STEWART STREET — A crowd of city officials, builders and residents gathered in the Mountain View Mobile Home Park for the unveiling of 11 new manufactured homes that further the evolution of the city-owned park from outdated to cutting edge.
The new homes, which come in a variety of sizes and configurations, are ultra-green, and comprised of a number of energy efficient and eco-friendly technologies that have never been combined in manufactured homes before.
“So many things have been combined to make this project unique and it is important to understand that although these units are small in dimension, they are huge in innovative thought and design,” said Rob Loomis, the sales manager for California-based Golden West Homes, who built the units.
To push the point further, a green carpet led spectators who wanted tours into the new buildings to see the improvements Loomis described.
The units come equipped with solar cells on the roof to produce power, a solar thermal water heater, energy efficient appliances and an overall Energy Star rating for the shell or “envelope” of the home itself.
Each was created using sustainable, renewable or recycled materials, and are insulated to the max.
“What people may not understand is that these homes won’t draw one kilowatt of electricity,” said Councilmember Bobby Shriver, a main proponent of the project.
The homes come with a rent-to-own financing option, and were built using a mix of federal funding and local redevelopment dollars to make them affordable for low-income tenants.
The City Council approved a $9.2 million expenditure to help with the financing program for a maximum of 54 manufactured homes at the park in December 2010.
By taking advantage of that deferred payment loan option, residents could be eligible for loans of up to 50 percent of the cost of a new unit.
Five families already live in the new units, with three more set to move in this week.
Bill and Naniek Smith, a couple that have lived in the park for decades, are happy recipients of one of the new units.
The Smiths moved into the new home a month ago, leaving behind their 50-year-old trailer which had seen better days.
“Every time we turned on the microwave, we blew a fuse!” Bill Smith said.
Now, with the help of City Hall and rent control, the Smiths are able to live in the modern unit with only a Social Security check for support.
“Thank you very much,” Naniek Smith said. “It’s beautiful and wonderful for us. Like heaven.”
The strides taken in manufacturing and design might never have been possible without an unlikely confluence of events.
City Hall put out the request for proposal for the project in the midst of the housing collapse when manufacturers started scrambling for projects of any size and description.
On top of that, in April 2010, Arizona passed a stringent immigration law, which allowed police officers to request proof of citizenship for those they suspected of being undocumented.
Santa Monica’s City Council voted to avoid contracts with companies based in Arizona and ban official travel there in protest, which removed competition for the mobile home contract from Arizona company Cavco West.
Cavco West was the lowest bidder on the project.
Builder Golden West got the manufacturing portion of the contract, and Santa Monica-based Marmol Radziner Prefab became the architects of the project.
“The fact that we would have virtually all the available manufacturing facilities in the southwestern United States competing for a project of this size and scope showed how truly the housing market has suffered and home orders for our manufacturing facilities are running at a fraction of their capacity,” Loomis said.
The two companies had extra time to devote to the project because of the down economy which had slowed building to a halt, and out of that, a new wave of manufactured homes was born.
“This project is an exciting, unique opportunity to create a modular design for sustainable living using energy efficient materials in a unique way,” said Todd Jerry, chief operating officer with Marmol Radziner Prefab.
The companies hope to bring the new designs to a wider market after their success in Santa Monica.
On the fringes, just outside the several dozen folding chairs set up for spectators, were a group of disgruntled residents who, for various reasons, were unhappy with the new development.
Some held signs reading “Boot Leg Housing,” referencing what they saw as unequal treatment regarding permitting, while others just observed with crossed arms.
Claudia Garcia, an eight-year resident of the park, now lives next to one of the new units.
She’s not against the development, but she and other residents question the way city staff have gone about installing the units so far.
The one next to her was placed in such a way that city officials informed her that a fence, which has stood on her property as long as she’s been there, needed to go.
She received a notice saying that she had 14 days to remove it, or it would be removed for her.
The fence is the only barrier between her yard and one of the roads of the park. When a section was taken down, her young daughter ran out of the home and was almost hit by a car, Garcia said.