It was a cooler than expected evening on Tuesday at the Safe Place for Youth access center in Venice. Activists had gathered to launch the Westside’s campaign effort for L.A. City Measure ULA on the November 8 ballot.

According to the campaign, Measure ULA would:

  • Invest in innovative solutions that will create housing faster and at a lower cost than what has been tried before
  • Provide income assistance to low-income seniors and people with disabilities who are at risk of homelessness
  • Provide legal aid and outreach services to renters at risk of losing their homes — assisting 475,000 Angelenos each year
  • Immediately buy existing and build new affordable housing for 69,000 people (in the first ten years) experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness
  • Include the most robust citizens oversight and transparency in L.A. City history.
    • Funds would be overseen by a Citizens Committee with specific expertise and lived experience on housing and homelessness, and supported by paid staff led by an Inspector General

How? Measure ULA places a real estate transfer tax on sales of properties over $5 Million. It is estimated to raise an impressive $875 Million — possibly up to $923 Million — per year to fund the priorities listed above.

The Measure’s Campaign Co-Chair, ACT-LA Coalition Director Laura Raymond, was on hand, telling the crowd, “This is going to be the biggest investment L.A. ever makes in affordable housing and homelessness prevention.” She added, “How are we going to get that? By taxing millionaires and billionaires that have made a killing off the real estate market. Measure ULA, if passed in November, is going to completely transform the city.” Raymond explained that hotels and motels will be purchased, unused apartment buildings will be revitalized, and a social housing program will be developed. Each of these efforts is intended to get people immediately into housing more quickly than previous efforts have been able to.

The campaign will also “Fully fund the Right to Counsel program” said Raymond, who reminded the crowd that landlords always have a lawyer in court, but innocent tenants rarely do. These activists want to change that. She also highlighted the disturbing trend of senior homelessness, saying it is on a path to triple over the next decade unless ULA passes and can intervene with rental assistance.

A Safe Place for Youth is one budding new housing provider who is committed to putting ULA money to work. According to the organization’s Senior Manager for Youth Policy and Advocacy Dexter O’Connell, a Safe Place for Youth is already at work on its first affordable housing development of a 40-unit property, though he acknowledges, “We know 40 units is not enough,” and that they are committed to more. He thinks the measure will be more successful than past efforts given that Measure ULA has been, “Informed by the lessons of building this type of housing in general.” The organization’s Executive Director, Erika Hartman, was also on hand to encourage activists and volunteers.

David Levitus, Executive Director of the group L.A. Forward – which is dedicated to ensuring quality housing, transportation, jobs, schools, and green space – explained the importance of Measure ULA stating, “I think it’s very unique because of both the amount of money it’s going to raise – over $800 Million a year – and the fact that it’s permanent. It’s not a one-time thing. It’s annual, year-in and year-out.” He added an additional benefit is that Measure ULA won’t have to leverage several different sources of funding, the coordination of which has severely slowed and added tremendous expense to housing efforts.

The opposition? The real estate industry, a deep-pocketed juggernaut that according to O’Connell and Hartman, prefers a world of sellable single-family homes and dislikes quality multifamily housing that may ease the social anxiety of feeling like one must buy something.

When asked what the key is to Measure ULA passing, L.A. city councilmember Mike Bonin, who represents Venice, said “People power. You’re going to see launches like this all around the city; you’re seeing people engaged who are dedicated and hard-working who have campaign experience and community connections who will be spreading the word about this.” He continued, “I think you will see more and more elected officials putting resources into this and getting the word out.” Bonin committed to activating his own extensive contact list and hopes more candidates make this an important plank in their platform and talking points.

Also on hand: Erin Darling, the candidate for L.A.’s 11th Council District who’s hoping to replace the retiring Bonin; Tara Barauskas and Jesus Hernandez of Community Corporation of Los Angeles, a nonprofit affordable housing provider; Tanisha Saunders from Venice Community Housing; Janice Andrade of Grassroots Neighbors, a food provider; Denny Zane, a former Santa Monica Mayor and Transit and Housing leader. The event was emceed by L.A. Forward’s Deputy Director Godfrey Plata.

The United to House L.A. Coalition is comprised of the following organizations:

  • ACLU of Southern California
  • Dolores Huerta Foundation
  • Downtown Women’s Center
  • L.A. CAN
  • L.A. County Democratic Party
  • L.A. Family Housing
  • L.A./O.C. Building and Construction Trades Council
  • Los Angeles County AFL-CIO
  • PATH
  • SEIU 2015
  • Southern California Association of Nonprofit Housing
  • Sunrise Movement Los Angeles
  • UNITE HERE Local 11
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