SANTA MONICA, CA — More than 100 people whose families were displaced in the 1950s and 60s have applied for new housing opportunities with a new program offered by the city of Santa Monica, city officials told Patch.
Years after they were forced from their homes over construction, Black families were encouraged this month to apply for the Below Market Housing pilot program for historically displaced households.
The program is looking to match families and their descendants who were displaced during the development of the Civic Auditorium in the Belmar Triangle neighborhood or the I-10 Highway in the Pico neighborhood with affordable housing units in Santa Monica.
After World War II and following the Jim Crowe laws in the South, many Black families settled in South Santa Monica beach neighborhoods, including areas near Phillips Chapel Church in Ocean Park, the Belmar Place area where the Civic Auditorium stands south of Pico Boulevard to Main Street, and in another neighborhood north of Santa Monica High School, east of Fourth Street.
Many of these Black migrants owned small businesses providing services to the Black community, including the La Bonita Bathhouse and Café, which is now the eastern edge of the Civic Auditorium, served customers from the 1910s-50s. The Arkansas Traveler Inn, which is now Main Street, was open to Black tourists, and the Everybody Cafe, located at 408 Pico Boulevard, served beachgoers in the 1930s. Medical and dental practices also operated in the 1930s and 1940s on the 400 block of Pico Boulevard.
But that all changed when construction in Santa Monica forced people out of their homes and businesses during the 1950s and 1960s.
“The African American neighborhood thrived in the Belmar Triangle until the 1950s when it literally went up in smoke in the name of urban renewal,” according to the city’s website. “The land was taken away by eminent domain to make way for the City’s expanded Civic Center, which included an Auditorium and the Los Angeles County Courthouse. The City burned down homes and businesses both rented and owned by African Americans and other marginalized groups.”
Now, the new program hopes to address some of these injustices and bring people back to the city.
“We created this program in the earnest hope that former Santa Monica residents take advantage of this new affordable housing opportunity,” Mayor Sue Himmelrich said in a statement.”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,” Himmelrich said.
The program remains open to applicants through Feb. 22.
The pilot will provide priority in city-funded housing and inclusionary housing for up to 100 applicants from households or descendants of households (children or grandchildren) who were displaced, according to the city.
If more than 100 households apply within the first 30 days of the application period, a lottery will be conducted. 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 Feb. 22, up to 100 applicants, will be reviewed for eligibility in the order they applied.
Today, fewer Black people live in Santa Monica than they did in the 1960s, The Los Angeles Times reports.
“We will be able to right a historic wrong,” said Santa Monica City Councilwoman Kristin McCowan told The Times. “Eventually, we’re going to do that for more and more people. And if other communities start to do their share, you can see a real tidal wave potentially across the country.”
This is the first time the city has added a program like this, a major move towards reparations. It follows Gov. Gavin Newsom’s decision — and the first law of its kind — to sign a bill into law in September that returns land known as Bruce’s Beach in Manhattan Beach to the Black descendants who were forced off the land.
“For this inaugural period of the program, the City of Santa Monica is here to assist applicants given that documentation from 70 years ago may be available in different forms,” the city said.
To learn more about the pilot and the required documentation, and to apply for the below market housing list, visit https://www.santamonica.gov/process-explainers/how-to-apply-for-below-market-housing- for-historically-displaced-households.
Anyone with questions about the program can contact [email protected].