In the first meeting of the new year on January 10, 2022, the Culver City Council picked up the issue of housing with an agenda item to consider a ballot measure on “affordable and workforce housing on a future general municipal election.” The item was concluded with the council voting four to one for an ad hoc subcommittee to study the proposal. The appointment of Council members Alex Fisch and Yasmine Imani McMorrin moves the item to an unspecified future agenda.
As with any discussion of housing, public participation was robust. City Clerk Jeremy Green noted that 25 people had requested to speak, and Mayor Dr. Daniel Lee kept the time limit to three minutes, despite the long line; more than an hour later, after everyone from the audience had spoken, the council began their deliberations.
The proposal from the city focused on raising money for housing by instituting either a a General Obligation Bond, or an additional Parcel Tax. This would raise an approximate $10 million. Data from Culver City’s CFO, Onyx Jones, featured what these options would look like; a bond would deliver an amount as a lump sum, a parcel tax would bring in smaller amounts of money over time.
Lee read the data collected from a workforce housing survey from the Culver City Unified School District, revealing that only 21% of district employees live in the city, and most employees of the district offered that their commute was within a ten mile radius, and took less than an hour. Of the respondents, more than 60% said they would be interested in getting rental support to live in the city, and 55% were interested in housing on district property that would be exclusive to district employees.
Council member McMorrin commented that “Folks know that I care deeply about equity…We recognize that our community is our business, our neighbor’s health is our health. In many of the discussions we have had about housing in 2021, many people commented on the need for affordability, and now whet we are hearing [from the public] is that ‘we don’t want to do it that way.’ We are doing everything we can for our neighbors, from the unhoused all the way up.”
Vice Mayor Albert Vera, Jr. held that that solution could be ‘incentivizing more affordable housing’ via commercial developments already being considered. “I believe housing is our responsibility as well…a lot of residents don’t have [that kind of ] money [as proposed in the parcel tax idea]. Lack of affordable housing is the biggest thing the state is facing. I’m not opposed to studying anything…but what would make more sense is to send it to the FAC (California State Finance Advisory Commission) [rather than expend staff hours]. If this is going to be on the ballot, we need to make sure it will win.”
Mayor Lee concluded “I think we should move forward to a ballot measure; I’m inclined more towards the parcel tax option as it provides an ongoing level of funding…I think the complexity of housing and homelessness – and I think we should always speak about those two things together – requires us to have a cache of ready resources that we can deploy each year, and not just once…We do need to do something sooner rather than later.”
As noted by Jones, “Typically, a special tax increase requires a two-thirds vote… the council can put in place today some guidelines on how those funds are to be used going forward.”
The council voted four to one for the ad hoc subcommittee, with Council member Goran Eriksson as the sole no vote.