To the Editor–
In the past, Culver City had a shameful record of excluding people of color from homeownership. Fortunately in recent decades the record is better, with people of color now representing a substantial fraction of Culver City homeowners.
However, an onslaught of developers with a white supremacist, hugely-profit-making agenda, backed by 3 Council members, now threatens to send Culver City back to its bad old days. They want to put exclusionary $1-2 million condos, plus apartments, on every street in Culver City. The people who can afford these are disproportionately white. By contrast, the first people marginalized and forced out will be renters in smaller, older buildings–disproportionately people of color, and seniors–destroying the closest thing Culver City currently has to affordability, and reducing its diversity.
Cynically, the developers and their backers bring their white supremacist plan under a flag of faux “anti-racism.” They have figured out that if they can adopt that banner for their white supremacist agenda, they can make people supportive by reflex, or at least scared to question it. But citizens can indeed recognize their plan for what it is, and demand it be stopped, as allies of communities of color.
There is no question Culver City needs more housing. But there is plenty of room to build apartment and condo complexes along existing commercial corridors, which have better access to transit. This also avoids turning Culver City into a treeless heat island, as will happen if houses are replaced by large boxy condo buildings. The preference by some for ending R-1 stems from two things: (i) a report written by UCLA graduate students(!) stating without evidence that paving the city with smaller condo buildings, away from transit corridors, is environmentally preferable, and (ii) the greater feelings of moral purity some obtain by taking an action that feels “decisive,” even if it’s actually destructive and racist. The graduate students, it should be noted, express the white supremacist discourse of urban planning, a discipline with a long history of racism going back to the neighborhood destruction they called “urban renewal” in the 1960’s – 70’s.
The white supremacist housing agenda also gets sold by packaging it in an “affordable housing” label. But we need to understand that even with an affordable housing label, no new housing that is *actually* affordable gets built. What it typically means is that a developer building exclusionary $1-2 million condos, or apartments, puts some money in a pot which can then be used to subsidize a few people’s rent. The waiting lists for this subsidized housing is many years long. It will not enable, for example, a Culver City teacher to live in Culver City affordably. But the system definitely enables extra developer profits.
Allies of the developers may or may not have explicitly racist intentions. Due to white fragility these supporters of white supremacism may take refuge in their “I’m not a racist” feelings. Instead they need to do the work, educate themselves, and check their privilege, to see the racist outcomes they are producing. As Ibram Kendi has said,
“If a policy is leading to racial injustice, it doesn’t really matter if the policymaker intended for that policy to lead to racial injustice…If we train our focus on outcomes and victims…intention will become irrelevant.”
I urge Culver City residents to do as history demands–stop the developers, their Council supporters, and their plans to re-whiten Culver City. Be an ally and support Councilmembers Ericksson and Vera in their anti-racist fight against white supremacism.
To the Editor–