CITY HALL ‚Äî The Rent Control Board voted unanimously Thursday to delay a final decision on whether or not to allow the owner of the Village Trailer Park to remove rent-controlled units as part of a project to replace the park with apartments.
The removal permit being sought is one of the remaining regulatory steps in a process that would allow developer Marc Luzzatto to redevelop the property from a 109-space trailer park into a 377-unit apartment complex with a 10-unit trailer park attached.
Ninety-nine of the units would still be governed by rent control ‚Äî one for every trailer pad removed ‚Äî and 38 would be deed-restricted affordable housing.
The City Council approved the project on Tuesday night in a 4-3 vote with council members Kevin McKeown, Ted Winterer and Tony Vazquez against.
The five-member Rent Control Board decided that there were too many issues to consider in one hearing, particularly with what one called a “voluminous” amount of new information delivered to the board just before the hearing. They have until July to make a final decision.
The Rent Control charter says that the board “may” give a permit provided at least 15 percent of the controlled rental units built on the site be “affordable.” The project meets that requirement because, under city rules, some of the units are restricted to “very low” and “extremely low” income tenants, so they count for more than one unit of affordable housing.
Much was made of that word “may,” particularly by the board‚Äôs newest member Christopher Walton, who read aloud a definition from Merriam-Webster‚Äôs online dictionary.
“I firmly believe that we have the discretion to grant or deny this application,” Walton said.
Walton told Luzzatto that he wanted to see more than 99 units at the project fall under rent control in order to protect affordable housing in Santa Monica, which Walton sees as threatened by rising rental rates.
“I feel obligated to residents of Santa Monica to do everything within my power to stop that from happening,” he said, referring to the growing cost of renting an apartment in the city.
Luzzatto said he wouldn‚Äôt subject more units to rent control.
Apartments in Santa Monica are more expensive than they‚Äôve ever been, according to a report released by Rent Control officials. Rents for all sizes of apartments have gone up, with three-bedroom units jumping more than 25 percent between 2011 and 2012.
Board member Todd Flora embraced Walton‚Äôs interpretation of the charter, expressing his own concern about the amount of uncertainty surrounding current conditions at the park including the number of residents who reside there, and legal questions raised by tenants fighting eviction.
The board chose to continue the item until May 23.