Village Trailer Park Finally Meets Its End

Monday, 22 Jul 2013, 9:09:00 AM

Parimal M. Rohit

The proverbial light at the end of the tunnel probably burned its brightest last week as a long and arduous battle several years in the making appears to finally have met its end when the Santa Monica Rent Control Board gave the final green light for a mixed-use development to replace Village Trailer Park (VTP) at 2930 Colorado Avenue.

The vote earlier this month appears to be the final substantive action taken by a City panel, allowing developer and VTP co-owner Marc Luzzatto to move forward with his 377-unit mixed-use project.

The decision follows the City Council vote a few months back, where the elected panel approved a development agreement (DA) permitting Luzzatto to go forward with his plans to replace VTP with his plans for a mixed-use development.

Rent Control Board members deliberated Luzzatto’s removal permit request July 11. With Luzzatto agreeing to supply 109 rent-controlled apartments in place of 99 rent-controlled trailer pads, the Rent Control Board approved the removal permit request.

There was a threat of litigation if the Rent Control Board voted against the removal permit since, according to Luzzatto, the proposed project met the requirements of the Rent Control Charter.

However, a potential lawsuit was averted as the Rent Control Board voted in favor of the removal permit.

Prior to the vote, several community members spoke both in favor and against the removal of VTP. Those in favor said the new development would bring more rent controlled apartments to Santa Monica and the remaining VTP residents would receive better housing arrangements if they accepted a relocation package from Luzzatto.

The project’s opponents said it would negatively and unfairly affect those residents who still remain at VTP, some of whom are elderly.

Luzzatto finally received approval for his DA more than three months ago when it cleared a second reading at the April 9 council meeting.

The planned development that would be built in place of the VTP moved forward with the support of a bare majority of Council members.

It was the second time within five months that the proposed mixed-use development hung in the balance during a second reading. Under city law, any ordinance or legislative act must be voted upon twice before officially going into the books as an active decree.

When VTP was up for a second read April 9, three Council members raised concerns about the project’s density. Council members Kevin McKeown, Tony Vazquez, and Ted Winterer all voted against the DA, with McKeown being the most vocal of the density issue.

When Luzzatto’s proposed East Village project was in front of the dais was in December, the second reading of the DA was heard moments after four members of the current council were sworn in, including newcomers Vazquez and Winterer.

At that meeting, the council had voted 4 to 3 against the second reading of the proposed development based upon concerns of a lack of affordable units.

Only weeks earlier, the DA was approved 4 to 3 – when Bobby Shriver and Richard Bloom were both on the council.

When the VTP came back to the council in March, Council member Gleam Davis, who was one of the four who voted against the proposed development in December, switched her vote to a “yes” three weeks ago. Davis stated at the last council meeting she believed Luzzatto had satisfied the concerns she raised three months earlier.

The same voting bloc who voted in favor of the proposes development during first reading – Mayor Pam O’Connor, Mayor Pro Tem Terry O’Day, Council member Bob Holbrook, and Davis – maintained their respective “yes” votes on April 9.

With the Rent Control Board vote last week, the civic process surrounding the closure of VTP ended after a seven-year journey. In addition to the recent back-and-forth at City Council and before last week’s vote by the Rent Control Board, Luzzatto had filed a $50 million lawsuit seeking to require City Hall to honor the 2006 agreement it had with him.

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