If you were stranded in Santa Monica, what three things would you bring?!
So, here is a long overdue post reflecting on my life so far in Santa Monica with thoughts on housing, congestion, affordability, connectivity and a little bit more.
Though I’ve alluded to it, I haven’t explicitly blogged about it yet. I recently moved to Santa Monica for a new job. I’m about a month and a 1/2 into it and subletting a room in a very nice 2-bedroom apartment until the end of March, at which point I will have to move again. In the meantime, I’ve been looking at apartments throughout Santa Monica, as well as in Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, Hancock Park, and even at one in Marina del Rey. The places in Hancock Park were lovely and I almost regret not signing a lease for a nice little place there!
From where I am staying now in Santa Monica, I can get to work within about a 10-minute DRIVE. If I end up taking another smaller sublet even closer to the beach here in “Samo”, I could soon be about a about a 10-minute WALK. I can’t complain about any of that also because the unit itself appears to have been recently renovated and that rents are still too expensive for my budget. I will be paying a bit more than 30% of my net income (I’ve recently re-learned that being single with no dependents, carries with it a larger tax burden) on rent and utilities, which is totally unnerving by standard affordability measures.
Although rents are rent-controlled here in what was often referred to as the “People’s Republic of Santa Monica”, they aren’t exactly affordable, and they keep going up each year because of Costa-Hawkins, a state law in favor of less-restrictive rent control (more comparable to San Francisco’s?) that went into effect in 1999. I’ve now spoken to a few Santa Monicans about this, who have offered some insight on the strong housing cohort and history in Santa Monica. My neighbor, who works in the film industry, recalls when rent control came into place. He alluded to the role that then residents and activists, Tom Hayden and Jane Fonda, had in campaigning for rent control in Santa Monica in the midst of a condo-conversion boom, as prices skyrocketed in the late seventies.
This complex issue of “affordability” was the subject of a recent housing commission meeting I attended last week focused on an ongoing debate about re-calibrating what is considered to be “moderately affordable” in the city for new construction. I’m not entirely sure how inclusionary zoning works here, but apparently developers are mandated to build moderately affordable housing, though this seems to be in contrast to other existing state laws and recent court decisions. They also get other density bonuses if they build more restrictive types of affordable housing. Yet the affordable housing they are building is not really affordable to households earning less than $60,000 or so.
But, when looking at the bigger picture, rents in other fabulous parts of Los Angeles like West Hollywood, aren’t much better and, in fact, often worse, even in the arguably less desirable areas like West L.A., Palms or Koreatown. Santa Monica is walkable and boasts all the urban amenities that one might want. Plus, it’s oceanside… Wait, did I mention it’s by the ocean? And land is valuable. Very valuable. And frankly, quite expensive. If I were to walk to work, I could avoid the burden of having any type of commute, obviously, therefore not having to pay for gas and parking, essentially saving not only money, but also loads of time otherwise spent in traffic.
What more could one ask for here in Santa Monica (nd I suppose in the greater Los Angeles area just the same? Well again, how about truly affordable rents for a variety of households. I know this is easier said than done. It just seems like truly affordable rents are hard to come by despite rent control, and I’m starting to think that it’s because thousands of lucky folks are probably locked into their affordable rentals, and keeping them for as long as possible. I mean, I recently heard that about 80% of Santa Monica rents. I think that for West Hollywood this is 78%, and I’m not sure about Beverly Hills or the rest of Los Angeles…
In the future, I would also like to see less traffic. There is more traffic than I expected, especially around all the new construction near RAND and at City Hall. The 10 Freeway eastbound is also often congested, and attending happy hour in Downtown L.A., seems impossible during a regular work week. I can’t understand how some of my co-workers commute from Pasadena and even to my hometown, West Covina. Though they appear to skip past congestion on half of their journey if they time it correctly, they always seem to get stuck in it during the second half. And they choose to live there, why? Because it is more affordable, especially for people with families who want a house.
And tying into less traffic, is greater connectivity. I will certainly feel more connected to the rest of Los Angeles once the Expo and Purple lines are built out, and when I am able to, not only spend less time on the road driving (in stop-and-go traffic), but also able to get from A-to-B, more quickly and effectively. I think the technical term in transportation planning is “trip capacity”.
I really do love everything about Santa Monica so far: the architecture, the shops, the restaurants, its bars, libraries and so forth. One last thing I would love to see, is better lunch specials and deals for people who work in Santa Monica. And though I love Whole Foods, I wish it were less expensive, too! But, slowly, I’m starting to get used to the inflated prices and to seek out the daily lunch specials. (This working girl has to pay the bills after all!)
Now, getting back to my initial question, what three things would I bring if stranded in Santa Monica? In an ideal world I would have my own place, the perfect boyfriend and an adorable dog! I would settle for an adorable boyfriend, the perfect place and my own dog… or maybe an adorable place, my own boyfriend and the perfect dog? Phew… looks like for now I may just have to settle fora a pretty cool job, a nice, smart roommate with a dog, and shared a place just a few blocks from the beach… with cable and wifi, too, perhaps? 😉
Oh, and I know one other thing I wouldn’t bring: A car. My next apartment probably won’t have parking and I can already imagine how annoying it will be to move it around on street cleaning days, plus I’ll need to get another parking permit! Of course, I will still need my car from time to time though I might not really need it in Santa Monica if I live and here. We’ll see. I will need to make a decision and make a move, literally, by the end of the month! Aww, life is complicated in Los Angeles. Can I simplify it in Santa Monica? Perhaps!! And, the saga continues…