Santa Monica's Landmarks Commission will leave it to photographers and writers to preserve memories of one of the city's last remaining trailer parks, it said Monday night.
After much hesitation, it voted 5-2 not to designate the as an historic landmark, traditionally a status reserved for architecturally unique and awing sites such as the and the .
It dampened the hopes of park residents who had looked to the commission to thwart redevelopment of the site, which they called a "an outdoor living museum" of a "functioning community" of the "common, working man."
"This is something important to Santa Monica that represents a way of life," said Landmarks Commission Chairman John Berley. "The problem is we can't landmark a way of life."
Commissioners said the only structures at the park that would be worthy of the designation are the trailers themselves. Those, however, are owned by the residents and can be relocated at any time.
"It does not make sense to designate a property that could potentially become vacant in the next few years... What kind of landmark would we be left with if it's empty?" questioned a Santa Monica resident at Monday's meeting.
In the summer of 2006, the park owners announced their intent to close the park, a community described by its residents—many of whom are elderly—as tight-knit, void of crime and altogether irreplaceable. Not wanting to lose their homes, they've fought the plans for development.
Monday's vote was considered one of their "last ditch efforts." A landmark designation would have subjected the owners' plans for redevelopment to much more scrutiny.
At 2930 Colorado Avenue, just east of 26th Street, the park was built in 1951, and was originally one of 11 trailer parks in Santa Monica, according to ICF International, a consultant hired by the city to assess the site's historical value. It is now just one of two.
During its first 20 years, amid the widespread regional housing shortage of World War II, the Village Trailer Park trailers primarily served as temporary housing for workers at local manufacturing plants such as Douglas Aircraft Company, ICF said.
Though the commission said the landscaping, the cement pads, the clubhouse and swimming pool as they exist today are uninspiring, it wouldn't be unprecedented for a city to turn a trailer park into a monument.
IFC pointed out that in 2002, the City of Los Angeles did so with the Monterey Trailer Park. Los Angeles officials described the site as "extremely important to the history of Los Angeles and the region as a whole... a prime example of an early 20th Century recreation and housing resource in the booming Post WWI Los Angeles area."
But unlike Village Trailer Park, the Monterey Trailer Park was originally an “auto camp” containing a handful of cabins, some of which were designed for a motor vehicle to park alongside them. These cabins were early predecessors of the motel, according to the nomination.
"The Monterey Trailer Park is a rare example of a trailer park whose origins as an Auto Camp are still evident in the existing structures,” the nomination stated.