I’d like to share the following open letter to Culver City and its leaders from UC Berkeley climate and energy professor Daniel Kammen, whose research has confirmed Culver City’s climate imperative to “re-evaluate zoning citywide, emphasizing density near transit and permitting missing middle housing in its R1 neighborhoods.”
Professor Kammen is a former State Department Science Envoy and Lead Author for the UN’s IPCC Climate Panel, work which garnered a Nobel Prize. In a time when anthropogenic climate change literally threatens humanity’s future, his letter to Culver City leaders is one to heed. Though many other less-progressive communities and electeds have long ignored the clear message of climate scientists (and our own patio thermometers), my hope is that we Culver Citizens will take this opportunity to prove we really mean what so many of our lawn signs say: “In this house we believe science is real.”
Culver City for More Homes
To: Honorable Mayor and Members of the City Council
The City of Culver City, California
I am writing in strong support of the proposal referred for staff study on 6/28/2021, enabling incremental infill in Culver City’s low-density single-family areas, in conjunction with the 6/23 instruction to assess feasibility Affordable Housing Overlay and other housing affordability measures.
I am a professor of energy at UC Berkeley, director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory, former Science Envoy for the United States Department of State, and a Coordinating Lead Author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In my study of the carbon footprints of 700 California cities¹, my colleague Dr. Chris Jones and I found that a potent tool for a high-opportunity city like Culver City to reduce its per-capita emissions is urban infill. In fact, adding housing (particularly multi-family housing) near transit, jobs and services promotes civil cohesion, diversity, and sustainability. This finding is consistent with Culver City’s own staff analysis, which projects the greatest reductions of per-capita greenhouse gas emissions, residential energy usage and VMT in the land use alternatives which allow for incremental housing infill in every Culver City neighborhood.²
In my research and writings, I have argued that it is sound climate policy to build homes near jobs. But Culver City has done the opposite: building just 1 new housing unit for every 49 jobs added over the past 15 years. This is an ecological and social justice disaster as excess workers are forced further away, creating sprawl that consumes open space, clogs freeways and increases greenhouse gas emissions. But it’s also a moral disaster, as housing scarcity and skyrocketing home prices exclude low-income and working-class families from Culver City and its opportunities and amenities. If Culver City wishes to minimize per-capita emissions, address housing inequities, and strive for social and climate justice, Culver City must add housing at all price levels (including accessible below-market rate levels) and re- evaluate zoning citywide, emphasizing density near transit and permitting missing middle housing in its R1 neighborhoods.
I urge you to continue the process you commenced on 6/23 and 6/28, addressing Culver City’s housing needs with a just, sustainable, and comprehensive citywide strategy.
James and Catherine Lau Distinguished Chair in Sustainability