Time for Action: Banning Polysterene

This time we are supporting our Councilmember Meghan Sahli-Wells who is leading the movement along with the Ballona Creek Renaissance to ban styrofoam in Culver City.

The item will be studied by the City Council on Monday August 8th at 7 pm in the Council Chambers.

Here is a fantastic video about the importance of game changing solutions such as this one – and an article (Styrofoam Bans are Sweeping Across the Nation) that will help you understand the issue.

 You can write a letter to your councilmembers at: city.council@culvercity.org.

Time for Action: Charter Amendments for the November 2016 ballot

On July 12, 2016 we sent the following alert to our members:

At Monday night’s City Council meeting, a vote will be taken to determine whether 2 important charter amendments are put on the ballot this November.

  • The first proposition would increase term limits for city council members from 8 years to 12 years.
  • The second proposition would take the power to hire, supervise, and fire the police chief away from the elected council members and instead give that power to the unelected city manager.

The Culver City Community Coalition strongly urges all of our members to support a NO VOTE on both items.  Further we ask for your help to convince the council to vote no.  Right now, the vote is likely to be 3-2 in one direction.  Therefore, YOUR WORK BETWEEN NOW AND MONDAY WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

Please write up a few sentences describing your opposition to 1 or both of these items and send it to the council at city.council@culvercity.org.  In your e-mail, please make sure to include:
– Your name
– Your connection to Culver City (resident, business owner, parent, student, consumer, etc.)
– The fact that you are a member of the Culver City Community Coalition
– A short description of why you oppose the measures (find talking points included in this e-mail)

In addition, please communicate your thoughts to the council in person or in writing on Monday night.  You can either:
– Come to the council and speak for up to 3 minutes.  The meeting begins at 7:00 at City Hall (9770 Culver Blvd).  Note: This item may be taken far after 7:00.  There is no predicting the time frame.
– Send your comments in writing to be read into the record.  Send them via e-mail to city.clerk@culvercity.org by 4:00 pm on Monday.  Please make sure to include your name and that they relate to agenda item A2.

TALKING POINTS: TERM LIMITS
– Culver City has had a 2 term limit since 1994.  Although our current term limit law allows council members to run again as soon as 2 years after they are forced out of office, only 1 person has chosen to do so in 22 years.
– Term limits allow for new voices on the council.  Since 1992, Culver City has elected the first Latino council member, the first Asian-American council member, and 3 women to the council.  With less stringent term limits, it is easier for the same people to be re-elected, making it more difficult for diverse voices to gain a seat.

TALKING POINTS: Police Chief Supervision
– When Culver City changed to a City Manager form of government in 2006, we specifically kept 4 department heads under the direct control of the City Council, understanding that their work is extremely important to the lives of the residents (fire chief, police chief, city attorney, city manager).  We wanted our council to have direct control over these staffers to ensure that their work met the standards of our community.  By removing the police chief and fire chief from this category, you are taking away the ability for our political leaders to ensure that our police and fire department policies align with our community’s values.  Instead those policies will be supervised by a city manager that is unelected, unaccountable to the voters, and who may not even live in our city.
– We are lucky that we have not had police shootings or other issues that have caused increased strife in our community.  If that were to happen, we would want our council members reviewing the actions of the police chief and determining whether or not any policy changes need to occur.
– We have no police commission in Culver City.  Therefore, the only community officials overseeing our police department is the council oversight of the police chief.  We can’t have that taken away.

Thanks so much for your help.  Find the entire agenda at http://www.culvercity.org/Home/ShowDocument?id=3402.  If you have any questions or need further information please contact Karlo Silbiger at ksilbiger@juno.com.

Myths and Facts About Affordable and High Density Housing

This document (mythsnfacts) does a fantastic job explaining the many myths about affordable housing and high density.  It also includes some wonderful case studies about cities in California that are making progress on this front.

Here are the highlights:

MYTH # 1: High-density housing is affordable housing; affordable housing is high-density housing.   FACT # 1: Not all high-density housing is affordable to low-income families.

MYTH # 2: High-density and affordable housing will cause too much traffic. FACT #2: People who live in affordable housing own fewer cars and drive less.

MYTH # 3: High-density development strains public services and infrastructure. FACT# 3: Compact development offers greater efficiency  in use of public services and infrastructure.

MYTH # 4: People who live in high density and affordable housing won’t fit into my neighborhood.  FACT # 4: People who need affordable housing already live and work in your community.

MYTH # 5: Affordable housing reduces property values. FACT # 5: No study in California has ever shown that affordable housing developments reduces property values.

MYTH # 6: Residents of affordable housing move too often to be stable community members.  FACT # 6: When rents are guaranteed to remain stable, tenants move less often.

MYTH #7: High-density and affordable housing undermine community character.  FACT #7: New affordable and high-density housing can always be designed to fit into existing communities.

MYTH #8: High-density and affordable housing increase crime.  FACT # 8: The design and use of public spaces has a far more significant effect on crime than density or income levels.

 

Affording Housing.. About Rent Control

Over the last couple of years, our community has seen rents increasing precipitously.  While this is not only a Culver City problem, what we saw here was the rumor that there was a movement to bring rent control explode. As we recounted in our blog in February about the conversation that the Council attempted,

The concerns of renters facing daunting rent hikes were overshadowed by the testimony from many members of the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles who mounted a campaign raising the fear of rent control.

By February of 2015, this threat was causing rents to increase further, as was reported by KPCC :

Singer told the council that her landlord raised her rent after hearing a rumor the city council was considering rent control. This was the reason that he gave. I don’t want to be stuck in the lower rent, if rent control goes through,” Singer said.

Mr. Singer continued, speaking eloquently about what this means for our community:

Is the ethical value of the people who live here and run this city one that says we need to find a way for a variety of types and income levels and beliefs to be here in our city?” Singer asked. 

We bring attention to this quote because you often hear an answer to this question. Leaders in our community have been heard to say “If people can’t afford to live here, they may have to move to a community where they can afford to live.”

As progressives, we don’t support this approach to housing.

Having said that, to discuss rent control, we must start with a few facts.

  • While many people are familiar with the fact that cities like Los Angeles, Santa Monica, San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland have rent control ordinances in place, it is less well known that other cities like Beverly Hills, Palm Springs and West Hollywood also have them.
  • When California passed the Costa Hawkins Law in 1995, the rules changed for rent control. This law cleared the way for owners in rent control communities to establish initial rental rates when there was a change in occupancy at a dwelling unit – a policy known as vacancy decontrol. It also meant that new rent control ordinances could only apply to properties that were built BEFORE 1995.

What does that mean to Culver City? Does it mean that we should not consider a rent control ordinance for those older properties?

The Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles made the point to the Board that there was no reason to consider an ordinance at all.  But they represent landlords, and that’s only one of the constituencies in our community.

Did the Council seek the input of renters? Did they take them into consideration? We know the answer to that question.

We are looking into the needs of renters. Do they know about the Landlord Tenant Mediation Board? Does it work for them? Does it need to be improved? How? What other policies could be put in place to change the current situation?

We’d like to hear the City Council begin this conversation, just as many candidates said was necessary.

We will follow this post with an update when this changes.

 

 

 

 

 

2016 City Council Endorsements: Lee, Sahli-Wells & Small

Culver City Community Coalition has endorsed Daniel Lee, Meghan Sahli-Wells and Thomas Small in their bids for seats on the Culver City City Council.

They are among the seven candidates vying for three City Council seats in a race that will culminate on Election Day, Tuesday, April 12.

“The three candidates we’re endorsing reflect the values that Community Coalition members hold dear,” Jim Province, Community Coalition’s spokesperson, said. “Daniel Lee, Councilmember Meghan Sahli-Wells and Thomas Small are compassionate and visionary individuals committed to progress. They believe as we do: when the most vulnerable among us are treated with respect and their needs taken into consideration, everyone prospers.”

Daniel Lee, the only renter among all seven candidates, is a filmmaker and social worker, an alumnus of ​ USC and UCLA, and a veteran of the US Air Force and Air National Guard. He has volunteered for many years with Culver City students, and currently serves as co-chair of the Culver City Martin Luther King Celebration Committee.

Councilmember Meghan Sahli-Wells is the only incumbent in the race. On the City Council she has championed initiatives to improve the lives of children in the community, and has led efforts to address water conservation, active transportation, affordable housing, homeless services, and comprehensive oil drilling regulations. She is a UCLA graduate and a former translator. Her two children attend Culver Middle School.

Thomas Small, a Culver City Cultural Affairs Commissioner, is an expert in architecture, sustainable design, conscientious development and historic preservation. He is an architectural writer and consultant, father of two Linwood E. Howe Elementary School students, and a Yale graduate.

“I am very proud that Community Coalition has endorsed me,” Daniel Lee said. “Even though most of their members are homeowners, they clearly take the issues of tenants’ rights, affordable housing, and homelessness very seriously. If I am elected, I will absolutely work in favor of efforts that support renters’ rights. An estimated 45% of Culver City residents are renters, and many people are forced to move away from the community where they have established roots, family and friends. One of my main priorities as a city councilperson would be to propose and enact a strong list of tenant protections.”

“I appreciate Community Coalition’s faith in me,” Councilperson Meghan Sahli-Wells said. “One of our many areas of agreement is Culver City’s moral obligation to support the Rental Assistance Program. This program was created years ago, when the city was not willing to build affordable housing as mandated under California’s redevelopment law. Much more recently, my colleagues and I have voted in support of new affordable housing throughout the city. However, at the moment, Culver City remains behind in affordable housing, and the small but vital Rental Assistance Program is making a big difference in the lives of 46 Culver City residents, the majority of whom are elderly or disabled, and in many cases both.”

“Community Coalition’s endorsement means a lot to me,” Thomas Small said. “This group sets a very high bar for its city councilmembers, as they should. Above all, government needs to care for the neediest in our society, including the homeless, the indigent and the working poor. This is imperative from a humanitarian perspective, and also for the economic wellbeing and the quality of life of our entire community. Culver City’s realization of this goal is a direct, clear demonstration of the character of our city, of our achievement as a community of human beings.”

Daniel Lee, Meghan Sahli-Wells and Thomas Small favor Culver City raising its minimum wage to $15 per hour. “We were very impressed to see how committed these candidates are to improving the financial wellbeing of the people employed in our city,” Jim Province said.

“Raising our minimum wage to $15 per hour is the humane thing to do. But it is also practical,” Daniel Lee said. “Culver City employers compete for good workers with employers in nearby cities. Now that Santa Monica and Los Angeles have raised their minimum wage to $15 per hour, Culver City businesses will be at a disadvantage if we don’t pay workers here as much as they can earn across the street.”

“One in five children in the US lives under the federal poverty level,” Meghan Sahli-Wells said. “California has the highest child poverty rate in the nation. We can no longer stand back and let the working poor fall into deeper crisis. A phased-in $15 minimum wage is good for families, and the right thing for Culver City.”

“We definitely need to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour in Culver City,” Thomas Small said. “Ideally a person working 40 hours a week, with no additional income, should be able to afford the basics for a decent quality of life–food, shelter, utilities, transportation, health care, childcare and recreation. Even at $15 per hour, this would be difficult to achieve. But it would certainly be an improvement. Low-wage workers’ ability to earn more is important not just for those most in need, but also for all residents who want a stable, sustainable and humane community.”

The Sierra Club has joined the Community Coalition in endorsing Daniel Lee, Meghan Sahli-Wells and Thomas Small. “We are very pleased that the Sierra Club also supports these great candidates,” Jim Province said.

“Daniel, Meghan and Thomas all advocate a ban on fracking,” Jim Province said. “And they all have strong environmental credentials and achievements.
“Daniel will advocate for an end to drilling on the Inglewood Oil Field and will urge that the land be used instead for a solar and wind farm.
“As a member of the city’s Oil Drilling Subcommittee, Meghan is working with our vice mayor to craft stringent drilling regulations for the oil field. Meghan looks forward to the day when drilling will no longer take place, and the oil field will become a large public park.
“Thomas’s goal is to keep the oil in the ground and transition to a renewable micro grid to secure a sustainable and resilient energy future for the city,” Province said.
With the election less than a month away, the Community Coalition urges residents to get to know the candidates better. “In particular, check out their websites,” Province said. “There’s a wealth of information there.”

Progressive Values Simply Defined

As we see it, the work of our group is to define progressive values in our local politics, to help elect candidates whose values align with ours and to organize campaigns that ensure our local leaders act in support of these values.

To this end, we will be posting blogs that help others understand what we mean by progressive values.  We want to share a small set of points from a much longer document entitled Progressive Thinking: A Synthesis of American Progressive Values, Beliefs and Positions which was prepared by the American Values Project.

The main tenets of progressive thinking are very simple: Everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does his or her fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules.

More specifically:

  • Progressives are committed to a smart and active government that allows us to work together to solve problems that we cannot address on our own. This commitment is grounded in constitutional beliefs that government exists to secure and protect our rights; to protect us from harm; to ensure opportunity; and to provide the foundation for fair markets and the public good.
  • Progressives work together to create a growing economy with vibrant businesses and widely shared prosperity. We want an economy that works for everyone, not just the few.
  • Progressives work together for good jobs with higher wages, workers’ rights, a stronger middle class, and a cleaner, more sustainable economy.
  • Progressives work together to ensure our political system is ‘of, by and for’ the people and not rigged in favor of big corporations and the privileged.
  • Progressives work together to encourage citizens to participate more in political discourse and governing.

 

Affording Housing…Protecting Renters from Eviction

One of the critical parts of the work of making sure that renters  in our community remain here is helping them avoid unlawful evictions.

To begin this work we are sharing information about the Eviction Defense Network, a network of trial lawyers, advocates and tenants defending the right to affordable housing.  EDN was formed in 2003 to provide affordable representation by experienced tenant attorneys to all tenants facing eviction in Los Angeles County.

This is why they exist:

Approximately 70,000 evictions are filed in Los Angeles County every year. Tenants who are not represented by an attorney often do not find justice through the legal system or are tricked into signing an agreement that leaves them with little time to move, owing a large money judgment, and with the eviction on their credit record. The courts are not sympathetic to tenants who do not have a lawyer.

Because they provide attorneys who can represent tenants, it’s important to let people in our community know about them. They are currently running a campaign to make sure that renters have this sheet up on their fridge, so they are prepared in the event they need one.

AAA-How-to-Get-an-Eviction-Attorney-day-by-day-on-every-fridge-2.13.16

We are organizing a Call to Action – asking you to print as many of these flyers as you can and share them with renters that live near where you live.

This is another important information piece that is good to share.

Tenant-Dos-and-Donts-10-Common-Mistakes

And here are the same materials in Spanish.

AAA-Tenant-Dos-and-Donts-10-Common-Mistakes-Spanish (1)

AAA-Tenant-Dos-and-Donts-10-Common-Mistakes-Spanish (1)

Make it Fair – Reform Prop 13!

Much of the trouble we face with having enough funding for our schools and for adequate social services has to do with California state funding.

Here’s Robert Reich explaining the problem and telling us about the Make it Fair movement to reform Proposition 13.

As progressives, we have to remind ourselves that this challenges impedes much of the progress we need to make and why organizing around this issue is essential.

Affording Housing in Culver City

Did you know that about half (45.6%  to be exact) of our City’s residents are renters? (source LA Times)

Like others in the Los Angeles region, Culver City renters are not only facing a hard time finding a home they can afford to buy, many renters are also finding rents are the least affordable they have ever been. According to the real estate site Trulia, median rents in Culver City rose from $2500 in March to $3745 in December last year.

This issue has been in the minds of many.  In December of 2014, the Culver City Council attempted a conversation and the issue exploded. The concerns of renters facing daunting rent hikes were overshadowed by the testimony from many members of the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles who mounted a campaign raising the fear of rent control.

We feel that our community deserves this conversation, and we are committed to helping make this conversation more productive by providing accurate information on the subject. To that end, we will be blogging to keep our community informed, posting information on our website to help tenants find resources that will help them avoid evictions, and organizing forums to keep this issue on the forefront.

 

The 2016 City Council endorsement process begins!

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As voters around Culver City begin to get visits, materials and phone calls from candidates for the 2016 City Council election, we have begun our endorsement process by sending candidates the questionnaire that our Endorsement Committee has prepared. We expect candidates to respond by February 15th, when the Committee will begin to review the responses and decide which candidates they will interview, intending to announce their endorsement on February 22nd.

This is the second time that our group has entered the endorsement arena in Culver City. During the School Board election which took place in November of 2015, we endorsed now School Board Member Kelly Kent, who came in as the front runner, with 40% of the vote.

Our organization is committed to helping our members and our community understand which candidates hold progressive values and to define exactly what we mean by that. To that end, we are sharing the questions we are asking the candidates.

Our Endorsement Committee is a diverse group consisting of community members who are residents of the different neighborhoods in Culver City.