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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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Jean Wilson December 12, 2012 at 09:22 PM
This is outrageous, is it legal to undo an agreement that has been approved. Those new council members are way too radical.
Andrew Hoyer December 12, 2012 at 09:24 PM
This is the best news I've had all day! Maybe now we'll be able to see just how far off the Bergamot Area Plan this idea was.
Dan Charney December 12, 2012 at 09:31 PM
Yesterday at 3PM I drove from Main Street on Ocean Park Blvd. east to 28th Street- bumper to bumper- barely moving- cut over to Pico and drove to 32nd Street- Pico going west was bumper to bumper. 3 PM- this development should be scrapped entirely - a far smaller, more highly creative area should be developed by people that know how to develop a "whole city" not just build a huge amount of more condos- as for affording them- this stings a bit because you are making the residents of VTP suffer with total loss in reality- call it what you want, but that is what it is- while taking 'under great concern' the needs of those that can pay a higher rate and thinking that makes destroying the VTP okay- it doesn't - it doesn't do away with close to a 1000 cars- and over 2000 more trips a day- I suggest that starting at 3PM - all council members drive all over these areas until after 7 PM- then tell us we need more condos - that is the last thing we need- what we do need is to not lose our history and restore the VTP - making it a shining star in a city of one uninteresting condo building after another. And we need to take seriously the city funding of the Section 8 program- why should a few vouchers go to the prize pig agencies for addicts and the homeless while we ruin the lives of low income seniors who have lived here all their lives- the in place programs don't work- neither does more of these absurd developments- it's not about units for 1000-1500 - it's about stopping all this.
Jon Mann December 12, 2012 at 10:02 PM
Brenda's hard work is working! Now we have to keep this councils feet to the fire with the recall, otherwise they will just put the approval through later. Surprisingly Gleam is the swing vote so evidently the campaign has had an effect and Glean is trying to prove that just because developers supported her campaign she is not in their pocket. The real reason is there are many, many other developers in line to start their projects, so they are putting this one on hold, for now. The development will continue in this city, but a slower pace, because the greedy council wants the revenue no matter how much chaos is created, so they can hire more inspectors to approve projects.
Brenda Barnes December 12, 2012 at 10:14 PM
This is not enough, but it is something, I guess. The rescinding was ONLY to consider more low-income housing in the project. Gleam Davis made it clear she would not vote for it if it interfered with what she always calls when voting for development, "the integrity of the process" of negotiating development agreements. First off, the process has no integrity. The Planning Department meets with the developers month after month, with no record of what is said (including any inferences of future benefits, aka bribes), none of the other side there or even being told the meetings are taking place, and with the decision to approve really having already been made at what they call the "float-up," if not before that. The public never is part of the decision-making process. Second, there are no standards at all for what "community benefits," also aka bribes, have to be paid by developers in return for millions of dollars of increased value in their properties from getting higher density and heights, and reduced obligations, compared to what even the LUCE--a developer's dream--requires. Without standards, every property gets a case-by-case approach, and that's why we have such a mess.
TC December 12, 2012 at 10:18 PM
I am surprised to read that Sa mo is actually concerned about their lower income people, usually the concern is about money. Well done!
Brenda Barnes December 12, 2012 at 10:24 PM
So many good points, Dan. I was struck last night by Davis's offhand remark during the discussion of affordable housing earlier--now that would show you another reason why we have such a mess, piecemeal, uninformed, incompetent and dishonest approaches, and then they wonder why redevelopment money was taken away--that we are "lucky" to have a nonprofit in town that actually makes sure the renters are low-income. She's talking about Community Corp of SM! That's the "non-profit" they funnel all their affordable housing through. The co-developer of the Village at SM, a luxury 300-unit condo development! The place with 3,000 people on the waiting list where no one with any mark on their credit or making less than the max for the unit will ever get a unit! Where restrictions on the number of people in an apartment and their pets are worse than in the open market! And where they treat you like scum if you dare to go to one of their informational meetings, yelling at people, insisting on their standing here, not there, and don't dare ask a question. This is to get you to know how "lucky" you will be if they "let" you rent an apartment, and how these Nazis are going to treat you as a tenant. Tenants at Mountain View Mobilehome Inn filed a $120 million claim against the City, which is their landlord from Hell. Now they'll probably get Community Corp or an offshoot of it, with interlocking boards in SMRR and the City departments. Hopeless.
Brenda Barnes December 12, 2012 at 10:31 PM
This was not my work. This was the neighborhood councils and primarily Zina Josephs and Kevin McKeown, with the group at VTP that is willing to give up half the park rather than keep fighting. I understand their point of view. They have been convinced all was lost from the beginning, when the City was on the developer's side, so anything is a win. We, however, are not willing to give up one of the 109 rent-controlled spaces for putting people's own owned homes on here. This is the last stand for low-cost HOME OWNERSHIP in SM, and we are not going to give it up. We prepared a case of first impression for the CA Supreme Court--where I worked as a law clerk--from Day One three years ago. We are not about to give it up in return for 10 trailers left on Stanford in a ghetto in the shadow of the Manor House without any of the great amenities--primarily the right to own and will our own homes in place and covered by rent control--which we have now. The reason people should join us is we are HOME OWNERS. We are home owners with special protections most home owners do not have. If we can be moved out to make money for developers and the City, no home owner in town is safe.
Brenda Barnes December 12, 2012 at 10:48 PM
VTP was not in the Bergamot Area in LUCE. Now the area map has been redrawn to include it. It's a case of the projects determining the plan rather than a plan determining the projects. Ted Winterer said that last night, and he's right. What I said above about no standards is really important. If every case can be decided in a vacuum, we are lost. Cumulative effects are never considered, and we have no input at the beginning when the actual decision is made, so we will be having one after the other after the other until the Airport is closed and that becomes Playa Vista North, and on and on. In the meantime, people who used to be developers (and will be again after they pay off their friends awhile to show they deserve to be VP of a big company rather than the small one they came from) are in charge of our planning, they are meeting with the Chamber of Commerce every month, and the City has a development partnership with the Chamber of Commerce! Last night the Council put through more money to promote tourism unanimously without one word of discussion. These people--some of whom are really good people--just know not what they do. But we can't forgive them without fighting against destruction of our quality of life.
Jill December 12, 2012 at 11:09 PM
You have to understand that all development in Santa Monica takes place in the east. Because my dentist practices on wilshire I had to partake a nightmare journey from the west to the east. The nightmare of cloverfield, the nightmare of trying to find a way out of traffic nightmare. I hate this bloody train who will not do one thing for the people living in the far east of Santa Parking Meter.
Dan Charney December 12, 2012 at 11:11 PM
It's minimal news however- the real issue is not the amount of "affordable units"- it's the destruction of the VTP and the congestion- but it's good news that this council is waking up to the fact that it's not okay to keep destroying Santa Monica- as for 'radical' the only radical thing is the damage that's been done already and the damage on the slate to come. Anyone disapproving must live N of Montana or work for the developers and not drive in SM traffic-
Dan Charney December 12, 2012 at 11:15 PM
I am proud of those who spoke up and have thrown a wrench into this- and I have hope that Gleam will do the same. The legacy of Bloom is up there with the worst- perhaps she has more integrity. If the developing is to continue- let there be a lot done first to alleviate congestion and restore real safeguards for the at risk people. We have more than enough business parks and ugly trendy condos- no more big hotel expansions either- and cudos to Brenda Barnes and the wonderful Peter N for all their work - we need to take this tiny 'stay of execution' and parlay it into a major change.
Dan Charney December 12, 2012 at 11:45 PM
They really aren't concerned about the really 'at risk' people- they have conveniently side-stepped that issue altogether with the not effective Community Core- ever been to one of their meetings? It's like you are being indoctrinated into jail- they have so many carefully thought out demands and restrictions- the people who really need the help will never get it- CC only serves those not really at risk- and this isn't what the major issue is-- it's a distraction from the major issues
Dan Charney December 12, 2012 at 11:50 PM
No it doesn't Jill- and it is all over- and planned to be more so - all along Ocean Ave near Rand and Chez Jay - they have wrecked that- now they spend a fortune to give them a huge park- but nothing for low income seniors to live more easily- the Miramar expansion- another hotel expansion in the works- more Shutters expansion after they bought land that should have been used to build serious low income housing - and many other projects all below 26th Street- it's miserable everywhere- and if we don't speak up and stop it- it will be more so- they will close the historical little airport instead of limiting the big jets- I would venture a guess that more people are in danger from texting Silicon Beach- ites driving and walking everywhere than the few mishaps from the airport- they want that land - nothing stops greed and that is what is driving this from all sides-
Stodj December 12, 2012 at 11:52 PM
Wonderful! This is what elections are for! I hope more careful thought about development in Santa Monica comes from this change in the balance of the council.
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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