UCLA Lewis Center students release reports with Culver City recommendations

The projects were done under the supervision of Professor Paavo Monkkonen, who is also a member of the General Plan Advisory Committee

Students from UCLA’s Lewis Center for Regional Studies released several reports with analysis on several aspects of Culver City living, including traffic and housing. This research is done as part of a master’s level class on urban planning and development taught by Professor Paavo Monkkonen, and addresses a variety of issues pertaining to the infrastructure and management of Culver City.

The first of six papers is entitled ‘Advancing Community Engagement in Culver City,’ written by Bradley Bounds II, Lennox Chaiveera, and Daniel Ruiz. Through research and discussion with city staff and councilmembers, the three students came to the following five conclusions regarding the city’s current community engagement: 

Past projects within Culver City have focused mostly on checking off the box of requirements, rather than truly engaging within their planning and development.

Having community buy in, meeting people where they are, and utilizing different methods of engagement stood out within conversations as ideas that merit further attention. 

Participation to what end is a concept that should be central to most development projects and city planning initiatives in order to maintain a higher level of meaningful participation. 

Common barriers to inclusion within projects include time restrictions and a lack of funds. 

Participation within the city of Culver City generally stems from the same couple of individuals and as a result more work is needed to engage community members that are not usually as involved. 

The paper followed up with a list of recommendations, the first being a formation of a community engagement team and a community outreach plan. This would include gathering important information about the city, including an active and detailed list of its neighborhood groups and community stakeholders. This would then be translated into a list of different types of outreach methods for the city to implement, including printed, electronic or digital, and in-person options.

According to interviews with several members of the city staff and government, including council member Daniel Lee and Advance Planning Manager Ashley Hefner, the city generally follows standard engagement practices as outlined by the state of California. However, Lee admitted that the city has “pretty much just done what is required by law,” in this regard. 

Five different projects were used by the students as case studies: Fox Hills Plaza at 6221 Bristol Pkwy., Reimagine Fox Hills, 11111 Jefferson Blvd., 10858 Culver Blvd., and the Culver Studios construction. 

The first project was an example of what Lee himself called “a poor example of public engagement.”

“There was no real indication that any of the concerns of the community that were voiced in the first and second meeting, were incorporated into their plans… the community did not feel listened to,” Lee told the students in an interview.

One solution that the report brings up is the use of different venues for city council meetings. This would allow the city to gauge how location and neighborhood demographics of the hosted meeting site would affect the community’s participation in these meetings and the development of the city at large.

Freddie Puza, a resident of Fox Hills as well as a member of the General Plan Advisory committee, attributed the poor outreach to a being unable to reach the people who would be most affected by the project.

The Reimagine Fox Hills brought some of the challenges that outreach faces from the community. First, many members of the community felt uncomfortable at these meetings because developers were also present at these meetings, and these people did not feel like the developers had their interest at heart.

There was also an issue trying to properly discern through the many voices that wanted to be heard on the matter. These concerned people included those living in Culver City, but not living in the Fox Hills neighborhood. Fox Hills residents believed that those outside their neighborhood shouldn’t have sway over what happened with the project, and there were additional disagreements amongst the members of the Fox Hills community on issues like traffic and parking.

The 11111 Jefferson Blvd. project reflected an even deeper disconnect between developer and residents. Developers complained about faulty information being spread by residents opposed to the development.

The Wende Museum community center was different in that executive director Justin Jampol lead the outreach process, and held community meetings before getting city approval, according to councilmember Lee.

Finally, the Culver Studios was seen as a decent model for community outreach on projects. It faced significant opposition in its early stages, but adjustments from the developer after listening to community concerns turned that opposition into heavy support.

Further breakdowns of the remaining five papers will appear in upcoming issues of the Culver City News. To view the reports in full, visit the General Plan Official Website at pictureculvercity.com