I’m writing to share a bit about why I would welcome more neighbors in Culver City. I grew up off Overland and went to El Rincon, Culver Middle and Culver High. I returned to Culver City about 9 years ago for a job at UCLA, and in part because my wife and I had a new baby we wanted to be near my mom. Culver City was very different. The restaurants downtown were cool, but after a while I realized just how few of my high school friends were still here. Very few. Of course many moved for work or other reasons, but as I started to reconnect with my peers, the ones living in Culver City were either living with parents, in a friend’s garage, or even in a van. These housing choices were not what they wanted, and they were not because they didn’t have decent jobs. I later reconnected with more classmates who live in the LA region, and they told me they wanted to live in Culver City but it was too expensive. At the same time, I noticed how many of the parents of my friends and acquaintances of my youth were still living in the same family house, just now by themselves. I know many of these parents, and they wish they could see their kids more, but traffic prevents it.
It so happens that I moved back to LA to teach in the Department of Urban Planning at UCLA. My research is on housing policies around the world, and until coming home, I did mostly research on housing in Mexico and in Asia. The US is unique in the way our local ordinances prevent people from expanding the number of housing units on their land. In many countries, as families grow, new units can be added, or elderly households can build small apartments to rent out for retirement income. A group of friends of mine in Mexico pooled their resources to build a four family building on a small lot in a neighborhood they loved. One thing that always stuck out to me when I travel to cities in other countries, is how much more livable many neighborhood streets are, with a vibrancy that is in part because of the medium density housing. More neighbors means more walkability to your errands, more neighborhood shops, and less traffic.
I am excited about the changes being proposed through the General Plan Update, and I am excited to welcome new neighbors to Culver City as we begin to allow more housing to be built here. I hope some of them are old friends from high school, through maybe not that one guy who used to bully me.