Beneath the exposed warehouse ceilings and stylish hanging lights of the design firm Rios Clementi Hale Studios in the heart of Leimert Park, policy makers and urban planners convened on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020 to discuss a very daunting task for Los Angeles: the addition of 1.4 million housing units.
Culver City Mayor Meghan Sahli-Wells joined panelists for a discussion on “City Perspectives,” hosted by the Westside Urban Forum and the Los Angeles chapter of the American Planning Association on Jan. 9, 2020, and how Culver City and other westside towns can accommodate their share of units. The talk was moderated by Alissa Walker, Urbanism Editor at Curbed LA.
“We in Culver City are freaking out,” Sahli-Wells told the crowd. “We’re freaking out because we do not have the housing and traffic is a thing.”
The conversation naturally turned to resources, among them having the zoning and financial capital to make these projects realized.
Paavo Monkkonen, who spoke at the event, is Associate Professor of Urban Planning and Public Policy at UCLA and serves on Culver City’s General Plan Advisory Committee. “If we only go market rate housing … gentrification East of West LA follows,” he said. That sentiment follows for other types of development.
On the topic of gentrification, Sahli-Wells said, “If we’re not going to address it, we’re morally bankrupt.”
Sahli-Wells serves as the Westside Representative to the Southern California Association of Governments, which in part determines housing allocations for L.A., Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura. The number that determines those allocations comes from the Regional Housing Needs Assessment, a mandate which said 3.5 million units must be added to the state overall, including 1.4 million in Los Angeles.
Among those numbers, Culver City is responsible for developing 3,500 housing units.
Sahli-Wells and other SCAG members are in favor of pushing the housing allocations to the westside, where jobs are and the cost of living is higher, as opposed to the farthest reaches of Los Angeles, like Coachella Valley, where historically the bulk of mandated housing has been placed.
“It’s really about smart growth,” said Christopher Koontz, Planning Bureau Manager for the city of Long Beach. “It’s really about sustainable growth, equitable growth.”