What happened at Monday’s council meeting?

Did they want to get rid of single family zoning in Culver City? 
In a word, yes.

At Council meeting Monday the 22nd we asked questions about item A-4 resolution on housing policy.  We didn’t have access to this resolution until three days before the meeting. Fortunately, they tabled a vote on this resolution until April 12th, in the interest of not debating past midnight.  But our worst suspicions were unfortunately confirmed.  This resolution would green-light the entire city to be rezoned and redeveloped.

Vice-Mayor Lee denied that this resolution would eliminate single family zoning in Culver City.  Mayor Fisch claimed that statewide regulations already allow a triplex on every lot – alluding to the allowance of an ADU and junior ADU on each lot and not a bonafide triplex. 

The supporting speakers at the meeting betrayed their intentions.  This resolution reads much like the aborted SB50, which would have eliminated single family zoning in any area deemed job or transit rich (Culver City is argued to be both).  Furthermore, by claiming to “equitably distribute” this upzoning, it leaves no neighborhood in our city safe from limitless upzoning.

Councilmembers Vera and Eriksson both expressed their doubts about this resolution.  Namely, that they didn’t get a chance to even see it until it was publicly released three days before the meeting.  They shared our concern about its lack of clarity, and that passing it would hand over the city to developers in the name of anti-racism.

While council danced around the issue during this council meeting, their intentions were made known during the joint council/planning commission meeting in January.  Here, both Lee and Imani-McMorrin declared outright that single family zoning is racist and needs to be eliminated.  Fisch didn’t go so far, but said single family zoning is classist, and class is rooted in race.  

A concerning tactic – militant upzoners flood the General Plan meetings and push their opinions. GPAC then generates these “studies” of only those who show up to their meetings. The 44 who show up and are polled then give a very skewed representation of what the city wants.

Fisch also made the disingenuous claim that rezoning for multifamily would bring us more of our old fashioned “bungalow courtyards” and other post-war construction.  This is a particular sticking point for us.  We claimed rent control would drive such multifamily buildings off the market to be redeveloped into modern condos.  These rent out for 2-3x the rent of current multifamily, even when you can compare the two. We’d repeatedly asked Council to make exemptions to preserve these older mom and pop multifamily units.  Council’s only reaction was to campaign against our ballot measure.

Again, both Vera and Eriksson both stated their opposition to such radical rezoning plans.  Eriksson claimed that this kind of rezoning would doom ordinary people to permanently renting in expensive units.  Vera expressed concerns at what this would do to the character of our city.

We recommend everyone watch the video from the joint council/planning commission meeting – namely council’s comments starting at 2h20m – and become familiar with Council’s rezoning debate ahead of the April 12th meeting.  Then share your concerns with the councilmembers.  Feel free to BCC us at contact@protectculvercity.org if you do e-mail them.

The councilmembers speak at the following times:
McMorrin: 2h20m
Vera 2h28m
Eriksson 2h32m
Lee 2h46m
Fisch 3h06m

A glimpse of what Culver City residential streets could look like – if we keep silent. More details in the linked United Neighbors report.

We also recommend people familiarize themselves with the state’s greater upzoning debate.  Namely SB9 and SB10, which emulate what SB50 wanted to do (including 10 unit buildings on a lot).  This report from United Neighbors is a good summary.  


Death by a Thousand Cuts: Who’s behind “Defund CCPD”?

The “Defund CCPD” campaign did not go away after the past election.  Both Albert Vera and Goran Eriksson were recently elected on opposing deep cuts.  That still leaves Councilmembers Lee and Imani-McMorrin staunchly supporting abolishing our police, with only Mayor Fisch being the wildcard in this debate.  This allowed the Defunders to bring back the issue with a vengeance in the last couple council meetings.  Vocal militants, they teamed up with friendly councilmembers to stop CCPD from enforcing low-level traffic violations – ostensibly due to profiling concerns. 

Although we have avoided the drastic 50% cut the Defunders originally demanded, our police appear doomed to “death by a thousand cuts.”  Our police department is now forbidden from keeping our sidewalks clear of tents, forbidden the discretion of traffic stops, and are subject to hiring freezes.  Death by attrition seems much more politically feasible for the Defunders than a cold turkey abolition.

Ordinary residents see where this is going.  The resultant increase in crime is undeniable.  Aggravated assault and burglary have increased dramatically.  Anecdotes of stolen packages, catalytic converters, assaults, transient camp crime and fires, and street racing are now common on social media.   It promises only to get worse. 

This has left many of our members frustrated and confused as to why this is happening and how to stop it.  It’s so unpopular, so outrageous, so boneheaded.  Where is this coming from?

The issue isn’t facts but loyalty.  The current council majority – Fisch, Lee, and Imani-McMorrin – were elected largely due to the efforts of a core of 15-20 militant residents.  These militants push their talking points at every council meeting.  They are active and aggressive on social media.  They have gained positions in certain key commissions like the Homelessness, General Plan, and Police Chief’s advisory panel, as well as the School Board.  And they have ties to academia and elected officials.

Motivating them is the Culver City Action Network, which has put forward a the most radical demands in this city.  It is an anonymous organization – their website has no personal info – but we have some idea of who’s behind it.  Outgoing councilmember Meghan Sahli-Wells appears to be one of its prime organizers.  From the dais, Mrs. Sahli-Wells called herself a police abolitionist.  Also prominent is Noah Zatz, a UCLA law professor who makes $350,000/yr (plus housing stipend) to be a professional activist.

Behind the Defund push is their belief, not simply that our police are racist, but policing itself is racist.  They believe policing is a throwback to slavery, there’s no way to reform it, and abolishing it is the only way to progress as a country. 

The city’s own professional report by CPSM flatly deny this claim.  They show how police facilitate an open and just society, and removing them ruins life for everyone.  That doesn’t stop these militants from pushing their own consultants with their agenda-driven “studies.”  Saul Sarabia is their primary defunding consultant.  He was brought up yet again at the March 1st meeting by Noah Zatz, who demanded council follow his demands in his report to defund the police by 50%.

Behind Sarabia’s report is another anonymous report, tied to UCLA Law’s Criminal Justice Program.  The half-truths and misrepresentations in this report are too many to mention in this article.  Suffice it to say it’s anonymous for good reason.  We contacted UCLA’s Law School, and the only one to take any responsibility for it is the dean, who says we’re welcome to contact him with any questions.

Between Sarabia’s report and the UCLA report we see a common thread.  The agenda comes first, and the facts are applied to fit.  Councilmember Daniel Lee confirmed as much last year, when he said the point of any report was to tell him how he could cut CCPD by 50%.

These kinds of agenda-driven studies are not new to us at Protect Culver City.  We saw this play out on the rent control issue in 2019.  Councilmembers made bogus claims of an “epidemic of evictions and gouging” – yet again, flatly denied by their own staff, consultants, and Landlord Tenant Mediation Board. 

If these guys are so few, how do they convince council to vote their way? 

They take advantage of the fact that the vast majority of the city consists of compassionate, loyal Democrats.  They’ve taken over the Culver City Democratic Club, which pushes their candidates and measures.  The CCDC endorsed Measure J, which cuts the LA County Sheriff’s Department by 10%.  They also endorsed Councilmember Daniel Lee for State Senate, over the less radical and more popular Sydney Kamlager.  CCDC has also made it clear that any candidate who associates with Protect Culver City is on their enemies list.  This has led several key people to shy away from us.

They have close ties with local elected Democrats.  Representative Karen Bass and State Senator Holly Mitchell regularly endorse their candidates and measures.  They also have ties to academia and larger government.  Councilmember Yasmine Imani-McMorrin also works at USC, Daniel Lee works for a foundation, and Alex Fisch works for the CA Attorney General.  Through these ties, they gain access to these studies, consultants, and legal precedents. 

They use their positions on the School Board to further organize their causes.  They’ve already gotten into trouble using school resources to organize a Women’s March, as well as using confidential school mailing lists for their political mailers.  All this put together makes for a formidable political machine. 

The good news is they have widespread opposition.  The last election proved it.  These militants, who enjoy so many advantages, only got one of their three favored Council candidates elected.  While they dominate the institutions of our city, their overall outreach is waning, as well as their popularity. 

This is something we can and must build on. While the opposition is widespread, it needs to be better organized and able to anticipate these events.

We are ultimately fighting about a clash of visions in Culver City.  Their vision is stark: a loss of public safety, reckless deregulated upzoning, replacing multifamily apartments with pricey condo developments, replacement of our small businesses with big box stores.  It contrasts what the vast majority of us moved here for: safe streets, good schools, homespun community, an oasis of calm which welcomes people from all walks of life. 

Residents who want to maintain the character of Culver City which has made it famous, must stop these militants from implementing their vision.