Photo by John Schreiber.
Photo by John Schreiber.

Former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan came out in support Thursday of a proposed ballot measure targeting so-called “mega- projects” that are often built through exceptions to an area’s existing zoning laws.

The endorsement from Riordan, mayor of Los Angeles from 1993 to 2001, comes as the initiative campaign is beginning to collect signatures needed to qualify the measure for the November ballot.

The Coalition to Preserve L.A. is seeking to ask voters whether to place a two-year ban on zoning exceptions that may be given to developers who want to build bigger, taller or denser projects than are allowed in a particular neighborhood.

The coalition must collect at least 61,486 valid signatures in order to get onto the ballot.

Proponents of the measure say that such projects lead to more traffic, destroy a neighborhood’s “livability” and “character,” and result in gentrification, in which older, potentially more affordable homes are replaced by more expensive residences.

The proposed measure recently drew criticism from the city’s current mayor, Eric Garcetti, who says the proposal to halt such development — which would make more units available in the housing market — could actually make rents more expensive.

Riordan fired back at Garcetti today, saying that “he isn’t doing anything for the poor, but helping the rich get richer through these zoning deals on land development.”

“If a person moved to the city now and heard Mayor Eric Garcetti talk, they’d assume he’s a member of the Tea Party,” he said.

Riordan noted that single council members hold too much power over developments in their district and this control “should be illegal.”

“That person is being lobbied by the developers and getting campaign money or campaign promises, and this just has to end,” he said.

He said that projects near public transportation hubs — where developers can often build denser projects — have led to more traffic congestion.

“You cannot put in expensive condos and rental units and hope to attract people who will use public transportation,” he said. “You will have two cars for each family. If I were mayor, I would not be for all of this super- gentrification.

“When I was mayor, we prevented people from taking industrial land and turning it into high-rises, because we still need factories and manufacturing for the good jobs it provides to the working class in L.A.,” Riordan said. “I challenge Garcetti to define what he means by affordable housing.”

Riordan said he thinks Garcetti’s idea of affordable housing “will probably go for close to $3,000 (a month).”

“So I want him to define it. Because the working poor in L.A., without question, can’t afford City Hall’s affordable housing,” Riordan said.

Garcetti spokeswoman Connie Llanos defended Garcetti’s policies, saying that he “has a strong record of advocating for the needs of communities and advancing progressive policies like the minimum wage increase, which will help lift more than 600,000 Angelenos out of poverty.”

She said the mayor has an “aggressive agenda” to tackle a housing shortage in the city and is pushing the city to help get 100,000 new residential units built by 2021.

She said the mayor has also set a goal of “doubling the production of affordable housing for low-income Angelenos,” including through the creation of a “development linkage fee” aimed at raising money to spur the construction of more affordable units.

Llanos said the mayor is “concerned that this initiative would dramatically cut housing production in Los Angeles, driving up rents at all income levels at a time when too many Angelenos are already struggling to make ends meet.”

–City News Service

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