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Council to Consider 'Right to Return' Program

Bob Kronovetrealty
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By Jorge Casuso

July 7, 2021 -- Households or their descendants -- predominantly Black and Latino -- displaced by urban renewal projects in Santa Monica in the 1950s and 60s could soon be given priority for affordable housing.

The City Council on Tuesday will consider a pilot "Right to Return" program that would place as many as 100 "historically displaced households, including children and grandchildren" in line for City-funded and inclusionary housing.

The City's policy would continue to give top priority to "households facing immediate displacement due to the Ellis Act, government action, natural disaster, or similar evictions," staff wrote in its report to the Council.

The program is proposed "in response to historic zoning practices and land use decisions that disproportionately impacted communities of color and displaced thousands of households living in Santa Monica," staff said.

Jones of the Bay

To qualify, households must provide proof that they or their relatives were displaced in the 1950s or 1960s from the Belmar Triangle neighborhood to pave the way for the Civic Center or from the 10 Highway areas "due to urban renewal policies and programs."

Bounded by Pico Boulevard and Main and Fourth streets, the Belmar Triangle was the heart of Santa Monica's African-American community in the first half of the 20th century.

Rows of shotgun houses and neighborhood businesses lined the streets near the ocean before Santa Monica City leaders condemned and destroyed the black-owned properties to build the Civic Auditorium under a national program called Build America Better.

A decade later, poor Black and Latino households were displaced when the State of California used eminent domain to purchase houses along what would become the I-10 highway that split the Pico neighborhood in two in the 1960s.

The proposed pilot program would involve as many as 100 households, "balancing the launch of a new initiative with the opportunity to test and evaluate it through a limited applicant pool," staff said.

"Lessons learned will inform recommendations regarding future program implementation."

Applications would be accepted after an outreach period, staff said. If more than 100 applications are received, a lottery would determine the 100 pilot program households.

The "historically displaced households" would be given second priority after households "experiencing displacement from Santa Monica residences due to a natural disaster, a government-ordered action, removal permit eviction, owner occupancy, Ellis Act, or a mobile home park closure."

Third priority is given to households who either live or work in Santa Monica, staff said.

The Council on Tuesday will consider reducing the minimum number of work hours required to qualify as a Santa Monica worker from 36 hours per week to 25 hours per week.

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