Culver City Observer -

By Neil Rubenstein
Observer Columnist 

City Blows Chances for Affordable Housing

 

August 23, 2018



It is my firm belief that City Hall over the years has squandered city assets to pay for huge salaries and benefits.

Coming soon, a startling expose.

No, probably not in your neighborhood but in Fox Hills with “Those People.”

When Culver Villas Apartments at 4043 Irving Place in Downtown Culver was originally proposed as a low-income housing project, an unnamed Culver City councilperson quietly approached the Culver City Community Development Office and requested that the plans be changed.

The Councilperson did not want to alienate voters by allowing a large, low-income housing project in their neighborhood and, possibly, reduce local home values. In fact, Culver Villas is only a few blocks away from the Councilperson’s home.

The plans were indeed changed and now only about 12 affordable units exist, out of the development’s 28 total units. Preference is given to Culver City and Culver City School employees.

Later, the fire station on Segrell Way in Sunkist Park was sold for $1.3 million in 2014, but Culver City missed another opportunity to provide affordable housing. The high-voting residents of Sunkist Park demanded that no affordable or low-income housing be built in their neighborhood.

So, the Culver City Council voted to sell the property to a private developer. This developer built three single-family houses costing between $1.3 million and $1.4 million each.

These homes certainly are not affordable.

Who knew that Culver City owned property in the pricey Culver Crest area? Well, the City of Culver City owned the 17045 Cranks Road property. That property was sold in 2014 for approximately $900,000 to a private developer.

The developer then built a new, pricey house on the lot, which sold for nearly $3.63 million in July 2016 and is now valued at $4.24 million, according to an estimate by Zillow.com.

The house was even featured on a popular television show.

And now, Culver officials have sold the city-owned property at Centinela Avenue and Washington Boulevard to a builder who will create a permanent, upscale farmer’s market called Culver Public Market Hall.

All four of these properties that I have mentioned above, once owned by Culver City, presented opportunities for the City to develop dozens--if not hundreds--units of affordable housing for sale or rent.

All four of these opportunities were lost.

It’s possible that Culver City is in violation of a state law. The California Surplus Land Act requires that when cities, counties, transit agencies and other local agencies sell or lease their land, they must prioritize it for affordable housing development.

Apparently, Culver City is not interested in this law. It appears that when City Council had many opportunities to provide affordable/low-income housing, they failed miserably.

Some might consider this series of failures as a series of successes instead. Yes, successes, in keeping the established high-income, non-minority areas of Culver City just that and “placing” the minorities where they are currently located—Fox Hills.

Yes, they say, keep low-income folks in Fox Hills, far away from the pricey non-minority areas of Culver City.

Culver officials are placing their failure to meet state affordable-housing obligations of more than 600 units of affordable housing on Fox Hills and keep the rest of their beloved areas lily white.

Let’s Honor Kids’ Advocate Anita Shapiro

It’s been 10 years or so that the people of Culver City lost a dear, sweet person. She was City Commissioner Anita Shapiro, who passed away in 2009.

Anita was the driving force behind creation of the skateboard park on Jefferson Boulevard, just west of Duquesne Avenue. She worked tirelessly to obtain the grants to successfully complete the project.

Shapiro will long be remembered as a friend of children and whose motto was, “Work hard, be respectful and earn your park.”

The City should name the skateboard park after this dedicated woman. But rather than handling the naming issue itself, the Culver City Council instead referred the matter to the Parks, Recreation and Community Services commission.

There would not have been any skateboard park, temporary or otherwise, without Anita Shapiro going to countless Council meetings and pleading for councilmembers to please “do something for these kids.”

Naming the skateboard park after her would be an honor that she richly deserves.

Teachers’ Fund Deficit

Last month, the State’s Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) reported that from June 2016 to June 2017, the California State Teachers’ Retirement System’s unfunded liabilities had increased by more than 10 percent, from $96.7 billion to $107.3 billion.

The LAO noted that state-mandated contributions to the teachers’ state pension has been growing, and that CalSTRS contributions will reach about $15 billion by fiscal year 2020-21.

So, it looks like we taxpayers are not even near being out of the financial woods to fix the pension plan’s current $107.3 billion in unfunded liabilities--not by a long shot.

Closing Comment

Maybe it is time for mandatory “ageism sensitivity training” for all of the staff and administrators at the Culver City Senior Center.

This commentary does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Observer. Previous columns by Neil Rubenstein can be found at http://www.culvercityobserver.com.

 

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