I have been a resident of Culver City for over 25 years, but I have begun attending City Council meetings only in the past year. I wish I had been more involved as a resident sooner. In this letter I first want to express my gratitude to all City Council members for performing a very time-consuming and underappreciated public service which at a minimum, requires a commitment to spend many hours every week respectfully and carefully listening to others, responding and debating in City Council meetings in order to accomplish the difficult task of governing the city. I believe Council members spend a great deal more time in many other related responsibilities I know little about. I was surprised to learn how little Council members are paid for their many hours of service.
Some Culver City residents at several of these City Council meetings and in letters to Culver City newspapers, in flyers and social media pages have expressed anger and disrespect toward three City Council members, Mayor Alex Fisch, Vice-Mayor Daniel Lee, and Council Member, Yasmine-Imani McMorrin for voting to remove R1 zoning across Culver City. This vote allows for more affordable housing units to be built including 2-4 unit buildings on individual lots in any Culver City neighborhood, not just along traffic corridors, including those previously limited to single family housing . This local rezoning change has been extended throughout California by recent state legislation just signed by Governor Newsom, Senate bills 9 and 10, on September 16th that removed R1 zoning across California in order to address in part the growing shortage of affordable housing and increasing problem of homelessness. Residents opposed to this change claim and seem to fear that their neighborhoods as a result will abruptly change, be lost, and even “devastated” by this decision. This criticism has included fears that homes would be seized, that property values will fall and that “greedy developers” will be the primary beneficiaries.
As the owner of a one-story, single-family home I am not angry or afraid about the removal of R1 zoning. Even before this change in R1 zoning it was already possible that a large two-story structure could be built next door to me or behind me as many have been in my neighborhood, which to some degree would decrease my sense of privacy and my view of the sky or trees. Whether it is a large single-family home or an apartment building won’t make much of a difference. I will have new neighbors either way. Many years ago my wife and I changed our quieter neighborhood and made the streets more noisy and busy with laughing, yelling and crying kids. Most of the older neighbors who had already raised their kids didn’t seem to mind too much. Probably some did. We were joined by many other new parents on the block.
I fully support this zoning change and thank these council members for their leadership in the face of such harsh opposition. One of the more frequent criticisms of the Housing Element Update is that it will not actually produce any affordable housing, just more very expensive apartments, condos and townhomes. There are always critics who argue about why needed changes can’t or shouldn’t happen or suggest that they should happen somewhere else. The housing shortage is a complex problem. Like other complex problems it can be solved if enough people work together to make it happen. But like the current mind-boggling problems of vaccinating people to end a pandemic, ensuring eligible voters have access to voting places, or just passing a federal budget, there are always people who make it so much harder than it needs to be.
I am, in fact, very saddened that now only the more affluent can afford to buy or even rent in Culver City. The affordable Culver City community I moved to 25 years ago as a younger man when I was starting a career and a new family has significantly changed and already been lost in a way. My wife and I began our lives together at the Windsor Fountain condos on Overland Ave. before we bought our home in Carlson Park 21 years ago. My wife grew up in Culver City living first in the Beverlywood West townhomes. Culver City had been a place where less affluent young adults could start out and build a life. I couldn’t afford to buy a home here now even though I earn more than I did 25 years ago. My kids may never be able to afford to live here either. I hope this vote to build more affordable housing will change this.
I am angry though about the inaccurate and malicious things that have been said about these three City Council members and the former Mayor, Meghan Sahli-Wells, who have been trying to make Culver City housing more affordable for more families, and for more people who live and work in the city, especially in the schools, the restaurants, and the local businesses. These City Council members are not dishonest, deceptive, foolish or self-serving. They are doing the difficult work of trying to bring diverse people together to solve complicated problems.
The world has changed a lot in my lifetime. When I was a kid growing up in a small farm town in California in the 70’s, it was normal and even acceptable to use many forms of bigoted speech and to discriminate against women, minorities, immigrants and the LGBTQ community. Only White men became presidents or Supreme Court justices. Some people feel life was better “back then.” It was better for some but not for many, not women, not People Of Color, not the LGBTQ community, not immigrants and not the poor. People in these groups especially, are rightfully demanding change. They are demanding an end to harassment, abuse, discrimination, and an unjust distribution of wealth and opportunity. These changes are long past due.
The world has also become so much more complex in the problems it faces and the solutions it requires including climate change, a global pandemic, and refugees around the world seeking basic human rights. There have always been people who need so much more than they have and there have always been people who have so much more than they need. Efforts to shift the balance of these groups have always been difficult and met with opposition.
I have wondered about what writing this letter would accomplish, if anything. I decided that it is an opportunity to show my support for members of the City Council who are doing very important work. It is also a way to do something as a citizen of Culver City to participate in a community discussion about how I hope Culver City will change and improve. It is also a way to express my thoughts and feelings about issues that matter to me and to invite responses and participation from others.