Approving a landmark initiative to limit commercial development by a wide margin, Los Angeles voters Tuesday sent City Hall a strong message of dissatisfaction with the sprawl of high-rise buildings and increasing traffic congestion.
In other local balloting, Deputy Assessor John J. Lynch defeated businessman Jim Keysor in the race for Los Angeles County assessor. A controversial "Jobs With Peace" initiative on the Los Angeles city ballot was rejected. And a county bond measure, Proposition J, which would finance expansion of the overcrowded County Jail system, barely won by the required two-thirds margin.
As predicted by both proponents and critics, including City Council President Pat Russell, the slow-growth initiative, Proposition U, passed easily.
"People no longer want the destiny of the city to be determined by large developers and their paid lobbyists," said Councilman Marvin Braude, who co-authored the measure with Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky. Speaking at a Westside victory party attended by leaders of homeowner groups which worked for passage of the initiative, Yaroslavsky said the vote "sends a message to City Hall about the mood of the people" and will bring order to a planning process that "does not protect neighborhoods against the effects of traffic and high-density development."
Richard Wirth, government affairs director for the Building Industry Assn., a developers' group, said that builders were "disappointed" and would explore a possible legal challenge.
William Robertson, executive secretary of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and a leading critic of the initiative, said he was not surprised by returns. He predicted the measure would prove "grossly unfair . . . take away opportunities for lots of jobs" and cause "a great deal of unrest, particularly in the minority communities."
In the assessor's race, Lynch defeated Keysor by a considerable margin. Lynch, a Republican who expected to do well in absentee voting, said one endorsement may have made the difference.
"I wouldn't be standing here today if it wasn't for Howard Jarvis," he said of the late tax crusader who backed him early on.
Outspent by his opponent, Lynch said he ran a shoe-leather campaign, meeting with 300 to 600 people a day, speaking to service clubs, homeowner groups and Republican clubs.
Keysor agreed that may have made the difference.
"John Lynch was an intensively hard campaigner," he said. "He worked day and night."
The "Jobs With Peace" initiative on the Los Angeles city ballot that encouraged reduced military spending, Proposition V, was soundly rejected, and Proposition W, a non-controversial city measure to make technical changes in how housing bonds are issued, passed.
The slow-growth initiative grew out of the most sweeping effort yet to control development in a city that has seen 100 years of sprawl. By Election Day, it had joined a grass-roots growth-control uprising in California that has spread from San Francisco's business district to the open hills of San Diego County.
Slow-growth forces in Los Angeles gained momentum recently because of a seemingly erratic scattering of bulky shopping malls, high-rise office buildings and large apartment and condominium complexes built under generous and outdated zoning laws enacted during the post-war building boom.
Proposition U was drawn up to cut in half the size of new buildings allowed on more than 70% of the 29,000 acres of commercial and industrial property in the city. The measure primarily took aim at office and retail development lining major Westside and Valley boulevards, where the city's commercial real estate market is the hottest.
Spared from the measure's effects were intense high-rise commercial development, such as downtown, much of Wilshire Boulevard, Century City, Hollywood and Universal City.
The measure was promoted by its backers as the vanguard of a revolt against a city political leadership that they charged has catered to developers in pursuit of a vision of Los Angeles as the financial capital of the Pacific Rim and hopes of becoming the nation's largest city after the turn of the century.
Growth must be limited, supporters argued, because the quality of life in neighborhoods is being degraded, streets and freeways are clogged and the sewer system is overloaded.
The measure enjoyed widespread support from Valley, Westside, airport and harbor-area homeowner groups.
However, critics, including Russell, real estate interests, labor leaders and most minority members of the City Council, argued that it was a quick-fix, sledgehammer solution to the city's growing pains. They said it would discourage investment in Los Angeles, cost jobs and dampen hopes for development in economically depressed areas of the city.