After more than seven years of service, I recently resigned from the Santa Monica Housing Commission, and want to thank Chair Michael Soloff, the Commission members generally and the city’s outstanding staff for the privilege of working with them to protect and preserve housing and demographic diversity in the Santa Monica community. As I leave, one issue in particular calls for our community’s thoughtful consideration: the likely gentrification of the Pico neighborhood and corresponding loss of our low and moderate income neighbors.

The increasing concentration of wealth and income in our coastal communities is clearly driving real estate values higher, and reducing housing opportunity for low and moderate income working families and, in particular, households of color. This phenomenon is most apparent in the city’s Pico neighborhood, which, I believe, is home to the greatest concentration of lower income working families in Santa Monica.

As a resident of the Santa Monica community, I’d strongly urge the Commission to recommend to the City Council a series of actions to protect our Pico area neighbors, that would:

• result in the adoption of a No Net Loss Ordinance which requires that every affordable housing unit that is eliminated be replaced,

• create a Neighborhood Resident Housing Preference (NRHP) similar to San Francisco’s, and subordinate only to a preference for homeowners recently displaced due to the provisions of the Ellis Act or owner occupancy evictions, and

• require all developers of inclusionary and 100% affordable housing to:

– deliver targeted outreach at least one year in advance of a new development’s market availability to low income constituencies currently living in the affected census tract, and

– affirmatively offer credit counseling to that same targeted population at least six (6) months in advance of the market availability of newly built or rehabilitated affordable housing units.

My wife and I chose to move to Santa Monica shortly after we married in 1982 because we felt this community would offer our children both great public schools and the best possible exposure to a diverse economic and racial peer group. It did, and I believe that helped our daughter and son become the successful contributing citizens they are today. Our schools continue to deliver excellence, but our socio-economic and racial diversity is eroding, particularly in the Pico neighborhood.

While change can be good, I ask that the Commission and Council take the necessary steps to protect our most vulnerable residents.

Sincerely,

Loren Bloch

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