Why a Republican Mayor and a Young Housing Advocate Support Yes on S

Richard Riordan and Tracy Rosenthal agree that LA's broken planning system must be fixed

Former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan and LA Tenants Union member Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal come from different worlds, but they both support Measure S. They understand that LA's broken and rigged planning system must be fixed. In separate LA Times op-eds, Riordan and Rosenthal explain why.

Measure S stops developers from having their way with City Hall -- Richard Riordan

City Hall is handing out runaway “spot-zoning” exemptions to luxury developers to build whatever they desire, wherever they desire to build it. The result: standstill traffic, environmental damage, pay-to-play tactics and skyrocketing rents.

Measure S gives the decision-making process back to the people. It makes City Hall work for us, not for the developers, special interests and lobbyists.

As a two-term mayor of Los Angeles, I speak from a place of both experience and deep concern for our city. I know how the city works. The current political environment is rife with corruption and backroom deals servicing land speculators and luxury housing developers over the needs of citizens. If passed, Measure S will hold our elected officials accountable again.

Specifically, it will preserve neighborhoods by preventing developers from building as big as they want. It will ban developers from writing their own environmental reports, an indisputable conflict of interest. It will stop pay-to-play dealing between developers and city leaders. It will move key planning hearings out of downtown and into communities. It will set a two-year moratorium on backroom deals that ignore local zoning. And it will require the city, with input from residents, to update the languishing, decades-old collection of community plans as well as the city’s general plan, which the City Council quietly voted to stop updating in 2005.

City officials and urban planners claim we have a housing crisis. From my vantage point, they created it by fixating on the needs of global and national developers whose motives run contrary to sensible planning. City Hall has stood idly by while 22,000 affordable apartments have been lost since 2000, pushing out an estimated 60,000 people.

Despite misinformation to the contrary, voters should understand that Measure S will halt for two years only outsized projects that would ignore local zoning. It does not stop the 95% of developments that play by the rules, and it encourages developers to build 100% affordable housing.

Measure S will also help to address our homeless problem. Over the last 10 years of the city’s luxury-development frenzy, Central L.A. has lost one-third of its properties for the homeless. Previously, we had more than 9,000 affordable single-room units. Today we have only 3,500. Mayor Eric Garcetti, the City Council, and greedy developers do not acknowledge that this is one of many of the detrimental consequences of breaking our planning and land-use rules.

Our population growth is moderate and manageable, at about 1.3% percent annually. But with growth comes conflicts in almost every area I can think of — traffic, jobs, environmental impacts, education and housing, among many others.

Measure S is an opportunity to decide how we as a city want to move forward. Do we want to continue allowing rule-breaking developers to do as they please? I don’t think so. Los Angeles is better than this.


New rental units cost nearly double what the average Angeleno can afford. That's an insult, not a housing solution -- Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal

Critics of Measure S, including Eli Broad, Mayor Eric Garcetti and the Times editorial board, say that our housing crisis stems from a housing shortage and that only more building will solve the problem.

But developers build luxury and market-rate housing, which doesn’t meet L.A.’s real needs. Rental units built over the last decade require an income almost double the average Angeleno’s. That’s not a solution — it’s an insult.

Market solutions do nothing to address displacement. They treat renters’ homes — our connection to our neighborhoods, families and friends — as interchangeable units. Tenants know what new development means: When local property values rise, so do our rents. Landlords are incentivized to harass us, scam us, even evict us so that we might be replaced with higher-rent-paying tenants or profit-maximizing Airbnb units. They are also incentivized to remove rent protections completely.

The real housing crisis is displacement and a lack of affordability. It’s a crisis of ethics, not analytics. We won’t solve it with lessons from Economics 101.

The housing market doesn’t produce homes; it produces opportunities for investment. The goals of maximizing profit and making the city livable are at odds. Truly accessible housing — public and rent-stabilized housing — counteract market-made inequality.

Instead of public housing, we get expensive voucher programs: public subsidies to private landlords. Just 1 out of every 5 families who deserve assistance gets it. Instead of truly affordable rent-stabilized housing, we beg developers to add income-capped “affordable” units through incentives that exclude the poor and, as the city controller’s office admits , don’t even work.

Renters support Measure S not because we’re NIMBYs concerned with the aesthetics of our neighborhoods, but because we’re fighting to stay in our neighborhoods. Not because we don’t understand how markets work, but because we do. To advocate for more city-subsidized development projects or watered-down versions with bad-faith "affordability" provisions is to advocate for market solutions that we know will fail.

Critics say Measure S goes too far. For tenants, it doesn’t go far enough. Measure S is a chance to stop more of the unaffordable new housing that accelerates displacement, a chance to buy time for tenants to organize and demand rent-stabilized and public housing. We need solutions to the housing crisis informed not by the neoliberal ideals of supply-and-demand, but by the everyday needs of real renters. Profit is not a human right. Housing is.

Vote Yes on S on March 7.

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