I Wonder if We Can Once Again Collaborate for the Greater Good, Just as We Did to Shut Down Our Oil Field?


Are Regional Housing Needs Allocations (RHNA) a formality intended to fulfill a state checklist to avoid penalties and loss of funding? Or are these allocations meant to be realistic options to get housing built asap within what is now a 7-year cycle; especially housing for our most economically challenged, to keep them from becoming homeless?

From the Culver City dais what I hear from the majority is the longing for our city to be designated “pro-housing.” I too am in strong support of this. The conundrum for me is, with the Housing Element that was just submitted, how can we achieve this goal in a timely manner as the homeless count keeps growing?

As a pragmatic social analyst, I have heard little if any mention of using the air space above our overabundance of small retail on our many transit-oriented corridors (TOC). It’s been done successfully in Old Town West Covina. May I suggest we do so here too? Perhaps we can ask West Covina how they achieved this.

I think housing regulations and legalities for these would be the same as for condominium rental or ownership. And if need be, by eminent domain, or invoking the legal precedent of “split estates” (used for underground ownership of mineral property rights) the air space for critically needed housing can be acquired. This would not only revitalize, but also economically help struggling small retail. The air space above our TOC retail can provide critically needed housing without the destruction of critically needed green space/permeable land of which Culver City owns less than one percent.

Can you envision the following with me? Housing that addresses all of the California Department of Housing and Community Development’s demands plus providing the following benefits:

• Mixed-use and mixed incomes housing for diverse ethnicities at all the RHNA levels to dwell as neighbors in the same communities.

• Equity and reparations, so that all residents are afforded the opportunity to buy, rent, or rent-to-own.

• Directly utilize our transit corridors and public transportation, reducing vehicle miles traveled.

• Builds eco-friendly housing with net-zero energy waste, plus additional carbon sequestration with its tree canopy and rainwater capture; adding to, rather than taking away permeable green space.

• Provides union jobs with local hire and job production for formerly incarcerated youth.

• Creates mobility lanes and removes street parking by moving it to parking lots on bridges that straddle the air space between the side streets, thus creates mobility lanes and space for outdoor dining without losing parking.

A project such as this will not only revitalize our struggling small retail businesses and promote housing diversity, environmental, mobility, social, and economic benefits, it will also address the underlying causes of the housing crisis and growing homelessness, which is the lack of low-priced housing compounded with the growth of economic inequality.

The California Department of Housing and Community Development’s Projected Housing Needs – Regional Housing Needs Allocation indicates that our city can apply for “subsidies, financing, or other mechanisms that ensure affordability.” Please consider the options.

On a personal note, from my 44 years as a Culver City resident/homeowner, I have never witnessed the city as polarized and bitter over how our General Plan Update and Housing Element are being addressed. Prolonging this strife saddens me, as more of the poor slip into the streets each day. We have a highly educated, dedicated population who want to be involved, who want much more public outreach from our city asking for our input. Yes, we want participatory democracy (a term I’ve used to chide former city councils). Sixty seconds of perfunctory listening to us to meet legal requirements while actively engaging unaffiliated “expertise,” and welcoming the use of experimental algorithmic bots to help decide Culver City’s coming 25 years is not participatory democracy.

From my history steeped in psychology, communications, and social analysis, I know we can heal this division. And we can become a model for other cities if we choose to unite to pursue the option presented herein, or an even better actionable option to provide housing as a human right NOW—beginning with our poorest residents—while also accommodating the various demographics while enhancing environmental sustainability.

Council, how can I use the gifts I’ve been blessed with to help you bring this about NOW? How can we all help unify our city?

Dear Culver City people, would you like to collaborate to bring about this social good that will benefit all of us now and into the future? People are dying on our streets. If someone has a better, ready-to-implement plan to address these needs, let’s unite and work it out to provide critically needed housing NOW!

Let’s collaborate for the greater benefit of all!

We became a model for ending urban drilling. We can now become the model for humane, eco-enhancing housing! Shall we?

Dr. Suzanne De Benedittis, Phd