If They Lied About Leo, What Else Will They Lie About?

Neighborhood Integrity Initiative celebrity support collapses, leaving Angelenos to wonder what else about the housing ban doesn’t add up

After Vox.com and Curbed.com questioned why an environmentalist like Leonardo DiCaprio would support an anti-environmental, pro-sprawl measure like the Neighborhood Integrity Initiatve building moratorium on the March 2017 ballot, DiCaprio’s spokespeople today revealed that the actor’s support was imaginary from the get-go. 

This is beginning to look like a pattern: earlier this year Father Greg Boyle, executive director and founder of Homeboy Industries, withdrew his endorsement of the NII, recognizing that it would not help with housing for “the homeless or the working poor.”

It’s not clear whether the initiative’s backers lied about DiCaprio’s support or just misunderstood it. Neither would be surprising, since their building moratorium is built on a mixture of half-truths, bad math, and outright deceptive statements. Here are just a few:

  • They say “Our measure allows 95% of all development in LA to continue.” Maybe… if you include permits for bathroom renovations in “development”. Practically speaking, the NII is a housing ban. Let’s show the work: in 2015, Los Angeles permitted 15,645 new units of housing. Of those, 9,099 required the kinds of zoning updates that the NII would ban. The NII would ban 58% of all new housing — housing we badly need to lower rents and end homelessness.
  • They say “All 100% affordable housing projects are exempted from this time-out.” Sure they are… unless you want to build them. The so-called “affordable housing exemption” doesn’t include sites that require a General Plan Amendment. And as reported in the Los Angeles Times, 11 out of 12 city opportunity sites for affordable housing require General Plan Amendments. The NII would ban 92% of city opportunity sites—the best locations for building the housing to end homelessness.
  • They still say Kirsten Dunst endorses them. While it would be fitting that the actress who played Marie Antoinette shared the “let-them-eat-cake” attitude of the NII backers towards homelessness in L.A., it might be worth asking her directly, seeing what happened with Leo. 

Celebrities aside, leaders of L.A.’s most prominent organizations fighting homelessness have issued an open letter calling the NII reckless and disastrous. A recent poll found that as many as 62% of voters fear that it “will increase the rate of homelessness in Los Angeles and make it virtually impossible to address this problem.” 

These issues are serious. The NII should start getting its facts in order.