Joint meeting with Planning Commission to end R1

ACTION ALERT
June 23rd 7pm via Webex

Council to discuss ending “exclusionary zoning”
– meaning single family (R1) zoning –
throughout the entire city.
This could allow massive developments anywhere in the city

Stay tuned to this page for events and action alerts related to this meeting. We may have our own in-person meeting, so those without computers may attend and speak up.

The city has put out a “Land Use Alternatives” survey.
Answers due by 11:59pm June 12th – details below
.

An online petition is also being circulated to tell council not to end single family zoning.

At Council’s meeting May 10th, a number of activists spoke before the meeting demanding the city agendize “ending exclusionary zoning.” Council assented, and is planning a joint meeting with the Planning Commission.

“Exclusionary zoning” is a euphemism which means Single Family zoning. It is based on the controversial take that single family homes are rooted in racism and are meant to keep minorities out of neighborhoods.

Our letter requesting Council mail out proper notice of this meeting

This means Council will be debating whether to end Single Family zoning on June 23rd.

A number of us put forth the demand that the city put out adequate notice by mail to all Culver City residents regarding such a critical change in city zoning. So far they have refused. As promised, we are doing their job for them.

The city has published a “Land Use Alternatives” survey. to their online audience. No proof of residence or identity is required to answer this survey. It asks whether you agree with such statemtents as the following, which hide their true intention:

  • “small developments across the city are preferable to very large developments in a few places.” This is asking whether you want to upzone the entire city or just along transit corridors.
  • “Incremental infill is a good strategy to accommodate new housing in Culver City.” – meaning, do you think any plot in Culver City should be able to hold up to four condos?
  • Incremental densification would allow up to six units on any plot.
  • SB9 and SB10 are now in the California legislature. SB10 would allow up to TEN condos on any plot of land. Our council would abide by these statewide regulations.
  • It asks whether you want affordable housing – which sounds good, but we have no idea what “Implement the Vision and Guiding Principles” or what loopholes it contains. The devil is always in the details.

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.

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.

Comment suggestions for CC housing providers for the next two weeks

While Protect Culver City is mobilizing to support Measure B, multifamily owners still need to push back HARD on the permanent rent control ordinance, which is taking shape in an extremely punishing form.  Looks like it will be even tougher than the Interim Rent Control Ordinance. Heaven forbid we get stuck with it!

Plan on commenting about specific features that will be difficult for you in open comments Monday, Sept. 14 during Items Not on the Agenda and then at the special meeting for the permanent ordinance Monday, Sept. 21.  The WebEx verbal comments seem to be more effective than written comments and vividly demonstrate the extent to which the legitimate concerns of housing providers are not being considered.

Culver City Meetings and Agendas are here.

To speak at the meeting by internet, register before the meeting starts here. You will receive a link by email link to join. To speak after the meeting starts, send an email to city.clerk@culvercity.org.

To speak at the meeting by phone, contact the City Clerk’s Office at city.clerk@culvercity.org or (310) 253-5851. Provide your name, phone number and the Agenda Item about which you wish to speak so that they can find you and allow you to talk. To submit written eComments to the 9/14 City Council meeting, click here. Click on eComment. You will be instructed to register if you haven’t registered for written comments before. eComments close at 4:00pm.

We are now past the point where there’s value in highlighting philosophical differences (the council doesn’t care whether you think they’re socialist) or describing how gentle our rent increases have been in the past.  In fact, past testimony about gentle increases are being cited as justification for the penury caps now under consideration.

The two biggest pain points so far are 1) the projected caps, which sound like they will be limited to regional CPI and nothing else, and 2) the potential vesting period for tenant protections, which are poised to be limited to six months instead of a year (for the original tenant) and two years (for every adult added to the unit in the first year) as under AB1482.  You would only have time to address one issue or the other.  You could do so by answering these sets of questions: 

CPI: Would your building pencil out if you were only able to raise your rents at the rate of the regional CPI. Feel free to double check my calculations, but the annual average over the past decade appears to only be 2.14%*

https://www.bls.gov/regions/west/data/consumerpriceindex_losangeles_table.pdf

 https://www.bls.gov/regions/west/data/cpi_tables.pdf

What is the actual rate at which your operating expenses are increasing?  Undoubtedly, they are increasing at a much faster pace.  Put a pencil to paper and compute your delta.  Let the council know whether this formula for a rent cap is going to allow you to earn your fair rate of return (as calculated by maintenance of net operating income – i.e. preserve your pre-rent control NOI plus inflation).  If only being able to raise your rents at the rate of the regional CPI isn’t going to keep you in business, demand that the city include a guaranteed minimum cap increase in addition to CPI.  The city of Los Angeles, the county of Los Angeles and statewide rent control provide such guardrails against low inflation, and we should have them, too!  Such a guaranteed floor is not a guarantee that housing providers would charge the minimum but that we would have the flexibility to do so when needed.  

  • Vesting: Housing providers have advocated for a 12-month vesting period for tenant protections for incoming tenants — as in AB1482.  The idea was to make sure that a new leasee isn’t a problem tenant before becoming eligible for eviction protections and relocation fees, which infinitely complicate their removal. The council appears intent on only allowing a six-month vesting period.  They argue that a longer period would encourage housing providers to evict in order to chase a higher rent with a new tenant.  Does your rental market shoot up that rapidly?  Aren’t your listing and turn-over costs so high that they would never allow you to evict a new tenant except if his behavior were so egregious that it threatened your good tenants?  Alternatively, would a six-month vesting period provide enough of an incentive for you to consider renting to more risky tenants – those with marginal financials, a history of nuisance in prior rentals or perhaps a criminal background? Further, would six months be enough time for you to fairly determine whether an incoming tenant is proving to be a nuisance for the rest of your building. If not, speak up! 

If the above are not your issues, here are other growing areas of concern:

  • Program Costs: Anticipated program costs, which were already suspiciously low when compared to neighboring jurisdictions, appear to be dramatically increasing.  Already, industry experts have warned that the city’s estimates were one-half or one-fourth of those in neighboring jurisdictions. But the council majority has been piling on features, including rental registry updates at every possible interval, elaborate inspection regimes and multiple types of hearings.   Demand that the city provide a new, accurate calculation of the program’s anticipated cost.  It’s bad enough that the city is considering adding a new program when the pandemic has exacerbated the city government’s fiscal woes and deprived many housing providers of collections when they have no relief for their costs.  But to do so without a true accounting does not make sense.  This is no time to write a blank check for a program when rents are falling and ample tenant protections are already in place due to state and federal eviction moratoriums and statewide rent control.
  • Limited Pass-Throughs: Do you have the ability to pack a whole lot of costs onto your base rent following your next vacancy?  The council majority thinks you do.  They are only willing to have existing tenants pick up 50% of the program’s fee – and that for a limited group of mom-and-pop providers.  For tenants who move in after rent control is in place, fees on owners will be responsible for the program’s entire cost (except when there are deficits, which the city has to swallow).  Further, very few pass throughs would be allowed for improvements.  The council expects you to be able to tack those costs onto incoming tenants at your next vacancy.  Is the sky the limit on what you can charge new tenants?  Don’t market forces, especially during economic downturns like the one we’re going through, put strong limits on your starting rents? 

Do you foresee having to recover your unit for substantial renovation?  Listen carefully to council deliberations video  on Aug. 17 around this particular issue (roughly 2:25:49 to 2:44:05).  The council majority is leaning toward the City of Los Angeles’s set of regulations, which are highly restrictive.   

*Corrected CPI from 1.81% to 2.14%

Meeting “Homeless Czar” Helen Chin

On Thursday, August 27, a couple of us got on a phone call with Helen Chin, assistant to the city manager on homelessness.  A lot of people wonder why we need this “homeless czar” but the answer is relatively simple.  Recent court decisions have made it very difficult to enforce vagrancy and camping laws, and activists have made sure cities abide by those laws.  This issue came to our city last July, when we changed our own city policy to match Los Angeles policy under the 405. 

What was once a very simple affair is now a nearly impossible task.  If someone sleeps on our streets, and they don’t want to move, we can’t make them. 

There are guidelines our city can meet, and things we can do to nudge people off the streets and get them into shelters or programs.  It is now a complicated process involving coordination among several departments – police, code enforcement, mental health, and a couple others.  Ms. Chin’s job is to act as central point for all these departments in dealing with transients on our streets. 

A recent federal court ruling has given us a ray of hope – a judge ordered that freeway underpasses in LA County be cleared from transient camps.  The ruling itself is actually far more complicated than it sounds, but we found it worth discussing with Ms. Chin.  We had some good takeaways from the discussion.

First, we expressed our frustration that we repeatedly talk about the crime aspect of this – it’s the crime and the public safety aspect of this that we’re concerned with.  When we bring this up, we are accused of “criminalizing homelessness.”  We told Helen about our own policy that those sleeping on our streets need to follow the same rules they would at a shelter.  If they don’t follow those rules – if they commit any crimes – we call the police.

We came to a mutual understanding on that.

We then discussed the issue of beds.  Part of the lawsuit in question was an agreement to reduce the number of beds needed before a city could enforce its camping/vagrancy laws.  Where it was previously held to an odd standard of one bed per every homeless counted in a city (nevermind how many are in use), this judge lowered the standard to 60%.  He also said that cities didn’t have to house homeless within city limits. Other cities are pooling resources to build shelters away from their residents.

Chin then talked about Culver City’s discussions with the county on homelessness.  We also shared the understanding that this “beds vs homeless” calculus was a strange unsolvable metric.  If we build more beds, more will come in.  That sounds obvious, but our brain trust at the homelessness committee have proposed taking $7 million out of the police budget and giving every one of our 300 homeless a two bedroom apartment.  As if once we do this, the problem would be solved. It’s good to know our city staff isn’t agreeing with that.

Chin even mentioned that a lot of our native homeless population – a more benign elderly type – have been chased out by a younger more aggressive crowd.  This supports our observation that we really have a criminal vagrancy issue, and not just locals driven out by rising housing costs.  This experience has been corroborated in other cities. But again, not a position taken over by our homelessness committee or Culver City’s Housing Administrator.

The big takeaway from this meeting is that homelessness is a county issue.  The county is in the business of mental health and homelessness.  Our city, ultimately, is not.  We don’t have to build shelters in the middle of our city, we don’t have to divert half our budget to shelters at Veteran’s Park if we are to keep our streets and parks clean.

Finally, we discussed the underpasses themselves.  We shared stories about the people who’ve taken residence under there.  The city does do sweeps of the south side of Venice/405 every Wednesday.  The city invited a couple of us to join them, and we’ve enthusiastically accepted their invitation. 

We want to know who’s under there and what’s going on.  We ask that anyone who goes on the sweeps to take notes and bring us a report.

We avoided the worst – what to expect next

Council voted 3-2 against Culver City Action Network’s initial proposal to defund our $45 million police budget by nearly $8 million at their June 15th meeting. The vote break down was Eriksson, Fisch and Small against the cuts, and Sahli-Wells and Lee for the cuts. The cuts they proposed instead were minor – about $400,000. Such cuts showed both a respect for our police and an understanding for our Covid-related budget shortfall.

Now, CCAN has decided to double down. They are demanding at least a 50% reduction in CCPD’s police budget within three months.

The question now is whether Fisch and Small voted against the cuts because they genuinely support CCPD, or simply because the initial proposed cuts were too hasty.

Indeed, such cuts were hasty on an insane level. This initial budget cut would have been ratified at the June 22nd meeting, and implemented July 1st – leading to massive and immediate layoffs in our police department. And no real plan of implementation.

Rather than implement these immediate cuts at their 22nd meeting, council voted to create a “task force” which would would “reimagine public safety.” It is fortunately composed of city staff only, keeping it relatively isolated from political activists. But it will be working with the Police Chief’s Advisory Panel – a newly formed body of about 20 residents and students, which is still nebulous in its nature and mission. Considering what we heard from students at meetings on the 15th and 22nd, this should concern us. They were the primary voice behind defunding the police, and seemed organized by our own school board.

Fisch and Small have repeatedly paid homage to CCAN in the past and have aligned themselves with it. Meanwhile, Eriksson was the only councilmember who publicly defended CCPD after the riots and subsequent attacks on CCPD’s reputation. Which leaves us concerned that their rejection of the initial proposal was only so they can provide clear legal cover for even deeper, more permanent cuts in the next few months.

This is why our campaign is not just going strong, but is now more urgent than ever. We bought ourselves until September to rally the residents of Culver City to this cause. We need to inform each other of these proposed cuts, and how dangerously close we are to losing our police department. We must confront the lies and smears about our police, which serve the sole purpose of undermining or abolishing it. And we must show our council we want to keep CCPD as is, are organized, and will do what it takes to keep it.

A 3-2 vote against gutting our police overnight was way too close for comfort. We must remind our council that it’s not just the “overnight” part we oppose.

June 22nd council meeting and CCPD: what to expect

Culver City council meeting Monday the 22nd will be approving the 2020/21 budget (Item PH-1) and establishing “a Task Force to Review Public Safety Services” (Item A-2).

We have assurances from 3 out of 5 councilmembers that no cuts to Culver City Police Department will be made that will result in any layoffs. CCPD is freezing new hiring and that’s it. That’s not stopping a fringe group organized by councilmembers Lee and Sahli-Wells from pushing a radical demand to defund CCPD by 50% in three months. As we’ve said before, the intent of such cuts is to abolish CCPD entirely, leaving our city at the mercy of the county Sheriff. They’ve referred to this in their demand note.

Defend CCPD Yard Sign
Get your “Defend CCPD” yard sign! Contact us for details.

We knew that getting council to forego gutting CCPD’s budget tomorrow would, at best, buy us some time. That’s why our “Defend Don’t Defund” campaign is still going strong. We recommend everyone get a yard sign, and distribute flyers to their neighbors about what’s at stake. People should also join the council Webex meeting tomorrow and “raise their hand” to speak.

We know online meetings are difficult to navigate. You can also file an eComment (read the tutorial here) or just e-mail comments to public.comment@culvercity.org. But speaking at council is the best way to make yourself heard. Supporters of defunding CCPD are a small minority, but they are loud, well organized, and connected to councilmembers. They will try to get in line first to speak, and pretend they’re the dominant voice.

Here’s how you can speak tomorrow:

  1. Register for tomorrow’s meeting online at this link.
  2. Once you have registered, you will be emailed a link.  Check email and confirm your account.
  3. The DAY OF the meeting (Monday 6/22) you will receive an email allowing you to “Join Event”.  Follow that link and it will forward you to Webex.  You will have a box on your screen to write “I (state your name) request to speak on Agenda Item (PH-1 for budget, A-2 for police task force).
  4. You will be set up and on mute, until they are ready for you to speak, and they will unmute you.  

If this sounds confusing, it is. We still need more details and confirmation on this – like when we are clear to join the meeting. Our goal is to make sure they don’t monopolize the first part of the meeting.

Some talking points to make when you speak:

  1. Thank council for promising us to be able to debate on this issue before they make any profound changes to our police department. We hope they follow through on this promise today.
  2. Our police department heroically saved this city May 30-31. Cutting the police budget would leave them unable to do exactly what they did that weekend.
  3. We passed Measure CC (extending the half-cent sales tax increase) in March overwhelmingly, because council invoked our police department and our need to preserve it. To turn around and gut it now, would mean they lied about why they needed this tax increase.
  4. Our police department enjoys a 78% approval rating. Council, on the other hand, has a 47% approval rating. Council’s rating has dropped precipitously since this time last year.
  5. We are barely keeping up with these “defund the police” plans that are unagendized and unannounced to Culver City residents. We hope these next three months will involve a legitimate discussion and not just legal cover before council goes along with this tiny minority.

City Leaders Speak Out Against Defunding CCPD

Our PAC wasn’t the only one to take calls to defund Culver City’s Police Department seriously. A number of ex-mayors, ex-councilmembers, and other city leaders have stepped forward to give their statements in support of our elite police department. These citizens have no relationship to our PAC. We are just happy to see others are stepping forward with similar concerns. Here they are as follows:

Andy Weissman
Jim Clarke
Jozelle Smith
David Voncannon
Ed Wolkowitz
Jeff Cooper
Marcus Tiggs

May 12 Neighborhood Watch meeting recap

The 405 project continues.  On Tuesday, May 12th, we held a Webex meeting to further discuss a Neighborhood Watch around the Venice/405 and other 405 underpasses in Culver City.  Former mayor Richard Marcus (1999-2000) was our featured speaker.  He discussed his experience building a Neighborhood Watch around Sunkist Park back in the 90s.  We then looked compared his experiences with our challenges, and what we could learn from him.  We were surprised at how little things change.

Richard talked about the issues in the 90s.  Gangs, drug dealing, dogs defecating in a park where children play.  The breaking point came when people’s cars were being stolen or vandalized in their own driveways, and burglars who tied a homeowner to a chair while they helped themselves to her belongings and food.  Richard realized if he didn’t do something, he’d be next.

Richard started complaining to the police, then realized they don’t know who he is or whether he’s on their side.  They explained the concept of a Neighborhood Watch, and that if he could get eight people together, they’d come and talk to him and his neighbors.  The idea of talking to his neighbors was a foreign concept, but Richard went ahead anyway.  That first meeting, he was hoping for his eight people.  65 people wound up showing up.  That’s how bad things were.

He mentioned three pillars a proper Neighborhood Watch relies on – which definitely chimes with our own experience:

  1. Taking responsibility for our own safety and security.  There’s only so much the police can help us without our support.  We need to take control of our own neighborhood and realize we are the final public safety program.
  2. Active awareness.  We can’t take responsibility for our neighborhood if we’re not aware of it.  A few of us have already started “walking a beat.”  In our current situation, we want to expand this concept and have a full knowledge of everything happening at our underpasses.  The Venice/405 underpass has gotten bad enough where it will be risky, but we have ideas on how to go about it.
  3. Effective communication with police – this was the most important and tough concept to swallow, especially in difficult times like these.  It’s easy for people to get frustrated, and either say police are part of the problem, or worse: take matters into their own hands. 
    Richard really made a strong point here.  Until we have a real relationship with CCPD, they don’t know if we’re part of the problem or the solution.  We need to show we’re on their side.  We need to build a relationship, so that when we call, they know we’re not just some crank, and will take the call seriously.  The more they got to know us, the more likely they are to investigate. 
    A big concept here is “Probable Cause.”  If police go into an area alone, they really don’t have much authority to question people.  Especially in this climate were police are not allowed to “harass” people or “criminalize homelessness.”  But if someone calls in suspicious activity, especially if they’re tied to a reliable Neighborhood Watch, this is their golden ticket to investigate.

A big point he made was to address the crime, not the people.  We’ve already noticed this in our own calls.  If you call in someone sleeping on the sidewalk, the first thing CCPD will ask is “do they look high?  Do they have any weapons?”  They’re looking for signs of criminal activity.  Again, much as some people would like, the police have no authority to stop and question someone for living on the street and “experiencing homelessness.” 

Richard had the same issue with gangs in Sunkist Park in the 90s.  You can’t arrest someone for being in a gang, or hanging around in a park.  Even if you know they’re up to no good, that’s not enough for police to come and do something.  But you can let them know they’re on notice, and the locals are watching and reporting. 

The police do want to help. They just need the authority to act first.  “Yes, the police are on a leash, but they’re still dogs” Richard said to audible laughter.  Again, if we call in suspicious criminal activity, the police will come, and they will have authority to act on it.  Even under the current legal revolving door, when open drug use and other criminal activity gets you in and out of jail in a couple hours.  You still ruined someone’s high for the day. If they know they can’t get high or cause mischief around your block, they’ll go find another spot. 

That makes deterrence the primary goal of a Neighborhood Watch.  Richard mentioned the “Oh Crap” signs they posted around their neighborhood: “If I don’t call you, my neighbor will.”  Someone up to no good sees the sign, and is officially on notice.  Especially once the word gets out that these signs are backed up by residents.

Building the Neighborhood Watch took work, but was not too complicated and is relatively easy to replicate: make flyers about the next meeting, and hand them out around the neighborhood.  Eventually they got to the point where people came up to Richard, upset that they never got a flyer.  Those people “self-identify themselves as volunteers.”  They would get 30 flyers of their own and instructions to hand them around their block.  This is how the watch grew.  For money, they fundraised by selling their “Oh Crap” signs to neighbors.

We learned last night that while we’re in a new situation with the Venice/405 camp, the basic principles haven’t changed.  If we’re vigilant, we can keep control of our neighborhood.  But we need to be disciplined and productive.  We need to go from frustrated individuals to an organization that the police can trust. That’s when we can get our way.

Ultimately, Richard’s Neighborhood Watch was a victim of its own success.  As Sunkist Park got safer, residents got complacent and dropped out.  Meanwhile, people with political agendas found a captive audience to push their politics. 

But there’s no reason we can’t do what Richard and his neighbors did 20 years ago.