Voters to weigh in on mayor, vision for Los Angeles' future

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Los Angeles, long known for its sprawl and glacial traffic, is fighting over what it should become in the future.

An election Tuesday features a proposal intended to restrict taller, denser development in the city of nearly 4 million, a chapter in a long-running battle over density and what the city should look like in the years to come.

Mayor Eric Garcetti is looking for a return trip to City Hall and faces 10 little-known challengers. The 46-year-old Democrat is often mentioned as a likely candidate for higher office, and the outcome could provide a springboard for future campaigns or raise doubts about the depth of his appeal.

Garcetti has dominated the race so far, but challengers are hoping to hold him below 50 percent of the tally, which would force the mayor into a May runoff against the second-place finisher.

Garcetti, who was elected four years ago on a back-to-basics slogan, has touted job growth, helped secure funds for rail lines intended to help unclog freeways and championed a $1 billion program to get control of a homeless crisis.

Municipal elections in LA often get a yawn from voters, and a sparse turnout is expected. However, a small turnout also can open the way for surprises.

The slow-growth proposal known as Measure S has shadowed municipal contests this year, and it challenges Garcetti's vision for building thousands of new apartments clustered around train stations.

Its supporters fear that LA is being gradually transformed into a sunnier, West Coast version of Manhattan. They argue that City Hall too often bends to politically connected developers whose large projects with high rents drive out lower-income residents, contributing to homelessness and increasing congestion.

But Garcetti warns it could drive the city into recession. Rusty Hicks, who heads the powerful Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, calls the proposal "an anti-worker housing ban" that would hobble the construction industry.

Voters also are considering new regulations for the city's marijuana industry, known as Measure M, as recreational pot use becomes legal next year.

The election comes at a time of renewal and struggles for the nation's second-largest city.

Once-dreary downtown has seen a rebirth, and new residents and trendy restaurants have been moving in. A stronger economy has helped bring jobs, including to the tech industry hub known as Silicon Beach. And a region without an NFL team for two decades now has two, the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers.

But poverty rates remain alarming, and tents used by the homeless run for blocks along some downtown streets. Violent crime has climbed for the third consecutive year, jumping by 37 percent from 2014 to 2016. And drivers continue to face some of the nation's worst gridlock, while potholes and cracked sidewalks bring gripes across the city.

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