2022 election issues and recommendations

We want:

  • A hands-on approach to homelessness.  We need to enforce a time/place/manner for transient camps – much like Santa Monica does successfully
  • Our police department to have the tools they need to enforce our laws, and a Council that oversees them honestly.
  • Honest discussions about upzoning and the cost of housing
  • A transparent Council and an unpoliticized School Board

Our Council Recommendations

Dan O’Brien danobrien4culvercity.com – Dan has been a community leader in Culver City for 20 years. He steadfastly promotes a hands-on approach to transient camps, much like Santa Monica does successfully.

Denice Renteria renteriaforculvercity.com – Denice brings fresh insight as well as a steadfast commitment to the basics of city management – enforcing our laws, keeping our streets safe and clean, and keeping the city safe for everyone.

Both Dan and Denice come with the endorsements of Councilmembers Albert Vera and Goran Eriksson.

Why we DON’T recommend Fisch or Puza

Alex Fisch – came in under false pretenses as an economic moderate.  Since then he’s passed rent control (which he originally said didn’t work), has hobbled our police department (though he didn’t vote to defund), pushed a hands-off policy on transient camps, and has been the prime pusher of upzoning.  All the residents who backed his initial run are now organizing against him.

Freddy Puza – would be a continuation of Daniel Lee’s radical policies.  Defunding our police, a hands off policy on camps, and all the other radical and costly measures Lee has promoted while in office.

There are other candidates.  But we don’t believe they have the resources to gain a significant number of votes.  Our focus is to change existing policies that are ruining our city.  Therefore a vote for Dan or Dencie is the best way to keep Fisch or Puza from getting elected. 

Propositions

Measure VY (Vote 16)  – NO.  Giving a vote to Culver High school students, regardless of their residence, would place undue influence in the school board over our Council.  The school board has been nakedly partisan in recent years.  Giving high school students the right to vote would give the school board a captive audience to harvest their ballots, and provide them a permanent voting bloc for their preferred council candidates.

Measure BL (Business Tax) – NO.  Our downtown businesses are struggling enough after the Covid pandemic and lane shutdowns.  Doubling/tripling their tax when they’re hurting would further erode our commercial districts.

School Board recommendations

We would like to stay focused on Council issues, and not be involved in the school board election.  Unfortunately, the school board has been too involved in Council matters, using students to their ends. 

We’ve seen our Defend Don’t Defund signs stolen by kids, and Eriksson’s house was vandalized in a student Defund the Police rally at his house.  School board members have not condemned or denied involvement any of this.  School board member Kelly Kent did have to publicly apologize for using school board resources to promote a Women’s March. 

This needs to end.

We are not concerned with curriculum.  We only want a school board that doesn’t try to put their thumb on the scale of Council matters, and doesn’t manipulate students to their political objectives.   Based on this, we feel these three candidates provide the best chance to change course

Other City/County race recommendations

As you may know, the homelessness issue is far greater than Culver City.  As such, even electing a friendly council will not solve our problems.  We will need to work with neighboring cities and the county to develop a proper, hands-on approach to get transients the services they need while maintaining public safety.
At the core is a profound philosophical disagreement: hands on vs. hands off.
That being said, we’re adding our voice to the following races.

Ballona Creek camp fires – why isn’t the city doing anything?

Fire crews put out a blazing transient camp at Ballona/Overland overpass July 26, 2022.

At least six fires have erupted in camps along Ballona creek in Culver City this year – two in the last month.  A camp persists at the footbridge, less than 250 feet from Farragut Elementary.  Residents complain to the city about the obvious public safety issued, especially for children walking to school.  And yet the city does nothing.  We’re asking “why?” as Culver City readies to elect two new councilmembers in November.  We’ve sent a questionnaire to candidates and councilmembers for their opinions on this issue.

Residents will have a distinct choice between candidates who want to maintain this “hands off” policy, versus those who think they present a public safety issue that must be immediately addressed.

Hands On:

Dan O’Brien: “I believe the vast majority of our residents want our leaders to enact an ordinance similar to Los Angeles MC 41.18, while tirelessly seeking safe and secure housing for those in need. This is not an either/or equation. We can show compassion to both the unhoused AND those who own and rent in Culver City.”

Denice Renteria: “Doing nothing and letting individuals remain on the street is inhumane and unfair… I would also be in support of the city conducting regular routine checks in more vulnerable areas of the city and public open spaces. We need to uphold the safety of all individuals in the city, unhoused or not.”

Hands Off:

Councilman/candidate Alex Fisch: “the evidence is overwhelming that homelessness is a housing problem… I am open to hearing other cost-effective, humane, and just opportunities to say “yes, this is where you can be” instead of … “no, you can’t be here, not there either.”

Freddy Puza: “Studies consistently show that homelessness is overwhelmingly caused by lack of affordable housing… Criminalizing poverty is not only inhumane, it is much more expensive than providing housing and support.”

Unsure:

Khin Khin Gyi: “We could pass an ordinance similar to that voted on by the City of LA whereby the encampments must be a certain distance away from schools, nursing homes, places of worship or businesses, etc.”

What the Councilmembers Say

We also sent our questionnaire to the councilmembers, for clarification on hands on/hands off and what they mean by sweeps. Councilmembers Eriksson and Vera weighed in (Lee and McMorrin did not respond):

Vice-Mayor Albert Vera: “[Sweeps] should consist of advance posting by the city so that the unhoused are aware of what is happening and have the opportunity to move any of their possessions. The city would then come in with a team to clean up any dangerous items – syringes, urine, fecal matter, etc. – and pressure wash the sidewalks. Once that process is complete, the unhoused would be free to move back into the area.”

Councilman Goran Eriksson: “Culver City belongs to a very, very small group of cities in LA County that have adopted a “hands off approach” when it comes to some form of enforcement to assist our housing/mental outreach… When we talk about “encampment sweeps”, they are very often necessary.”

Martin v Boise, LAMC 41.18, and why the encampments issue is so complicated

Culver City is not alone with encampment problems – we see them all over LA.  This is due to the Martin vs. Boise decision, which established a simple rule – we can’t “punish” someone for a “state of being.”  Meaning if someone is homeless and they have “nowhere to go”, we can’t fine or imprison them for sitting somewhere.  But this ruling gives a lot of latitude in interpretation.  For example –

if a city can offer shelter, and they don’t want to go, can we compel them to leave?

Once a city has shelter or housing to offer a transient, this ruling is rendered void because the person now has a choice.  Yet professional activists have been pushing the idea we cannot, unless the transient willingly accepts.  They’ve pressured councils and candidates to adopt such a “hands off” policy with camps.  This started in Culver City in 2019, when an LA Times article on the Venice/405 camp prompted the Sahli-Wells led council to end police interactions with the camp.  Council further codified this “hands off” policy at their April 26, 2021 meeting.  It got the predicted “yes” votes from Lee, Fisch, and McMorrin and Lee, while Eriksson and Vera voted “no”.

The Culver City Democratic Club has also taken on the activist perspective on transient camps.  They issued an endorsement questionnaire which inluded two key questions about camps: LAMC41.18 limiting camps near schools, and opinion of encampment sweeps.  Dan O’Brien is not included because he wasn’t registered Democrat at the time.

Two key questions from the CCDC questionnaire regarding camp cleanups, and how Democrat-registered candidates responded.

LAMC 41.18- what is it?

Cities have worked around Martin v. Boise with a simple policy – offer shelter, and pass no camping ordinances.  Santa Monica has successfully enforced a no camping ordinance for many years, while our current Council has refused to discuss it.  Meanwhile, the City of Los Angeles is pushing a more lenient rule – no camping within 500 feet of schools and other sensitive locations.  While this makes sense to average residents, activists rioted at city hall over this.  Meanwhile the Culver City Democratic Club based their endorsement on opposing 41.18.  Both Alex Fisch and Freddy Puza opposed such an ordinance.  Dan O’Brien has expressly supported such an ordinance.

Sweeps, what are they?

Washington Blvd underpass “sweep” – camp was given a one week notice. Nobody was visibly living at the camp. Appeared to simply be bike storage.

Encampment Sweeps are another seemingly benign rule.  The city wants to do basic sanitation over a section of sidewalk occupied by a camp – literally “sweep” the sidewalk.  They post notice letting transients know to pack their belongings and vacate the space while they clean, then they come in and clean up, and once they’re done people are welcome to bring their camp back.

Activists have managed to portray it as some horrific atrocity – Stormtroopers raid an unsuspecting camp at 4am and sweep the homeless away to concentration camps!  They’ve been successful enough at this to fool most people and many candidates on this issue.  Again, in the CCDC questionnaire, Fisch and Puza opposed sweeps, while Renteria and Gyi were undecided.  O’Brien also said he was undecided, saying it’s “not a simple answer”.

The problem with opposing sweeps is this means the city will not touch transient camps, ever.  Electing people to Council who oppose sweeps means the city will keep this “hands-off” approach, which will allow these camps to fester and grow.

“Services not Sweeps”  – a defining issue in 2022

The proliferation of transient camps is a prime issue for Angelenos this election year.  Despite voting for services and funding to the homeless, these camps seem to keep spreading with no end in sight.  Why isn’t the city doing anything about them?  What can we do about them? 

We’ve heard several causes – lack of affordable housing, Martin vs Boise, mental health issues, drugs, etc.  But the heart of the issue can be distilled to a very simple policy soundbite: “Services not Sweeps.”  The very term is a euphemism and misnomer.  Angelenos overwhelmingly agree that the city should have services ready for anyone who needs them.  We passed Props H and HHH, which provides billions to this enterprise.  The services are there.

But behind that is the basic legal question:

If we have somewhere to send a transient, but they don’t want to move, can we compel them?  Or are we stuck with them, wherever they decide to homestead, until they voluntarily leave?

That’s the key part of the phrase – “not sweeps.”  The idea is cleaning up transient camps – “sweeps” – cause trauma by uprooting transients and keeping them on the move.  Therefore, we should not compel them to move.  Needless to say, this policy means allowing transient camps to permanently fester and metastasize.  People know what this means.  Festering drug dens, disease, crime, as camps continue to rot with no sanitation. 

Yet a surprising number of officials and candidates subscribe to this policy.  In fact “services not sweeps” is the default progressive position, as with professional activist group Democratic Socialists of America. 

Fortunately, many candidates for 2022 have stepped forward arguing against this.  This gives us an opportunity to defeat candidates who would force us to live with permanent transient camps in 2023 and on.

Professional activists have been fighting with residents on this issue for the past few years.  An example is “how many times can someone refuse services before we can finally compel them?”  Their answer is never. 

Another trick they use is claiming that the city has fewer beds than counted homeless.  Therefore, since we don’t have enough beds to house every homeless person in the city, we cannot enforce any cleanups.  But if the vast majority of beds lays empty, and the vast majority of transients don’t want to go into a shelter, then building more beds doesn’t fix the problem. 

Culver City will see Alex Fisch and Daniel Lee’s seats go up for re-election this year. At the recent Culver City Democratic Club forum, both Alex Fisch and Freddy Puza have come out against encampment sweeps. Denice Renteria was the only candidate at that forum not to oppose them flat-out. Dan O’Brien also supports a no-camping ordinance throughout the city, once the city purchases the hotels as shelters.

This issue is intentionally loaded, with legal ramifications for supporting sweeps . We will get clarification from all candidates on where they stand and the implications of their position – namely with regards to the persistent camp at the Senior Center.

We’re also seeing several races at the city, county and state level that will decide this issue.  Here’s our analysis on them and whether the candidates are for or against “services not sweeps.”  Again, being for “services not sweeps” means they don’t think we can compel transients to move.  Being against it means they think we can and should.

LA city Mayor: Karen Bass for, Rick Caruso against

LA city council 11:  Erin Darling for, Traci Park against

LA city council 13: Hugo Soto-Martinez for, Mitch O’Farrell against (this is Echo Park Lake, which O’Farrell cleaned up to the vocal opposition of activists)

LA County Sheriff: Alex Villanueva (incumbent) against, Robert Luna for.  Villanueva has been instrumental in keeping Venice Boardwalk clear of camps.

Assembly District 55: Isaac Bryan for, Keith Cascio against

Senate District 28: Lola Smallwood-Cuevas for, Cheryl Turner against (ACLU put out a legally dubious mailer in support of Cuevas on this precise issue, claiming sweeps “result in the disproportionate policing of transgender women of color”)

Congressional District 37: Sydney Kamlager for, Jan Perry against

Practically all these races are highly competitive.  We also expect the primary results to be skewed to the left, as the Democrat Socialists of America spent an aggressive effort to get out the vote for their candidates.  The primary had very low turnout overall, so these kinds of efforts can have a disproportionate effect.

Upzoning Culver City

Concerned about Upzoning?
Wondering what you can do?

Special meeting May 25th 7th
via Zoom / location TBA
Contact Us for RSVP and meeting link

Everything you need to know about Council’s Housing Element and its plans to upzone Culver City out of single family homes

  • Incremental Infill – four units per single family lot?
  • Affordable Housing Overlay – relaxing building codes
  • SB9 lot splitting – up to eight units per lot?
  • SB10 – up to ten units per lot?
  • 3-2 Council split? Who’s for it? Who’s against it?

Over the past year or two, Culver City Council has been busy preparing and submitting its proposed housing element to the State of California’s Housing and Community Development department.  This housing element will guide Culver City’s building codes for the rest of the decade.  This process has been fraught with confusion, with residents generally having no idea what this means for their homes and neighborhoods.  We will break this down for people.

Incremental Infill

At the core of Council’s plans include what is called Incremental Infill this is a legal term meaning up to three units can be built on a standard lot in the city.  A fourth unit can be built if it meets the criteria of “affordable” – those criteria have yet to be defined. 

Council had several options prepared by staff about how much of the city would qualify for this “incremental infill.”  In the interests of “equity,” they decided the entire city would qualify for this classification.  This includes many controversial areas like the Upper Crest which are not suitable for multiunit development.

Affordable Housing Overlay

At their meeting April 26th, 2022, the Council voted 3-2 to also adopt an “affordable housing overlay.”  This would relax many of our city’s zoning regulations, such as parking requirements, floor area allowances, setback requirements, etc., provided they make certain units “affordable.” Again, we’ve yet to see concrete policies on what is considered affordable, how much of a development would be affordable, or the zoning requirements abandoned to allow this. 

An illustration of “Incremental Infill” without SB9 lot splitting. Affordable Housing Overlay could further tighten setbacks from the property line as well as remove parking requirements.

SB9 Lot Splitting provision – what does it mean?

Sacramento recently passed SB9 which allows cities to split all single family lots into two, and allow a duplex to be built on each of the two lots.  This already bypasses the city’s plan and would allow up to four units on  a lot.  The issue is how that mixes with Council’s current incremental infill proposal.  At their April 25th meeting, Council debated what this would mean – would they allow a fourplex on each of the two lots, allowing up to eight units?  In the end, they decided not to clarify on the policy.  Nor did they answer our requests for clarification on this issue.  Councilman Daniel Lee did claim the possibility for up to eight units on a lot, in a previous meeting.

SB10 – up to ten units in “job/transit rich” neighborhoods

Sacramento also passed SB10 last year, which would allow up to TEN units to be built on a single family lot in neighborhoods the state deems job or transit rich.  You may guess about 90% of Culver City falls under this classification, given our central city location.  Council has not yet deliberated on this law and how they would adopt it.  But Culver City for More Homes, an activist group with ties to three of the Councilmembers, has written a law to the state HCD rep requesting to have Culver City abide by this law.

Who’s for this?  Who’s against it?

Council has consistently voted 3-2 for Incremental Infill, the Affordable Housing Overlay, and all the other subsequent issues regarding upzoning Culver City.  The three councilmembers voting for it are Alex Fisch, Daniel Lee, and Yasmine Imani-McMorrin.  The two councilmembers consistently voting against this are Goran Eriksson and Albert Vera. 

This has been the source of bitter division in the Council chambers.  Eriksson and Vera have both written letters to the state claiming a lack of any engagement with residents about these upzoning plans – a clear requirement of the Housing Element process.  Our PAC has also consistently pointed out the lack of resident engagement in this process – even a denial by Councilmembers of their upzoning intention.  You may have seen our door hangers and signs around the city as well.

Two of the Councilmembers – Alex Fisch and Daniel Lee – are seeing their terms end in November.  So far, neither has stated their intentions to run for re-election.  Daniel Lee is currently running for Congress, an indication he’s not looking for another term on the Council.

Residents who are opposed to these upzoning plans have already rallied behind two potential candidates – Dan O’Brien and Denice Renteria.  They both come with the support of Councilmembers Vera and Eriksson.  Many of Fisch and Lee’s original supporters in 2018 have abandoned them because of their stance on upzoning and are now supporting O’Brien and Renteria for Council instead.

Our position at Protect Culver City has always been that the residents need to be engaged in this process, and that Council’s decisions need to reflect the will of the residents.  We’ve written the state ourselves, asking to delay certification of our Housing Element until a new Council is elected in November.  A Housing Element reflecting the new Council would have a much stronger mandate than this one.

ACTION ALERT – Council to close Washington Blvd/405 sidewalks to pedestrians

Council meeting Monday, March 28th 7pm
Council to shut down sidewalk on Washington Blvd/405 Fwy
Forcing pedestrians to walk in parking lane

AGENDA HERE   REGISTER HERE

Due to the transients persistently blocking the sidewalk under the 405 at Washington Blvd, our Council majority has come up with their latest scheme.  Consent Item C-7 in Monday’s council meeting will approve shutting down the sidewalk, leaving it as the domain of a pemanent tranient camp.  Instead they will shut down the parking lane, put up dividers, and force pedestrians to walk in the parking lane instead.  This plan will cost the city $100,000.
We won’t even begin to discuss the issues with this unprecedented, likely illegal concept. 
We just want you to know about this and MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD.
The underpasses need to be kept clear and open to pedestrians.  This is a no brainer.  Council wants a walkable city – this does just the opposite. 

Council meetings are still online only. 
We know a lot of you have issues getting in.  Try one of these alternatives:

E-mail the five councilmembers and the city attorney.  Ask about the legality of this – this isn’t just extending parklets to existing businesses.  This creates a whole new class of homesteaders and is explicitly against city code:

Alex Fisch alex.fisch@culvercity.org
Daniel Lee daniel.lee@culvercity.org
Goran Eriksson goran.eriksson@culvercity.org
Albert Vera albert.vera@culvercity.org
Yasmine Imani-McMorrin yasmine-imani.mcmorrin@culvercity.org
Heather Baker heather.baker@culvercity.org
City Clerk city.clerk@culvercity.org

You can also call the city clerk and submit your comments by phone: 310-253-5851

Newsom survives recall, SB9 and SB10 pass

What does this mean for Culver City?

As of this writing, Newsom has comfortably beaten back recall efforts 38-62%, with 93% of precincts reporting. Shortly after he was announced the winner, he passed SB9 and SB10, both which effectively eliminate single family neighborhoods throughout California. SB9 allows developers to build up to four units on any lot. SB10 allows developers to build up to ten units on any lot in any area deemed “job/transit rich”.

“Job/transit rich” describes about 80% of Culver City. This really makes us ground zero for massive zoning changes. This is the backdrop under which Council submitted their Draft Housing Element to the state for approval, which allows “incremental infill” in the entire city. “Incremental infill” is somewhat of a euphemism, which means any single family lot is eligible to develop up to four condos. There’s nothing incremental about it.

So what can be done?

The first thing is to submit comments about the Draft Housing Element – the link will take you to a comments form. We need to turn in our comments by October 1st. Shawn Danino is the representative who’ll be reviewing this document, we can e-mail him our concerns at Shawn.Danino@HCD.CA.gov as well as HousingElements@hcd.ca.gov. and forward your e-mail to us.

The thing to understand, though, is that with the passage of SB9 and SB10, we are effectively only meeting state law. To really protect the character of Culver City, we need to work with entities who are trying to roll that back.

Californians for Community Planning is organizing a ballot initiative that would repeal these laws. We suggest getting in contact with them to see how we can be involved. Locally, Culver City Neighbors United is also looking at options. They have some very clear instructions on how to send a letter to the state opposing our Housing Element.

Again, our main concern with Council’s Housing Element is nobody in our city knows this is happening. The Draft Housing Element itself is incomprehensible – to a point. Council is sneaking some radical changes under the radar.

Telling the state that you were never properly notified or engaged sends a powerful message about the lack of legitimacy to the process.

Upzoning issue – where we’re at

Council has instructed the General Plan Advisory Committee to study the plan to eliminate R1 zoning across Culver City. This means that our current regulations on single family homes and curtilage would go out the window. If these plans succeed, developers would be able to demolish any home, anywhere in the city, and replace it with a fourplex which reaches almost to the property line.

It’s not hard to visualize this. Simply look at what’s being built in our adjoining neighborhoods in Los Angeles.

So what can be done?

First is to keep your eyes on this page. We will let you know about upcoming events and action alerts.

You should also make your opinions known to City Council. You can find their contact info on the City Council page.

We are also keeping tabs on Culver City Neighbors United and their efforts to stop this upzoning. We recommend people get in touch with them.

We currently see two ways to stop this – a ballot initiative requiring voter approval of zoning changes, and getting new Councilmembers elected in 2022.

Council to open Jackson Gate?

ACTION ALERT

Monday August 23rd, 5:30pm via Zoom

Council to debate opening Jackson Gate to Ballona Creek

AGENDA HERE REGISTER HERE

Download our distributable flyer

Jackson gate opens up Ballona Creek to the heart of Carlson Park. Opening this gate has been a wildly opposed by local residents, and they’ve fought this for years. With the recent spread of transient camps along Ballona Creek, the public safety issue of opening this gate has gotten even worse. This coming Monday, Council will debate opening this gate again. They may either open it up during the day and close it at night, or leave it open 24/7.

Creekside Neighborhood has been active on this issue. We suggest contacting them to be further involved. But it’s also critical to make your voice heard with Council if you oppose this. If you can’t make the meeting to speak, you can also file an eComment or contact the councilmembers.

Creekside Neighbors polled the neighborhood about opposition to opening Jackson Gate.

What we know about the hospital lawsuit against City Council

Council was sued in federal court on June 22nd by Southern California Hospital of Culver City in response to their June 14th ordinance requiring an additional $5/hour “Hero Pay” for hospital employees.  Councilmembers Vera and Eriksson opposed this “hero pay,” along with many residents, questioning the timing, legality and necessity of it.  Undeterred, Council majority went along with it anyway. 

The lawsuit makes a serious allegation – that SEIU, the union representing hospital workers, conspired with Councilmembers Lee, McMorrin and Fisch to single out this hospital and force a $5/hr temporary raise, circumventing their own collective bargaining protocols.  SEIU did so in a quid pro quo, working with these three Councilmembers in group texts during Council meetings, offering pro bono legal support to defend the ordinance.  This contrasts with the less serious tone of the hospital’s official statement.

Contrary to Daniel Lee’s claims, this hospital doesn’t make big profits.  They are a MediCal hospital, and one of the few in the region.  This means they operate off razor thin margins. 

The hospital is represented by Sheppard Mullin, a major law firm with 270 lawyers combined in Downtown LA and Century City alone.  They claim “declarative, injunctive, and monetary relief” – they want the court to strike down this ordinance, declare this type of ordinance unlawful, and pay them damages for having to fight this.  They back up their allegations with some amazing and timely research.  They present a timeline of collaboration from the April 12th through May 24th Council meetings, as well as SEIU’s dealings in Daniel Lee’s state senate bid. [10]

They present heavy evidence of texts from SEIU political director Maky Peters to Lee, Fisch and McMorrin during the April 12th council meeting.  “Ms. Peters urged them to move quickly to agendize the combined Grocery/SCHCC ‘Hero Pay’ ordinance for a vote: ‘It’s actually the only way you’re gonna have [the union’s] pro bono support,’ concluding: ‘There are only so many ways I legally can say that.’” [11]

But the particularly damning allegation is in items 95-96 in the suit, which talks about the group texts during the May 24th meeting.  

95: “At 9:50 p.m., while the meeting was still in progress, Ms. Peters opened a group chat with Mayor Fisch, Vice Mayor Lee, and Councilmember McMorrin. Apparently frustrated by the decision to defer immediate action on ordinance targeting SCHCC, Ms. Peters sought to assure Mayor Fisch, Vice Mayor Lee, and Council Member McMorrin: “We’re ready to fight court case””

96: “Viewed in context, the only plausible interpretation is that SEIU’s representative was telling three City Council members that the union was prepared to defend a SEIU-sponsored ordinance by providing legal support, while at the same time suggesting that the “only way you’re going to have the union’s “pro bono support” would be by the Council taking up the “Hospital ordinance” and the “grocery” ordinance as one combined bill. Ms. Peters’ final texts, directed at the Mayor in particular, remove all doubt as to the quid pro quo offered: “pro bono support” from SEIU in exchange for three members’ support: “Mr. Mayor” “We have your back” “There are only so many ways I can legally say that.”

In the video of the meeting, you hear the ringtones at 9:50pm, corroborating this claim.

This follows the previous meeting, and SEIU’s collective bargaining agreement after the May 10th meeting when the initial Hero pay ordinance was introduced.  Fisch brought up that “[W]e received some new information that we have not had a chance to be advised by staff…” [98] meaning SEIU’s collective bargaining agreements with the hospital.  The hospital had already accounted for pandemic working conditions in their recently signed agreement.  The lawsuit claims here that SEIU is trying to do an end run around this agreement by getting Council to force their arm.

The lawsuit continues to lay out further details and evidence that “SEIU was offering an illegal quid pro quo: to obtain the Mayor’s support, the union was prepared to make payments, underwrite a legal defense, and assume responsibility for the legal consequences of adoption of the Ordinance, which was prepared at the union’s behest for the purposes of serving the special interests of the SEIU.” [110]

Councilmembers Vera and Eriksson both explicitly raised the concern of a lawsuit during the May 24th meeting.  They both laid out the issue that the hospital alone is being targeted with this ordinance, and our city is alone to do such a thing.  Their concerns were ignored by the others, which left them confused.  Given these texts happening without their knowledge, we now understand why.

This also explains Lee’s aggressive leading role in this ordinance.  Lee had not only applied for a position with SEIU, they backed his run for State Senate to replace Holly Mitchell by ghost writing an op-ed for them. [78]  He has a longstanding relationship with them, and part of this quid pro quo was their implied continued support for his political ambitions. 

Council and SEIU have up to August 20 to respond to these allegations, and we look forward to their response.  But they said nothing to disclose these private exchanges during a Council meeting or the conflict of interest presented.  More so, Daniel Lee explicitly denied a conflict of interest with the hospital by asserting “no money has changed place” – leaving out the rest of his relationship with the union. 

Many of us at Protect Culver City have long suspected that we have a “shadow council” operating behind the scenes.  This goes all the way back to Fisch and Lee’s 2018 inauguration, when their override of the mayoral rotation resulted in a Brown Act complaint which they corrected.  Since then, official Council proceedings have become little more than rubber stamps for what so obviously is done under the table.  We get more from their social media exchanges with their activist base than we ever get from Council meetings. 

But it’s one thing to suspect, it’s another to prove.  We don’t have the resources for lawyers, who could find out they text each other during Council meetings without telling anyone.   Council’s hubris made them go after an entity which had such resources. 

President’s message

July 15, 2021 marks the official two-year anniversary of Protect Culver City.  But if we are to look at our true genesis, it would be today, June 25th.  It was in the wee hours of June 25, 2019, that we witnessed Council ambush us with their legion of outside activists to implement rent control.  To quote our founding statement:

“It’s the manner in which they decided that should concern everyone. None of the Council members ran for office on this agenda. Unfortunately, this lack of responsiveness and transparency is something we’ve grown to expect from this council.  This is why we realized early on, rent control could not be our only or even our primary issue.”

We knew rent control would only draw the passion of a tiny minority of multifamily owners.  But we also knew Council woudn’t stop here.  They came for our police department, and nearly succeeded.  Now, they’re coming for single family zoning.  

Because of our status and budget, we were able to play a critical role in alerting the residents about both of these issues.  We’ve done so despite bearing the brunt of attacks by an aggressive activist core.

Our detractors have said “Protect Culver City is just Ron Bassilian.”  In doing so, they do themselves a disservice.  This movement has always been well beyond me, and has always been beyond rent control.  We are here, above all else, to hold his council accountable to the residents, and to keep residents informed.  If residents want a city without a police department or single family zoning, that is their prerogative.  But we will have an informed debate about these issues, and Council’s decisions will reflect the will of the residents, not outside activists.

Now that I have a son in my life, my responsibilities are a bit reduced and others are doing the heavy lifting.  I do little more than steer the ship these days.  With that, I’d like to talk about where we are going between now and our next milestone – the 2022 election.

First, our finances are healthy.  We are ready and able to do a door hanger distribution at any time.  This is a necessity for us to maintain our minimal mission.  We are able to fundraise to keep up this function as needed between now and the 2022 election.

We are also very interested in seeing two candidates step forward in the 2022 election to challenge Mayor Fisch and Vice Mayor Lee. 

We do not plan on officially endorsing or affiliating with any candidates during the election.  Our main focus will still be an informed debate on the issues.  Our role will be much like a newspaper – we will honestly report on where candidates stand on the issues, the strength of their campaigns, and their associations.   

Our main interest is that such candidates are not beholden to this activist core which controls the current three member majority.  We want our Councilmembers to answer to the residents.  We recommend any candidate who agrees with us on these issues to get in touch with us early and have a frank conversation with us on their platform.

We understand others are wary of dealing with us.  Even though PCC has steered a good centrist course on city issues, detractors point to my Republican status.  It’s true –I am a Republican, and I ran for Congress against Karen Bass as a Republican in 2018.  I’m still very active in the county party.  That won’t change.

That doesn’t change the fact that PCC has remained strictly non-partisan.  Our active members are a good reflection of this city’s overall political leanings.  More so, residents appreciate that we inform them about what’s happening, independent of political leaning.  Few would have known about Council’s defunding or upzoning plans if it weren’t for our early efforts.

We need to be honest about another thing – this activist core will attack anyone who stands in their way.  They use loaded language to bully anyone who opposes their agenda.  Anyone who wants to fight for these issues can expect similar treatment.  The more you stand out, the bigger a threat you are, the more they will attack you. 

But we should focus on the good news.  In our two years reaching out to residents, we’ve found them to be highly intelligent, and legitimately want what’s best for the city and the planet.  They are willing to discuss the issues with us in good faith.  We plan on building off this good will, to nurture a Council that reflects it.  It’s how we can protect Culver City as a city that truly works for everyone. 

  • Ron Bassilian