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Vanos Architects' rendering of the revamped Sun-Bay into the Upward Bound House
Vanos Architects' rendering of the revamped Sun-Bay into the Upward Bound House
Upward Bound House

Culver City Looks to Repurpose Motels as Affordable Housing

Culver City will be studying how to increase its stock of affordable housing, as well as the feasibility of temporary, seasonal homeless shelters.

At a recent City Council meeting, city leaders agreed to solicit the assistance of consultants to study how motels could be repurposed for affordable housing; the possibility of using modular, manufactured housing for affordable housing; and how and where a seasonal, temporary homeless shelter could be established.

The studies could take nine months to a year, according to information discussed at the Sept. 11 meeting.

Vice mayor Meghan Sahli-Wells said the housing crisis is at such a point that both homeless shelters and affordable housing are needed.

“We’re creating homelessness because the cost of renting is going up and the housing market is less and less accessible to folks,” Sahli-Wells said. “We need strategies for making housing affordable to different income levels.”

She noted that many children have to leave the Culver City school district because their families move due to high rents.

The council’s approach is only “one part of a larger strategy,” Sahli-Wells said, adding that developer fees and inclusionary housing are among the other options being discussed.

Councilmember Alex Fisch said in an email that Culver City first started looking at motel reuse a couple years ago for two reasons.

“First, motel reuse is politically expedient,” he said. “People are less likely to object to repurposing a building that’s already in their neighborhood. Second, the city had previously had success with this model, working with Upward Bound House.”

Around 2010, the Upward Bound House opened in Culver City to provide temporary, emergency housing to homeless families with children. Wrap-around case management is also provided.

The old Sun-Bay Motel in Culver City
The old Sun-Bay Motel in Culver City
Upward Bound House

The site was formerly the Sun-Bay Motel, and at the time of its conversion, interior designers volunteered to decorate the units.

Cleaning up the existing rooms was much cheaper than building new, Sahli-Wells said, adding that it was a great improvement to the neighborhood. “A lot of people are scared of having homeless [people] in their neighborhood, and having a good example [of housing for the homeless] demystifies the fears some folks may have,” she said.

Culver City is not alone in looking to motel conversions. Pasadena also is exploring the idea of converting motels and hotels into affordable housing sites, and earlier this year Los Angeles agreed to allow motel owners to convert their structures into housing. In New Mexico, the Sundowner Motel along Albuquerque's Historic Route 66 was converted into a mixed-use development with affordable housing and commercial space. Closer to home, in Santa Ana the Orchard is now a development for chronically homeless people.

When asked if repurposing motels would be an option to house homeless people as well, Councilmember Fisch said, “Motel conversions are no panacea. Since they were not originally built to provide service, they cannot meet the needs of many people.

“But the magnitude of the housing crisis is so huge that repurposed motels can surely help. The success of Upward Bound House shows that converted motels can do a good job providing medium-term transitional housing.”

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