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Could the anti-development Measure S tank LA’s economy?

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A new report—funded by the opposition campaign—says yes

Cranes in Downtown LA Thomas Roberts | Curbed LA Flickr

Critics of the controversial Neighborhood Integrity Initiative—now officially known as Measure S—have long argued that it would limit affordable housing opportunities and prevent transit-oriented development. Now one of the main opponents, the Coalition to Protect LA Neighborhoods and Jobs, has released a report finding it could have a dramatic and adverse effect on the city’s economy.

The report was prepared by consulting firm Beacon Economics and financed by two developers that have backed the Measure S opposition campaign. It finds Measure S, which would put a two-year moratorium on most major developments and prevent the city from deviating from current zoning rules, could cost the local economy $3.8 billion in its first two years.

It also suggests if the initiative passes, Los Angeles could lose 24,000 jobs during the moratorium—most of them in the construction industry. That amounts to about $1.2 billion in lost wages.

In an introduction to the report, United Way of Greater Los Angeles President and CEO Elise Buik states flatly that “Measure S would risk a return to recession.”

The Coalition to Preserve LA, which sponsored the ballot measure, was decidedly unimpressed.

“We expect this kind of nasty trash from Beacon Economics, which sold out for about $45,000 in payments (and counting) to write this fake news,” campaign director Jill Stewart tells Curbed in an email.

The billionaires Stewart refers to are likely the two development firms that financed the study, Westfield and Crescent Heights.

Paavo Monkkonen, a professor of urban planning at UCLA who was not involved with the study, tells Curbed that he cannot speak to the report’s broader economic forecast, but that the effects it predicts on LA’s supply of housing seem realistic based on preliminary research he and others have begun at UCLA.

According to the analysis, passage of Measure S could result in the loss of up to 2,800 multifamily units per year by limiting the scale of new residential projects or dissuading developers from building entirely. Such a significant limitation on the growth of housing supply could cause already-high rents to soar even further.

“In a market, everything matters,” Monkkonen says. “Every unit that’s added is going to have some very small impact on rent—and every unit that’s taken away is going to have some very small impact on rent overall.”