with the development process to trick people into voting against their own economic interests. It seems counter intuitive but restricting housing supply, even luxury housing, will exacerbate the housing crisis and raise rents for all of us. More people are going to continue moving to LA whether we build housing for them or not, and if there is not enough new housing this will continue to drive up the demand and price of our existing supply. It’s also not just a pause since it will permanently ban plan amendments (even for affordable housing) for projects less than 15 acres (most projects). S tries to characterize plan amendments as proof of corruption in city hall, which there is some of that no doubt and we need reforms to address this, but more typically they are a necessary part of an unruly process managing development in one of the worlds largest cities.

      I would encourage people to read the LA times endorsement if they havent already, its one of the more balanced breakdowns of the measure’s implications that I’ve found so far from a paper that is often critical of the relationship between developers and city hall. http://www.latimes.com/opinion/endorsements/la-ed-measure-s-201702111-story.html

      • How can you correlate the characteristics you attribute to the Measure S supporters with the identities of those who are contributing to it’s Opposition? Please see my Comment above containing a list of some of them.

        Re the Times’ Opinion piece…I’ve read it. The LAT has never met a story it did not like about illegal immigrants coming to Los Angeles. Yet it has the gall to state, “Los Angeles is in the midst of a severe housing crisis because over decades, housing construction has not kept up with population growth.” They also support Garcetti for re-election, a puppet of Brown who believes all immigrants should be welcome here, including the illegal.

    • Just because you were born somewhere or have lived there a long time, doesnt mean you are entitled to live there for the rest of your life. Neighborhoods change, cities grow and parking lots (what the reef is replacing) get built on. We need housing everywhere. Just because you cant afford it and dont want others to move in doesnt entitle you to f*&k the entire city. Selfish

  11. Yes on Measure S is the only means we, as citizens and residents, have in influencing what actually happens in our neighborhoods. Facts, some real and others false, fly back and forth between pro and con supporters, but the crux of this initiative is to inject reason, respect, accountability and common sense into how and what is built where we live. Already, we will have to live for decades with the egregious mistakes made by the city council and planning department who granted spot zoning favors for massively tall and dense housing developments that are congesting our streets and ruining the integrity and character of our neighborhoods. Yes on S.

    • Actually, the crux of this measure is to stop all development and to destroy the local economy. Its all about people who think they live in mayberry when they actually live in a metro of 19 million people.

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