Program gives priority to displaced residents of color
By Dolores Quintana
The City of Santa Monica’s pilot program Right To Return is an amendment to the Affordable Housing Production Program and Housing Trust Fund which gives waitlist priority to city-funded affordable housing and inclusionary housing as part of the City’s Below Market Rate Housing waitlist.
The intention behind this program is to give groups that are traditionally discriminated against and who have been displaced disproportionately a chance to return to the area where their families formerly lived in Santa Monica. This specifically applies to African American families and other residents of color who were removed from the Belmar Triangle neighborhood when the City of Santa Monica took the land through eminent domain and burned down the houses and businesses in the area to add to the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium and Santa Monica Courthouse to the Civic Center.
The second group is the families or descendants of those who were displaced from the Pico neighborhood in Santa Monica near Bay Street Beach to build the 10 Freeway which had a large population of people of color. Again, the city used eminent domain to remove 500 homes and businesses from the area and push Black and other groups out of Santa Monica. According to the LAist, some families had to move more than once as the city took more land. It was clearly an attempt to push people of color out of the city.
The city took public comment in early 2021 and made the changes in July 2021 after approval was given to the pilot program. Applications for the program were opened on January 6, 2022.
According to the Santa Monica Lookout, 134 families applied, and of that number 11 families were approved. The people who were eligible were people who were displaced from the neighborhoods, their parents, legal guardians, or grandparents in the 1950s and 1960s, and each person had to provide proof that they lived in a home in the area. The pilot program’s target number of families or individuals was originally 100, so the number of candidates was actually slightly more than they originally intended to take part in the pilot. Despite the fact that the number was higher, they did not do a lottery as originally planned and considered every request.
Of the applicants, as quoted by the Lookout, 71 “did not respond with documentation or withdrew their application, and another 36 applicants were determined to be ineligible because they were not displaced or were displaced from outside of Santa Monica,” according to Santa Monica City staff. Another 16 applicants are still under consideration and have been given “more time for the applicants to find sufficient documentation regarding their family’s historical displacement.” per city staff as quoted by the Lookout.