This letter is about housing, a subject that concerns everyone who calls Culver City home and cares about our collective future.
I grew up in Culver City in the 1960s and 70s, so I’m especially committed to addressing my peers: older white homeowners, some of whom I hear espousing values that do not match their positions on local housing policy. It’s not a comfortable conversation, but being uncomfortable can lead to growth and healthy change. I invite you to watch this short video; it’s quite eye-opening. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hNDgcjVGHIw) [from the New York Times]
1. Culver City needs more housing.
We have a legal mandate from the State to “affirmatively advance fair housing.” This requires embracing upzoning. Many kinds of housing will enable us to address the local housing crisis and achieve our Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) goals, including: ADUs, multiplexes (duplexes, triplexes, quads, etc.), townhomes, condos, and apartment buildings. Retaining single family home zoning is an impediment to creating a healthier community that benefits more people. We’ve come to a critical point in Culver City, and we need to address it by building more housing everywhere, not just on major streets and commercial areas or in already dense neighborhoods like Fox Hills and Clarkdale.
We need more housing for people who work here. The jobs/housing imbalance in Culver City is harmful and only getting worse. It burdens local employees who live elsewhere with soul-crushing, freeway-clogging, gas-burning commutes. Does everyone who works in Culver City need to live here? No, but we can house more of the workers who are valuable members of our community.
We need more affordable housing for the residents who are rent-burdened and for families whose children attend CCUSD schools on permit, and for people who can’t afford to live near where they work. We also need to feel urgency to build more permanent supportive housing for our unhoused neighbors. Dorothy Day’s words come to mind, “We must talk about poverty because people insulated by their own comfort lose sight of it.” Let’s do better, Culver City.
2. Culver City needs to address the legacy of racism that is still in evidence here today. We can do much better.
We like to tout our diversity, especially in our schools, but how much of that comes from students who attend on permits because their families can’t find or afford housing here?
Our diversity is diminishing because the cost of housing in Culver City is sky-rocketing. I don’t think current white homeowners are responsible for past exclusionary zoning and redlining, but those of us who inherited a home or the means to buy one, those of us who were able to purchase a home decades ago and enjoy relatively low property taxes (due to Proposition 13), and those of us who saw our property values increase greatly through no effort of our own, are clearly privileged. What responsibility accompanies the comfort of housing security? Culver City’s housing policies can begin to address present-day racial and economic inequities and remedy past ones.
3. Culver City needs to address the climate crisis.
Remember the slogan, “Think globally, act locally?” One of the most compelling arguments for building more housing in Culver City is that climate justice demands it. Droughts and wildfires have devastating human consequences. Climate refugees already exist in California. The inland parts of our state are getting hotter and hotter. Coastal communities including Culver City need to welcome more neighbors, because denser living is more energy efficient and because ours is a high opportunity city, where more children can grow up healthy on our tree-lined streets, and attend our excellent public schools.
Culver City has a beautiful, mature urban forest, mostly on the parkways of our neighborhood streets, parks, and other public land. Greater density does not have to mean a diminished tree canopy, and won’t, because Culver City prizes our trees. Infrastructure is not a barrier; it can be expanded as we grow, just as it has done historically.
Everyone who lives in Culver City wants it to flourish and thrive, but good intentions aren’t enough. To support housing development that creates the best possible outcomes for everyone, we need to look at the effects of our new Housing Element will have and follow “the better angels of our nature.” We can do this by answering the questions, “What kind of community do we want to be?” “What are our actual values?”
We can use our residential space better to share with those in need, support our growing senior community, and welcome the talented younger folks from across the country and world who come to work in our creative businesses.
Culver City is for everyone!