Photo: James Bombales
I might be a little (okay, maybe a lot) biased, but Culver City is a great place to live. The secret’s out on the formerly sleepy Westside neighborhood and corporate giants like Apple, Amazon and HBO are moving in. Its central location, access to transit, top-rated public schools and exciting culinary scene have made it a desirable locale for young professionals and families.
The surge of incoming workers is likely to bring with it an increased demand for rentals. In an effort to diversify the current housing stock, the Culver City Council approved an ordinance on January 13th to decrease the size requirements for studio apartments. The current minimum of 500 square feet has been reduced to just 350 square feet, which allows for the introduction of “micro-units” — apartments that typically measure under 400 square feet and feature space-saving furniture such as Murphy beds and drop leaf tables.
The number of parking spaces required has also been reduced to 0.5 per micro-unit. No, this doesn’t mean you have to drive a Smart car or Vespa scooter to live in a micro-unit, it simply permits the developer to provide fewer parking spaces overall. In Culver City’s Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) District, parking will no longer be a requirement at all — the assumption here is that residents will trade in their cars for TAP cards (it’s totally doable, I promise).
The Council also voted to nix private open space requirements for studio micro-units, which sounds bad on paper but will likely result in a lot of swanky rooftop amenity spaces due to this clause: “A minimum of 100 square feet of common open space per unit shall be required, of which 100% may be located on the rooftop.” I would happily live in a shoebox if it granted me access to a pool with a view!
A 2015 study by the Urban Land Institute found that micro-units lease for 20 to 30 percent less than conventional apartments, making them a viable alternative for rent-burdened singles or those seeking to move out on their own. That being said, micro-units in Culver City are a new commodity that will have to be constructed from the ground up. And new construction rentals fetch much higher prices than their older counterparts.
So while a micro-unit for $1,800 might be a “good deal” in contrast to a $3,200 one-bedroom, if you look outside the pool of new construction rentals, you could likely score a dated, albeit more spacious apartment with an actual oven for around the same price. A solution to homelessness micro-units are not, although increasing the rental housing supply is certainly a good start.