We watched last week’s Culver City Council Meeting and found an important aspect of the night quite curious, if not a little embarrassing. As they have over the last year, in the early portion of each meeting, city staff have provided updates on the status of the City’s Homelessness Emergency Declaration.


Dr. Dan Richardson, Crisis Intervention Manager for the city’s Department of Housing and Human Services, updated the council on the mobile crisis team. But in so doing, he seemed to only spend time describing the van the team will use to go about the city helping folks in need. The van is white, that it has a wheelchair lift, and even has chairs that swivel. He went on to say it will be equipped with everything from socks to snacks.

Really? The van? I mean, it’s nice to know about a few features, but that was his whole report. How about a report on the actual mobile response team and how they’re going to go about their work? What will be their protocols for approaching people in distress or unhoused people experiencing an injury or other medical need? Will unhoused or other persons be compelled to get in the van and be taken elsewhere?

If city staff is going to provide the city council and the public with updates on the status of work with a declared emergency, shouldn’t the reports be more substantive?

Well, we quickly got an answer to that from staff – let’s have fewer reports!  Not seconds after Dr. Richardson concluded his brief and rather shallow remarks, City Manager John Nachbar asked the council if it would be alright to just update the council and public every 60 days, per the minimum requirement in the Emergency Declaration.

Councilmember Göran Eriksson backed him up, saying, “We don’t get public works to come every week to report on sidewalk problems, potholes, etc.” Yeah, but a pothole isn’t the number one issue on everyone’s mind the way homelessness has been for about 5-6 years and counting.

Councilmember Dan O’Brien said, “It’s not an urgent update.” Really? It’s literally a declared city emergency.

To their credit, Nachbar did say the staff has met several early milestones and accomplishments outlined in the emergency order. He wants to give staff more time to focus on these projects. Ok, fine. But does it strain them even more to report on their continuing progress, for work they’ve already done, at a meeting at least one team member is already likely to attend?

“We’re only at the beginning of addressing this issue,” Councilmember Freddy Puza rightly pointed out. “I believe we’re at Phase One of many, many phases.”

The city manager’s suggestion and the council majority’s action to only report on the Homeless Emergency every 60 days aren’t the biggest deals in the world, but we don’t like the message being sent here from the standpoint of transparency. One has to remember that it isn’t just five city council members wanting an important update, but all the people of Culver City. So O’Brien’s suggestion that much of this could just be an occasional written report for the council doesn’t do anything for residents.

When has less information, less often, ever been acquainted with good government?

Nachbar, who’s been city manager for 13 years, seems more comfortable with the Culver City of old before councilmembers favoring more active government like Meghan Sahli-Wells, Alex Fisch, and Daniel Lee came along. His treatment of new Mayor Yasmine-Imani McMorrin, the only Black member of the city council, only woman, and a progressive, has been hostile and overly defensive.

It’s even fair to ask, does John Nachbar work for the Culver City Council or do they work for him?! The more conservative council majority of Eriksson, O’Brien, and Councilmember Albert Vera were so quick to agree with what we assumed was a suggestion that only Nachbar and staff concocted, that one has to wonder if they had it all planned out in advance.

Mayor McMorrin also made a lot of sense – and showed some leadership – in offering a compromise to have staff report every 30 days, which is essentially every other city council meeting. But the council majority couldn’t even agree to that. Isn’t Vera supposed to be a reasonable middle-of-the-road guy?

Finally, as questions by McMorrin and even O’Brien showed, some things needed reporting that the staff hadn’t even included in their brief remarks. So while the new every 60-day reporting period was approved, 3-2, with McMorrin and Puza opposed, we would at least ask then when the staff does provide these reports, that they be thorough and complete. Note the agenda item again – “CC – UPDATE ON HOMELESSNESS EMERGENCY INCLUDING PROJECT HOMEKEY, SAFE CAMPING, AND OTHER HOUSING PROGRAMS (THIS UPDATE IS MADE PURSUANT TO THE REQUIREMENTS OF GOVERNMENT CODE SECTION 8630(C) REQUIRING A PERIODIC REVIEW OF THE LOCAL EMERGENCY).

Project Homekey wasn’t discussed until McMorrin had to ask about it, and there certainly were some updates worth providing. Same with the others. If you really want to do less, fine. Do less. But is it too much to ask that you at least report on the items the agenda requires?

We do not doubt that Nachbar and city staff work very hard. But we would ask that they treat our housing and homelessness crisis as the policy declaration has declared, and that is as an emergency, not yesterday’s news.

Photo by albertc111 on iStockphoto.com

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