Updated at 9:10 a.m.
With objections from Gleam Davis and Kevin McKeown, who continued to lament the loss of affordable housing and the displacement of "vulnerable" residents, the Santa Monica City Council approved on a second reading Tuesday night an agreement with a developer that allows the closure of Village Trailer Park and the construction of hundreds of new apartments and condos in its place.
Tuesday's 5-1 vote puts to rest six years of negotiations with the park owner and developer, Marc Luzzatto, who intends to replace most of the trailers with a 341,290-square-foot, mixed-use retail and housing project called The East Village. Those City Council members who favored the agreement said they hoped it would bring current mobile home park residents out of relocation limbo.
"There are people living on the site currently who have been waiting for this council to act," said Mayor Richard Bloom.
On Tuesday, McKeown rehashed some of his earlier concerns, primarily that only 16 apartments of the planned 377 residential units will be be deed-restricted for tenants with "very low" and "low incomes." Ninety-nine of the new units, however, will be rent-controlled.
But only Davis cast a dissenting vote.
Though he opposed the agreement and initially voted "no," McKeown reversed his decision at the last minute Tuesday night.
"I have to bow to the inevitability of a 4 to 2 to 1 vote," the councilman explained. The vote to that point had been Bloom, Bob Holbrook, Pam O'Connor and Terry O'Day in favor, Davis and McKeown opposed, and Bobby Shriver abstaining. "I am aware that our council rules [state] matters can be brought back for consideration only by those on the prevailing side, and I therefore change my vote to yes."
At 2930 Colorado Ave., just east of 26th Street, Village Trailer Park was built in 1951. It was originally one of 11 trailer parks in Santa Monica, providing residents an inexpensive option for home ownership—but is now just one of two.
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.
"The homes at Village Trailer Park are the only places in Santa Monica where low-cost home ownership is possible," said resident Brenda Barnes. She has said the average rent (all of the 99 spaces are rent-controlled) is $416 per month.
With input from city leaders, commissioners and staffers, the developer has changed his plans over the years, with the final iteration retaining 10 trailer spaces at the park but on a separate parcel fronting Standford Street.
His plans also call for nearly 25,000 square feet of retail space, all of it on the ground-floor of the project's three buildings, each of which will feature rooftop decks or pools.
The agreement approved Tuesday was required because the land is zoned strictly for mobile homes and child care uses. In exchange for green-lighting the commercial development, the agreement offers relocation options and benefits for residents.
Sue Himmelrich, a Santa Monica and attorney with Western Center on Law and Poverty, has argued the agreement violates the city's own Affordable Housing Production Program, a 2006 plan that requires new developments to provide, as a part of their projects, certain amounts of "low income" housing.
She contends, and McKeown agrees, the city miscalculated the ratio of affordable units required to be built at The East Village. They and city staffers disagree over whether the land's zoning qualifies as "multi-family housing," which would mandate a higher percentage of affordable units to be built.
Councilman Terry O'Day said though he "has a strong commitment to affordable housing," he voted in favor of the agreement because it goes "above and beyond" to protect the park residents.
Displaced residents will chose from among a number of options valued between $18,000 and $85,000. One of the more popular will likely be the option to move into a new manufactured trailer—paid for by the developer—at at Mountain View Mobile Home Park. That option and three others also include $1,500 payments for moving costs.
"We are striking a deal going as far as we could to protect the current residents… and give them a range of options," O'Day said. "I’ll stick with my vote."
Davis said she voted "no" because none of the trailers had been appraised. "Without those on-site appraisals, it's impossible to fully analyze the [Tenant] Impact Report and tenant relocation packages."
Citing McKeown's switched vote and residents' threats to sue, former City Council candidate John C. Smith, who ran an anti-development campaign, told project opponents via email, "it's not over."