Newsom survives recall, SB9 and SB10 pass

What does this mean for Culver City?

As of this writing, Newsom has comfortably beaten back recall efforts 38-62%, with 93% of precincts reporting. Shortly after he was announced the winner, he passed SB9 and SB10, both which effectively eliminate single family neighborhoods throughout California. SB9 allows developers to build up to four units on any lot. SB10 allows developers to build up to ten units on any lot in any area deemed “job/transit rich”.

“Job/transit rich” describes about 80% of Culver City. This really makes us ground zero for massive zoning changes. This is the backdrop under which Council submitted their Draft Housing Element to the state for approval, which allows “incremental infill” in the entire city. “Incremental infill” is somewhat of a euphemism, which means any single family lot is eligible to develop up to four condos. There’s nothing incremental about it.

So what can be done?

The first thing is to submit comments about the Draft Housing Element – the link will take you to a comments form. We need to turn in our comments by October 1st. Shawn Danino is the representative who’ll be reviewing this document, we can e-mail him our concerns at Shawn.Danino@HCD.CA.gov as well as HousingElements@hcd.ca.gov. and forward your e-mail to us.

The thing to understand, though, is that with the passage of SB9 and SB10, we are effectively only meeting state law. To really protect the character of Culver City, we need to work with entities who are trying to roll that back.

Californians for Community Planning is organizing a ballot initiative that would repeal these laws. We suggest getting in contact with them to see how we can be involved. Locally, Culver City Neighbors United is also looking at options. They have some very clear instructions on how to send a letter to the state opposing our Housing Element.

Again, our main concern with Council’s Housing Element is nobody in our city knows this is happening. The Draft Housing Element itself is incomprehensible – to a point. Council is sneaking some radical changes under the radar.

Telling the state that you were never properly notified or engaged sends a powerful message about the lack of legitimacy to the process.

Upzoning issue – where we’re at

Council has instructed the General Plan Advisory Committee to study the plan to eliminate R1 zoning across Culver City. This means that our current regulations on single family homes and curtilage would go out the window. If these plans succeed, developers would be able to demolish any home, anywhere in the city, and replace it with a fourplex which reaches almost to the property line.

It’s not hard to visualize this. Simply look at what’s being built in our adjoining neighborhoods in Los Angeles.

So what can be done?

First is to keep your eyes on this page. We will let you know about upcoming events and action alerts.

You should also make your opinions known to City Council. You can find their contact info on the City Council page.

We are also keeping tabs on Culver City Neighbors United and their efforts to stop this upzoning. We recommend people get in touch with them.

We currently see two ways to stop this – a ballot initiative requiring voter approval of zoning changes, and getting new Councilmembers elected in 2022.

Upzoning meeting to be continued June 28, 3pm

REGISTER HERE AGENDA HERE

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.

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

REGISTER HERE AGENDA HERE

We will also meet at Rush Street (by City Hall) for an in-person remote viewing. Those without computers or internet are encouraged to attend. We will have a microphone so people can speak on the record at the meeting.

Other groups have also formed to raise awareness of this meeting and how it will affect our city.  Culver City Neighbors United has put out some great information about the various proposals on the table.  They also have a Facebook page. They are circulating An online petition 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.

Council to abolish single family zoning?

ACTION ALERT
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