By Vince Echavaria
The Santa Monica City Council has voted to reverse its approval of a controversial mixed-use project that would have redeveloped the Village Trailer Park property.
With two new members, Tony Vazquez and Ted Winterer, the council approved a motion by Councilman Kevin McKeown, in a 4-3 vote Dec. 11, to rescind the Nov. 14 endorsement of the project at 2930 Colorado Ave.
The plan calls for 99 of the 109 trailer spaces at the affordable housing complex to be closed for the construction of 377 residential units, including 161 apartments and 216 condominiums, and up to 24,940 square feet of ground floor retail. Approximately 36 full-time residents remain at the 3.85-acre mobile home property, which opened in 1951.
The recall decision came after some argued that the development agreement did not provide an adequate number of affordable housing units in accordance with the city’s policies on the issue.
The boards of the Friends of Sunset Park, Northeast Neighbors, Pico Neighborhood Association and Santa Monica Mid City Neighbors urged the council to reconsider its project approval due to concerns of inadequate affordable housing, among other issues. The North of Montana Association board also called for a reversal, expressing concerns of impacts on traffic and infrastructure.
McKeown, one of two council members who voted against the development agreement, said the last-minute reprieve will allow the trailer park residents to go into the holidays with their homes safe for the moment.
“The majority of the council did the right thing, which is to consider this primarily a policy matter,” McKeown said.
The development agreement features 16 affordable housing units including nine that are for very low income and seven for extremely low income tenants. But Sue Himmelrich, an attorney with the Western Center on Law and Poverty, told the council she believes the affordable housing component does not comply with the city’s general and specific plan. The previously amended plan provided 44 affordable housing units, she noted.
McKeown said he was troubled to take action on a plan that might be in conflict with the affordable housing policy.
“Allowing that to stand would have undermined and perhaps even repudiated a whole network of city policies aimed at limiting gentrification and making sure affordable housing remains available to Santa Monica’s current and future residents, even when existing affordable units are lost to development,” he said.
Developer Mark Luzzatto expressed some frustration with the latest setback for a project that has been in the works for more than six years.
“We’ve been working on this for six and a half years… spent a tremendous amount of money, a lot of years, a lot of blood, sweat and tears in arriving at a development agreement,” Luzzatto told the council. “We believe we have a binding agreement.”
Luzzatto has said that the developer has gone well beyond the call of duty in providing reasonable costs of relocation, and that residents who relocated to other properties are very happy.
Asked about the potential for providing additional affordable housing units, Luzzatto noted that the developer has donated land to allow for 10 trailer spaces to remain and will construct 40 subterranean parking spaces, which should compensate for the affordable housing.
“The 13 units you are looking for are more than made up for by the land and the parking spaces,” he told the council.
McKeown stressed that the council is not refusing to negotiate a development with the property owner by rescinding its prior approval. The motion directed staff to continue negotiations with the developer on issues including alternate configurations, relocation benefits and affordable housing replacement production, and to return for consideration at a future date.