Sarah Letts has announced her resignation from Community Corporation of Santa Monica, the city’s largest affordable housing developer.
Letts has served as the organization’s Executive Director for five years and said she will take a similar job with the Hollywood Community Housing Corporation. Letts will work in Santa Monica full time through March 17 and then on a part-time basis until a successor is found or June 30, whichever comes first.
Letts said she has enjoyed her time in Santa Monica but the commute from Pasadena became burdensome, especially as she is trying to spend more time with her aging parents who also live in Pasadena.
“I realize that I’m walking away from an incredible and interesting and engaged community, so I’m going to miss it,” she said. “I really am going to miss how messy and interesting democracy is and this city is fascinating and I’m going to miss it.”
She said the day-to-day work at her new job would be very similar to the work here.
“The need throughout Los Angeles County is extraordinary,” she said. “While it is a lateral move, I will have the opportunity to work throughout the entire county. Having an impact in more geographic areas is appealing, even though I know the need here in Santa Monica is just as actuate as everywhere else in the county.”
Letts began her career in the nonprofit sector, creating affordable housing projects in Los Angeles and Chicago. She spent 11 years working for Fannie Mae at their regional office in Pasadena before coming to Santa Monica five years ago.
She said finding a job that will ease her commute was too good an opportunity to pass up.
“It was an emotional decision to leave this place I’ve grown to love for the last five years but the rational side of me realized whether I could handle the commute for the rest of my career.”
Letts said she has no plans to leave the industry.
“I’ve been doing this for 25 years and with every year the problem seems to get worse,” she said. “I am going to stick with this industry, I’m passionate about doing something to address the affordable housing crisis, I’m going to stick with it for the rest of my career.”
Community Corporation of Santa Monica is a non-profit organization that restores, builds, and manages affordable housing within the city. It has built or restored more than 90 properties throughout Santa Monica, creating nearly 1,700 affordable homes and applications for their units far outstrips the available supply each year.
The board of directors will begin the search for a successor immediately and board member Patricia Hoffman said the position has always been competitive due to the relative stability of the organization.
“Our organization is in great shape and I think that we are strong, our staff is strong and our financials are good,” she said. “I think any qualified person who walked into this organization will be pleased with what he or she found.”
Hoffman said ongoing revenues would be a problem for any new director due to the larger economic climate.
“Our biggest challenge of course, is the loss of redevelopment money,” she said. “We don’t have the revenue stream by which we can acquire existing properties that we can turn into affordable housing or build new affordable housing.”
Hoffman praised Letts for the work she has done over the past five years.
“She had great relationships with the community and the city and with her board and her staff,” she said. “She worked well with other people. We’re very sorry to see her go, but we understand the drive has become impossible.”