Los Angeles City Hall. Photo by John Schreiber.
Los Angeles City Hall. Photo by John Schreiber.

A major Los Angeles-area labor group joined affordable housing advocates Wednesday to begin a ballot initiative campaign aimed at creating more affordable housing and jobs in Los Angeles, but proponents of another initiative said it will compete with their own measure targeting mega-developments.

The Build Better L.A. coalition, led by the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, submitted papers to the Los Angeles city clerk to begin qualifying a measure for the November ballot that would require developers to include a percentage of affordable units in projects to be eligible for zoning changes or other exceptions that would allow them to build bigger, taller or denser residential buildings than allowed under current rules.

The measure runs up against another proposed ballot measure, the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, that would bar the city from handing out such zoning changes or general plan amendments.

Rusty Hicks, executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, said in a statement that the Build Better L.A. initiative is “a bold alternative to address the affordable housing and good jobs crisis in our neighborhoods.”

Hicks said the Build Better L.A. initiative “aligns the city’s land-use policies and funding to build more housing, require local hiring and create jobs close to major transit areas.”

He billed the initiative as a way to help “close the gap on Angelenos getting priced out of their homes and facing poverty.”

But Jill Stewart, spokeswoman for the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, said the initiative introduced today is “a slap in the face to the middle class, working poor and the homeless.”

“Now they’re saying we’re going to give it (affordable housing) to you, but if we get to build massive buildings,” Stewart said.

The Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, which has until April to gather the signatures needed to qualify for the November ballot, targets “mega- projects” like skyscrapers and other large developments that need changes to existing zoning rules in order to be built.

Proponents say such projects, typically marketed as luxury housing, drive up housing costs and are frequently unsuitable for the surrounding neighborhood.

Stewart also questioned the labor unions’ motives for backing the measure, saying that “unions had three decades to get their act together to push for these promises, to side with everyday people, and they’ve failed.”

The proposed Build Better L.A. measure also calls for provisions requiring that a certain percentage of construction work on projects be done by local residents and by those who have graduated from a “joint labor management apprenticeship training program” approved by the state, or possess equivalent qualifications.

The Build Better L.A. coalition includes members of the Alliance for Community Transit-Los Angeles and the Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council.

Ron Miller, executive secretary of the Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council, said the measure will help create “a strong middle class” and allow Los Angeles residents “to have access to good careers in the construction industry with fair wages, benefits, retirement security and safety on the job.”

Alliance for Community Transit-Los Angeles Campaign Director Laura Raymond said other provisions in the proposed measure “will create more housing options and good jobs close to transit lines, so Angelenos don’t have to make the long commutes they are currently taking.”

She added that “there’s a building boom in Los Angeles, but local residents are not getting the opportunity to work on many of these projects.”

Proponents of the measure include representatives from the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, Koreatown Immigrant Workers, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 11, and a resident of The Lorenzo, which according to the building’s website is an “upscale student housing community” near USC.

–City News Service

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