How to Get Big and Stay Small

Culver City Tries To Avoid Silicon Valley's Housing Disaster

 

Culver City is expected to experience a business boom within the next couple of years, writes Joseph Pimentel at http://www.bisnow.com.

Apple, Amazon and HBO are slated to bring a major new workforce to the small city of 38,000 people on the west side of Los Angeles, and just a couple of miles away in neighboring West Los Angeles, Google will plant a headquarters at the former Westside Pavilion mall.

Because of all these developments, thus far unaltered by the coronavirus pandemic, Culver City is becoming a hot tech hub. With so many companies and related services coming in, city officials should be elated to welcome the influx of new workers into the area.

But there is a big elephant in the room: the lack of housing.

"We have thousands of new employees [coming in]. Those employees need to get housed," Culver City Community Development Director Sol Blumenfield said during a Bisnow webinar. "Otherwise, we will further exacerbate the mobility problems in the region ... We are trying to build more housing. We have a job and housing imbalance that we are trying to correct."


More than 400 people registered for Bisnow's latest webinar, Neighborhood Series: Culver City - Checking In On Major Construction, Notable Trends, And The Hayden Tract To The East.

The webinar featured Blumenfield along with James Suhr & Associates founder James Suhr, Lowe Executive Vice President Tom Wulf, KFA Architecture partner Jonathan Watts and moderated by Glaser Weil partner Elisa Paster.

During the 45-minute webinar, the panelists discussed the current state of Culver City, housing and its upcoming areas.

Blumenfield said that for years, the city has been working on its Reimagine Fox Hills project. Launched in 2014, the project would revitalize the area centered around the Westfield Culver City mall and include a new Main Street, retail, restaurants, creative offices, parking and pedestrian and bike paths.

"It could be a reboot of the Hayden Tract," Blumenfield said referring to another up-and-coming area of the city. "In the Fox Hills area, there is a great opportunity and it is in a great location."

The Hayden Tract was an industrial zone turned creative office district.

Suhr said the Hayden Tract and Fox Hills will soon be linked via a new transportation network to the rest of Culver City's commercial tracts, with the city as a whole becoming one creative district.


But how will Culver City house the influx of new workers coming into the area? As of June, the average for-sale list price of a home in Culver City is $1.3M, according to housing data site ReportsOnHousing.com.

"There's a lot of demand but not enough supply to create all of that [housing]," Wulf said.

KFA Architecture partner Jonathan Watts said this new creative workforce will most likely be open to co-living, coworking, working outside and riding a bike to work rather than using a vehicle. Watts said flexibility is vital when it comes to new housing stock. He has seen a demand for microunits and larger units.

"This creative aspect I think is just beginning and we don't really know post-pandemic how it's going to look exactly but flexibility will be key," Watts said. "Finding the places living close to these new large employers is going to be critical and that's tough."

Blumenfield said the city has been working hard to create more workforce housing, allowing more homeowners to build ADUs or accessory dwelling units and is giving out grants to build ADUs.

"This is a watershed period for Culver City," he said. "We want Culver City to contain the kinds of projects that are placemaking, that people want to visit, that they want to shop in and live in. I think the pandemic is going to [make us] step back a couple of steps but I think we're going to emerge strong from this."

The city has also reduced the minimum dwelling units to 300 SF to allow for the development of microunits and examining certain districts to build more affordable housing projects.

"We're trying to deal with this with a mix of housing," Blumenfield said. "One of the goals the city has is to be opportunistic and figure out where we can plug in and how we can be creative about it. [But] it does require a real change in culture."

 

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