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Big LA Anti-Development Measure Seeks Lower Voter Turnout

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The future of Los Angeles will be decided at a later date, by fewer voters

It looks like Los Angeles voters will have to wait until next spring to weigh in on an initiative that could profoundly alter the course of the city's future. In a press conference at City Hall, the Coalition to Preserve LA announced that it will hold off on submitting the anti-development Neighborhood Integrity Initiative until March—rather than floating it in November—when there will be fewer ballot measures competing for the attention of voters.

The initiative proposed by CPLA would force the city to stick to the exact zoning laws it has on the books when approving developments, ending the practice of adjusting requirements on a case by case basis, even though the existing zoning laws are decades out of date. It would also halt city approval of major development completely for two years.

The measure has been fiercely opposed by both developers and labor groups, who argue that LA's zoning rules are out of sync with the state of the city and that adjustments are necessary to increase density and drive down soaring rental prices.

According to a statement issued by CPLA, the decision to move the measure to the March ballot was also made to synchronize voting with what an important municipal election—several key civic leaders, including Mayor Eric Garcetti, who has expressed concern about the potential impacts of the measure, are up for re-election in March. CPLA wants them to "seriously discuss the problems of overdevelopment in L.A."

However, turnout in March is sure to be far lower than it will be in November, when there's a presidential election on the ballot, and lower turnout favors conservative candidates and measures like this one. CPLA can put a lot more pressure on Garcetti in March than it could in the fall. LA's municipal election turnout is dismal—only 23 percent of registered voters showed up for the last mayoral election, and less than 10 percent vote in lower-profile elections.

Mike Shimpock, who heads the Coalition to Protect LA Neighborhoods and Jobs, tells the LA Times, "They're trying to disenfranchise the voters who are mostly likely to oppose this." Shimpock accuses CPLA of "election shopping" and suggests that the higher voter turnout expected in November would make it less likely for the initiative to be approved.

Last month, a coalition of labor groups and affordable housing advocates proposed a competing ballot measure called the Build Better LA Initiative as an alternative to CPLA's plan. However, it is still unclear if this initiative will garner enough support to make it to ballots in November or in March.

CPLA does appear to have registered some of this opposition. The initiative that will appear on ballots in March has been revised to include an exception for developments that are designated 100-percent affordable.