No on Los Angeles City Measure S, Yes on County Measure H

It’s no secret that LA’s antiquated land use system is failing its residents. LA has become one of the least affordable housing markets in the nation, and we have a massive homelessness crisis on the order of 46,874 people countywide. Our air quality and congestion are no better. As I’ve previously blogged, the displacement of transit-dependent low-income families reduces transit usage and increases car travel, contributing to increased congestion and air and climate pollution. We desperately need new and better policies to address the consequences of our broken land use system on low-income residents and communities of color, and to advance solutions that will make LA more sustainable.

Measure S, however, is not a sound solution for LA residents.

Rather than tackling our complex and very real issues, Measure S instead indiscriminately limits most development, while doing nothing to ease congestion. The measure would place a two-year moratorium on any development projects that require zoning or height exemptions. Due to the outdated nature of the city’s zoning code, this measure would de facto halt development for two years. The measure also permanently prohibits developments requiring a general plan amendment, which would severely limit housing supply and put upward pressure on rents.

In passing Measures JJJ and HHH this past November, Angelenos overwhelmingly voted to support real solutions. Measure S would roll back the progress we’ve made before it can even get started. The measure would undo Measure JJJ’s incentives for private developers to include affordable housing in developments near transit corridors, and obstruct the City’s ability to build the permanent supportive housing for the homeless that voters approved with Measure HHH. (Contrary to the misleading advertising of the Yes on S campaign, Measure S does not exempt all affordable housing projects, including most of those needed to implement Measure HHH.)

Measure S is a hacksaw, where we need a scalpel. NRDC supports solutions that will help fix our land use system while promoting equity, environmental justice, and sustainability:

  • Supporting LA County Measure H. In November, voters overwhelmingly passed Measure HHH in the City of Los Angeles, signaling a widespread desire to address the homelessness crisis by providing housing for all. While the measure provides funding to build 10,000 units of permanent supportive housing, successful implementation of HHH depends on supplemental funding for supportive services, such as mental health and substance abuse treatment, among other preventative programs. The County’s Measure H would fill that gap—funding homeless services via a ¼-cent sales tax that would generate about $355 million per year over its 10-year lifespan. LA’s homeless are on the frontlines of climate change related disasters, as flooding and heat waves claim lives every year. They also suffer high rates of asthma and health complications, as a result of being constantly exposed to industrial pollution, while often lacking access to health services. LA’s homeless crisis also disproportionately affects people of color—the 2016 County homeless count estimates that 39 percent of LA’s homeless population is black, compared to 9 percent of the general population. Promoting sound solutions to end chronic homelessness is critical to promoting environmental justice for all.
  • Participating in Community Plan Updates. The City of LA is in the process of an ambitious update of all 35 of the City’s community plans over the next ten years. Together, the community plans form the land-use and zoning policies of the City’s currently outdated General Plan. The community plan updates provide opportunities to promote new anti-displacement policies that protect low-income residents’ existing housing, increase access to public transit, and provide incentives for developers to include affordable housing in new projects built in dense, transit-rich neighborhoods. In addition, the plans have the potential to create more walkable, bikeable, and sustainable neighborhoods, and to restrict noxious land uses in residential areas.

Los Angeles deserves solutions that are aligned with health equity, racial justice, and environmental justice for all residents. Join NRDC on March 7th and vote No on City Measure S and Yes on County Measure H.

Thanks to my colleague Heather Kryczka for contributing to this post.

About the Authors

Ramya Sivasubramanian

Managing Director, Environmental Justice and Community Solutions; Environment, Equity & Justice Center

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