Opinions run strong on Facebook and Twitter as friends share, post and debate the politics of the day. Especially since the November election, it seems that just about everyone wants to get involved and shape the state and country in which we live.
Except that all that energy hasn’t quite translated into votes. Los Angeles just held an election which is going to determine the lives of residents for decades. And at one point during the counting process, it looked like Los Angeles was about to set a new record on turnout – the lowest turnout on record.
In the end, we didn’t quite set that unfortunate record. Turnout across the whole county clocked in at 17 percent, while in the city of Los Angeles it hit 20 percent. Not the worst, but dismal compared to recent federal elections. For the business community, this election was important, and it threw up some welcome results.
I was relieved but not surprised by the vehemence with which Measure S was rejected. Measure S was the Nimby measure which would have banned almost every development project in the city for at least two years. It would have driven young people away from the San Fernando Valley by making housing even more expensive, exacerbated the homelessness crisis and damaged our economy by billions of dollars.
In L.A., and especially in the San Fernando Valley, it often feels like the majority of people are in the anti-development camp. The Nimbys are the loudest group, dominating many community organizations and other stakeholder groups. Attend any neighborhood council meeting and hear the long line of residents speak in opposition to every project that comes through, whether it’s a large multi-use complex or senior housing.
But at the end of the day, votes are what matter. The lesson from the repudiation of Measure S is clear – residents want smart growth. No one wants ugly monstrosities that dominate the neighborhood and don’t fit into the character of the area, and that is why the Los Angeles City Council and Mayor Eric Garcetti are working to overhaul zoning and the General Plan. We should hold them accountable to their promise of smart growth.
Los Angeles has one of the lowest homeownership rates in the country – over half of all units are occupied by renters, not owners. Rents are some of the highest in the country, and vacancy rates are low. Homeowners may be the ones with the luxury of time and resources to join community organizations and actively defend the status quo. But as we know from the Measure S results, they are far from the majority.