Yesterday, in a low turnout city primary election where the demographics of people that turned out to vote (older, whiter, homeowners) should have been as favorable as possible, voters in the city of Los Angeles soundly rejected Measure S. The NIMBY ballot initiative that would have worsened LA’s housing crisis failed 69-31, a greater than 2 to 1 margin.
It’s important to note how significant this vote was. This is the first time in nearly 50 years that opponents of development in Los Angeles have not gotten their way with planning and development ballot initiatives. Ever since the “environmentalist” candidates were elected to city council around 1970, we have been making it harder to build housing in LA. When they wanted downzoning in the first Westside community plans in the early 70s, they got it. When they wanted to kill the “Centers Plan”, they did. When they wanted to kill development on LA’s commercial boulevards, they passed Prop U in 1986, led by many of the same “environmentalists”. When they wanted to stop the Wilshire subway in its tracks and ban new subway construction, they did it with Prop A in 1998. When they didn’t like the new Hollywood Community Plan that allowed more density around the Metro Red Line, they got it tossed out in court. Last night that changed, and we should appreciate how significant that is.
The end of Measure S is just the beginning, though. It is undeniable that the status quo is not meeting the housing needs of the city or region. It is causing people to pay far too much for shelter. It is not working for many low-income neighborhoods, which suffer decades of disinvestment only to see a sudden rush of interest that causes displacement. While we took a big step towards not making things worse last night, we still have a long way to go to make them better.
Now is the time to capitalize on the positive momentum coming from the passage of Measure M, Measure HHH, and Measure H, and the failure of Measure S. The people of the region have shown their commitment to expanding transit, providing desperately needed housing and services to the homeless, and rejecting an exclusionary view of Los Angeles. When they look back, we look forward.
Let’s take that energy and build a positive view for the future of Los Angeles that we know we can achieve if we work together. There are people all across the region that believe in LA and want to make it a city that is welcoming and provides opportunity to everyone.
If you are interested in helping develop and build that future for LA, I encourage you to check out Abundant Housing LA, because we really want it to be a group that helps advance the housing interests of everyone in the region. If you’re worried about the slow pace of building in LA, we want to hear from you. If you’re worried about displacement, we want to hear from you. If you’re worried about building more affordable units, we want to hear from you. If you’re worried about providing enough housing for everyone in LA in any way, we want to hear from you. Let’s work together and help LA provide opportunity for everyone, and be the city of the future again.