Following the Feb. 8 Culver City Affordable Housing Seminar at Culver City City Hall, Culver City Councilmember Meghan Sahli-Wells said she felt the three hour event was a “resounding success.”
Sahli-Wells was instrumental in bringing together the City of Culver City, Assemblymember Holly Mitchell and a diverse panel that included Mayor Andy Weissman and representatives from a variety of organizations including Habitat for Humanity, Bank of America, Union Bank and the Los Angeles Housing Partnership.
“[The seminar] came about after looking at this year's budget and seeing that there was no money for affordable housing in Culver City because the Redevelopment Agency had been eliminated,” Sahli-Wells told Patch. “I sat down with our housing director Tevis Barnes and we thought of some ways to address this major problem. This meeting was the first step. Its intent was to gather good people into the same room to find some concrete solutions to keep affordable housing alive.”
Culver City’s Community Development Director Sol Blumenfeld discussed some of the City’s current affordable housing projects (see attached PDF), before the panel and audience members discussed some tough questions, among them, what could be done to create a permanent source of funding for affordable housing.
Assemblymember Mitchell spoke at length about the upcoming legislation in the State Senate to create a Home and Jobs Act (click here for more information on this legislation), while Mayor Weissman decried the lack of opportunities at the local level to create funding sources. “There are some things we can do from a zoning perspective that may incentivize developers to bring forward affordable housing,” he said.
Weissman noted that the City already charges a “fairly hefty set of fees to developers,” and said the City could possibly create an additional density bonus to encourage the creation of additional housing.
He also spoke of the City’s current parking requirement of 1.5 cars per unit, noting that if affordable housing is designed to have people live, work and shop in the City and create “walkability” that requirement for affordable housing units could be excessive.
Johanna Gullick, senior vice president of Union Bank said she believed the three Culver City projects presented by Blumenfeld – Globe Avenue, Tilden Terrace and Irving Place – were far too small. She said investing $15 million into 33 unites was simply not enough.
An audience member picked up on the thread, noting that the cost of the Tilden Terrace project worked out to be approximately $700,000 per unit. She suggested it would be cheaper to put people in existing foreclosed homes than to invest in redevelopment projects, which, she said were overpriced.
Blumenfeld said the cost did not just cover the housing units; it also included the public amenities and the streetscape, which had to be factored in.
“One of the successes of the Tilden Terrace project is that it will redevelop a whole block and going forward it may be the model we have to use in Culver City. The issue isn’t one dimensional,” he said.
Kath Heade, who manages the affordable housing for Keyser Marston and Associates spoke of a recently formed PAC of developers that could help create tax credit deals. She said the with the recent “redevelopment debacle, the affordable housing community had no clout.” The formation of the PAC will help, she said.
Gullick also suggested rezoning in the city could increase the ability to create more residential buildings and therefore encourage more affordable housing.
“It’s very important we add more people to our city who can benefit from our great downtown, spend their money downtown and increase our tax base,” she said.
Sahli-Wells told Patch that one of the biggest takeaways from the seminar was “the need to come together as a community and create a vision for our city's future. This vision has to take into account our need for affordable housing, our neighborhoods, our businesses and transportation opportunities.”