Village Trailer Park, one of two remaining mobile home parks in Santa Monica, will be converted into a large apartment complex with 377 units and ground-floor retail under a new development agreement approved 4-3 Tuesday night by the City Council.
Opinions on the dais differed about whether the new plan, which does not contain any condominiums, will actually make the project more affordable to future residents. The approval comes as city officials try to persuade private developers to build more "workforce" and family housing, in part to cutback on gridlock caused by commuters.
Under the new Village Trailer Park development agreement—which requires a second vote before it is officially adopted—38 of the 377 apartments will be deed restricted to tenants with "very low" and "extremely low" incomes. An earlier plan restricted 16 of 161 apartments to tenants with "very low" and "low" incomes. There would have also been 216 condos.
Also under the new plan, a small section of the park, enough for 10 of the existing 105 trailers, will remain open under the ownership of the current property owner and developer, Marc Luzzatto. He has the option to shut it down in as soon as five years.
It is "highly probably we will seek to redevelop that parcel," Luzzatto said.
In the earlier plan, Luzzatto agreed to donate the parcel, valued at $2.5 million, to the city so it could retain the 10 trailer pads.
Tuesday's vote was 4-3 with councilmen Tony Vazquez, Kevin McKeown and Ted Winterer dissenting. McKeown and Winterer said the new plan is "arguably worse."
"We're getting a few more units, but with residual parcel, it’s a worse deal," Winterer said.
But maybe this time, the agreement will actually stick.
In December, the council rescinded its approval of an earlier deal with Luzzatto and re-opened negotiations in the hopes of securing more affordable housing at the site. The changes made to the agreement over the past few months swayed Gleam Davis' opinion Tuesday night.
"The shift to an all rental project increases the affordability," she said. "In this day and age... asking a young person... to save up $100,000 to purchase a condo makes that prohibitively expensive."
There were more than a handful of young adults who spoke at Tuesday's meeting to urge the council to approve the agreement, which requires the developer to reach out to nearby employers, such as those at the Colorado Center and Lionsgate Entertainment, when renting the units.
"The project is exactly what the city needs… we desperately need more housing," said Luzzatto, who is a Santa Monica resident. Referring to the earliest of plans submitted to the city, he said the project used to have a much larger commercial component, which could have generated more traffic. It is now 93 percent residential.
In addition to the 38 deed restricted units, 99 have to be rent-controlled at current market rates, according to the plan. "That's also a benefit," Davis said.
A recent study done by the city found only 45 percent of workers in the Bergamot area—which encompases the trailer park—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.
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, some have fought the plans for development.
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