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Federal District Court Judge Rules to Dismiss Challenge Against Measure ULA

Measure ULA, a Los Angeles ballot initiative that funds affordable housing and provides support to those at risk of homelessness, will proceed after the judge dismisses the federal challenge.

LOS ANGELES, CA, SEPTEMBER 6, 2023 —  A federal district court judge dismissed the federal challenge filed by a group of property owners – Newcastle Courtyards LLC and the Mani Benabou Family Trust – against Measure ULA. Judge John Kronstadt determined that the federal court lacked jurisdiction under the Tax Injunction Act and thus dismissed the challenge. 

Measure ULA is the largest affordable housing ballot initiative passed in Los Angeles history. It was drafted and led by the United to House LA coalition and passed in November 2022 with overwhelming support from nearly 58% of L.A. voters. Measure ULA will generate hundreds of millions of dollars annually via a one-time real estate transfer tax on sales of properties over $5 million. These funds will go toward programs that provide financial assistance to low-income seniors, rental assistance for tenants, the purchase of apartments and hotels for affordable housing, the construction of new affordable housing using both established and innovative models, and legal assistance for tenants threatened with eviction. In December 2022, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles (AAGLA) filed a state court challenge to Measure ULA. In January 2023, Newcastle Courtyards LLC and the Mani Benabou Family Trust filed two additional challenges in state and federal court. The two-state actions have been consolidated into one action, and the federal action was dismissed by yesterday’s court order. 

Public Counsel and Irell & Manella LLP represent the Southern California Association of Nonprofit Housing (SCANPH), Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance (KIWA), and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 2015, who were deeply involved in the development of Measure ULA and represent constituencies that would benefit from the measure’s programs.

“The dismissal of the federal case is an important step towards upholding the will of voters, who strongly supported Measure ULA last fall,” said Greg Bonett, Senior Staff Attorney with Public Counsel’s Community Development Project. “We have fought on behalf of our clients to ensure voices of workers, seniors and everyday Angelenos are represented, while also working toward a more equitable city where housing is accessible and affordable to all.”

With this ruling, the federal court has thrown out one challenge to the will of the City’s voters, who demanded that the City take a new approach to reducing homelessness and increasing affordable housing at a time when rising housing costs contribute to the city’s wealth gap. The second consolidated challenge to the measure remains pending in state court. 

“We remain committed to defending Measure ULA against corporate interests and real estate speculators because we know that the initiative can and will transform the lives of workers and tenants here in Los Angeles,” said Alexandra Suh, Executive Director of KIWA. “These powerful interest groups spent more than $8 million in an unsuccessful attempt to sway the public against Measure ULA, and then, after the measure passed, proceeded to challenge it in court. Today serves as a reminder that the power of community is stronger than the power of corporations.”

“We’re happy to see Judge Kronstadt dismiss the federal challenge against Measure ULA. This is a win not only for current Angelenos but for future generations that will have access to the millions of dollars generated from this initiative to create affordable housing,” said Alan Greenlee, Executive Director of SCANPH. “Thanks to the decision made by the Judge, our communities will soon have equitable access to the housing they desperately need.”

“As the largest union in California, we were proud to play a role in the development of Measure ULA. Many of our members struggle to make ends meet, and this popular ballot initiative will help preserve and grow Los Angeles’ stock of affordable housing,” said Arnulfo De La Cruz, President of SEIU 2015. “While the fight continues in state court, this dismissal represents an important step forward.” 


For media inquiries, email Alex with Rise Strategy Group HERE.

About Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance

Founded in 1992, KIWA builds power with immigrant workers and renters to bring about a more just and inclusive Los Angeles. One of the nation’s most established worker centers, KIWA organizes primarily Korean and Latino immigrant workers, with a focus on the restaurant and retail industries. KIWA aligns strategic worker and community organizing with policy change, leadership development, research, services, and coalition-building. Because of their immense impact on workers’ lives, KIWA also works in the areas of civic justice, economic policy, immigration, housing and transit policy, and land-use reform.

About Southern California Association of Nonprofit Housing

The Southern California Association of Nonprofit Housing (SCANPH) is a trade association, founded in 1985, that supports and advocates for those dedicated to the development of affordable housing. SCANPH’s advocacy efforts have contributed greatly toward assisting the financially vulnerable in our communities since 1985. The mission of SCANPH is to facilitate development of affordable homes across southern California by advancing effective public policies, sustainable financial resources, strong member organizations, and beneficial partnerships. |

About Service Employees International Union Local 2015

SEIU Local 2015 is the largest union in California, representing nearly 450,000 long-term care workers (home care, skilled nursing facility, and assisted living center workers) throughout the state. Its members are as diverse as the state’s population, but united in their commitment to caring for California’s most vulnerable: seniors and the disabled.

About Public Counsel

Public Counsel is a nonprofit public interest law firm dedicated to advancing civil rights and racial and economic justice, as well as to amplifying the power of our clients through comprehensive legal advocacy. Founded on and strengthened by a pro bono legal service model, our staff and volunteers seek justice through direct legal services, promote healthy and resilient communities through education and outreach, and support community-led efforts to transform unjust systems through litigation and policy advocacy in and beyond Los Angeles.

About Irell & Manella LLP

For more than 80 years, Irell & Manella LLP has helped clients resolve their most challenging and complex legal issues. Irell is known for its extraordinary track record of successful outcomes as well as the genuine creativity brought to high-stakes litigation. The firm’s success is rooted in its unflagging commitment to quality and client service.

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