I am writing in support of the actions being considered by some of our City Council members to modernize housing policy in Culver City. I have heard the arguments that some in this community have made against the proposed zoning changes, characterized as eliminating single family zoning. I find these arguments to be disingenuous, and I feel that they have intentionally created fear and confusion about an important issue that we all need to be invested in solving. Here’s why…
On a state level, housing policies have already been changed significantly and affect what you can even call single family zoning anymore. Starting in 2017 and through this most recent legislative session, with the passage of SB9 and SB10, California has been addressing the statewide housing shortage first by requiring cities and counties to allow the construction of ADU’s and on certain properties, Junior ADU’s. Now, SB9 and SB10 go further and this has effectively made all R1, or Single Family Home zoning already obsolete. Our state leaders have already moved to address our housing crisis by forcing slow moving municipalities to speed up and modernize their zoning to allow owners the right to use their property as best fits their needs, to allow for an income unit, or to allow a family member to move on property, or whatsoever they might need, and, in the end by adding more homes where we already live.
Why do we need more homes where we already live? We are in the middle of a self-inflicted climate and environmental disaster. Our planet is warming at a remarkable rate, and two significant contributors to this are transportation (approx 40%) and residential buildings (approx 20%). Both of these are lifestyle choices that we continue to make and support through our politics. We no longer have the luxury of maintaining our lifestyles and fixing the planet at the same time. Things have to change quickly and significantly to create momentum in the opposite direction we have been going for over 100 years. The California Air Resources Board, one of our largest environmentally focused state agencies, says significant changes to how communities and transportation systems are planned, funded and built is needed or else the gains we’ve seen from higher efficiency vehicles and other initiatives will be lost. So, as most of us know and agree, changes must be made, and they must be made now. We can all make some of these changes in our personal lives, as I have in my family by getting rid of one car and commuting by bike to work daily. But that’s not enough, we need to change the underlying policies that create the built environment that we live in. We move too far, too often, to get to what we need to live our lives, and it’s killing us.
As to affordability, land prices and subsequently housing prices in California have skyrocketed in the last 20 years. I’ve benefited from that, as have all of the other owners of real estate in Culver City and throughout our region. But I don’t want to benefit at the expense of others, and especially not when you look at the reason for that increase in prices. Yes California is a desirable place to live, but the reasons for its pricing have much more to do with its policies regarding the housing supply, than solely looking at the demand. We have built almost NO housing in the last 10 years, specifically here in Culver City (just 277 total units built between 2010 and 2019). While our housing policies from top to bottom may have said we could and should build, those policies didn’t encourage or incentivize building. California is currently underbuilt by millions of homes, depending on which study you read, and even if this is off by a million in either direction, the result is the same. Prices rise when supply stays fixed and demand is up. This result encourages far flung development which forces people to live further from work and play, and increases commute times, emissions, and has many other negative societal impacts as people spend less time at home.
So, what do we do to address these issues; aligning with our existing state policies, improving affordability and trying to address the climate impacts of the way we live? We must build more housing, that is denser, and closer to where people work and play, so they can live there. It’s really simple, and it’s not even that controversial. I’m not alone in thinking this way. It’s even a part of our current President’s policy on housing, and you can find it on the White House website; (https://www.whitehouse.gov/cea/blog/2021/06/17/exclusionary-zoning-its-effect-on-racial-discrimination-in-the-housing-market/ )
This City Council cannot fix all that is wrong with our environment, the cost of land in California or numerous other things that are wrong in our world today. They can however lead us to adopt a housing policy that has a real shot at addressing the lack of housing in Culver City, align our housing policies with our state, and our current President, and ultimately invite more of our far flung neighbors, and hopefully some of our own school teachers, firefighters, police officers and studio and office workers, to live here in the city we love. If you care about these issues, please think about supporting them and these changes as well.
Dear Editor – Support for Council Housing Policies
Where is the infrastructure to handle increased density? You may be able to continue widening streets (although the Council keeps narrowing them) and laying more sewer pipe at great cost, however, you can lay all the water mains you want and there still won’t be a single drop more of water to go around.
The idea that you can build housing without off-street parking and pretend that people are going to use our limited public transit system is pure fantasy. Come on, let’s be serious, this is SoCal, and the transit system doesn’t go where many people work and play, unless they have a lot of time on their hands. If the the Council members actually used public transit they would know this. Most people can’t realistically use our transit system, so they will park on the street, and who thinks they want to drive around the neighborhood looking for sparse parking spaces after a long commute? And how are people going to charge their electric cars when fossil fuels are phased out? Check out the lineup at the Fox Hills charging station some morning. It is not a reasonable alternative to charging at home, plus you can’t charge your car when it is parked on the street down the block.
How does the Council intend to prevent housing from being bought up by big developers and real estate holding companies? That will actually diminish the number houses for sale and turn them into rentals. How does that increase generational wealth?
Laissez faire housing policy is a reckless and lazy way to try to solve our issues. It is based on naive assumptions and pushes off responsibility for the outcome onto people who don’t care about anything but profit. It won’t bring affordable housing. If density was a viable way to bring down prices, then Manhattan or San Francisco would be among the most affordable cities in the country.
Finally, if upzoning has such a strong argument in its favor, why did the council attempt to enact it through stealth, and why did they feel the need to engage in race baiting to support their agenda? This isn’t about race. All are welcome in my neighborhood. The way to address racial disparities is through direct action, not to turn the job over to developers to solve, because they won’t. Instead the city could offer no or very low cost mortgage insurance for under represented residents who are buying their first house. What about reparations in the form of grants or no interest loans? The Council should quit posturing and do something that will have a real impact. And while we’re at it, don’t offer under represented residents a discounted American Dream, help them buy into the single family houses that so many residents treasure. It can be done, but we might have to cut back on things like re-striping streets for bicycles and asphalt art. It’s all about priorities.
The Council should be mitigating the damage to our neighborhoods that SB8 and SB9 will cause, not making it worse.