Blog | Not Enough Affordable Housing in Village Trailer Park Plan

Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City joins in the legal objections raised by Attorney Sue Himmelrich that a development agreement violates the city's Affordable Housing Production Program.

In addition to the serious objections Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City previously raised to the City Council's approval of the Development Agreement for the Luzzatto Village Trailer Park project, SMCLC joins in the legal objections raised by attorney Sue Himmelrich at the City Council hearing on November 13th and as supplemented by the written comments submitted thereafter (contained below).

Specifically, SMCLC believes that in order for the city to be in compliance with its Affordable Housing Production Program ("AHPP"), it must:

  1. Reject the Development Agreement as written for its failure to correctly calculate the affordable housing required for this site zoned RMH and considered to be a multi-family district when the AHPP was adopted; and
  2. Direct staff to recalculate the affordable housing replacement requirements for the site so that 25% of the units are affordable under the law.

For a city that prides itself on the production of affordable housing, and Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights elected council members who have run repeatedly on the issue of protecting and creating affordable housing in Santa Monica, this should not even require discussion.  

The council should also inquire of staff whether it conducted any independent review as to whether this site historically has been considered a multi-family housing district at the time the AHPP was adopted and subsequent to the adoption; or whether staff relied upon and simply incorporated the developer's affordable housing calculations into the staff report without any such determination.

Diana Gordon for SMCLC


Comments from attorney Sue Himmelrich, a 20-year resident of Santa Monica and an attorney with Western Center on Law and Poverty:

We would like to amplify our comments last night and emphasize once again that the Village Trailer Park development agreement, if approved in its current form, is a violation of the City's Affordable Housing Production Program. The following analysis assumes that everything in staffs' report at pages 13-14 otherwise is correct and that the law is as stated in the attached Planning Department chart published on the city's website. We specifically note that despite staff's statement to the contrary, RMH, as Village Trailer Park is zoned, clearly is a "multi-family zone." We have prepared a chart set forth below illustrating our discussion if this is more convenient for the council members.

The proposed project consists of 216 condominiums and 161 apartments.

16 apartments are slated to be affordable, leaving a balance of (161-16) = 145 apartments

Staff says that the donation of land and parking spaces satisfies affordable housing requirement for 136 condominiums,* leaving a balance of 80 condominiums.

Staff then calculates that 80 condominiums plus 145 apartments is 225 units and that at a 10% affordable unit requirement, that equates to an affordable housing requirement of 23 units.

The Affordable Housing law says that for condominiums, there is a 25% affordable unit requirement.  That means the 80 remaining condominiums require 20 units by themselves, not 8 as in the Staff calculation.  And, even if 10% is the right figure for the apartments, the 161 apartments require another 16.1 affordable units, making the total requirement 36 affordable units.

Even under staff analysis, only 23 are being provided.  So, the proposal does not meet the requirements of the affordable housing statute even if everything in the Staff report was correct.

Not only is the math incorrect, we believe that staff's analysis violates the policy behind the Santa Monica Affordable housing statute,to treat the donated land and parking spaces as satisfying the affordable housing obligation.  This is because the land being donated cannot be developed into affordable housing until the life estate of certain existing tenants expires, which could be in the very distant future.  There also is nothing to assure an affordable housing development legally can or practically will occur even then.  To add insult to injury, the landlord continues to profit from the 30 donated parking spaces until the undetermined date when any affordable housing can be built.  A theoretical affordable housing project in the distant future cannot properly satisfy the requirements of the Santa Monica Affordable housing statute, and is not the equivalent of either cash or building affordable housing units as part of the developer's own project.

*This calculation is actually incorrect because the fee payment option for condominiums effective 11/10/ 2012 is $33.30. This means that the actual number of square feet that is eliminated by the ³cash² payment of $3.9 million is, using staff¹s numbers, $3.9 million divided by $33.30 per square foot or 117,117 square feet, or 76% of Building B, which equals 129 condos rather than 136.


Total Project Units:  216 Condos
161 Apts

Units covered by donations: 136 Condos

Affordable units required: 80 condos @ 10% - 8 Affordable

145 apts @ 10% 14.5 Affordable

225 units         22.5 Affordable


Total Project Units: 216 Condos\  161 Apts

Units covered by donations:  136 Condos

Affordable units required: 80 condos @ 25%   20    Affordable

161 apts @ 10%  16.1 Affordable

241 units         

36.1 Affordable

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Brenda Barnes November 28, 2012 at 01:31 AM
We who own houses at VTP all have affordable housing, averaging $416 a month UNDER RENT CONTROL for space for homes we own and housing services of water and natural gas, a large swimming pool, a large iconic mid-Century community room, a library, two common bathrooms with hot water showers,a deck and BBQ party area, and maintenance of those common areas and the Park's sewers, electrical systems, and roads. If this DA actually happened, which it won't,109 units of affordable housing would be lost from the rental housing market. Each of these 109 units lost to renters in Santa Monica would require payment by renters of at least $1,000 more per month in rent. The Planning Commission found $1,623 more, but just to be conservative and give credit in lost rent for the value of our houses, say $1,000. To use round numbers, say 100 units times $1,000, this property is worth $100,000 a MONTH future Santa Monica renters do not have to pay.. As long as rent control lasts (200 years and counting in London), assuming fixed difference in amounts, that means in 100 months, 2 less than 10 years, renters will pay $10 million more in rent because the City allowed a land speculator to steal our homes so he could make $10 million and pay the City $5 million. In not 20 years (16), renters lose $20 million on this deal. If rent control lasts 200 years, it would be $200 million renters lost. The present value to renters of this property is at least $20 million. The City owes that.
Brenda Barnes November 28, 2012 at 01:38 AM
By the way, the City calls that $5 million cut they take for the general fund, in return for giving a land speculator a development agreement, "community benefits," but nothing requires it to be spent in the Pico Neighborhood where this land is. History shows it took 16 years to break ground on a library in Pico Neighborhood, while millions were spent in richer, whiter parts of the City, the parts EVERY Councilmember has ALWAYS lived in. Moreover, the homes at Village Trailer Park are the ONLY places in Santa Monica where low-cost home ownership is possible. The Housing Element requirement of state law requires every city to make provision for land for every type of housing and every level of income, and specifically mobilehomes. The City owns the only other former mobilehome park in Santa Monica,and has spent ten years replacing mobilehomes with permanent housing, making new rules (violating the Rent Control Law, since renewal rules can be only renewals of old rules, not imposition of new ones) that require all new tenants to have homes classified as permanent and no older than five years, and in general harassing every remaining longterm tenant to try to turn the Park into a high-rent zone. The tenants filed a $120 million claim recently against the City--truly a landlord from Hell. A judge stated in a reported case about harassment of one of those tenants, Santa Monica loses all its concern for tenants' rights when it becomes a landlord.
Brenda Barnes November 28, 2012 at 01:47 AM
The upshot of this is, everything the City's staff says about a development agreement for VTP land is what the Council directed staff to say,it is whatever is necessary to make the deal sound good, and it is a lie. Jing Yeo, the "Special Projects" planner in charge of this so-called planning, told us once when SIX City employees including Dep. City Attorney Alan Seltzer came and tried to coerce us into taking one of the land speculator's offers to move, that the Council directed them to negotiate a development agreement, and that is what they were doing. The saddest thing about this is we are homeowners. People do not think 109 homeowners can lose their homes so a land speculator and the City can make money. But worse than that, we have special protections other homeowners do not have, in the state Mobilehiome Residency Law, and in the Santa Monica Rent Control Law. If we homeowners can be moved on so the speculators of the world and the City can make money (and at the same time destroy an R-2 neighborhood, the Mid-City Neighborhood), then what will happen to homeowners who do NOT have special protectgions against eviction? This was a test. The City was seeing if it could get by with this because we would be in Pico Neighborhood, so have little support, we would be old, poor, sick, and weak, so we would not be able to defend ourselves from them, and then they would have their precedent. For Sunset Park when the Airport closes. For all of Ocean Park. For Wilmont.
Brenda Barnes November 28, 2012 at 04:25 AM
A recall of Pam O'Connor and Bob Holbrook, the two members of the Council who voted for this who can be recalled now, is being started. Honestly, we can't afford to wait until the 2014 election to stop this. Besides, Terry O'Day sent out campaign mailers saying he had voted against eviction of VTP tenants, but eight days after he was elected he came back from out of town to a special meeting to vote yes with Bloom, O'Connor and Holbrook for the necessary four votes to pass this DA. So he should be recalled too, as soon as 90 days pass to start it. On the other hand, my husband and I have spent 10,000 hours delaying this DA for three years longer than anyone expected it could be delayed to this stage, and we will get injunctions against its proceeding. In becoming experts on DA and environmental law, and reviewing what the City has done for three properties in a row here near Colorado and Stewart, we think a coalition of volunteers could delay every single DA until 2014. There are that many violations of law in each one once you know how to look. All our legal papers are posted on www.occupysm.com, so people can adapt and copy them, using them and others we will write and post against every DA. If we did that, no DAs would pass by 2014, and then we could vote out everyone but the 4 just elected and recall them if they keep up the same horribleness as the Bloom Council did, at the general election to avoid having to have a special one.


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