By Leonora Camner, Resident of Santa Monica
Santa Monica is a great place to raise kids and I should know because I’m raising two here.
With activities like the farmers’ market, COAST, great libraries, and schools, plus regular trips to the beach, my kids frequently have things to do in the community and enriching experiences. A strong bike network and car-free zones, like the 3rd street promenade, make this place even better for families.
As a mother, I’m always planning for my children’s future. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about the city of Santa Monica, who over a period of decades have let a housing crisis grow into a housing catastrophe. According to the Southern California Association of Governments, Santa Monica has an existing need currently of over 7,700 homes. With so few homes for so many people, we simply aren’t building enough to keep up with residents’ needs.
Because of this growing housing deficit, I became active for the housing cause as a volunteer in 2016, and now I’m Executive Director of Abundant Housing LA, a housing outreach and advocacy organization, (and since it always comes up, no we do not accept donations from developers.)
Santa Monica’s bleak housing future is unfair to our children. Where will they live when they grow up? How will they afford a home? Home ownership is already out of the picture for many people starting families now, and seems to be getting more impossible every year.
And how am I supposed to explain to my kids why so many of our neighbors are homeless? I’m trying to teach them the values of kindness and caring for their community. But then why do they live in a city that can’t provide housing for all its people?
And on top of that, how do I teach them to celebrate inclusive, welcoming neighborhoods when so much of our city is zoned for exclusionary zoning? How do I teach them to tackle the history of racism and segregation, when our city won’t even open up its primarily white neighborhoods to new neighbors?
How will our city prepare for climate change, when we don’t even allow the density that would make our communities more sustainable, especially when that density is in a city with access to rail transit?
COVID-19 has already made all of these challenges so much harder. Santa Monica’s economy is struggling, and its local businesses are spiraling. Beloved shops and restaurants that have supported this community are disappearing. There is even less money for affordable housing than ever before. I want to have hope that I’m raising my kids in a city with strong economic growth, sustainability, and inclusiveness–a city that has a future for them.
But the resistance to new housing is constant. Some have even called the prospect of allowing more housing in the city as “opening the City gates to the barbarians.” There is no way we can address the problems facing future generations when our rhetoric around homes and neighborhoods is so inflammatory. Fundamentally, homes are where families and our community will live. They’re where people share meals, celebrate holidays, and rest. Homes are fundamentally a good thing and essential to creating community.
Fortunately, Santa Monica has been given a target of building nearly 9,000 new homes by 2029. I believe that Santa Monica can meet this challenge head-on and use this opportunity to revive our struggling economy and local businesses, build more homes for a thriving community, and open up our neighborhoods of opportunity to people of all backgrounds. This is the city I hope we can leave our children.