When 2012 ended, Village Trailer Park (VTP) was on the
ropes as a split City Council narrowly voted to put the project on hold
following several questions surrounding affordable housing.
A split council again decided the fate of VTP on Tuesday
night, except this time a bare majority voted in favor of the multi-use project
going forward. The 4-3 vote gives VTP new life again.
If the project can clear its second reading in April, VTP
owner Marc Luzzatto will be able to move forward with his plans to build a
377-unit mixed-use housing development called “East Village.” The multi-use
development would come at the expense of one of Santa Monica’s oldest
In December, a majority of the council voted against VTP
because of several questions concerning affordable housing. Luzzatto had spent
some time addressing affordable housing concerns during the March 19 special
The concessions Luzzatto made on affordable housing were
enough to swing votes in the project’s favor. Council member Gleam Davis was
the swing vote, stating she switched her “no” in December to a “yes” this week
because she was satisfied with Luzzatto’s affordable housing concessions.
What were those concessions?
For starters, 10 trailers would be allowed to remain as
part of the new development but could potentially be shut down within a decade.
These 10 trailers may also be developed as a multi-unit project.
While Davis believed Luzzatto’s concessions were
satisfactory, Council members Kevin McKeown, Tony Vazquez, and Ted Winterer all
voted against the project because they believed more affordable housing
concessions were necessary.
Also, the development agreement (DA) stipulated that at
least 41 units must be set-aside for very low-income residents.
However, Luzzatto agreed to exchange six of those units
for three extremely low-income units, which satisfies City Hall’s affordable
housing policy. That policy stipulates two very low-income units equals one
extremely low-income unit.
Accordingly, VTP will feature 35 very low-income and
three extremely low-income units.
McKeown said the current iteration of the VTP development
might actually offer fewer affordable housing units than in December.
“I feel that since this is the first project of
significance that we are looking at (for the Bergamot Area), it’s just not
quite good enough,” he said. “I have some concerns about it not meeting the
(Bergamot Area) Plan’s goals. We went into this trying to get greater
affordability levels and I’m not persuaded that what we have before us is
better than what was before us previously. It’s arguable worse.”
Beyond the affordable housing issue, Luzzatto also agreed
to make all 377 units as apartments; under the previous proposal, 216 units
were planned as condominiums.
Also, the development may include more parking spaces
than previously proposed, with some of those spaces available to non-tenants.
Davis was happy the development has shifted to an
all-rental property to help make it more affordable and accessible.
The project currently proposes three buildings, compared
to four in earlier iterations. Just the same, the development has become more
residential, with just the first level of buildings potentially dedicated to
other uses. Both of these evolutions, Davis said, would help limit the amount
of traffic the development produces.
One point council members and Luzzatto could not yet come
to terms with: a structured local hiring deal.
Coincidentally, VTP was also part of the council’s closed
session agenda, as Luzzatto had filed a lawsuit against City Hall in January in
light of the council’s decision last December to rescind in second reading its
approval of the “East Village” project.
At the first-ever meeting of the current council, a pair
of 4-3 votes allowed City Hall to withhold enforcing a previously approved DA,
effectively allowing the panel to have more time to scrutinize the proposed
377-unit multi-use development.
Back then McKeown said the intent was not to preclude any
developments from being built at VTP but rather to address specific issues and
concerns, such as possible deficiencies in affordable housing and whether or
not City Hall is following its own laws.
Based upon their respective votes, McKeown, Vazquez, and
Winterer believe some of those deficiencies were not satisfactorily addressed.
Mayor Pam O’Connor, Mayor Pro Tem Terry O’Day, and
Council member Bob Holbrook voted in favor of the VTP project both in December
and again this week.
In November 2012, the previous City Council finally
green-lighted the mixed-use housing project helmed by Luzzatto after two days
of deliberation and discussion. The two days of deliberation and discussion
capped off a six-year battle that drew the ire of those who would either be
displaced by the elimination of VTP or adversely affected by potential impacts
of a new development such as increased traffic.
Prior to that vote, Luzzatto had also made some
concessions to his project, such as agreeing to reduce the overall size of the
project by eight percent and feature 14 percent fewer units. The development
would have retained 10 of the original trailer spaces (closure of 99 spaces).
When the council last considered Village Trailer Park in
July 2012, the proposed East Village project featured 438 residential units and
a total floor area of 378,450 square feet within four buildings. Luzzatto had
since agreed to scale the project down to 377 residential units and 341,290
square feet of total floor area within three buildings.
McKeown previously expressed concern that several dozen
VTP residents would be displaced in favor of a development that was not
consistent with the LUCE. There were also questions of soil quality and land
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