LA approves affordable housing rules, Santa Monica rejects anti-development measure

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Los Angeles voted to pass new regulations on housing developers in the city, while Santa Monica residents rejected an initiative that would have limited growth in the city.

Under L.A. city measure JJJ, developers who want to build projects that require exemptions from the city must also provide some affordable housing in those buildings. The developers must also make an effort to hire local, union workers. Because the city's zoning code is out of date, many new housing projects require exemptions to get planning approval.

JJJ received 64 percent of the vote, with its main backer saying it's a victory for people who think they're being priced out of Los Angeles.

"Residents are crying out for homes that they can actually afford and jobs that they can rely on," said Rusty Hicks, executive secretary-treasurer of the L.A. County Federation of Labor.

"If developers are going to be developing in our city then they need to be giving something back to the people," said Alexandra Suh from the Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance, another organization that backed the measure. 

But local developers fought the initiative. L.A. builder Mott Smith said JJJ's positive effects will be limited in the long run, and wont affect a large number of projects.

"It's not going to make housing more affordable, it's not going to create more jobs for union members," Smith said. 

Some housing experts warned that it could also have the adverse effect of making builders shy away from breaking ground in Los Angeles altogether, and that lack of building would contribute to L.A.'s housing shortage.

"We'll see some developers who are not going to want to deal with the extra difficulty and the potentially lower (profit) margins," said USC housing expert Raphael Bostic.

Meanwhile in Santa Monica, residents rejected a measure that called for a citywide vote on each development project that is larger than three stories high. That measure, called LV, failed with 56 percent of residents voting no.

"Measure LV would've limited our ability to meet Santa Monica's housing needs," said city councilman Kevin McKeown, who said he was pleased the measure failed because it would've slowed down efforts to build denser developments in the area.

In March, Los Angeles residents will see one more development measure on the ballot. Dubbed the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, it calls for a two-year ban on so-called "mega-developments" in Los Angeles.

Supporters of JJJ are opposed to that measure, because it would make JJJ void for a two year period, and halt new developments that require city exemptions.

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