By Emma Gannon
Los Angeles County will vote on several hot-button issues at the primary on March 7. After the California November election legalized recreational marijuana and approved a $1.2 billion bond for homeless housing units, voters will have a chance to approve or bypass several critical ballot measures meant to help Los Angeles County execute its November promises.
California joined the ranks of eight other states when it legalized recreational marijuana on November 8th, but many questions were left unanswered as to how this new addition to California’s already flourishing medical marijuana industry would be regulated. Measure M proposed that the mayor and city council should regulate and tax marijuana funds. The other marijuana measure, which has since been abandoned by its original backers (albeit too late to remove the legislation from the ballot) is Measure N, which would allow a medical marijuana trade group regulate the industry instead of city hall. Measure N’s original supporters have now publicly backed Measure M, which is endorsed by NAACP LA President Minnie Hadley-Hempstead, L.A. Chief of Police Charlie Beck, and L.A. City Councilman for the 10th District Herb Wesson.
Measure S—or the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative—would impose a temporary ban on construction within Los Angeles that would decelerate development growth for up to two years. This would require the city’s general plan to undergo a public review every five years, and amendments to the city’s general plan specific to development projects would be prohibited until they had undergone public review.
While proponents say the measure would cut down on corrupt city planning and would provide some much-needed affordable housing, critics say that the measure wouldn’t be able to deliver on its promises. Measure S’s efforts to downsize city growth could backfire, as a lack of new development has, in the past, fallen to the detriment of low-income renters. But forcing City Hall to undergo a more thorough, gradual planning process, proponents say, puts the power back with the people—and gives the public more of a say in the city’s growth.
One March primary measure focuses specifically on housing for the homeless. Measure H, which would authorize a 0.25 percent county sales tax to fund homeless services, would last 10 years, and is expected to generate about $350 million annually. Proposition HHH, a $1.2 billion bond that was approved in November, will finance the thousands of homeless housing units that Measure H will service, providing 10,000 units for an estimated 28,000 homeless population. Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas donated $250,000 to the proposition, telling the press it was time to “get on with the business of making a significant dent in homelessness.”
City Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson told the LA Times that he believed LA voters were “prepared to make an investment” in the homeless issue.
“What’s different now than what I think it’s been in the past is that there’s no part of the city that doesn’t experience homelessness,” he said.
But smaller cities within L.A. County disagree with Harris-Dawson, and are dubious about opting in to the hefty price tag. Burbank City Council declined to support the ballot measure, and Burbank City Councilman David Gordon told the Los Angeles Times that it would irresponsible for Burbank to support the measure.
“There are many things we’re going to have to decide as council members in very short order,” Gordon said. “There may be discussions of tax elevation. We have to utilize the full benefit of any taxation of Burbank residents for the benefit of Burbank citizens. And since we have a really small homeless population here, I think it’s short-sighted to support this.”
Curren Price, current L.A. City Councilmember for the 9th District, is also up for reelection in the March primary. Formerly a California senator for the 26th Senate District, Price is now seen as the figurehead leading the “New Ninth” District. Curren’s past four years in the seat have been active—since his election in 2013, Price led the movement to increase hotel employee wages (and went on to author the legislation promising a $15 minimum wage in Los Angeles by 2020) started a “Clean and Green” neighborhood cleanup initiative, and acted as an important voice in the county-wide push to legalize street vending. Price has established himself as an advocate for the homeless, and helped sponsor Measure HHH before it was passed.
Price is up against Adriana Cabrera and Jorge Nuño for the seat. Cabrera has a B.A. in Political Science with an emphasis in Public Policy & Management and describes herself as “the only working class candidate” running for the 9th District. Nuño is a small-business owner known for renovating a mansion in South L.A. to use for an after-school space for local children.