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Another Take on Affordable Housing

By Peter Tigler

April 12, 2011 --A March 18 posting titled "Affordable Housing in Santa Monica” The_lookout News article of March 18, 2011 contained this quote:

“Currently, there are about 4,000 affordable housing units [in Santa Monica],” Housing Administrator Jim Kemper said, and they're “spread all throughout the city,” not localized in one neighborhood.

I think the facts prove the City’s position false. A localized concentration most certainly exists. This concentration is a salient point in Santa Monica’s subsidized housing production and one that the City will not acknowledge. The City of Santa Monica does not produce a dot map of subsidized housing (euphemistically called ‘affordable housing’) nor does it make obtaining location of sites a simple matter. However, I produced my own dot map of projects.

Dot map of affordable housing projects. Map created by Peter Tigler.

Community Corporation of Santa Monica (CCSM) produces the lion's share of subsidized housing in Santa Monica. CCSM enjoys a cozy insider relationship with Santa Monica for Renters Rights (SMRR) politicos and city staff. In fact CCSM can receive up to $30 million per project administratively. Public hearings do not exist, public disclosure is unnecessary. CCSM projects are represented by the red dots on the map.

Also included on the map are the few projects developed with county money (green dots), shelter beds for the homeless, projects for the mentally ill and rehab centers (blue dots).

The map is largely complete but admittedly not all projects are listed. The actual number of projects might be slightly different. Regardless, a concentration in the Pico neighborhood is very clear. By contrast, there is only one project north of Montana.

Tenant demographics are also important. It relates directly to segregation issues and social problem issues. Seniors and single units are rare in Pico, if they exist at all, but are predominant in the few projects north of Wilshire. Nearly 100% of the units in the Pico neighborhood are low income family units.

I believe Santa Monica’s housing policy is designed for political reasons and the design, devised by Santa Monica for Renters Rights (SMRR), is this:

First and foremost subsidized housing production in Santa Monica is a voter base building plan to keep SMRR politicos in power and predominating over every aspect of civic government. Serious challenges to the housing program are avoided with the concentration scheme that has been bolstered by amended zoning laws, budget allowances, expanded administration power and the erosion of public review.

Secondly, home owners and sensitive areas are not irritated or riled with the notion of proximate low income projects or shelters. Arguments regarding quality of life, social problems and property values are avoided.

Thirdly, north-side Franklin and Roosevelt Elementary schools and Lincoln Middle School are not subject to an influx of students from low income housing projects. Should that happen, the status quo would face an angry challenge.

I challenge City Hall to publish all the subsidized housing facts - numbers, locations, tenant mix, etc. However, it is obvious that it is not in City Hall’s interest to be forthcoming or transparent. And, disclosure is not in the interest of many residents as they are benefiting from the current arrangement. We live in a city that polishes it’s halo so we don’t see the horns.

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