CITY HALL — The City Council voted Tuesday to give final approval to an ordinance allowing a modest trailer park to be replaced with hundreds of high-end condos and apartments, possibly ending a six-year battle over the future of some of this beachfront city’s last inexpensive housing.
Or it may not be. The council was also scheduled to meet behind closed doors later Tuesday to discuss the possibility of a lawsuit, which some residents have threatened to bring if the razing of the 1950s-era Village Trailer Park is approved.
“That’s a possibility because it’s a breach of our Fourth Amendment rights,” said 30-year resident Ralph Meyer, citing the constitutional right of people to be secure in their homes.
After months of debate before various municipal agencies, the City Council voted to adopt an ordinance allowing the park, which sits on 3.8 acres, to be replaced with 377 condos and apartments and thousands of square feet of office and retail space.
Mayor Pro Tem Gleam Davis voted against the development. Councilman Kevin McKeown initially voted against the development, but changed his vote so he could have greater input in future discussions.
One of McKeown’s talking points Tuesday night focused on the amount of affordable housing included in the project. Santa Monica’s Affordable Housing Production Program requires additional affordable housing be included in projects or paid for with an in-lieu fee for areas zoned for multi-family use.
The mobile home designation carried by the Village Trailer Park property had such zoning, McKeown said, and therefore there was not enough affordable housing included in the project or dealt with through an in-lieu fee.
Staff disagreed, saying that the land under the Village Trailer Park had been zoned for an industrial use before the new mobile home designation was created and that the decision was consistent with how other affordable housing decisions had been made in the past.
McKeown’s yes vote, although contrary to any position he took that night, preserves his ability to bring back issues with the project, including the discussion of affordable housing.
Village Trailer Park was the last of two small, rent-controlled trailer parks remaining in this upscale city of 90,000, and is a throwback to Santa Monica’s more modest days.
As much of the rest of the city was redeveloping during the past 30 years, the park, 2 miles east of the Pacific Ocean, went largely unnoticed. Rents for mobile home spaces range from about $370 to $410 a month in a city where the tiniest apartments routinely fetch five times that much.
For the past six years, developer Marc Luzzatto has been attempting to close the park and remove its old-fashioned trailers, many no bigger than modern-day SUVs. He said last July that it is no longer economically feasible to operate.
As longtime residents have died or moved out in recent years, their trailers have been removed and spaces left vacant. Only 47 homes now remain in a park built to hold 109.
Luzzatto has offered residents as much as $20,000 to relocate, as well as the opportunity to move into one of the new apartments, saying he’ll match the rent they currently pay for between four and seven-and-a-half years depending on their income level.
After the vote, resident David Latham called the results criminal and said the options he and others have been offered are far inferior to their current lifestyle.
“What we had here is not replaceable, especially for people at our income level,” he said.
Latham said residents have little choice but to hire lawyers and continue the fight to keep their homes. He said the matter will now go to the Rent Control Board.
Luzzatto has also said he’ll buy new mobile homes for those who want and place them in the city’s one remaining trailer park.
Meyer is skeptical of that offer, saying he recently visited the other mobile home park.
“The manager there told me there are no vacancies, and there’s a waiting list,” he said.
Daily Press Staff Writer Ashley Archibald contributed to this report.