Culver City Observer -

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By Sandra Coopersmith
Features Writer 

QUERYING CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATES

 

November 3, 2022

With six candidates campaigning to fill two open city council seats in Culver City, the political math to determine the result of six into two can be somewhat challenging.

Candidates Devin M. Yaeger, Freddy Puza, Dan O'Brien, Kin Khin Gyi, Alex Fisch, and Denice Renteria comprise the foregoing equation. To clarify, the city council consists of five seats. Two are open since Councilmember Fisch's term is up, and Mayor Daniel Lee is not continuing. The councilmembers remaining are Göran Eriksson, Yasmine-Imani McMorrin, and Albert Vera.

The Observer presented the candidates with the following questions that express the concerns of many in the community:

1. What is your position on eliminating R1 zoning in Culver City?

2. Where do you stand on efforts to defund the Culver City Police Department?

3. How would you deal with the illegal encampments of the homeless, and would you give the police department the authorization to remove them?

The candidates' responses follow.

DEVIN M. YAEGER:

"Homeowners do not want up-zoning in their R1 communities. I will staunchly oppose efforts to use questionable statewide data to backdoor up-zoning in Culver City's single-family home neighborhoods. As a real estate professional, I know SFRs are the highest and best use of land in such areas. There are plenty of other places to build multi-family housing. Up-zoning leads to homes being devalued, privacy being encroached on, and the character of the neighborhood changing in ways homeowners have not consented to.

"I am against defunding the police. They need to be authorized to clear all homeless encampments and all homeless people from the streets of Culver City. No one has the right to block public rights of way, urinate/defecate in public, steal, engage in violence, use hard drugs openly, or dump waste. To successfully treat the homeless individuals we owe a duty to, and for housed Culver City residents to live peacefully, homeless individuals must be removed from camping on our streets and deterred from returning. See https://devin4culvercitycouncil.com/homelessness for my multi-prong approach.

"I will also fight to make sure the overpriced homeless shelter beds ($26M for 76 beds) under construction on Sepulveda Blvd. go to homeless Culver City natives only, especially veterans, the elderly, and those with disabilities."

FREDDY PUZA:

"We must be open to all approaches to increasing housing production and promote building housing at all income levels and in all neighborhoods in order to accomplish our housing and sustainability goals; streamline the approval process for housing production to respond to our local housing crisis; work to implement a 100% affordable housing overlay; and promote community land trusts, public banking initiatives, and other opportunities to support the growth of permanent, affordable, supportive housing.

"We all deserve to live, work, and play in a city where everyone is safe, protected, and treated fairly. I believe the best way to create safer neighborhoods is to invest directly into the community. We can reimagine a budget that centers diversity, equity, and inclusion to ensure that the city is being responsive to the needs of all of its residents, businesses, and community partners."

Re homelessness and illegal encampments, "this civic and humanitarian crisis will require both innovative and proven solutions that will address the root problems and generate lasting impacts for our community. I pledge to ensure that the Project HomeKey motel conversions are successfully opened and that we continue to provide outreach and access to temporary and permanent supportive housing with services."

DAN O'BRIEN:

"We're not going to provide nearly enough units to even come close to meeting our state-mandated goals by up-zoning single-family neighborhoods, lot by lot. The focus needs to be placed where we can have the greatest impact: in large-scale developments on land that could be zoned as such.

"The Culver City Police Department staff fell by over 20% during the pandemic. During this same time, violent crime and property crime have skyrocketed. Law enforcement must have the resources needed to stop violent crime, and when elected to the city council I will ensure our budget reflects that.

"I support current efforts by the city to provide both transitional and permanent housing for the most vulnerable in our community, as well as support services to help them with basic sustenance, health care, substance-abuse counseling, job assistance, legal aid, and many other challenges that weigh down their ability to get back on their feet. I will work tirelessly to fulfill these needs, and I will also ceaselessly engage with leaders outside our borders to ensure this regional crisis is addressed proportionally. Culver City must also do as our neighboring cities have done and enact a 'no encampment' ordinance for those who refuse the housing and services that we offer."

KIN KHIN GYI:

"I am a 31, going on 32-year resident of the Culver Crest neighborhood in Culver City. I have also practiced medicine for that period of time as well. The upcoming city council election is a pivotal election in that we will get to decide whether we have the courage and conviction to do what's right for the city, or whether we will act as sloganeers tethered to an ideology.

"Because the governor has signed legislation that allows us to repurpose vacant commercial properties into multifamily housing, it appears that should be the first option of choice to increase housing stock. Eliminating R1 should be the option of last resort.

"Because crime has increased in the last two years, I would not defund the police. I would like to see it funded at 100% of its budget.

"The governor has signed into law Care Courts that would allow a judge to prescribe mental health care, addiction treatment, and voluntary housing on demand to be offered to unhoused residents. Because homelessness has multifactorial causes, the solutions must be multifaceted as well. We must work in collaboration with the federal, state, and county governments for a successful resolution."

ALEX FISCH:

Regarding eliminating R1 zoning, "state law has done this via SB 9. I believe that we should facilitate homeowners' ability to use this law, not obstruct. I'm proud to have worked with experts to develop a certified housing element for Culver City. This means we retain more local control. Santa Monica failed to obtain certification and lost the power to regulate building proposals, including a proposed 15-story apartment building. Our neighborhoods have been changing because of increasing property values. Small homes are torn down and replaced with large, expensive single-family homes for only the very wealthiest buyers. Good design and wiser land use regulation can allow us to have beautiful, quiet neighborhoods that are accessible to middle class people.

Regarding efforts to defund CCPD, "I have voted for every budget. I also support investment in a third, unarmed first response service. If that proves to reduce workload for police, the budget should reflect that.

"I understand people's frustration, and we're working hard to address homelessness at a fundamental level. We can do more to regulate makeshift shelters when we have real and decent housing to offer. With the two motel conversions accomplished by this council, we'll begin to have real solutions, and outreach will be much more effective."

DENICE RENTERIA:

"I do not advocate for drastic zoning changes that would change the aesthetic and character of neighborhoods, which are the reason many people choose to live in Culver City. We need more housing and should focus on the solutions to achieve our RHNA housing requirements that have majority support. We have incredible opportunities to develop mixed-use communities and mixed-income housing. These initiatives would provide an immediate increase in our housing stock with strong support from the community.

"Reducing the current budget of our local police department would not be an optimal solution for maintaining public safety in the city, especially considering inflation and increasing cost of living. We instead need to focus our efforts in hiring and filling vacant positions, as well as keeping our retention of good and qualified officers and staff high.

Alex Fisch

"The city must prioritize preventing the occurrence of frequent fires, especially in vulnerable areas. On council, I would support partnering with an organization that establishes relationships with a more proactive approach. Finding humane solutions to help people stay off the street is important. For the safety of all, authorities should mainly intervene for situations pertaining to violent crime. It is important that we utilize existing resources in addition to new potential programs."

The challenges facing Culver City are multiple and exacerbate the many stresses that already permeate modern life. Accordingly, it may be time for a special division of superheroes to emerge – the CC STRESSBUSTERS, donned in capes emblazoned with the city seal as they implement solutions through their actions as dedicated councilmembers. So, dear candidates, a sincere thank you for your caring involvement as you prepare to suit up and exert the heroic efforts needed for Culver City to continue being the great place to live that we all desire.

 

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