Upzoning meeting to be continued June 28, 3pm


Wednesday’s meeting received over 150 speakers and 500 pages of written comments.  Even with only 1 minute per speaker, Council ended their meeting around 1:30 AM and will continue item A-2 on Monday at 3pm.  Jamie Wallace of Culver City Neighbors United also provided a recap.

A-1 was on “exclusionary zoning” and an “affordable housing overlay” (AHO) – euphemisms for single family zoning and relaxing code regulations for developers.  A-2 was for examining GPAC’s proposals for zoning changes.  They have three proposals.  Only the first proposal will maintain R1 zoning as it is.

Mayor Fisch assured people that that A-1 was not about eliminating R1, and that they should avoid speaking on it.  Yet he was betrayed by his minority of activists who spoke.  They claimed R1 was racist, exclusionary, and contributes to climate change, and needs to be done away with.  The vast majority of speakers on A-1 were opposed to upzoning or eliminating R1, and were concerned about how an AHO would pencil out into more affordable housing.  The council voted 5-0 to study AHO further.  We are looking forward to the results of that.

The three member majority (Fisch, Lee, McMorrin) also seemed to agree that Culver City is hampered by older residents benefiting from Prop 13, and the city somehow needs to get around that.  They said as much, in various forms.  It’s an odd profit-maximizing theory of city government.  

Most speakers also raised concerns about how confusing and opaque the whole GPAC process was.  Many are now considering an initiative to require voter approval of zoning changes.  Which is worth talking about.  As we said at our founding, it isn’t what this Council is doing – the scandal is how they’re doing it.

One Reply to “Upzoning meeting to be continued June 28, 3pm”

  1. This comment is a supplement to my earlier comment in light of last week’s first public session on the issue of changing zoning.

    The proposed zoning changes violate state law in many respects.

    The proposal will create density without affordability. It will negatively affect the environment, it will not create “affordable” housing, and it will destroy the character of residential neighborhoods, all in violation of state law.

    The very recent case of ISSAKHANI v. SHADOW GLEN HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION, INC., in a published ruling by the Court on April 30, 2021, states that “the chief purposes of zoning laws is to “maint[ain] . . . the character of residential neighborhoods”.

    Clearly the city’s proposed zoning change would do the opposite, viz. it would completely change the character of residential neighborhoods. Thus, the city’s proposed change is in violation of state law.

    What is the meaning of “affordable” and can that be accomplished in R1 areas of Culver City? The clear answer is “no”. The zoning proposal is based upon the false premise that affordable housing can be developed in existing R1 neighborhoods. It can’t because the economies of scale don’t work to significantly reduce the price of a multi-unit condo development on 1/3 of an acre, the typical size of an R1 lot.

    “Affordable Housing” begs the question, what does “affordable” mean?

    Here is the law:

    GOVERNMENT CODE SECTION 65589.5. – (h) The following definitions apply for the purposes of this section:

    (3) “Housing for very low, low-, or moderate-income households” means that either (A) at least 20 percent of the total units shall be sold or rented to lower income households, as defined in Section 50079.5 of the Health and Safety Code, or (B) 100 percent of the units shall be sold or rented to persons and families of moderate income as defined in Section 50093 of the Health and Safety Code, or persons and families of middle income, as defined in Section 65008 of this code. Housing units targeted for lower income households shall be made available at a monthly housing cost that does not exceed 30 percent of 60 percent of area median income with adjustments for household size made in accordance with the adjustment factors on which the lower income eligibility limits are based. Housing units targeted for persons and families of moderate income shall be made available at a monthly housing cost that does not exceed 30 percent of 100 percent of area median income with adjustments for household size made in accordance with the adjustment factors on which the moderate-income eligibility limits are based.

    Rezoning will not provide “affordable” housing as defined in the Government Code. Why? Because any condos or townhouses built on small residential lots will sell for almost $2 million. That is way above the affordability tests in the Government Code.

    One component that affects affordability is lot size. The smaller the lot, the less the economies of scale. Compare Playa Vista for example. There, a very large area of vacant land was developed into residential buildings with about 150 units each. The developers there took advantage of economies of scale to develop units in large buildings, saving money for construction by spreading the cost over many units.

    You can’t do the same on a 1/3-acre R1 lot in Culver City. A developer’s costs would be much higher in Culver City because he can’t spread the cost over numerous units. That is why a comparable newly developed residential unit in Culver City sells for more than twice as much as Playa Vista.

    The pro-change commentators seem to be younger people who demographically and statistically don’t have the financial ability to buy a condo on a multi-unit small lot in Culver City. My impression is that they want a unit in Culver City for free and they expect the City to subsidize it. Is the city willing to spend possibly upwards of a billion dollars to do that? I don’t think the City has that type of money. On my street, the tree trimming is once every five years because the city doesn’t have the budget for more frequent tree trimming. I don’t think the city has the money for helping thousands of people to buy housing in Culver City.

    None of the commentators who spoke in favor of the zoning change explain what affordable means to them. I spoke to a local realtor who recently sold a new townhouse for $1.7 million on Madison Ave in a pre-WW2-built area of Culver City. Other recent sales of new units on multi-unit lots have sold for over $2 million. Please ask any of the pro-change commentators to explain how that is considered affordable to them. Ask what is their salary, what is their credit rating, what are their existing assets they bring to the table for a down payment. How do they explain how they could buy at that price level? And if they can afford it, that proves their financial ability is not in the category of needing “affordable” housing as defined by state law.

    Are there less intrusive or onerous alternatives to the City Council’s proposal?

    In the case of LAUREL HEIGHTS IMPROV. v. Regents of Univ. of Calif., 47 Cal.3d 376 (1988), the California Supreme Court stated that:
    The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) whenever a public agency proposes to approve a project that may have a significant effect on the environment. The purpose of an environmental impact report is to provide the public with detailed information about the effect which a proposed project is likely to have on the environment; to list ways in which the significant effects of such a project might be minimized; and to indicate alternatives to such a project.” CEQA provisions and Guidelines make clear that “One of its [an EIR’s] major functions … is to ensure that all reasonable alternatives to proposed projects are thoroughly assessed.”

    The denser the urban environment, the more crime, pollution, traffic, noise, and a need for larger sewers, schools and more police. All of these aspects need to be investigated in an Environmental Impact Report, as required by state law.

    The city has an obligation to protect its residents before attempts to accommodate possible non-residents. In that regard, there are ways for two things to be true at the same time: protect the existing residents, preserve current density in R1 areas and at the same time accommodate possible non-residents by locating “affordable” housing along the main boulevards: Venice, Culver, Washington, Jefferson and Sepulveda. Those main boulevards are already zoned for multi-unit dwellings and the lots along these corridors are sufficiently large enough to accommodate the required economies of scale to construct multi-story housing that would get much closer to any calculation of “affordability” as defined by state law. State law requires that the city utilize these main streets to provide the reasonable alternatives necessary to protect Culver City.

    Jerry Green

    On Tue, Jun 22, 2021 at 9:17 PM Jerry Green wrote:
    My name is Jerry Green. My residence is 4345 Motor Ave, Culver City, CA 90232.

    I OPPOSE changing zoning in Culver City.

    I am an attorney. If this agenda item is passed, I shall file a lawsuit against the city in Federal Court, with the following causes of action:

    1. Failure of the city to have an environmental impact report to study increased congestion, noise and pollution from overcrowding.
    2. Failure of the city to have an economic impact report to study the increased burden on public resources including schools, sewers, utilities, road maintenance, police and safety.
    3. Destruction of the American dream to one day own a single family home.
    4. Taking of property without compensation in violation of the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution.
    5. Violation of federal law as to proper procedure for changes in zoning in established neighborhoods.
    6. Violation of state law as to proper procedure for changes in zoning in established neighborhoods.

    I am also a member of the International Honor Society in Economics and I have passed the California Certified Public Accountant exam. I can assure you that the proposed change in Zoning will NOT result in affordable housing.

    1. Single family home lot sizes are too small for developing affordable housing.
    2. Any developer who acquires these lots will not develop them for apartments because of the specter of rent control.
    3. Lots will be developed for condos which I have calculated, even with multiple condos on a single small lot, will each be for sale for over $1 million each. The opposite of affordability.

    Jerry Green

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