I am writing in reply to the letter, “Make room in your heart (and your city),” SMDP, April 26, in which the writer reports on the benefit that she and her family, especially a daughter with special ed needs, have received as a result of being able to secure affordable housing in Santa Monica. Less happily, the writer also reports the resistance she encountered within the public school system and among parents who resented any extra help required by “disabled, poor and students of color.”
During the current debate over the Hines proposal, the author has noticed “angry letters rejecting any affordable housing” in the columns of the SMDP and other local newspapers. Letters to the editor notwithstanding, I would like to assure the correspondent that the people whom I have encountered in neighborhood groups here in Santa Monica in the past two years do support affordable housing. I believe that widespread consensus exists here in the city regarding providing affordable housing. Where there is a difference of opinion is as to whether new housing of this type should be provided at the cost of easing zoning restrictions regarding the height and density of major new developments. City Councilmember Kevin McKeown has recently expressed support for requiring that 25 percent of new multi-unit residential building be affordable in character. And legislation to this effect has recently been introduced in the state legislature. While one awaits its passage — as well as that of other new legislation to restore public funding lost during the state’s recent budget crisis — the city can take steps to assure the provision of affordable housing in new buildings without reducing zoning requirements.
Santa Monica is a built-out community with a population density even higher than that of West L. A., which already has the second highest urban density of any city in the United States. The fight to preserve Santa Monica from excessive development is an obligation that we owe to those who came before us, to the present livability of the city, and to those, including residents in affordable housing, who will live, work, and visit here in the future.