DSA-LA’s Housing and Homelessness Committee and Politics Committee recommend NO on Measure S for the following reasons:
Measure S will contribute to the overall shortage of housing in Los Angeles, which will lead to increased rental and housing costs, displacement, and homelessness;
It will endanger the building of permanent supportive housing units planned for homeless people as part of Measure HHH, approved overwhelmingly by voters;
It will not place restrictions on luxury apartments and hotels, nor does it provide developers meaningful incentives to develop more affordable housing;
It will place restrictions on height and density of building development that prevent modern environmentally sustainable city planning;
It will not create meaningful democratic control over local zoning rules;
It is funded by a corrupt local millionaire who is siphoning money from his AIDS charity to prevent obstruction of his office view.
DSA-LA is committed to working toward a future in which there is adequate and affordable housing for everyone. There is an estimated need for 550,000 new affordable housing units in LA County and the current lack of housing is driving the rise in homelessness for families and individuals. The demand for affordable housing units far exceeds its limited supply. There are long waiting lists for public housing, the waitlist for Section 8 vouchers has been closed for 16 years, and low-income apartment lotteries are inundated with thousands of applicants. Additionally, the number of homeless people in Los Angeles far exceeds the number of shelter beds, with the County having the capacity to shelter only a quarter of its homeless residents.
Measure S, which claims to empower Los Angeles communities and encourage affordable housing, has six propositions:
It proposes a two-year moratorium on construction of projects requiring zoning changes for greater height or density. Projects composed exclusively of affordable housing are exempt.
It prohibits amendments to the General Plan known as “spot zoning” wherein a particular plot of land within a neighborhood is held to be exempt from the height or density restrictions of the rest of the neighborhood.
It requires public review of the General Plan every 5 years.
It prohibits project applicants from completing environmental impact reports for the City.
It requires that the City “make findings of General Plan consistency for planning amendments, project approvals and permit decisions.”
It requires developments to include parking and permanently prohibits significant reductions in parking requirements.
However, Measure S does not actually incentivize or require affordable housing nor does it meaningfully engage communities in local planning. This measure is part of an ongoing struggle between rich property owners and developers, including Michael Weinstein who is funding the Yes on S Campaign and the Westfield Group and Eli Broad who are funding the No on S Campaign. In opposing Measure S, we will not allow property developers to speak for us, nor do we accept uncritically developer’s assertions that an increase in unregulated development will ultimately meet the needs for affordable housing in Los Angeles.
DSA-LA rejects the framing of Measure S as a choice between supporting wealthy property owners or developers. The housing crisis in Los Angeles must be understood through a critical lens as an outcome of capitalism, and we oppose Measure S through that lens. We distinguish between developers and development. An immense amount of affordable housing needs to be created in Los Angeles and we do not trust developers to voluntarily create affordable housing. However, Measure S does not require developers to build any affordable housing, does not require rent control and does not place a limit on rental or housing prices. Rather, it incentivizes developers to focus on lower density units and single family homes, which are aligned with the existing zoning requirements and are much more expensive. Measure S restricts development to homes that few people live in and allows property owners to rent or sell for an increasing profit. These restrictions will have devastating impacts to workers, leading to the loss of approximately 12,000 construction jobs.
Development is necessary for our city to accommodate all those who currently live here, as well as those who join us in the future. Democratic socialism requires that we work towards environmentally sustainable housing for the entire community; that we do not privilege the concerns of those living comfortably already. Often, constructing tall buildings with higher density is the most sustainable, as building densely saves energy and reduces sprawl, leading to a decrease of car commuters and congestion and allowing people to utilize affordable transit such as trains, bikes and buses. Attempts to preserve a pleasing amount of open space, or to provide every apartment a parking spot, should not come at the expense of providing adequate housing for the entire community. This is particularly relevant as Measure S would block 11 of the 12 housing sites planned by the city for its homeless residents. Measure HHH, which was passed last November with an overwhelming 77% majority, will fund approximately 10,000 housing units for homeless people, and it would be paralyzed by the overly restrictive propositions in Measure S.
DSA-LA supports democratic control of our neighborhoods and true democratic control requires that the people have the ability to afford housing. Rent control, greater funding for public and subsidized housing, and tenant protections are more meaningful than the ability to dictate the height or facade of every building. Measure S repeatedly references zoning reforms that were approved by voters in 1969, known the General Plan amendments, which required that buildings not be built above a certain number of stories and limited the number of people that could live on a single plot of land, thus limiting the number of units per apartment building. While Measure S characterizes these zoning reforms as coming from “the people”, the zoning requirements were drafted largely by suburban residents and property owners. DSA-LA rejects the characterization of the existing General Plan amendments as “the People’s reforms,” as these reforms were pushed by wealthy property owners who did not want apartments built in their neighborhoods.
We support the working people, people without secure housing or whom are homeless, and tenants who are organizing and demanding a larger voice in local zoning requirements. We note that the LA Tenants Union/Sindicato de Iniquilinos (LATU/SILA) is supporting Measure S. Though we disagree on their position, DSA-LA shares many of LATU/SILA’s goals and we encourage all tenants and allies to join LATU/SILA. We look forward to working with LATU/SILA on crucial housing reform not addressed by Measure S, including reforms to the Ellis Act and curbing illegal and exploitative practices by landlords.
We believe that democratic oversight of affordable housing development is necessary to ensure working, homeless, and housing insecure people’s needs are met. However, rather than provide greater democratic control, Measure S simply places limits on development that suit the interests of a relative few property owners. There is a legitimate need to prevent corruption in the approval process for new developments and zoning changes. One opportunity is the new Los Angeles city ordinance, passed in February 2017, that requires community plans to be updated every six years, with public input, which will result in fewer requests from developers for “spot zoning” and exemptions to the zoning code. We also support the requirement for independent environmental reviews of building projects, in order to curb corruption, as proposed by Measure S. However this has been addressed, as the city ordinance passed in February 2017 also requires developers to select environmental impact report consultants from a pre-approved City of Los Angeles selected list.
Los Angeles is a city of renters, with a profound homelessness crisis. The working people of Los Angeles are already burdened with exorbitant rents that leave them struggling to make ends meet. The current housing crisis gives tenants few options should their landlords choose to take advantage of them. Measure S will exacerbate the housing crisis, thereby increasing the cost of rent, making tenants more vulnerable, abandoning the homeless, and impoverishing the tradesmen who depend on construction for their livelihood. For these reasons, DSA-LA opposes Measure S.