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Don’t Be Defensive, McKeown Tells Mayor

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By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

June 26, 2014 -- A discussion on what causes gentrification turned into a mildly intense exchange between long-time political rivals City Council member Kevin McKeown and Mayor Pam O’Connor.

At Tuesday’s council meeting, McKeown directed staff to research how the City could protect “the existing affordable housing stock” in an area featuring portions of Pico and Mid-City neighborhoods.

He said the area “may be at some risk of gentrification because of the advent of light rail along that corridor that goes roughly between the Mid-City and Pico neighborhoods,” and needed short-term protection as City officials work on the long-term project of updating the Zoning Code.

While O’Connor sided with all other council members to support McKeown’s direction, the mayor who has represented the Westside and South Bay on the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority since 2001 challenged McKeown’s statement.

“Gentrification is not the result of light rail,” she said. “Light rail may be one factor that can lead to property values going up, but there are many other things.”

McKeown responded.

“Light rail is not the only thing affecting gentrification, and I didn’t mean that, and there was no need to be defensive about it,” McKeown said. “That wasn’t the intent.”

O’Connor said she wasn’t being defensive, but wanted “to point out that it’s very complicated and we have to be careful about what statements we make.”

McKeown added that this was part of a greater conversation about gentrification in Santa Monica and a growing scarcity of affordable housing.

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