Editor:

Your story about the suit brought by the owners of Village Trailer Park against City Hall (“Trailer park owner sues city for $50M,” Jan. 11) left out some crucial background that casts this whole matter in a quite different light.

The four council members voting to rescind the development agreement with the owners that had been hurriedly passed in November had a serious worry that the agreement violated city policy and may well have violated city law on affordable housing.

To get the figure of 16 rather than 49 “affordable” units, plus the 10 homes in the “residual parcel” that would not be destroyed, the city staff had to treat the mobile home zoning designation as commercial rather than multi-family residential, even though there is at least one place in the city code where it is clearly included among the multi-family residential zones!

Even if it is  true that the city legally can, in the context of a development agreement, do what would ordinarily violate city law, it seems clear that council expected that this agreement met the conditions of the affordable housing policy and it is no wonder councilors had reservations when they discovered it did not!

VTP LLC and its supporters were clearly trying to rush this matter through before the new council took office and in the course of that due diligence seems to have taken a back seat!

Councilors are also worried about the relocation package being offered the homeowners of Village Trailer Park — a package described in the article as “rich.” To put it in perspective, consider that some friends of mine, now negotiating to buy a home in Santa Monica that is currently rented out, have been told that to move in they will have to pay the current tenants some $60,000 in relocation benefits. Contrast that with what is being offered at Village Trailer Park. Most of the residents of the park own their homes and some have put tens of thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of work into them assuming, on the basis of city zoning, that they would stay in place.

Unless residents get subsidized housing at taxpayer expense at Mountain View Park or are willing to rent the developer’s new units (estimated by the developer himself to rent well above current rates in the area per square foot) they will get at most $20,000 for abandoning their homes and moving to rental housing. If the relocation packages reflected the in-place value of their homes, they at least would not see what they legitimately thought of as investments for their future go down the drain. But VTP LLC has refused to consider that despite standing to make $17 million just on appreciation of the land alone!

The bottom line still is that this is land speculation at its rawest with very little thought for the affect on people, many of whom bought for their retirement with confidence that this was a mobile home park specifically zoned as one. Please don’t forget the underlying realities here!

Calvin Normore

Santa Monica