Opponents of the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, a ballot measure that would limit development in Los Angeles, released a poll this week, showing the proposal losing by a seven-point margin. 

In May, the independent polling firm Fairbanks, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates — hired by the No campaign — interviewed 800 likely voters over the phone and read them the ballot measure's language. According to a polling memo released by the campaign, 37 percent of respondents said they would vote yes on the proposal, while 44 percent said they'd vote no; 19 percent said they were undecided. The poll has a 3.6 percent margin of error. 

Now, this poll should be taken with a grain of salt — it was, after all, paid for by the ballot measure's chief critics. For this reason, Jill Stewart, the campaign manager for the Yes side (as well as former L.A. Weekly managing editor), blasted the survey.

“This phony poll, paid for by billionaire developers, confirms what we already know: Billionaire developers and their lobbyists must lie if they have any hope of beating the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative,” she wrote in an email. “This is a window into their strategy to say anything and do anything to defend an indefensible status quo at the expense of the neighborhoods and the residents of Los Angeles.”

The opposition to the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative is indeed funded largely by developers. The measure itself was written by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which is also the organization funding it.  

The exact language of the poll question, according to the campaign manager for the No side, Mike Shimpock, read:

RESTRICTIONS ON GENERAL PLAN AMENDMENTS, REQUIRED REVIEW OF GENERAL PLAN; BUILDING MORATORIUM, INITIATIVE ORDINANCE. Shall the City adopt an ordinance prohibiting geographic amendments to the City’s General Plan unless the area has significant social, economic or physical identity; requiring periodic Plan review; requiring consistency with General Plan; voiding existing zoning laws inconsistent with General Plan; imposing a two-year moratorium on projects that have or seek General Plan amendments and zoning changes; and prohibiting parking variances?       

Shimpock defended the poll, saying its language hews fairly closely to the language submitted to the City Clerk. 

“I think the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative people are victims of their own echo chamber,” Shimpock told us. “They’re not talking to everyone in Los Angeles. They're only talking to themselves, and people that are irrationally angry. You can’t run a city or pass an initiative by only talking to the people who are speaking the loudest.”

An earlier poll, taken by the same firm in April, showed the initiative leading by an 11-point margin.

Credit: Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates

Credit: Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates

According to Shimpock, more than two-thirds of those interviewed by the pollsters said they thought the city is going in the right direction; a slightly higher number said they thought their neighborhood is going in the right direction.

The initiative, planned for the March 2017 ballot, seeks to curb the practice of “spot-zoning,” in which the City Council grants developers special exemptions to the zoning code. Backers of the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative say the practice is a modern form of graft. They also say that the developers have built a glut of new, expensive apartment buildings that have led to higher housing prices and gentrification.

A number of neighborhood council members* and neighborhood activists have come out in support of the measure. But Shimpock said they don't represent a majority of the city.

“There is a small minority of people who feel threatened in their homes or communities, and in some cases they have a legitimate complaint,” Shimpock said. “To assume that those needs are the same for every part of Los Angeles — it’s not only selfish and reckless, it’s dangerous.”

*Correction: A previous version of this post stated that a number of neighborhood councils have come out in support of the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative. In fact, most have not taken a position yet. 

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