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Pro-Development Affordable Housing Measure Headed For LA's November Ballot

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The Build Better LA Initiative has gathered enough petition signatures to appear on ballots this fall

At least one vision for the future of development in Los Angeles will hit the ballot this fall. Backers of the Build Better LA Initiative announced Monday that they have gathered more than enough petition signatures to get their plan to build more affordable housing on the November ballot.

It's a somewhat surprising turn of events, since the ballot measure was created in large part as an alternative to the severely anti-development Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, but backers of that measure—which would require developers adhere to existing (very outdated) zoning laws and freeze all large projects for two years—recently decided to push it until the March election, when turnout is expected to be much lower and thus more favorable to such a conservative proposal. Now, the Build Better LA Initiative will be the first to go before voters.

The ballot measure calls for the city to require affordable housing with all development projects that require zoning exemptions. Because the city's zoning laws haven't really been altered in 20 years, quite a few projects would be affected by this rule. The initiative would also require developers to hire a set amount of local workers for the construction.

As the LA Times reports, executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor Rusty Hicks—a proponent of the measure—wants to make it clear that the proposals of Build Better LA are a far cry from the radical NIMBYism of the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative. "This is not the coalition of no. This is the coalition of moving this city forward."

Of course, pro-business groups don't seem to see it that way. Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce President Gary Toebben tells the Times that while the Chamber also opposes the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, they don't find Build Better LA to be a good alternative, arguing that it "will significantly increase the cost of housing" (for whom, he doesn't say).

Meanwhile, in response to the pressures placed on the city by these ballot initiatives, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced plans last month to begin a comprehensive overhaul of the city's Community Plans, which govern local planning and zoning, that is expected to take about three years. As soon as November, we may know just how much that plan will be affected by LA voters themselves.