This is What Propaganda Looks Like

Anonymous literature is highly suspect. It falls into the shadow space between rumors and documented lies. 

When I received a glossy, oversized, black-and-red postcard in the mail, I laughed out loud. It was so hyper-exaggerated, I was just glad it didn’t come with a soundtrack – it was all too easy to imagine a minor-key, over orchestrated string section playing the theme from ‘Psycho.’ Interestingly, no one taking credit on this postcard. No office, no group, no political action committee. 

The explanation for this painful graphic on the reverse of the card was much too technical and fussy to sustain the hoped-for effect of fear. First, the card explains that the city is considering restricting the ‘floor area ratio’ of new buildings. This means the property owners would no longer be permitted to build out the the edge of the lot.

Someone would like me to be terrified of this. But who? 

The fear-fomenting appeal to homeowners “Call, Email, & Write to the City Council…” is the work of someone with a whole lot of money to spend on a campaign to create the illusion that the city council is somehow actively working against homeowners, who need to be able to have the guaranteed freedom to build the largest structure possible. 

The pending rule to shift the amount of building allowable per lot came from the community, and started several years ago at the planning commission, when the ‘mansionization’ of Culver City was causing concern to people who did not want to live next door to a brand new 15,000 square foot, three story edifice when everything else in the neighborhood was a one story ranch house of less than 2,000 square feet. 

People complained of losing their privacy, their sunlight and yes, their property values when something the size of a department store went up in the middle of a residential block.  Meetings of both the planning commission and the city council heard many speakers from the community say that Something Had to Be Done to stop these huge, tacky ‘mansions’ from spoiling the ‘character of the neighborhood.’

That is what has brought this ‘Floor Area Ratio’ restriction to this stage of the game. 

Who is going to hate this limit? Who is spending glossy postcard amounts of money to try and persuade homeowners that they are somehow losing on this idea? Who is against the city council passing an effective law that residents have been asking for, for years now?  Well, real estate developers.

That’s the thing about sunlight. Not only is it nice to have in your backyard, it’s really great to have on political propaganda. 

The battle over housing in Culver City has already made the Thirty Years War feel brief, simple and concise. And we are just getting started. 

Judith Martin-Straw


The Actors' Gang


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