Measure S watch: Just how much clout do community groups have?

Only a handful of neighborhood councils, known for sway over voters, have taken a side

Mar.March 06, 2017 06:00 PM

While they have no direct voting authority, L.A.’s neighborhood councils have become a powerful force in local elections, mobilizing voters in their districts to support a measure or shoot it down. They are also often the ones carrying the torch when an unwelcome development is proposed in their neighborhoods.

Which is why it’s surprising that only a handful of neighborhood councils — which don’t endorse legislation but can tally support and log it with the city — have taken an official position on Measure S, the initiative on Tuesday’s ballot that would halt most development for two years. Three confirmed with The Real Deal that they formally oppose it, while three confirmed they support it — a draw that echoes city council candidates stances on the controversial initiative.

The Palms Neighborhood Council unanimously voted to oppose Measure S on Feb. 1, according to its President, Nick Greif. The Olympic Park Neighborhood Council also voted to oppose the initiative last month. And, while Panorama City’s members initially logged their support in December 2015 for what was then only a proposed measure, the majority are now against the measure, said secretary Tony Wilkinson.

Three neighborhood councils said they do support the proposed moratorium.

Anastasia Mann, president of the Hollywood Hills West Neighborhood Council, told TRD that her council’s executive board passed a resolution to support the measure last year, with all but one board member present in support. She said that with development comes traffic.
“We [in the Hollywood Hills] have firsthand experience with spot zoning,” she said, adding that development causes traffic “congestion.”

The Westwood and Bel Air-Beverly Crest councils also confirmed their support for S through their president Lisa Chapman and administrative assistant Cathy Palmer, respectively.

The other 84 neighborhood councils within the boundaries of the City of Los Angeles either were not available to comment, declined to comment or stated they had no position. (We omitted San Pedro, Arleta, and Torrance councils. Counting those, there are 97 neighborhood councils in metro Los Angeles.)

Business Improvement Districts, too, have largely remained silent — with one very loud exception.

Last month, the South Park Business Improvement District blasted a mass email to its members warning of the dangers of Measure S, the ballot measure that would place a two-year moratorium on L.A. real estate projects that require a General Plan amendment.

South Park has been one center among several booming Downtown development hubs — but the success of the measure could spell the end of that streak.

In the email, the BID cautioned that the measure “threatens South Park progress” and “would drastically disrupt the momentum of growth and development city-wide.”

While the BID stopped short of directly instructing recipients to vote “no” on the measure on March 7, it did invite the community to participate in a phone bank at the L.A. County Federation of Labor, one of the most vociferous opponents of Measure S, every Tuesday and Thursday until the vote and to canvass the neighborhood on Saturdays. The labor federation has funded opposition organizing and messaging, including the websites and the unabashed NoShit.LA, with the tagline “No S in LA.”

Of the 42 citywide business improvement districts in Los Angeles, four formally said they oppose Measure S, including Hollywood Entertainment, Sunset & Vine, East Hollywood, and South Park. Joseph Mariani, associate executive director of the Hollywood Entertainment BID and executive director of the Sunset & Vine BID, confirmed both organizations’ opposition, saying their opposition was primarily driven by concerns over housing shortages.

“We’re very compassionate toward the homeless,” Mariani said, arguing that the moratorium would halt the construction of many homeless housing and affordable projects.

The other 38 BIDs either declined to take a position or were not available to comment.

BIDs are nonproft organizations made up of elected individuals who together act a subsidiary of the city to make improvements to designated districts with a local business tax-generated pot of funds. Real estate industry executives are a common presence on many BIDs, and those opposing Measure S have recognizable names among their membership and governing boards, including AEG, Jade Enterprises, Hazens Group, Mack Urban, Kilroy Realty, CIM Group, Hudson Media Properties, and Measure S’ chief enemy Crescent Heights.

Measure S would prevent construction projects that require a General Plan amendment or other zoning changes from moving forward for two years, and would also require the city to complete environmental impact reports, rather than allowing developers to contract them out, during the same two-year period. Fully affordable projects would be exempt — but only if they do not require an amendment to the General Plan.

Yes on Measure S did not respond to requests for comment for this article.

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