What this Housing Resolution Means

Council ultimately voted 3-2 for their housing resolution at their meeting Monday April 12th.  It doesn’t outright abolish single family zoning, but it opens loopholes to do just that.  Councilmembers Eriksson and Vera shared our concerns.  Eriksson called this resolution is a “Trojan Horse.”  Vera repeated his concern this just opens up the city to developers, who’ll make their money and leave.

So what do we get out of this resolution?  What does it mean, and where do we go from here?

The good news is, all is not lost.  This resolution is part of an ongoing General Plan discussion.  It is a step forward for those who want to allow developers to build anything they want, anywhere they want.  But we still have plenty of chance to stop its worst effects – namely by the next election in November 2022.

Fundamentally, the resolution gives direction to the General Plan committee to find new places and ways to build new housing.  It seeks to conform to the statewide RHNA mandate to build 3000 new homes in Culver City in the next eight years.  It seeks to do so “equitably” and with “inclusion.”  The three supporting councilmembers McMorrin, Lee, and Fisch made clear this means all neighborhoods are eligible for upzoning. 

We were hoping to get further clarification from Council’s conversation on Monday.  But we only learned Council now has no conversation.  Fisch and Lee made their supportive comments without even addressing the concerns of Vera and Eriksson, let alone any of our speaker concerns.  Let’s go over a few of these:

“We have reached out the community about this.”  – Councilmember Lee has said this before.  It’s not just disingenuous, it throws our city staff under the bus.  By asking the Clerk to verify this, he is only stating that they have done the minimum legally required notification.  Council is supposed to use their discretion to take it further.  They could do snail mail notices to our residents for “hot button” topics like this, but they consistently refuse.  Our flyer did more to alert people to this resolution than the city did, with all its resources.

Furthermore, what notice they do give uses vague language to hide the nature of these agenda items.  We find out what is really going on through backchannels and rumors.  All this is simply embarrassing for our city.

This is a pattern for them.  They did this when they overrode the mayoral rotation at their inaugural meeting in 2018.  They did the same when they enacted rent control.  They claimed they were discussing it for months in advance – and yet no landlord heard about it or suspected anything, until they were hit with the ordinance.

 “This has been an ongoing discussion for the past couple years – it’s nice for people to join in the conversation now.”  Both Eriksson and Vera never saw this resolution before it was released to the public for the March 22nd meeting.  Prior General Plan meetings used language like “equity” and “inclusion” which are euphemisms for ending single family zoning.  But their intentions were never codified like this until now.

“People were brought here because of misinformation” – it’s hard to claim misinformation about a resolution nobody understands – even two councilmembers.  We are still learning what this means, and that’s why we were hoping for legitimate clarification.  Fisch and Lee just stuck with their talking points rather than address the concerns of Eriksson and Vera.  McMorrin simply confirmed she was voted in to pass such resolutions.

Culver City News is also grappling with the text of the resolution.  They picked up on our “30 units minimum per acre stipulation.”  They also mentioned that if we do not meet state targets, this resolution “would trigger a minimum additional density that will be allowed on each site.”

This is what Eriksson means by “Trojan Horse.”  And what we meant in our flyer by “this resolution creates a number of mandates and loopholes.”  Many are arguing this is by design.

Again, any of the concerns of either the speakers on this agenda item, or opposing councilmembers, could have been legitimately addressed during this agenda item.  They were not.  Vera and Eriksson said we all want affordable housing, we all want to figure out how we can grow as a city, but the question is how to do it effectively and responsibly.  They were not answered.

So why is this happening?  Why no conversation?  Because councilmembers McMorrin, Lee and Fisch were elected by an activist core of supporters who want them to push these resolutions.  They have their agenda and they’re not interested in a discussion.  This is why they sneak these things through with minimum clarity and discussion.  It’s why they are pushing such radical changes to our city, precisely at a time when so many are disenfranchised.

That’s why we realized, the only way to stop this is by informing and mobilizing the residents of this city.

Ultimately, a 3-2 vote on a resolution made in such a sneaky fashion is not a powerful mandate.  Both Fisch and Lee are up for re-election next year.  Over the coming year, we need to mobilize to get full clarity on Our General Plan’s goals, and demand responsible growth, not a reckless developer bonanza.  The current Council majority can continue to push this through all they want, but if they’re no longer in office in 2023, their plans for our city will come to nought.

We have to remind them of this in the months to come, and prepare for the November 2022 election with the full expectation that they will not react to our demands.

Council to abolish single family zoning?

April 12th 7pm via Webex – Council to continue dicussion on housing resolution

This could allow massive developments anywhere in the city

“I think upzoning everything will bring in some unintended consequences. I think developers will come in, buy everything up, build on it, make their money and leave. Ultimately I don’t think that benefits Culver City.”

– Councilman Albert Vera, Jr.

This resolution will be item A-2 at Monday’s Council meeting. Five ways to make yourself heard:

  1. Register to speak at the April 12th council meeting. Ask to speak on item A-2 on this resolution.
  2. Call the City Clerk at 310-253-5851, and either submit your comment over the phone, or have them walk you through filing a comment.
  3. File an eComment online on this item. Find item A-2 and click on the eComment button on the top right of the item. You will need to register if you are commenting for the first time.
  4. Contact the councilmembers. Let them know how you feel. They are generally responsive.
  5. E-mail public.comment@culvercity.org and refer to item A-2.

Both Vera and Eriksson have raised grave concerns that this will allow developers to build “stack and pack projects in any neighborhood in Culver City. Council has been very vague about what this resolution means. Here’s what we do know:

  • It seeks to accomplish statewide “RHNA” mandates for housing with “equitable” development. Councilmembers have made clear this allows development anywhere in the city.
  • Eriksson has called the RHNA mandade “pie in the sky.” – an unattainable mandate.
  • It has a minimum “30 units per acre” requirement. A traditional multifamily building is about 25 units per acre.
  • Few residents know about this resolution, and even Councilmembers Vera and Eriksson are unclear what it means.
  • Councilmembers Fisch, Lee and McMorrin have called single family zoning outdated and racist.

Council’s resolution on housing policy at their March 22nd meeting raised some concerning questions.  Neither the public, nor councilmembers Vera and Eriksson, had access to this resolution until three days before the meeting. Fortunately, Council 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.

The resolution itself does not eliminate single family zoning outright.  But it gets around such an obvious statement with a number of loopholes.  Of particular concern is this “minimum 30 units per acre” stipulation.  The other is the resolution for “equitable” distribution of new housing.  Council has made clear this means none of our neighborhoods are exempt from upzoning.  This combines with the state’s RHNA goals for new housing – an unrealistic 3000 new units for Culver City over the next decade.   This leaves our city playing eternal catchup with an unattainable goal, allowing developers to build whatever they want, whatever they want.  No exemptions.

With this resolution, we could feasibly see up to 10 units on any lot, anywhere in Culver City – based on State policy.

In defense of this resolution, councilmembers Lee and Fisch pointed to Culver City’s current charming multifamily buildings.  This is misleading.  Those were built decades ago – these simply would not be built today.  Our new rent control ordinance is actually driving many of these off the market.  In their place go 3-4 story condo projects which rent out for 2-3x the price, if they rent out at all.  

In the end, this resolution only muddies the waters – and did not give us the time to truly understand it.  If we are to upzone the entire city, we must do so deliberately, and with clarity.  We need more time, and more outreach to city residents.  Let people agree to it now, and not find out two years down the line, when their neighbor gets torn down for a three story condo project.

“We know the legacy and intentionality of single family zoning is intentionally racist.” – Councilwoman Yasmine Imani-McMorrin

“RHNA numbers are pie in the sky… We need to look at this from a realistic perspective… I will hate to see that we sold half the town to Wall Street investors who just rent everything out.” – Councilman Eriksson

“A lot of people in Cuvler City are owners because of a legacy of racism. They’re white people.” – Vice-Mayor Lee

“I fervently believe that the future of cities is denser more affordable and more desireable… single family isn’t racial exclusion explicitly but it’s class exclusion… and class segregation is racial segregation.” – Mayor Fisch