If you're interested in fighting back against Measure S and the backward-looking, anti-housing campaign to "Preserve LA," you can join me and hundreds of your fellows as a member of Abundant Housing LA. It's free, and we'll keep you up to date with key actions and updates as the election nears!
The campaign behind Measure S, the anti-housing initiative on Los Angeles' March 7th ballot, keeps arguing that their construction moratorium and general plan amendment only affects 5% of developments—which is a lie. But if not 5%, exactly how many housing units would it stop? It's hard to know, since the city doesn't really track these kinds of things.
To get to the bottom of this, I've been going back through development proposals from the past year or so—most projects, though not all, were first proposed in 2016—and tracking all of those that are requesting a general plan amendment, zone change, and/or height district change. (Many thanks to the guys at Urbanize LA for keeping track of these proposals, because I've been 100% reliant on their archive to dig through all these projects.) The results have been illuminating.
The running total so far: Over 19,000 new homes currently working their way through the permitting process would be blocked by Measure S, including roughly 1,000 to 2,000 units reserved specifically for low income households. That's 19,000 kids who can't move out from their parent's home; 19,000 families forced into overcrowded conditions; 19,000 households forced to live in Palmdale or San Bernardino who have to commute into LA each day; 19,000 households displaced by a wealthier person who was willing to pay more for their unit, because nothing new was built to accommodate them without forcing someone else out.
I didn't track the specific numbers, but I'd ballpark the required demolition to make way for these homes at around 100 units—roughly 200 new homes for every one torn down, and 10 or 20 new affordable, rent-controlled homes for every rent-stabilized house that is lost. (Rent-controlled units require a covenant and actually guarantee affordability; rent-stabilized units are not synonymous with affordability and mainly benefit long-term tenants.) This is consistent with previous research showing that "spot-zoned" projects banned by Measure S actually result in far less displacement than the "by-right" developments that the initiative ignores.
Looking ahead to future projects, the share of units that will be affordable to low and moderate income households will only increase. Measure JJJ mandates that any upcoming developments requiring changes to the general plan, zoning, or height district must reserve between 11 and 20 percent of their units for low income households. If Measure S passes, Measure JJJ's benefits are nullified.
The above list also doesn't include existing or future 100% affordable projects, or permanent supportive housing to be built with Measure HHH funds, since those are harder to track—these projects are also banned by Measure S if they require a general plan amendment, which many do.
So next time someone tells you Measure S will only affect a small number of projects being built by the greediest developers, point them to this page. The reality is that Measure S is not just a minor tweak—it's armageddon for a housing market that is already desperately under-supplied.
Everyone agrees that our planning process needs reform, but we also know that it needs a scalpel, not a butcher's knife. There are ways for us to fix this system without utterly destroying our ability to accommodate growth in the years to come, and without forcing even more low income families onto the streets. Measure S is not that fix.