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New Council Cans Approval of Trailer Park Development

After two new members were installed, the Santa Monica City Council nixed a development agreement for the Village Trailer Park.

At the urging of City Councilman Kevin McKeown, the council took an unusual step Tuesday night to rescind its earlier approval of a development agreement for a major mixed-use project at Village Trailer Park.

The 4-3 vote does not kill the project. It does, however, reopen negotiations with the developer. Councilmembers want to secure more "affordable" housing at the project, called the East Village, which will replace 99 trailers at one of the last two remaining mobile home parks in Santa Monica.

In the now-voided development agreement, only 16 apartments of the planned 377 apartments and condos will be be deed-restricted for tenants with "very low" and "low" incomes.

"If we don’t have affordable housing built in this area… the people who work there won’t be able to afford to live there and they will become commuters—which is exactly the problem we’re trying to solve," McKeown said.

McKeown was able to secure support from the council's two new members, Ted Winterer and Tony Vazquez, and from Gleam Davis, who had voted against the development agreement in November. (Former councilman Richard Bloom had voted for the agreement and former councilman Bobby Shriver abstained.)

"We're headed in the wrong direction," Winterer said. The former planning commissioner's opposition to the development agreement centered primarily on it being approved before the release of the city's Bergamot Area Plan.

The plan is supposed to guide the city as developers propose changes to the former industrial areas near the Bergamot Arts Station. Its framework includes managing traffic and parking, urban design, land use, wages and housing. A final draft will be presented to the planning commission for the first time Wednesday night and to the City Council for adoption later this winter.

"Until we really have a handle on what’s going on in this area," Winterer said, "I just think it’s premature."

The draft was released Friday, three days after the council's approval of the East Village agreement.

It shows 45 percent of workers in the Bergamot area—which encompases the East Village—could afford to rent a home in Santa Monica and just 19 percent could afford to buy a condo. One percent could afford to purchase a single family home.

City staffers say to make "living in the plan a genuine choice for 75 percent of the employees," rent levels will need to be between $1,000 and $1,500 per month for a one-bedroom unit.

"Providing a stronger match between Bergamot workers and housing options may also be advantageous for businesses in the Bergamot area to attract and retain skilled workers, helping the creative industry cluster to remain and grow," they wrote in their report to the Planning Commission. Enabling "more of them to choose to live nearer to their jobs, thereby reducing congestion, commute time, and vehicle miles traveled."

The council's reconsideration of the East Village development agreement was supported by the boards of directors of the following groups: Friends of Sunset Park, Northeast Neighbors, Pico Neighborhood Association Board of Directors, Santa Monica Mid City Neighbors, among other local groups, including Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights.

"Affordable housing is so crucial to our city," said SMRR co-chair Patricia Hoffman. "We’re talking about working people here... we need to make sure we have enough work force housing for low income and very low income families."

Sue Himmelrich, a Santa Monica resident and attorney with Western Center on Law and Poverty, has argued the East Village development agreement violates Santa Monica's own Affordable Housing Production Program, a 2006 plan that requires new developments to provide, as a part of their projects, a certain ratio of affordable housing units to regularly priced units. She contends the project needs 70 affordable units, not 16.

But park owner and developer Marc Luzzatto said Himmelrich's calculations don't take into consideration concessions he has made, including the retention of 10 mobile homes and 40 parking spaces for the affordable units on a nearby parcel.

"We have been working on this for 6½ years," he said. "We spent a tremendous amount of money, a lot of blood sweat and tears negotiating the development agreement."

Newly-appointed mayor Pam O'Connor and council members Bob Holbrook and Terry O'Day voted not to rescind the agreement. The councilmen have supported the agreement because it provides substantial relocation benefits for the trailer park residents who will be displaced by the development.

"I’m very concerned the great benefit program… will be lost," Holbrook said. "And that really worries me."

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Brenda Barnes December 13, 2012 at 12:05 AM
You're right, Jill, but I have hope for Gleam, like you Dan and Jon. She is, after all, a lawyer from Harvard, so I am going to send her the briefs we are writing about how illegal what they have done is. She needs to know this is illegal, not just unwise or unfair or discriminatory against the poor, all of which it is, too.
Brenda Barnes December 13, 2012 at 12:21 AM
It's interesting to me, Jon, what a difference it makes that they are attacking HOMEOWNERS covered by rent control. Talk about many enemies with one blow. If developers could get us, they would be off to the races. The entire City would be theirs. But look at the advantages we have. We can't be evicted in the meantime because we're covered by both rent control and the state Mobilehome Residency Law, both of which require good cause for eviction. Because we are covered by rent control, the developer can't reduce our amenities, which he has steadily been doing trying to get us to move. We plan class actions quickly as well as the long-term case against the development. He should be bankrupt by April and have to turn the Park over to us, since that is his only asset, and then we will have money to fight the City. Look at this listing in craigslist: http://losangeles.craigslist.org/wst/apa/3471694290.html Maybe someone wants to be our legal coordinator in return for living in Santa Monica. What an advantage to have housing we own here. We own our homes and finally know we have the right to rent them out or let other people stay in them, so we can use the very homes he is trying to bulldoze as a tool to fight this land speculator..
Brenda Barnes December 13, 2012 at 12:33 AM
Tonight we are discussing the Bergamot Area Plan at the Planning Commission. This is another ploy they use--have area plans discussed ad infinitum and hide what they're doing with them, which is have the projects change the plan. People need to know the decisions happen far earlier in the process than the City admits. SCAG has a definition of transit-oriented development, which is for properties within a half-mile of a station. VTP is .7 miles from the station, so they keep moving the station on their maps! Incredible dishonesty. The station was at Cloverfield and Olympic in LUCE, where there is to be a bridge across the street. That is all that makes any sense, given what would happen to traffic if Expo crossed the street at grade there. Now they are claiming the station goes all the way to 26th Street, which is three blocks. The other Expo intermediate stop stations are about 300 feet long, just a place for trains to stop, people to wait, tickets to be bought, not some gigantic three-block long thing.
Brenda Barnes December 13, 2012 at 12:34 AM
There is a great transit mall in Long Beach, but they put that in as the end of the Blue Line, the destination for trains, and a coordinated transit station where buses have an assigned place, six different spots, there are restaurants and places to sit and regroup waiting for the FREE shuttle buses that go all around the marina and cruise line stations and to the Aquarium of the Pacific from there. Such a station, if it ever were planned correctly for SM, would be at 4th and Colorado, the end of the line. It would not eat up all the art galleries in Bergamot Station.
Cin December 13, 2012 at 08:04 PM
I am semi pleased with news. They are still going to destroy the village, but at least they are considering the economic impact it was going to have on our city. We loose one of the last remaining quaint trailer parks, which is sad to say the least, and gain another large expensive apartment complex. This still means more traffic in area that already has excessive traffic backup on a daily basis. The only positive is the council is considering adding more affordable units to those how have lived at the site, at least I hope that ois their direction. I am so sick of all the new large and expensive apartments and condos going in without any consideration to the traffic and parking issue that plague the city right now. My only hope is that the council continue in a more positive less large development direction.

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