November 2016 could prove to be a dramatic turning point in the history of Los Angeles. A number of ballot measures are in the works that, if passed, would radically alter the future of the city.

Perhaps the most controversial of all will be the “Neighborhood Integrity Initiative,” which would put a two-year moratorium on all spot zoning, effectively putting a pause on most development. The initiative is targeted at big projects such as the Hollywood Millennium Project and the Hollywood Palladium Tower

Backers of the effort say the city's planning code — its blueprint for what can be built where — is out of date and impossibly byzantine, dotted with tiny variances approved by city council members under heavy pressure from filthy rich developers. 

Opponents of the measure concede the part about the byzantine planning code but say, look: Housing costs are insane and only getting worse. The only way to reverse that is to build more housing. Oh, and by the way, zoning variances are used for a ton of other things that Angelenos enjoy every day, such as restaurants with valet parking.

But just who are the backers and opponents of this measure? Here's a quick guide to how people are lining up so far. First, let's start with the proponents:

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation
The driving force behind the initiative, and its main financial backer, is AIDS Healthcare Foundation, a $1.3 billion nonprofit that provides healthcare to HIV/AIDS patients all over the world.

Uh … what's a healthcare nonprofit doing trying to stop up development?

According to the Coalition to Preserve L.A.'s website:

AHF also takes on social justice and fairness issues unrelated to AIDS. In the U.S., AHF is sponsoring ballot measures that aim to remove the Confederate flag from the Mississippi state flag and to lower high pharmacy costs in California and Ohio …

Now, AHF has set its sights on real estate developer control of fundamental processes at L.A. City Hall that, in fact, belong to the people. That unfair developer control has destroyed neighborhood character, created outrageous traffic congestion, wiped out thousands of net units of affordable housing and directly fed into L.A.’s spike in homelessness. 

AHF's headquarters, by the way, are located across the street from the proposed Palladium Towers project. Here's AHF head Michael Weinstein, in an interview with The Advocate:

“Our international headquarters are located in Hollywood and have been since 1989,” Weinstein says, describing the recent increase in development and congestion in the once-seedy district. “A large number of us live in the area, own homes in the area.”

Weinstein is a controversial guy. Slate once called him the “enfant terrible of the AIDS activism world” for his unbending belief that only condoms can prevent HIV (new drugs like Truvada, Weinstein says, are ineffective because people don't take them correctly). Former L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky once called Weinstein a “thug” and said: “He's used his nonprofit organization in a crass and bullying political way to get his way, which is to avoid being held accountable.”

Jill Stewart
Let this serve as the first of many disclaimers: Jill Stewart served as deputy news editor and managing editor for L.A. Weekly for 10 years. She left last month to take a job as the Coalition's campaign director. (Another former L.A. Weekly staffer, Patrick Range McDonald, works for AHF.)

Here's Stewart, in an interview with the Planning Report, summing up her philosophy:

I have not been impressed at all by the city’s Department of Planning, which of course I call an oxymoron. I have not been impressed by the new urban theory that very dense development through neighborhoods near bus stops, and so on, is going to reduce congestion. In fact, we’ve seen the opposite. 

Stewart is not without controversy herself. Former L.A. Deputy Mayor Rick Cole (now Santa Monica city manager) tweeted this when the Planning Report interview came out:

LA Weekly