As promised, our final council meeting of the year delivered quite the goodybag of issues. Residents spoke out on a number of issues, including some of us at Protect Culver City. Let’s recap:
To start the meeting, a few of us spoke about our petition
to agendize criminal vagrancy at a future council meeting. Nupur
Tustin, and Lisa and Frank Clark gave very impassioned speeches about the
state of affairs at the Venice/405 camp and how it’s affecting their
I also spoke about the rising threat of criminal vagrancy,
distinguishing it from homelessness, and offered PCC’s help to council in
combating this problem. My main point:
“If somebody decides to sleep on our streets or in our parks, and we have
somewhere to send them, can we move them?”
Council quickly made it obvious they wanted to be no part of
the solution. Mayor Sahli-Wells instead
discussed the “crisis of homelessness”,
saying “The way you address homelessness is by ensuring people have a
home.” This led to jeers and a verbal
altercation between council and the audience.
Both councilman Eriksson and city manager John Nachbar
welcomed residents to contact them about dealing with this issue. PCC has reached out to Nachbar for help. But make no mistake. If council addresses this crime issue, which
everyone in the area is experiencing in desparate proportions, as a “housing”
issue? This is a total failure of moral
clarity about the problem. It can only
result in further freefall and disaster for our city.
I called them out on this issue at the C-13 item, regarding an
assistant to the city manager on homelessness.
This is meant to streamline our operations in dealing with vagrancy, and
as I mentioned in my earlier comment, we’d be willing to support this. But, I continued: “I find the fact that we’re
discussing as a housing issue is a lie!
…you can’t solve this problem if you call this a housing issue, no
matter how many cops we have, no matter how many employees or lawyers we
have. We need the moral clarity to
discuss this as a crime issue.”
Item A-1 – discussing the police drone program – was a
surprising progress over earlier hearings.
We didn’t have our usual anti-police contingency smearing our PD as
murdering cops. The progress report was
very positive, and council was supportive.
It was almost uneventful, except for FD battalion chief Kolhep saying
the drone “helped us rule out all non-arson causes” (1:27:15 in the meeting
video) regarding the July 22nd 99c store fire. We’ll be following up on that.
Item A-5 was our other major item: discussing the cost of
the rent control program. A few people
spoke out saying the cost was too prohibitive, given we’re in a financial
crisis as a city. I don’t think that’s
the best argument, which is why I didn’t speak about it. Sure enough, Mayor Sahli-Wells said “budgets
are value statements” implying that if the program yields a net benefit to the
city, it’s worth the cost.
The problem with Wells’s arguments about the value of the
program (4:09:00) is, we challenge the veracity of all of them.
She claims “we got here because of a grassroots effort of
residents in this city.” It was such a
grassroots effort that candidates Fisch and Lee avoided the issue of rent
control entirely, and Fisch claimed outright he opposes rent control. Indeed, nobody ran on the issue, and even
debate moderators said it was off the table.
She claims the movement was a combination of renters and
sympathetic homeowners (i.e. herself and her friends). It was such a widespread movement that
despite months of underground organizing she only managed to get a few dozen
signed cards supporting rent control for the June meeting. Meanwhile, we at PCC are getting such a
groundswell of support we’re straining our ability to deal with all the intake. Unlike the alleged tenant’s fear of
landlords, who can face all sorts of legal trouble for retaliation, residents
live in very real fear of a retaliatory council and their supporters.
To add insult to injury, Mayor Wells continues to tie rent
control to the “extreme moment of high homelessness.” Even she contradicts herself in her own official
homelessness video, when she says the homeless “come to Culver City because
they feel safe.”
Such a conflation didn’t stop her from claiming “we need the
data … based on facts on the ground, not scare tactics.”
This litany of baldfaced lies prompted Judy Scott, longtime
LTMB member, to come up and give an impromptu rebuttal (4:25:00). “For fourteen years, I’ve done exactly two
mediations of over 50% increase, both done by sale of the property…. What you
want me to believe is, hordes of people been priced out of their homes, not one
of them filed for a mediation request…because in the past three years, the
highest increase we’ve mediated was 15%.”
Mayor Wells’ only reply was “I know we have a lot of
examples that don’t fall within what was just shared with us.” And that’s all we ever hear from her. Always anonymous anecdotes, never verifiable,
because they don’t exist. Her claims
that “tenants are afraid” is easily refuted by the fact mediations are
confidential. Her own consultants, Bay
Area Economics, pointed out that rents among multifamily units only rose about
3% annually in the past 5 years – contrasted with the 80% increase in home
prices over the same period.
These should be our arguments with rent control – not the
cost, or what it’ll do to landlords.
Despite throwing around the claim of “fair return”, Mayor Wells prides
herself in making enemies among landlords, and said “rent controlled landlords
are doing fine.”
Rather, our contention is twofold. One, it’s a lot of nonsense.
But two – and this is the big one for renters – it kills the
rental market. Meghan continued to
praise the one eviction they managed to save (from the effects of their own
rent control program). Meanwhile, we at
PCC we’re already seeing the disastrous conclusions of just the interim
freeze. One testimonial after another of
vacated units, properties going up for sale, renters scrambling for what rare
unit is left, etc.
To their credit, we are seeing one high vacancy rate – these
new luxury condos being built, way out of anybody’s price range at $3000-6000+
per unit. It’s certainly a consensus of
suspicion that the real goal of rent control is to force the older more
affordable multifamily units off the market.
This forces people either into newer more expensive units or onto the
new normal of street living.
But going down that road gets us lost in webs of
Rather, we should invoke what may be the one public comment that mattered: the very first one by Katherine Makinney (0:07:30): “The broader issue is that council is not going to listen.” This total failure to face up to facts, to listen and dialogue with residents, this deliberate conflation of housing with crime – these are the red flags of a rogue council with an alien agenda.