March 7, 2021
Re: Council Agenda Item 13A - Affordable Housing Overlay
Dear Mayor Himmelrich, Mayor Pro Tempore McCowan, and members of the Santa Monica City Council:
Santa Monica Forward, Abundant Housing LA, NRDC, and Inclusive Santa Monica strongly support the City exploring an Affordable Housing Overlay Zone, as proposed in item 13-A of your agenda.
Santa Monica is a segregated city. North of Montana, for example, is 85% white whereas Pico is 50% people of color. This did not happen by chance - it is the legacy of decades of racist and discriminatory housing policies. An Affordable Housing Overlay Zone, which would end affordable housing bans in our most exclusive neighborhoods, would help to chip away at our segregated living patterns.
California’s housing crisis continues to grow. While there is no single easy solution to this challenge, an Affordable Housing Overlay Zone would help create desperately needed affordable housing and support the city in reaching its RHNA goals. The impacts of the housing crisis fall the hardest on low-income families and communities of color. Historic redlining, restrictive covenants, targeted evictions, and other racist and classist policies helped cement the systemic racism that shapes the world we live in. These policies were common across the nation, and Santa Monica itself shares a part in this shameful history. Just this weekend, The Los Angeles Times ran a story covering Santa Monica’s deliberate displacement of our Black community. We should not wait any longer to address these historic injustices.
Randy Shaw, author of Generation Priced Out, recently wrote in an article about the Affordable Housing Overlay Zones in Cambridge, MA and one now proposed in Berkeley, CA, that these zones are “...arguably the best strategy for high housing cost cities to reduce segregation.” We have attached that article here for your reference, and hope that you will direct staff to explore this promising option here in Santa Monica as a meaningful step toward undoing the legacy of racist and exclusionary zoning laws.
Please vote “yes” on Agenda Item 13 A.
Abby Arnold and Carl Hansen
Co-chairs, Santa Monica Forward
Executive Director, Abundant Housing L.A.
Mobility and Climate Advocate, NRDC
Steering Committee Members
Inclusive Santa Monica