Dear Editor – Supporting Civil Discussions on Zoning Reforms

Dear Editor,

I write in support of the current efforts by our local and state officials to make significant policy changes to facilitate the building of more housing in all Culver City neighborhoods. I’m a long-time homeowner in one of Culver City’s lovely “high-resource” neighborhoods and welcome increased housing density to allow more affordable housing at all income levels.

We moved here from Santa Monica in the 90’s with our two young children. We looked in Culver City primarily because single-family home prices in Santa Monica were unaffordable. Culver City was still a stretch at that time, but within our reach. That’s no longer true for middle-income individuals or families. We often hear our Culver City friends say, after marvelling at the high value of their modest homes, “I couldn’t afford to buy a home here now”. How unfortunate that our town is open only to the wealthy in 2022.

It began to trouble me about 10-15 years ago when my younger work colleagues, looking to buy their first home, discovered that Culver City prices were way too high – just like Santa Monica was for us. Now my gainfully employed adult children and many of their friends from Culver High find themselves priced out of the market in their hometown- both for homeownership and rentals. I began to look into the basis for this unfair status quo.

I began by reading books like “Generation Priced Out” by Randy Shaw that describes how our skyrocketing rents and home values are greatly due to decades old residential zoning regulations and other government policies that restrict access to low and middle-income residents. These same laws notoriously restricted homeownership by race for years. Shaw and other relevant books describe how several communities across the U.S. have begun efforts to reform these regressive housing policies-from Cambridge to Austin to L.A.

A light went off for me realizing that mostly white boomer homeowners like us who were fortunate enough to buy (or inherit) homes here have realized enormous gains in our personal wealth AT THE EXPENSE of younger generations and people of color. Our own children and their friends are truly “priced-out” of Culver City. That’s not what I signed up for when I moved into this classic Mayberry-esque neighborhood.

I’m convinced that opening up our R-1 single-family zoned neighborhoods to low and middle income people is a key element needed to create more equity and opportunity in our housing market. It’s key to tackling our crisis of the unhoused. Allowing a reasonable increase in density will begin to make homes more affordable over time. Upzoning to allow small and mid-sized multi-family housing is a matter of basic supply and demand in a free-market economy. If the vast majority of residential land in Culver City is restricted to single family housing- prices will only continue to rise. Build more homes = lower prices. Affordable housing for low-income residents must be required in new construction.

Let’s do all we can to build multi-family housing on commercial and transit corridors like Sepulveda, Venice and Washington Blvds. But there’s just not enough of available land or vacant units to meet the sensible housing construction goals set by the State without significant zoning changes- especially with our growing local workforce.

The State also rightfully requires that all cities “affirmatively further fair housing” by enacting policies and investment to build affordable housing in all areas including our many “high-resource” neighborhoods like Lindberg, Carlson, Vets and Sunkist Parks and the Crest.

These housing reforms are also a critical component to battle climate change. It’s common sense- providing housing opportunity for our expanding local workforce and our City and school employees will make meaningful reductions in greenhouse gases as they won’t have to drive 1-2 hours to work. Culver City can continue to be a leading model for all of Southern California in substantively taking on the climate crisis.

To those who claim zoning and other reforms will ruin the “character” of our beloved neighborhoods, I say wake up and walk around. Mansionization and ADU’s are changing the character of the neighborhoods. If we’re ok with these huge new structures and additions (not what I love about living here), would a couple of tasteful multi-family housing units on our blocks be that terrible? We might find that opening up our neighborhoods to a more diverse group of working families will enrich our lives.

I look forward to continuing this fascinating discourse in our community. I urge everyone to approach this matter with respect and civility towards our fellow residents and voters.

Gary Guthman



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5 Comments

  1. Thank you for this, Gary. I was just talking to an economist who was saying that the addition of multi-family units in our single family housing neighborhoods will have zero negative effect on the existing property values, while it will help those like our children return to live in their home town.

  2. What a relief to read this civil, calm, and well-reasoned appeal. As a former CC renter and relatively new homeowner, I agree! Thank you, neighbor!

  3. Gary –

    I respectfully disagree. Culver City is already one of the most densely populated communities in the area, and it is surrounded by multifamily residences in most areas (Fox Hills, Raintree, Playa Vista, Palms, La Cienega, inner areas of Culver City, Washington Boulevard, etc.). Furthermore, the current “defund” movement will mean less public safety for those new residents.

    What is driving the price increases in our city is three-fold: (1) an overall improvement of the community quality of life that happened well before the progressive zealots took over; (2) job growth in the area in part because of the improvements to the city; and (3) the quality of our school system, particularly when compared to LAUSD, which surrounds us.

    Who will profit on new developments? Not likely the residents of Culver City, but instead large organizations with the wherewithall to convert these properties and rent them out.

    Finally, the homelessness argument is a straw man argument in this instance. A homeless person can’t afford a $1,500/month apartment, which is what an “affordable” unit would cost if the median price is $2500. Furthermore, there is plenty of evidence, anecdotal and factual, that a large number of the homeless population prefers not to live under the restrictions that an apartment would have (for example, there is a law against smoking in multi-family houses–do you really think that those who smoke, be it cigarettes, weed, crack, or meth will follow no smoking ordinances?).

    The truth is that Culver City caught some real lucky breaks and, at one point, had some wise leadership (replaced by zealots who are more impressed with their own rhetoric than they are with facts). When I moved to California in 1998, Culver City was a fairly undesirable dump–the place where you could find a house for $400,000 when the rest of the area had houses for $600,000. Kudos to the folks that steered our city in that direction. Add some quality redevelopment in downtown, along Washington (east and west), and other areas, and the good fortune of business relocation because of proximity to mass transit (which, by the way, is nearly useless to bring someone from one area of Culver City to another), and you have a recipe for success, success that the progressive zealots seem hell bent on undermining.

    Gary

  4. Gary Guthman, I do not see it the way you do. I’m not a fan of McMansions but at least there are not 4 to 6 families living in them. This has always been sold as an affordable housing solution but when you tear down a $1.5 million dollar single family home to build 6 $800,000 condos you haven’t really made “affordable housing” but you’ve made some contractors and massive developers a lot of money. Make no mistake about that. The financial contributions to those pushing this issue is coming from big businesses.

  5. You may not have made “affordable” housing, but you have made more affordable housing. Turning that $1.5 million house into four $800K units puts four units into the reach of more hands.

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