I spent a couple of hours at MoveLA’s annual conference at Union Station on Friday. As the group’s name implies, MoveLA — with financial help from Metro — is pushing for an expansion and acceleration of transit projects across Los Angeles County.
Three things I heard that I found intriguing and worth passing along to Source readers:
•County Supervisor and Metro Board Member Zev Yaroslavsky was one of many people calling for the threshold for sales tax ballot measures to be lowered from 66.7 percent (two-thirds) to 55 percent after Measure J lost in November with 66.1 percent of the vote.
Yaroslavsky said it’s a perversion of Prop 13 that general sales tax measures — that is, measures without a specific funding target (such as transportation or education) — only require a simple majority but measures with funding plans and goals must reach a much higher target of two-thirds.
Yaroslavsky also acknowledged that everyone knew ahead of time that Measure J needed 66.7 percent to win and that the campaign wasn’t perfect, nor did it help — in his view and in particular — that turnout was much lower in 2012 than in 2008 when Measure R secured 67.9 percent of the vote.
There is a bill pending in the state Legislature that would change the state Constitution to allow for a 55 percent threshold. If the Legislature approves it and the Governor signs it, the issue would then go to state voters. At this point, Metro doesn’t have any proposal to return to voters although the agency continues to pursue funding for project acceleration from Congress.
•There was a lot of talk, as would be expected, about development near transit stations. It’s pretty clear to me that this is still a very thorny issue in many parts of our region. Among the issues: how much density should be allowed, how much parking should be required at developments and what tools are best to preserve affordable housing near transit stations and areas that are gentrifying.
My three cents: It’s hard to get any affordable units built if the overall number of units allowed to be built is on the low side. Developers will simply walk away. And while I completely understand fears of gentrification, I also think it’s equally dangerous to keep redevelopment at bay because needed money and investment may simply go elsewhere.
•There was a brief conversation about using California cap-and-trade funds as a source of funding for mass transit. That’s an interesting notion, of course. But it depends on cap-and-trade raising some serious money and also state transit agencies firmly being able to quanitfy that their services are reducing greenhouse gas emissions.