Zoning Changes about Freedom

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This week, the California Legislature, a graveyard of many past bills allowing for more housing stock, finally took action and passed SB 9 and SB 10, both of which ease restrictions on building new housing. SB 9 even legalizes duplexes and lot splits on most single family home zoned properties in the state. The legislature met our housing crisis with modest solutions, but as Culver City is advantageously located near thousands of jobs and transit, our housing needs are even greater than these bills permit.

My partner and I have rented in Culver City for 8 years and cannot afford to buy a home anywhere near us, despite making decent money and keeping our expenses low. If we aren’t able to afford a home, how can we possibly expect anyone remotely struggling to be able to do so?

The vast majority of Culver City’s residential land currently bans anything but single family homes which are the least dense, least carbon-efficient, and least affordable land use option. These exclusionary zoning laws put in place decades ago lock out less affluent buyers and often people of color, contributing significantly to our housing crisis. Average home prices in Culver City have nearly tripled over the past decade, reaching its current all-time high of $1.34M ($1.6M for a single family home). 

While Culver City planners and land use experts have recommended gently easing some of these restrictions and removing the ban on duplexes, fourplexes, and apartments, I have heard many of our neighbors cry foul.

‘They are taking away our way of life!’ “this won’t create any affordable housing,” and “where will my kids play?”

Change in almost any form is certain to incite fear in some, but it is disappointing to hear some neighbors seemingly wanting to pull up the ladder behind them. 

The idea that ending the ban on apartments and fourplexes is forcibly taking something away from current residents is baffling. Ending archaic density restrictions allows more freedom and choice, while the proponents of maintaining existing laws are demanding they dictate what others do with their property. 

The suggestion that allowing multi-family homes in R-1 neighborhoods will not create affordable housing in Culver City is misleading and defeatist. No neighborhood should be exempt from contributing more housing to alleviate our severe shortage. New multi-family homes in R-1 neighborhoods are almost certain to be less expensive than new single family units, and the fourth unit of a new fourplex is required to be affordable under the proposed changes. The fight for affordable housing in Culver City does not end with these changes to our zoning laws– this is merely a start. Culver City should act now to create a 100% affordable housing overlay and a direct housing program for our unhoused neighbors. 

Where will your kids play? On your property just like they do now — zoning laws will not change that. Now maybe we should work together to make sure those same children will be able to raise a family here too.

— Bubba Fish

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Zoning Changes about Freedom