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Super Commuters And Fire Woes The 'Story Of California'

Culver City is at a tipping point, according to Culver City Mayor Meghan Sahli-Wells.

In the next few years, as Amazon, Apple, HBO and other multinational corporations get ready to move into new mixed-use office buildings and with the city in the process of updating its general plan, Sahli-Wells said it is important to remember the role government and private companies play in the health of the environment. 

Culver City Mayor Meghan Sahli-Wells, Rottet Studio's Patricia McCaul, Grifka Group's Leo Grifka and RM/d's Rick Moses discuss Culver City's charm during a panel at Bisnow's State of the Market event at the 400/600 Culver Pointe in Culver City. Not pictured are Walter N. Marks' Wally Marks and Corgan's Sean Kim.

“There is no charm if you cannot breathe. There is no charm on fire,” Sahli-Wells said at Bisnow’s Culver City State of the Market event Tuesday at the 400/600 Culver Pointe in Culver City. “First and foremost, no matter what your job is day-to-day, all of our jobs is to make sure that we have a planet to live on.

“We have a unique responsibility to not only take the best policy and try to get people out of cars and build healthy transportation networks and build housing where people work; these are the things we do in government and you do in the private sector, that all of us are responsible for it.”

“We can get this right and do well for all of us or we could crash. And I’d rather do well,” Sahli-Wells said. 

More than 250 people attended the sold-out morning event.

At the event, panelists that included Hackman Capital Partners Executive Vice President Ryan Smith, Lowe Enterprises’ Executive Vice President Tom Wulf, Greenberg Glusker partner Elizabeth Watson and Abramson Architects’ Trevor Abramson, discussed the major job and development boom happening in Culver City. 

Once known as sort of the underbelly of the Westside of Los Angeles, this city of about 40,000 residents was more known for its major movie studios. 

Real estate developer Harry Culver, who was intrigued by the nascent movie industry, opened what would become known as The Culver Studios in 1915. Gone With the WindJudy Garland’s Wizard of Oz, Citizen Kane and many other classics were filmed on that lot. 

Thus, the city became known as “The Heart of Screenland.” The studio served as the longtime home of MGM before Sony took over the lot in 1990.

In the past several years a new era has emerged, “The Heart of Screenland” is transforming into “The Heart of Streamland.” 

Just in the past couple of years, Apple, HBO and Amazon have signed leases to support their digital streaming productions in either brand-new or adaptive reuse developments in Culver City. 

Hackman Capital Partners' Ryan Smith, Newmark Knight Frank's Alex Bergeson, KPRS Construction's Joel Stensby, Abramson Architects' Trevor Abramson, Cambridge Pacific Ventures' Perry Pound and Greenberg Glusker's Elizabeth Watson discuss the game-changing developments happening in Culver City at Bisnow's Culver City State of the Market event at 400/600 Culver Pointe in Culver City.

Apple will move into Lincoln Property Co.’s 8777 Washington Blvd. project. HBO is relocating from Santa Monica to Lowe, AECOM and Rockwood Capital’s Ivy Station. Amazon is slated to take over Hackman Capitals’ major renovation and expansion of Culver Studios.

Within the next four years, more than 5,000 new workers will work in the city, city officials said.

Grifka Group founder Leo Grifka said he is not surprised by the influx of companies opening offices in the city. Grifka’s company in January opened the 49-room boutique PaliHotel in the city.

“Employers want to be close to the content creators,” Grifka said.

Sahli-Wells said Culver City provides a type of authenticity, “where folks can be involved in our storied movie past in a modern building … [Developers are] taking something part of our history, roots and quite rundown, and making it something that is new, beautiful and relevant.” 

As thousands of workers arrive in this city, though, housing the new workforce will be extremely important, Sahli-Wells said. 

“We have this amazing opportunity of bringing in high-quality jobs … but housing is so expensive,” Sahli-Wells said, adding that the average single-family residential home in the city is about $1.2M. 

She used a term many residential agents use, “Drive until you qualify.” Because housing is so expensive in Culver City and surrounding areas, workers have to drive outward to San Bernardino County or the Inland Empire to buy a home.

This is how workers become super commuters, driving an hour or two each way. This has a significant impact on the environment, she said. 

But if we are actually building housing and connecting it to transit, it will lessen the environmental impact, Sahli-Wells said.

More than 250 people attended Bisnow's Culver City State of the Market event at 400/600 Culver Pointe in Culver City.

The mayor urged the audience to support Scott Wiener’s SB-50 legislation, a proposal that would require cities and municipalities to provide developers a density bonus for building near transit lines. 

As the city embarks on a general plan update, a blueprint that will lay out housing, mobility and other issues in the city in the next 20 years, this is the time developers, businesses and residents should come together to discuss how to address these key issues of housing, mobility and environment, the mayor said.

In Culver City, the residents would need to vote in favor of having developers build taller buildings. Only a vote from the people but more likely politicians in Sacramento can add more density to the city.

“At the end, it might not be a bad thing because the housing crisis is so real,” the mayor said. 

She also said as they look into adding more housing to not forget the homeless population, which “is bigger than it has ever been” in the city. 

“So we’re dealing with these extremes and it’s the story of California,” she said. “What I’m hoping is that collectively through the general plan update, which is also an exciting thing that the city is embarking on right now, that we have this community conversation where we’re beginning to connect the dots."