Update, Feb. 27, 2:20 PM: The Measure S campaign has refused to rescind its fake eviction notice mailer, citing free speech. See below.
It's less than two weeks until Election Day, and the campaign mailers are coming thick and fast. Many are related to Measure S, the ballot initiative seeking to curb large-scale developments by limiting City Hall's ability to exemption them from the zoning code. The measure has drawn criticism, recently from the mayor, the governor and even the city controller. Now, the campaign behind Measure S is in a bit of hot water with the L.A. County Sheriff's Department over one of those mailers — the one that sort of looks like an eviction notice, at least at first glance (see above).
On Friday, the department sent the Measure S campaign — aka the Coalition to Preserve L.A. — a cease-and desist-letter, ordering the campaign to stop using “the LASD name, County name, any images or reproductions bearing or having a likeness to the LASD or County names, or any official County or LASD document.”
The letter, signed by county counsel Mary Wickham, goes on to read: “Your use of the LASD name and your actions in misleading the public are unauthorized and unlawful.” It also demands that the Measure S campaign make amends by “sending notice of correction to all recipients of this mass mailer stating the LASD and the County did not authorize the use of their name or the message contained in the mailer.”
The Measure S campaign did not immediately respond to our request for a comment.
The campaign has argued that large-scale development leads to older, more affordable buildings being torn down and lower-income residents getting evicted. But a recent story in the L.A. Times concluded that “only a small fraction of such evictions in recent years was caused by the types of projects Measure S would bar.” And Larry Gross, who heads the Coalition for Economic Survival and helped write the city's rent-control ordinance, says Measure S will do nothing to stop evictions — in fact, he says, it might even make the problem worse.
Gross says he's gotten phone calls from people who received the “EVICTION NOTICE” ads in the mail and, at least at first, thought they were real.
“I have to tell you, personally, I received this — I even flinched when I opened up my mailbox,” Gross says. “I can only imagine what it would be like for tenants receiving this, especially in this environment, when you have evictions that are so widespread. And you have the issue of immigration, with raids going on. I just think it’s incredibly irresponsible and despicable to resort to these type of tactics to scare people into voting for a measure that wouldn’t even help them.”
The Measure S campaign's mailers have become increasingly bizarre as the election nears. Another recent one (pictured above) shows the hands of a presumably homeless person holding a cardboard sign that reads, “House our Vets. Yes on S.”
Measure S has nothing to do with veterans housing and would not build supportive housing for the homeless, though the Coalition to Preserve L.A. does support Measure H, an initiative that would raise the sales tax a quarter of a cent to pay for homeless services. (Again, the Measure S campaign has argued that development leads to displacement, which further exacerbates homelessness.)
“They’re reaching new depths of deception,” Gross says. “That’s pretty shallow. It's not going to deliver on any of these promises.”
Measure S is also mailing out plastic shoehorns that read “Yes on S.”
Update, Feb. 27, 2:20 PM: In a letter responding to the county’s cease-and-desist notice, attorney Fred Woocher wrote:
There is no merit to the demands made in your letter, and we are dismayed at the apparent efforts of your office to censor the free speech rights of the proponents of Measure S and thereby influence the outcome of the election on this local ballot initiative.
In a press release, the Measure S campaign suggested that the Sheriff’s Department’s order was politically motivated:
It is obvious by now that the political establishment in Los Angeles County wants to maintain business as usual, in which greedy developers make lavish donations to politicians to rubber-stamp their luxury projects.
The press release also expressed dismay that anyone could take the mailer seriously: “Who could possibly believe that this was an actual eviction notice?”