Dear Editor – Neighbors United Looks at City Council’s Housing Element

Dear Editor,

On Aug. 8, 2022, the City Council majority of Mayor Daniel Lee, and Councilmembers Alex Fisch and Yasmine-Imani McMorrin voted to eliminate R1/single-family zoning, deliberately evading California’s new housing law SB9. Laws such as SB9 were recently passed to encourage the building of more housing, while at the same time protecting neighborhoods from profit-only-driven Wall Street investors and speculators that have no connection to our city and our community.

SB9 allows homeowners to build duplexes and split single-family residential lots (R1) into two separate lots and build up to two primary units on each parcel. Council majority calls for the elimination of R1 zoning in favor of what is called “Incremental Infil,” which changes R1 zoning to multi-family zoning. This will make the new SB9 law inapplicable, because SB9 only applies to R1 zones. Thus, the community will be stripped of the full protections that the state legislators intended under SB9.

There is no persuasive evidence that says that the new theory of Incremental Infill will create the affordable housing that almost everyone agrees we need. Incremental Infill is not needed to meet state housing requirements or promote generational wealth. Instead, Incremental Infill will exempt Culver City from key SB9 protections (Fisch conceded on a few), including protections against speculation, encouragement to retain the look of the neighborhoods, and requirements for owner-occupancy that work against investment interests. Eliminating the essential protection of the owner-occupancy requirements under SB9 will make the city’s single-family neighborhoods a target for outside investors. None of the neighboring cities are allowing this kind of unchecked investment speculation in their residential neighborhoods. This will expose Culver City to investors and speculators who could build up to 8 units on what was previously a single family lot.

What can you do?

The City must submit a Site Inventory to California’s Housing and Community Development agency (HCD) to prove that it can meet State requirements. Please write to the State about it. There is a deadline approaching quickly.

· Write to the State and tell them that you do not want Incremental Infill.

· There are 945 homes listed in the Site Inventory document. If you own one of the homes listed, AND you do not plan on tearing down or replacing your home with up to four units under the “incremental infill” theory, tell the state immediately.

Please visit CulverCityNeighborsUnited.org/letters to access the site inventory and see an example of how to send an email to the State. Ask your neighbors to do the same.

For well over a year, Culver City Neighbors United and our community has been advocating for effective and creative solutions to our affordable housing crisis, such as adding incentives for owners of low-and-moderate-income housing to make rent affordable, making it easier to build Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), building multi-use housing/retail/office/restaurant space along commercial corridors, developing commercial/industrial and underutilized spaces, making it a priority to focus on under-served areas in our city, and making the type of zoning changes that would allow for the building of residential units in commercial areas. We must allow for the building of residential housing in areas that have the transportation infrastructure in place and amenities nearby — in order to get people out of cars and minimize the traffic impacts of adding the new housing that the State requires.

The Housing Element approved by the City Council majority does not meet State requirements or Culver City’s needs. Single-family zoning must not be eliminated based on an evasion of state housing law.. We urge the City to delete Incremental Infill from our Housing Element and allow SB9 housing and neighborhoods to develop under current State law.

 

Sincerely,

Jamie Wallace

President, Culver City Neighbors United

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4 Comments

  1. “For well over a year, Culver City Neighbors United and our community has been advocating for effective and creative solutions to our affordable housing crisis, such as… building multi-use housing/retail/office/restaurant space along commercial corridors, developing commercial/industrial and underutilized spaces, making it a priority to focus on under-served areas in our city, and making the type of zoning changes that would allow for the building of residential units in commercial areas.”

    Hi Jamie, do you personally live “along (a) commercial corridor”, or in a “commercial/industrial and underutilized space”, or in one of the “underserved areas in our city”? Because if not, please note that your prescription for our affordable housing crisis is that any new affordable units (and the poorer families who’d move into them) must be located SOMEPLACE ELSE… not anywhere near YOUR special home.

    When we insist that our privileged R1 neighborhoods (containing our multimillion-dollar detached homes) remain frozen in amber, and that all new working class families must be crowded along busy highways and in “industrial” zones, we’re insisting on a future of segregation, not of equity. I’m so grateful that Mayor Lee’s and Councilmembers Fisch’s and McMorri’s vision for our city is the latter, not the former.

  2. Some folks have a habit and history of launching personal attacks against other people, with the intent to silence and intimidate. This practice is more than often launched against women. It’s dangerous, it’s harmful, and it’s ugly to see.

  3. Patrick, I double dog dare you to go 1st. Please, bulldoze your home and rebuild as multifamily and only offer them to those families making Median Income and below. Go for it. Put your money where your mouth is and get the ball rolling. Good luck in this endeavor.

  4. Patrick, I am a compassionate realist. I do not know you. I don’t remember if we have ever spoken. I could mention that I am one of the founders of the Backpacks for Kids Program, but I assume you will accuse me of being a “privileged white savior” type. I don’t really care what you think, there are students getting food who would otherwise be going hungry. We started Culver City Neighbors United to inform the vast majority of people in Culver City who did not understand what upzoning, housing elements, land use, or RHNA mean.

    There is an affordable housing crisis in this country, this state, this county, this city. Councilmember Alex Fisch has said that changing R1 zoning will not create affordable housing. The hired consultants substantiated this. Changing R1 zoning to R4 or multifamily allowing up to four units per lot will create more density (i.e. housing units) but not affordability. Mr. Fisch seems to understand that where land is very expensive, builders can only afford to build any affordable units if they are willing to let the project not pencil out, or they can build a project large enough to absorb the costs and effectively subsidize the affordable, low income, or workforce units.

    Mayor Daniel Lee commented at a recent city council meeting that he is not that interested in R1, he is interested in affordable housing and housing for the unhoused.

    Even the housing planners in the State of California Housing and Community Development Department do not expect affordable housing to be built on lots smaller than one half of an acre.

    So why keep insisting that eliminating single-family neighborhoods will magically solve everything?

    Current state laws such as SB9 do not mandate upzoning residential neighborhoods. In fact, the protections of SB9 apply ONLY to single-family neighborhoods. Yet Mayor Lee, Mr. Fisch, and Ms. McMorrin have repeatedly voted to permanently change the zoning. SB9 encourages the building of ADU’s and duplexes instead of permanently erasing single-family zoning. Reasonable people can agree that it makes sense to see what SB9 does and its effects on the housing market.

    Building in commercial areas and along transportation corridors is already happening with the abundance of new luxury housing projects along Washington, Sepulveda, and Overland; and the discussions of shopping center owners to include residential units. Between state density bonuses and city regulations requiring that at least 15% of the multi-use units be made affordable, the path toward the creation of affordable housing is beginning to be built.

    CCNU has been advocating for effective and creative solutions where they are most likely to be built and where they make economic sense. We have compassion for the many who can no longer afford to live here. In reality, many of us could not afford to rent or buy in present day Culver City and would have to live someplace else. By a quirk of timing were able to enter the housing or rental market when we did.

    We are realists in supporting smart, balanced, development, and concentration of energy on locations for likely projects. We want Culver City to grow in a sustainable manner.

    I do not intend to continue this particular conversation. I will continue to seek facts and economic realities, and I will continue to share them with the public.

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