Marqueece Harris-Dawson (file photo)
Marqueece Harris-Dawson (file photo)

Special to the Sentinel 

Measure S, the development moratorium on the March 7th ballot, began at the top of a Hollywood high-rise.
Standing at the window of the 21st floor of his Sunset Boulevard office tower, the head of a billion-dollar nonprofit looked around and didn’t like what he saw: new development.

That’s where Measure S began. It ends—hopefully—on election day, when the whole city gets to vote on whether or not to ban, for two years or more, planning tools used for many kinds of new construction.

If voters choose Measure S, we’ll lose the affordable housing near transit our communities badly need. Hospitals will struggle to plan improvements and expansion. New commercial centers will have to wait.

It will mean losses for the whole city: an estimated 24,000 jobs in construction and related careers in the first two years. $640 million in wages to L.A. workers—lost. Higher rents, citywide.

And what will it mean for South L.A.? Because the view is different from here.

Over the last 20 years, Hollywood has experienced an astonishing turnaround. The arrival of the Red Line subway in the late 90’s rang a starting bell on redevelopment. Property values rose. Private investment came.

Development brought that community badly needed housing and created thousands of jobs in construction. It created controversies, too. Many people don’t like change.

But while Hollywood has boomed, South L.A. has just started to move.

In Hollywood, you can see the bones of a 21st-century Los Angeles. Dense housing. Walkable neighborhoods. New restaurants and healthy grocery options. And rich transit options.

South L.A. has just begun to build that skeleton. Because of work by community groups and neighborhood organizers, we are no longer the dumping ground for the uses that the rest of the city doesn’t want.

Today, plans for new transit lines—including the transit we voted for in last November’s election—offer us the ability to strengthen our neighborhoods with market-rate and affordable housing, and attract the kind of development that we’ve demanded for decades.

But that requires updating our community plans, which are still stuck in the bad old days.

Measure S means South LA would be trapped in that past for at least two whole years, and potentially many more. (The “two-year moratorium” only applies to zoning changes, but another section bans project-specific General Plan Amendments for good.) The community plans for South and South East Los Angeles simply don’t allow forward-looking development. With the bans put in place by Measure S, some of our best designs for affordable housing, like the Rolland Curtis Gardens in Exposition Park, 140 apartments right next to the Expo Line, would have been illegal to build — for however long it takes to update our plans.

I’ve spoken to many people who worry about new development and gentrification. But in a housing crisis like the one Los Angeles has, failing to build will make new housing even less affordable, even faster. The best way to improve our neighborhoods and keep them affordable for the children who grew up in them is to build smart.

And Measure S takes away the tools that will let us do that, whether it’s at Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, the former Bethune Library, or new market-rate housing. Or simply making it possible for people to live and work along the new Expo Line.

Boom times meant that Hollywood got the benefits of development. New jobs. New housing. New amenities.

A few people who looked out their windows and saw too much of a good thing shouldn’t get to freeze out a city that doesn’t get the same view.

Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson was sworn into office on July 1, 2015, as the Councilmember for the Eighth District of Los Angeles. A long-time community organizer in South LA, Marqueece has deep roots in the community as he recently served as President and CEO of Community Coalition, one of the most progressive non-profits in the city. Councilmember Harris-Dawson now serves as chair of the Homelessness and Poverty Committee.