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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