The meeting held at the Culver City Senior Center on Sept. 24, 2019 to discuss possible options on the city’s use for the currently unoccupied AmVets building filled the room, and drew interest from almost every part of the community. The idea of a Community Center that would encompass performance space, classroom space, and artist-in-residence housing came out as the most popular option.
With almost 300 people in a room set for 200, there was a sincere anxiety from many of the current users of the Scout House, the Community Garden, and other contiguous parcels, wondering how this would affect their use of city owned property.
Mayor Meghan Sahli-Wells reminded the crowd that “We are at the beginning of the beginning of the conversation here. The council will not be voting tonight. We are just here to listen to ideas.”
After several hours of presentation, small group discussion and a vote-by-phone survey, the Community Center proposed by the Wende Museum was far and away the only popular option, winning with a vote of 76%. The only other option to make the data point was “Leave it as it is” coming in with 7% of the vote.
While Justin Jampol, the Executive Director of the Wende Museum, had held a series of community meetings at the Wende earlier this year to cull ideas for the possible reinvention of the site, those meetings were not scheduled or notified by the city, and therefore could not be taken into account for legal reasons. They did give the discussion a center point on which to turn, and all the other ideas – social services for the needy, live/work space for artists, modular housing – confessed that they would need to use the whole city block to be effective.
Other ideas that were offered by those attending the meeting – a skate park, a dog park, affordable senior housing – we put into the mix to be considered for the next conversation.
More than a dozen people took to the microphone to offer their thoughts. Jessica Cattelino, a resident of the neighborhood next to the building, took on several of the challenges being discussed by saying “I’m a both/and person. I’m interested in the conversation around the community center, but as a parent, I’ve also been to way too many going away parties for my children’s friends, families that have been displaced by the high cost of housing.”
Tom Wilson, another neighbor whose property is adjacent to the area, added both elements in as well. “I’ve been on the board at Upward Bound House [a local shelter for homeless women and children] and I know that we have a housing crisis. I also think that the Wende proposal is the best fit for the community use of the space.”
Mayor Sahli-Wells concluded that “I would be surprised if anything happened inside of a year. This needs a thorough process, and it will have one.”
The next meeting on the matter will be announced by the city’s Community Development Department. To be on the notification list, contact culvercity.org.