Reasonable people can differ about making changes to R1 zoning. We ought to acknowledge that. Like most people who have lived in Culver City for a while, I’ve got friends on all sides of these issues. But I also think we should acknowledge that skyrocketing rents and home prices are a problem that threatens our future Something does need to be done about a broken housing market.
I am writing this letter because I want to push back on is the idea that there is no housing shortage, no crisis we need to solve. No, there really is a housing shortage.The only reason a one-bathroom 1950s bungalow with peeling stucco sells for $1.5 million is scarcity. Period. No cabal of developers and international financiers making this happen. There is no conspiracy to keep units vacant. In fact, the percentage of vacant units is smaller than it has ever been. Imagine bulldozing the Upper East Side of Manhattan and turning it into a suburban single-family neighborhood. The resulting houses would be preposterously expensive. That’s what housing policy in Los Angeles is starting to feel like, especially for people trying to move here for jobs. Left to its own devices, the market would respond to the shortage with a big housing boom. But our laws do not permit that to happen in most of the city. That leaves very few places to build new housing. It means the housing crisis never gets solved.
Instead of a housing boom, we have a mansion craze. Nobody who can afford seven figures for real estate is going to keep that 1950s bungalow for long. The result of our zoning laws is that instead of accommodating more people with more housing, Culver City is fast becoming a city of multi-million-dollar houses, like the Palisades or San Marino. That is a big change to who we are. That is not the future I want. Let’s also be clear that we are not talking about choosing between palaces or hovels. From some of the online chatter, one could get the impression that anything other than a single-family house is unfit for decent people to live in — that anything else is being squeezed like sardines into little concrete boxes. That’s nuts. I live in Downtown Culver City where we have a mix of single-family homes, duplexes, and multi-family housing on the same residential streets. It is a nice place to live. Here’s a simple pitch: When it comes to new construction, I would rather see more fancy multi-family units than multi-million-dollar mansions. That is better for Culver City in the long run and is more in keeping with our neighborhood character.