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Santa Monica to Begin Accepting Applications for Families Displaced by Construction of Freeway and Civic Center

Below Market Housing for Historically Displaced Households pilot application window to open January 18

By Sam Catanzaro

Santa Monica will soon begin accepting applications for families displaced from the city in the 1950s and 1960s due to the construction of both 1-10 Freeway and Civic Center. 

Beginning January 18, 2022, the City of Santa Monica is opening applications for the Below Market Housing (BMH) pilot program for historically displaced households. 

“We created this program in the earnest hope that former Santa Monica residents take advantage of this new affordable housing opportunity,” said Mayor Sue Himmelrich. “If you know community members who were displaced in the 1950s and 1960s, we ask for your assistance in sharing the pilot information so we can identify as many candidates as possible.”

Beginning in the 1950s, the federal government provided funding for urban renewal across the country, resulting in the displacement of hundreds of thousands of families from their homes and neighborhoods. 

“Santa Monica was not immune to these national policies and practices. The local impact was particularly significant on two areas of the city: the Belmar Triangle (what is today the area that houses the Civic Auditorium) and the I-10 Highway/Pico Corridor,” reads a City of Santa Monica report on the displacement of families. 

The Belmar Triangle area was once populated with rows of shotgun houses. The neighborhood, made up mostly of Black residents and business owners, was targeted for urban renewal and in the 1950s, the City used eminent domain to purchase properties to make way for the construction of the Civic Auditorium under a national program called Build America Better.

The area around the I-10 Freeway shares a similar history of displacement. The freeway was built in the 1960s, essentially splitting the Pico neighborhood in two, displacing mostly low-income households, including African American and Latino families. The State of California used eminent domain to purchase houses that ran the route of the current highway to connect downtown Los Angeles to the Pacific Coast Highway. The highway expansion started in 1957 and was complete in 1966. 

“By the late 1960s, thousands of Santa Monica households had been displaced by urban renewal projects,” reads the staff report. 

In March 2019, while discussing proposed amendments to the City’s Affordable Housing Production Program, City Council directed staff to explore a historical displacement policy or “right to return” provision of the City’s affordable housing policy to commemorate the Belmar Triangle neighborhood beyond naming recognition of the new sports field on the site at the Civic Center. The result was the Below Market Housing (BMH) pilot program for historically displaced households. 

Under this news program, participants will have priority in City-funded housing and inclusionary housing. The City will accept up to 100 applicants, who must be descendants of displaced households, either children or grandchildren. The application period is from January 18 – February 22, 2022.

If more than 100 households apply within the first 30 days of the window, the City will conduct a lottery. 

“Otherwise, after the first 30 days of the enrollment period if less than 100 applications have been received then the enrollment period will be extended and households that applied within the first 30 days, and households that apply after February 22, 2022, up to 100 applicants, will be reviewed for eligibility in the order they applied,” the City said in a press release announcing the program.

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