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Culver City's Got The Jobs. The Housing? Not So Much

Colliers International’s Kitty Wallace, Lowe Enterprises’ Matt Walker, California Landmark Group’s Ari Kahan, Geneva Street Partners’ Michael Lowinger, Layton Construction’s Craig Bailey, James Suhr & Associates’ Jim Suhr and KFA Architecture’s Jonathan Watts

Over the last three or four years, Culver City has become a hub for streaming media and tech companies that have taken up big blocks of space in the 5-square-mile city, often around the downtown area. Culver City’s office market weathered the pandemic well, making strides toward rebounds in occupancy and demand early in the game. 

But the flip side of the windfall of job creation has been a shortfall of housing for all these new, well-paid workers, panelists at Bisnow’s Neighborhood Series: In & Around Culver City event said. 

“What we've seen over the last five or 10 years is really an office and studio expansion, and there hasn't been multifamily growth to support that,” Layton Construction Project Executive Craig Bailey said. 

In 2016, there were 49,935 jobs and 17,528 housing units in Culver City, for a jobs-to-housing ratio of 2.8-to-1, according to the city's housing element. In 2020, there were an estimated 60,312 jobs and 17,146 housing units, for a ratio of 3.5-to-1. The city estimates that the discrepancy between jobs and housing units will only increase over the next 25 years.

Culver City and, more broadly, the Westside of Los Angeles have intense demand for more multifamily housing. Culver City is revisiting its land use and zoning regulations to try to catch up to it, James Suhr & Associates President Jim Suhr said. 

“it has a long way to go,” Suhr said, adding that because of regulations in California, namely the California Environmental Quality Act, no project is ever truly able to be built by-right, without special approvals or sign-offs. 

CBRE’s Michelle Esquivel-Hall, BARDAS Investment Group’s Jackson Brissette, LPC West’s Kent Handleman and Lendlease’s Ryan Burton

Lowe Enterprises Executive Vice President Matt Walker predicted that much of Culver City’s near-term residential pipeline will be projects on smaller, “postage stamp-sized” sites, as that’s all that is likely to get approved. 

Lowe’s massive, mixed-use Ivy Station project is nearing completion adjacent to the Culver City stop on the E (formerly Expo) light rail line. 

Geneva Street Partners Managing Principal and co-founder Michael Lowinger agreed that the odds that more large projects would be completed in the near future in Culver City are slim. Larger sites are needed to get economies of scale, but assembling those sites is a complex, time-consuming process. 

“In the foreseeable future, I don't see an abundance of opportunities for large-scale development,” Lowinger said. 

Lowinger, Walker, Suhr and Bailey were joined by California Landmark Group principal Ari Kahan, KFA Architecture partner Jonathan Watts and moderator Kitty Wallace, who is an executive vice president at Colliers International

Office developers and experts, speaking on another panel at the event, echoed the difficulty in finding suitable sites in Culver City. 

BARDAS Investment Group Senior Director of Investments Jackson Brissette said it is almost impossible to find an acre of land that is owned by someone who would consider selling. If that land could be found and purchased, residents in Culver City, as elsewhere, can throw up hurdles to a project. 

“I think that the residents of Culver City are starting to become like the residents of the city of Los Angeles or Santa Monica,” LPC West Senior Vice President Kent Handleman said. “Before a lot of this development occurred, they really didn't know how to be activist residents.”

Brissette and Handleman were joined on their panel by Lendlease Senior Vice President Ryan Burton and moderator Michelle Esquivel-Hall, an executive vice president at CBRE.

CORRECTION, MAY 16, 1:00 P.M. PT: A previous version of this story contained incorrect ratios for jobs to housing in Culver City. The story has been updated.