The Los Angeles primary election is happening on March 7, and voters in the USC area will be choosing a City Council representative and mayor, as well as deciding on municipal ballot measures involving housing, marijuana regulation, and new development.
Los Angeles has a history of low voter turnout in local elections. In 2013, just 21 percent of registered voters cast ballots in the mayoral primary, in spite of a heavily publicized race. Local officials and community organizations have been working to increase participation this year.
READ MORE: Low Voter Turnout in L.A. County
The mayoral election is very crowded this year, with 10 candidates challenging incumbent Eric Garcetti. In a recent poll, about 50 percent of the 950 registered voters surveyed said they'd vote for Garcetti. He was the only candidate with support in the double digits. Just 8 percent said they'd vote for Mitchell Schwartz, who is considered the mayor's most well-known challenger. Schwartz, a small-businessman, says that he would overhaul the Department of Water and Power and reduce the costs of the city's pension.
Schwartz also called for Garcetti, who is rumored to be weighing a run for governor or the U.S. Senate, to promise he wouldn't seek a higher office if he wins re-election. Schwartz argues that running for another office would distract Garcetti from his duties as mayor. Meanwhile, Garcetti's office says he hasn't made a decision to run for another political office. If Garcetti receives 50 percent of ballots cast plus one vote in the primary election, he will win the office without a runoff in the May 16 general election.
If you live east of Vermont Avenue near USC, you'll also voting for a new Los Angeles City Council Representative for District 9. Incumbent Curren D. Price Jr. is being challenged by two candidates, Adriana Cabrera and Jorge Nuno.
Adriana Cabrera: At 24 years old, Cabrera is the youngest District 9 candidate. A longtime South LA activist, she currently serves as the education representative for the Central Alameda Neighborhood Council and founded Empowering Youth in South Central, a grassroots organization that helps students from CD9 with their college and financial aid applications. Cabrera's platform is focused on youth advocacy and civic engagement. She has also advocated for allowing undocumented immigrants to vote in local elections.
Jorge Nuño: Nuño is an entrepreneur and founder of the nonprofit Nuevo South, an organization focused on youth development. After his career took off as a graphic designer, he moved into the Big House, a renovated craftsman home in South LA, where he runs his business, campaign for city councilman and Nuevo South. His three main priorities are small businesses, beautification and homelessness. Nuño was endorsed by the Los Angeles Times.
Curren D. Price Jr.: Price, the incumbent, was elected to CD9 in 2013 after a run-off election and previously served in the California State Assembly. Price was an early supporter of the controversial Reef Project and has spent his term utilizing new real estate to increase jobs in the community. He also has focused on community cleanliness and beautification in his term, and lists beautification, empowerment and development as his three priorities.
In addition to choosing a mayor and City Council representative, voters in the USC area will also decide on these local measures:
Halt on new development: One of the more controversial measures on the ballot is Measure S, also known as the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative. Measure S would impose a two-year moratorium on all new construction that increases development density over what is allowed in the city's general plan. It also would prohibit project-specific changes to the city's general plan, which have in the past been used for projects like the USC Village. Measure S would also require a public review of this general plan every five years.
Voting no on Measure S would leave the city's current zoning and development laws unchanged and continue to allow general plan amendments for new development. According to supporters, voting yes on Measure S would help reduce large development projects, which they claim result in increased traffic and eviction of residents. Opponents say the measure would actually increase the housing shortage, by stopping most development projects in the city.
Tax for homeless services: Measure H would implement a 0.25 percent sales tax for 10 years, with the money used to fund homeless services and prevention. This funding would go toward a variety of purposes, such as mental health, substance abuse treatment, education, job training, and rental and housing subsidies. Those in favor of the measure say the funds will be used responsibly to prevent and end homelessness for tens of thousands of people, while those against the measure say that it would not be effective in preventing or completely eliminating homelessness.
Marijuana regulation: Both Measure M and Measure N concern the regulation and taxation of marijuana, following the statewide legalization of recreational marijuana in by Prop. 64, which was approved in the November 2016 election. Voting yes on Measure M would enact the City Council's ordinance to regulate and tax marijuana, as dictated by Prop. 64, which allowed the City Council and mayor to regulate the marijuana industry in Los Angeles. This measure competes with Measure N, which would prevent the mayor and city council from changing commercial marijuana regulations, instead enacting a citizen initiative to regulate and tax marijuana. The official proponents of Measure N withdrew their support for the measure, and now are encouraging voters to reject it and support Measure M instead.
Harbor Department leases: A yes vote on Measure P is in favor of changing the city charter to increase the maximum length of leases from the Harbor Department. The lease length would increase from 50 years to 66 years, bringing the city charter in accordance with recent changes to state law that allow longer lease periods. That would promote redevelopment of the San Pedro waterfront, for which the city of Los Angeles has already approved proposals. Voting no on Measure P would keep the maximum length of leases in the city at 50 years.
Polls are open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. on Tuesday. You can find your polling place here.
Updated 4:37 p.m. PT on Mar. 6: This story was updated with more information about Measure P.