If you're among the 12-ish percent of registered voters in L.A. who cast ballots in the March 7 Los Angeles election, bravo. Your voice was heard on matters as monumental as the future of development in the city, the influence of charter schools on LAUSD and the influx of recreational and medical marijuana businesses.
Here's how you guys helped shape L.A.:
Measure S: Should L.A. Get More Dense? — FAILED
UPDATE, March 8, 9:15 a.m.: The contentious anti-development ballot initiative Measure S has been roundly rejected by voters; the measure got only 31 percent of the vote.
It's difficult to recall a local election that had this many billboards. The near ubiquity of the “Yes on S” billboards is just one indication of how important the issue is, and how contentious — especially compared with everything else on the March 7 ballot.
The Coalition to Preserve L.A., the backers of Measure S, say this was an effort to clean up City Hall, to get money out of politics, to stop “luxury development” and to prevent Los Angeles from becoming a hyper-urbanized city like New York.
Measure S opponents successfully argued that the measure would have driven up rents even further by constricting an already tight housing supply — and that it would have made traffic worse by stymieing transit-oriented density. —Hillel Aron
Measure M: Clear the Path for Pot Shops — PASSED
UPDATE, March 8, 9:15 a.m.: Measure M won big, with 79 percent of voters in favor.
Measure M will allow the City Council to issue permits to existing, Proposition D–compliant medical marijuana dispensaries; will expand the number of legal medical marijuana shops; will clear the path for the licensing of recreational pot shops in 2018; will tax cannabis businesses; and will establish new penalties for illegal weed store operators and the landlords who rent to them.
It also will allow the City Council to establish “regulation of transportation” of cannabis; that could include green-lighting delivery services and apps, which are outlawed under Proposition D.
A similar, competing measure, Measure N, was abandoned by its backer, the United Cannabis Business Alliance, which threw its weight behind Measure M. Measure M trumped N. —Dennis Romero
Measure P: Create Investment Opportunity in the Port of L.A. — PASSED
UPDATE, March 8, 9:15 a.m.: Measure P passed by more than a 2-to-1 margin, with 67 percent of voters in favor.
L.A. city councilman Joe Buscaino has for years sought to remake the industrial coastline of the 15th District on the model of waterfront success stories such as Seattle and Baltimore. The piers and warehouses that dot the harbor from the Vincent Thomas Bridge all the way south to the breakwater are ripe for commercial retail and residential developments, says Branimir Kvartuc, who is communications director for Buscaino.
What has been lacking, Kvartuc says, is proper incentive for developers to invest. The Port of Los Angeles, a department of the City of L.A. that leases the waterfront property to developers, is bound under California law and the L.A. City Charter to place a maximum term of 50 years on every lease.
The 50-year maximum is one of the main reasons the L.A. waterfront is so underdeveloped, according to Kvartuc. A longer term on leases will make it more feasible for developers to finance projects and upgrade them when the time comes, which is why Buscaino worked with Sacramento to pass a state law increasing the maximum term from 50 years to 66. Mayor Eric Garcetti supports the change in the expectation it will promote tourism, development and investment in the Port of L.A.
To make it official, the voters have allowed the City Charter be amended to reflect the change in state law. (The requirement that the City Council approve all such leases would remain unchanged.) The argument in favor was that this is a “technical amendment” that will assist in attracting private investments to upgrade the L.A. waterfront, bringing economic benefits to the communities of San Pedro and Wilmington. No argument against this proposal was submitted for consideration on the ballot. —Jason McGahan
Measure H: More Money to Help the Homeless — TOO CLOSE TO CALL
UPDATE, March 8, 9:15 a.m.: Measure H, the countywide initiative that proposed to add a quarter-cent sales tax to fund homeless services, appeared to have eked out a win, having obtained 67 percent of the vote. That’s just barely above the two-thirds threshold it needed to win, although late absentee and provisional ballots could change the result. It could take weeks for all those votes to be counted.
Remember Proposition HHH, the city bond measure Angelenos overwhelmingly passed in November, to build supportive housing for the homeless? Well, the county needs money for the “supportive” part.
Measure H is a countywide ballot measure that would raise the sales tax a quarter of a cent in order to generate about $355 million a year, for 10 years. That would pay for things including outreach workers, mental health workers, drug addiction counselors and housing subsidies for the 47,000 or so people living in their cars, in shelters or on the streets in L.A. County. The measure, which needs a two-thirds super-majority to pass, is supported by most of the region’s elected officials, unions, business groups and nonprofits. —H.A.
Mayor: It's Pretty Much No Contest — ERIC GARCETTI RE-ELECTED (OF COURSE)
UPDATE, March 8, 9:15 a.m.: Mayor Eric Garcetti was re-elected by an enormous, Putin-esque margin of victory, swallowing up 80 percent of the vote. His next closest challenger, Mitchell Schwartz, got only 8 percent.
What can we say about Eric Garcetti? He is 46, likes Instagram a lot and was certain to be elected to a second term as mayor, which will last 5½ years as the city changes to even-numbered year elections.
The young mayor’s first term hasn’t exactly been a barn-burner. He did get the city’s minimum wage raised, and he successfully campaigned to pass a November measure that raised taxes to build out the city’s burgeoning light rail network. Other than that, he has focused on a “back-to-basics” approach, which has something to do with getting the city’s government to work more efficiently behind the scenes.
Meanwhile, crime is going up, L.A. continues to lead the country in police shootings and much of the city is becoming unaffordable for all but the super-rich. Nevertheless, Garcetti is exceedingly popular.
Running against him was a cavalcade of gadflies (like David Saltsburg, aka Zuma Dogg), perennial candidates (like Eric Preven) and weirdos (like Paul E. Amori, whose campaign website is vote4love.com). —H.A.
City Council District 1: Battle of the Bike Lanes — GIL CEDILLO (MOST LIKELY) RE-ELECTED
UPDATE, March 8, 9:15 a.m.: Councilman Gill Cedillo appears to have avoided a runoff in his re-election bid, having received 51 percent of the vote — although late absentee and provisional ballots could bump him back down below 50 percent. Rival Joe Bray-Ali got 36 percent, an impressive total for an outsider who raised only $66,000.
A former union leader and state legislator, Gil Cedillo is one of the most liberal of Los Angeles' 15 City Council members. He was an early supporter of Bernie Sanders in the Democratic Party primary, and his longtime crusade, as a state assemblyman, was to allow undocumented immigrants to get driver's licenses. That earned him a reputation as a tireless advocate for immigrants, as well as the nickname (from detractors) “one-bill Gil.”
But his stance against bike lanes may be Cedillo's Achilles' heel.
Running for re-election in March for the Northeast L.A. District 1 seat, Cedillo faced a surprisingly tough challenger in Joe Bray-Ali, a 37-year-old bicycle activist and owner of the Flying Pigeon, a bike shop in Cypress Park. Bray-Ali raised more than $50,000 in campaign contributions and has qualified for matching funds. Even more impressive: He received the endorsement of the Los Angeles Times editorial board. —H.A.
City Council District 5: A “Vigorous Attack” on the Westside — PAUL KORETZ RE-ELECTED
UPDATE, March 8, 9:15 a.m.: Councilman Paul Koretz easily defeated a pair of challengers, Jesse Creed and Mark Herd. Koretz got 66 percent of the vote, avoiding a runoff and earning himself a third and final term.
Paul Koretz, a longtime fixture in local politics says he'd never been attacked as “vigorously” as he was been during this campaign.
The attack “is interesting from a candidate that has no connections to the Council District in any way, shape or form, other than living here for a few years,” Koretz said. “I live about a block away from him. I’d never heard of him. He wasn’t part of the community. People have been trying to figure out why he’s running.”
He's referring, of course, to Jesse Creed, the 31-year-old attorney who works at Munger, Tolles & Olson.
Creed had Koretz's attention for one reason: He raised money. Lots of money — $264,629 as of late February, to be exact, according to the City Ethics Commission website. That's more than any other City Council challenger this year. Much of that money came through Creed's Munger, Tolles & Olson connections, and some of it may have come through his brother, Brandon Creed, a successful music manager with Hollywood connections. Throw in another $100,000 in matching funds, and it started to look like real money, although Koretz still raised $120,000 more than Creed.
The L.A. Times editorial board was coolly dismissive of Creed, writing that his experience is “a good start for an aggressive young activist who wants to become involved in community matters, but it is not enough to merit a seat on the City Council.” The board instead chose to endorse Koretz, though its praise for the incumbent was tepid: “After two terms in office, it’s troubling that he hasn’t been more of a leader on the important citywide issues he says he cares about — the creation of affordable housing, for example.” —H.A.
Read more about the District 5 race.
City Council District 7: A Whopping 20 Candidates — RUNOFF
UPDATE, March 8, 9:15 a.m.: The two perceived frontrunners are heading to a runoff in May. Monica Rodriguez finished in first place with 28 percent of the vote. Karo Torossian finished second with 16 percent. School Board member Monica Ratliff finished third and appears to have narrowly missed out on the runoff by 261 votes – though provisional ballots could see her supplant Torossian.
The east San Fernando Valley’s District 7 is L.A.'s only open City Council seat — and as a result there were 20 candidates running to fill a seat vacated by the wildly unpopular Felipe Fuentes, who decided he had better things to do then stick around City Hall (like go be a lobbyist).
The three top contenders to replace him were Monica Rodriguez, a former vice president of the Board of Public Works; Karo Torossian, an aide to City Councilman Paul Krekorian; and Monica Ratliff, a Los Angeles Unified Board Member. Rodriguez, the most well-connected of the bunch, was endorsed by the mayor, half of City Council and many of the city’s major unions.
Both she and Torossian raised more than $200,000. Ratliff hadn’t raised nearly as much — about $44,000 — but did manage to gain the endorsement of the L.A. Times. And she has prior experience besting a well-funded, well-connected candidate, as she did in her 2013 school board election.
As the Times noted, the other candidates include a stuntman, a bookkeeper and the owner of a sports bar.
The Northeast Valley is the most unpredictable electorate in Los Angeles, having handed out upsets time and time again, not just with Ratliff but also with Patty Lopez, the political neophyte who defeated sitting State Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra in 2014. (Bocanegra promptly snatched the seat back two years later; now Lopez is running for Ratliff’s school board seat; to everything, turn, turn, turn …). —H.A.
City Council District 9: Development and Its Discontents — CURREN PRICE RE-ELECTED
UPDATE, March 8, 9:15 a.m.: Councilman Curren Price avoided a runoff, winning 63 percent of the vote. Price defeated newcomers Jorge Nuño (23 percent) and Adriana Cabrera (14 percent).
High-end development was slow to arrive to the neighborhoods flanking the Harbor Freeway, below the I-10, in the historic core of South Central Los Angeles. District 9 reaches south from the USC campus and University Park down the South Figueroa Corridor through the South Park, Florence and Vermont-Slauson neighborhoods. It is the poorest and among the most crime-ridden districts in L.A.
Curren Price, the first-term City Council member from the 9th who chairs the council’s Economic Development Committee, has done the responsible thing time and again — raising the minimum wage, legalizing street vendors, lowering barriers to convicted felons seeking employment. But these measures are nickel-and-dime compared with the major commercial retail and residential developments in store for the 9th, which have stoked local fears of gentrification and displacement.
Price helped to guide a $1.2 billion development proposal known as the Reef to unanimous council approval. The high-rise project includes one tower 35 stories tall, and luxury condominiums and apartments, a hotel, a grocery story and other commercial retail. Its approval has raised worries of a sudden rise in property values that cast a shadow over the potential new jobs created.
Price has said he hopes the Reef sets a precedent for future development projects in the 9th, but the terms of the real estate deal, which will set aside only 5 percent of the rental units for low-income housing, have drawn criticism from the local grassroots and put wind in the sails of challengers for his council seat. Price did secure from the developers $15 million in donations to a fund for below-market housing and an additional $3 million to community programs such as job training and violence prevention.
Price, 66, is the latest in a 55-year succession of African-American City Council members from the 9th. He faced two challengers from a significantly younger, Latino demographic who were born and raised in the district: graphic designer Jorge Nuño and community activist Adriana Cabrera. Both challengers boast ties to the grassroots organizations for whom displacement and financial hardship are a growing concern. The Times endorsed Nuño, 40, for his “entrepreneurial drive” to negotiate a harder bargain with investors (he runs a community center for nonprofits and small businesses out of the Craftsman mansion where he lives). —J.M.
City Council District 11: The Heart of Homelessness in Venice — MIKE BONIN RE-ELECTED
UPDATE, March 8, 9:15 a.m.: Councilman Mike Bonin got 70 percent of the vote, handily defeating challengers Mark Ryavec (16 percent) and Robin Rudisill (14 percent).
Westside councilman Mike Bonin is a product of a liberal dynasty. He’s the protege of former councilman Bill Rosendahl, who died last year after a long battle with cancer.
The district includes West L.A., Westchester, Mar Vista and a Venice community divided between its hippie past and its gentrified future. Bonin is a defender of the former but not without criticism, particularly from homeless advocates who say his heart doesn’t bleed enough (he supported, for example, restrictions on transients sleeping in parked cars).
Challenger Mark Ryavec, a longtime neighborhood group leader, constantly complained that the city is too soft on the homeless: They commit crime, use Venice as an outdoor bathroom and lower the quality of life in the district. Bonin’s other challenger, Robin Rudisill, was another challenge from the right of him. The former Bank of America executive chaired the land-use and planning committee of the Venice Neighborhood Council. —D.R.
City Council District 13: Hipster Housing Crisis in Northeast L.A. — MITCH O'FARRELL RE-ELECTED
UPDATE, March 8, 9:15 a.m.: Councilman Mitch O'Farrell got 60 percent of the vote. The next nearest candidates were Sylvie Shain with 14 percent and Jessica Salans with 13 percent.
Mitch O’Farrell’s district is at the heart of the city’s debate over development, gentrification and the housing crisis. It includes Echo Park, Silver Lake and Frogtown, plus parts of Koreatown and Hollywood, so it’s a hipster’s tour of L.A., where rents are skyrocketing, home prices often top $1 million and homeless encampments abound.
O’Farrell was defending his turf by advocating the construction of new housing, a stance that’s the bane of the not-in-my-backyard crowd, including challengers Doug Haines, David de la Torre and Bill Zide. To his left were tenants’ rights advocate Sylvie Shain, who said she’d be a champion for immigrant communities, and Jessica Salans, who wanted to see one out of five new housing units dedicated to lower- or median-income residents. —D.R.
City Council District 15: Big-Time Contributions From Developers in South Bay — JOE BUSCAINO RE-ELECTED
UPDATE, March 8, 9:15 a.m.: Councilman Joe Buscaino cruised to victory with 73 percent of the vote. Challenger Caney Arnold got 17 percent; Noel Gould got 9 percent.
Joe Buscaino was defending his South Bay seat. He’s a former cop who spearheaded the recharged effort to finally legalize street vendors in the city, and his attempt to put a half-cent sales-tax hike before voters in order to help for pay street and sidewalk repairs was abandoned in 2014. He also was behind a city law that restricts high-speed, downhill skateboarding. But his biggest mark on the city so far might not be a good one: The councilman’s campaign took $94,700 from the developer of the Sea Breeze, an apartment project in Harbor Gateway that needs council approval (over the objections of neighbors who think it’s too large and imposing).
Challengers included Noel Gould, who “strongly supports” Measure S, the failed initiative that would have put a temporary stop to most development in L.A., and Caney Arnold, a fiscal conservative and critic of Buscaino. —D.R.
L.A. Board of Education (Districts 2, 4 and 6): Perhaps the Most Expensive LAUSD Election Yet — TWO RUNOFFS AND AN INCUMBENT WIN
UPDATE, March 8, 9:15 a.m.: In District 4, LAUSD school board president Steve Zimmer has been narrowly forced into a runoff against charter-backed challenger Nick Melvoin. Zimmer, who is backed by the teachers union, won 47 percent of the vote but needed more than 50 percent to avoid a runoff, which will take place in May. Melvoin won 31 percent of the vote. District 4 covers the Westside and West San Fernando Valley.
In District 2, incumbent Mónica García won with 58 percent of the vote, avoiding a runoff.
In Distrcit 6, the race for the open seat will proceed to a runoff between charter-backed candidate Kelly Fitzpatrick-Gonez and union-backed candidate Imelda Padilla. Fitzpatrick-Gonez got 36 percent of the vote and Padilla came in second, with 31 percent.
It is no secret that the big money in the March 7 Los Angeles city election was going to the three races for the school board. This was the outside money, the “dark money,” the “independent expenditures,” the donations from third-party groups for or against a particular candidate, funds that are limitless and anonymous so long as they are not in the control of the candidate's campaign.
This year the amount of outside money going to races for the Los Angeles Board of Education was on pace to make the March 7 election the most expensive LAUSD school board election yet. Nowhere near the amount of outside money in the school board contests went to the other city races — which included the mayor, city controller, city attorney and eight seats on the City Council.
A reported 81 cents of every dollar contributed to the L.A. city election was spent on supporting or opposing one candidate or another for school board, according to the L.A. City Ethics Commission. Most of it was coming from backers of public charter schools. As of late last month, charter backers were outspending labor unions there by a ratio of 2-to-1.
Former L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan upped the ante by donating $1 million in January to a group called L.A. Students for Change, which is one of a few groups connected to the California Charter Schools Association. —J.M.