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Here's Why That Big Anti-Development Ballot Measure Could Be So Dangerous For Los Angeles

The NIMBYs have come together to stop development in Los Angeles, and are headed to the ballot box with an initiative that could have huge ramifications for the future of LA. Even Mayor Eric Garcetti is concerned with the potential effects the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative could have on the city if passed. The initiative, brought by a group called the Coalition to Preserve LA, would slow new developments in Los Angeles by requiring city planners and developers to stick to LA's General Plan, a set of city planning guidelines that are now more than two decades old. LA has certainly changed a lot in the past 20 years, and the General Plan does not account for today's severe housing shortage, the expansion of LA's public transportation system, or really anything that couldn't have been anticipated back in 1995. There could be dire consequences if such a backward-looking initiative is applied to a forward-looking city. Streetsblog LA has broken down many of the initiative's pitfalls; here are the lowlights:

Zoning workarounds are a necessity today
Much hoopla has been made over developers scoring amendments to zoning guidelines in order to build structures that are taller and denser than what's actually allowed. While on the surface it appears the city is doing favors for large developers, that theory may be misguided, as amendments are the only way to navigate LA's 20-year-old General Plan. The city plan is considered pretty outdated, as it does not account for LA's unprecedented housing crunch and the necessity of increased density. Banning zoning amendments could keep the city in development handcuffs, rendering it unable to properly expand in the face of rising housing demands. Mott Smith, principal at the Civic Enterprise *development and planning firm, argues that the initiative effectively "bans planning" by not allowing the adoption of any city plan that would alter a neighborhood's current density or height. Passing the initiative, Smith argues, would "lock the entire city in amber as it is today."

The initiative maintains LA's addiction to parking
More than 200 square miles of Los Angeles are dedicated to parking, with some 18.6 million parking spaces occupying valuable land and encouraging inefficient commutes by single drivers. Zoning rules require developments to provide an astronomical amount of parking to tenants and visitors, thereby incentivizing Angelenos to drive to their destinations, increasing traffic and robbing public transportation of potential riders. LA's recently passed Mobility Plan 2035 (which was challenged by a similar crowd) aims to pull the city out of its car culture by funding public transportation and bicycling infrastructure, but the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative would fly in the face of that progress.

The NIN contains a provision that restricts officials from reducing the amount of on-site parking required at new developments. If passed, city officials would only be allowed to reduce on-site parking by one third, stifling any future plans for denser, less car-centric developments, especially because parking is enormously expensive to provide. Saddling developers with unreasonable parking requirements all but ensures new developments remain small, favoring horizontal sprawl over vertical growth.

Limits on density economically segregate the city
The Neighborhood Integrity Initiative is being spearheaded by a group of activists who first gained prominence by opposing megadevelopments in the Hollywood area. They feel the development of Hollywood over the past several years is a microcosm of the rampant development in LA in general. Ideally, they would like to keep Hollywood as it is, which is to say full. By limiting growth in a neighborhood like Hollywood, housing stays in high demand, prices remain high, and economic diversity stays low.

A recent UCLA study found that restricting the density of a neighborhood increases housing prices overall, "exacerbating the concentration of affluence." In short, it sets the price of admission for living in a neighborhood at a level only obtainable to current residents. To encourage this trend through a ballot initiative could result in the wealthy "coloniz[ing] the most central, economically functional, and desirable locations" in town. Paavo Monkkonen, author of the study, says the initiative "punishes younger people and people that are new to the city."

The initiative needs 60,000 signatures before it can get on the ballot in November. The backers of the initiative have not said how long they expect the signature gathering will take, but hopefully it's enough time to put this ballot measure under the microscope for further investigation.
· Doubling Down on an Unsustainable Future: Looking at L.A.'s "Neighborhood Integrity Initiative" [Streetsblog]
· Proposed Ballot Measure Seeks to 'Preserve' an Outdated Version of Los Angeles [Curbed LA]
· LA Mayor Garcetti Looking to Compromise with NIMBYs on Anti-Development Ballot Measure [Curbed LA]
·What Would It Look Like If All of Los Angeles's Parking Was in One Giant Blob? [Curbed LA]