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Will Measure S stop rent-control evictions?

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A Los Angeles Times analysis suggests it won’t

Backers of the controversial Measure S ballot initiative have long held that the measure, which seeks to curb Los Angeles development, will help to prevent landlords from evicting tenants from rent-controlled units. But a Los Angeles Times examination of recent rent-control evictions finds that very few units would have been saved under the rules proposed by Measure S.

In August, when the Coalition to Preserve LA (which is behind the Yes on S campaign) submitted signatures adding the measure to the March ballot, the group issued a press release arguing that LA city planning policies had created a “luxury housing glut” that has “wiped out 22,000 affordable housing units since 2000.”

That number appears to have come from a separate Times analysis of rent-control evictions, published in April. Yet the same authors now find that between 2011 and 2015, just 200 rent-controlled units—less than 10 percent of the 3,000 removed from the market in that time period—have been replaced by developments that Measure S would block.

If approved, the ballot measure would place a two-year moratorium on developments that require zoning changes or amendments to the city’s general plan. The Times report, however, finds that most projects in which developers replace rent-stablized housing with luxury units are built “by right,” meaning that they do not require zoning changes.

Rent-control evictions certainly are on the rise, having doubled since 2013. Increasingly, landlords are taking advantage of a provision of the state’s Ellis Act, which allows property owners to mass-evict tenants of rent-controlled buildings if they are taking the units off the rental market—to demolish the building or convert apartments into condos, for example.

Measure S backers have seized on this reality to promote the ballot initiative, even mailing out mock eviction notices to people’s homes. That tactic caused enough confusion that the LA Sheriff’s Department sent CPLA a cease and desist letter Friday, demanding the organization send recipients a correction.

In response to the letter, Yes on S campaign director Jill Stewart sent an email to the Times in which she thanked the county for “giving the Yes on S campaign some last-minute critical media attention, on our key issue: that developers of luxury towers evict poor and working-class Angelenos every day.”

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Opponents of the ballot measure, however, have argued it could actually encourage landlords to evict tenants. Abundant Housing LA, which has endorsed the opposition campaign, argues that if the measure passes, developers unable to build on parcels not currently zoned for residential use (such as parking lots or underused industrial sites) would instead set their sights on older apartment buildings that could be easily converted into more profitable luxury housing.

Voters will weigh in on Measure S March 7.