CITY HALL — The owner of Village Trailer Park agreed to hold off on the demolition of 10 uninhabited trailers Wednesday so that the City Council will have the opportunity to discuss the matter at its meeting next week.
The matter was brought before the elected body Tuesday by City Councilmember Kevin McKeown, who tried to secure his colleagues’ support to study the ramifications of demolition in the face of a Landmarks Commission inquiry into the historic nature of the park, and a draft environmental impact report that states that no trailers will be demolished.
The trailer park has been the focus of a struggle between City Hall, residents and its owner since 2006 when its owner declared his intention to leave the trailer park business and redevelop the land, located on the 2900 block of Colorado Avenue, into mixed-use projects with condominiums and low-income apartments.
Demolition of the vacant trailers, scheduled to begin Oct. 31, was stalled when residents and neighborhood group leaders sent out a flurry of e-mails to city officials who acted to pull the demolition permit.
Staff needed time to make sure that they understood the work that was being done at the property, local permitting requirements and “the interplay between state and local law,” City Attorney Marsha Moutrie wrote in an e-mail.
That stay will expire before the Nov. 8 council meeting, however, and although no vote was taken nor direction given Tuesday night, council members expressed their hope that owner Marc Luzzatto would hold off on demolition until the matter could be more fully examined by staff.
Within two hours, Luzzatto had sent his consent.
In an e-mail time-stamped 12:54 a.m., Luzzatto agreed to hold off on demolition, saying that there was no urgency to remove the trailers.
“They don’t have to be moved out today, tomorrow or next week,” Luzzatto said Wednesday. “They do need to be moved soon because they’re vacant, and a potential liability.”
That was a coup for McKeown, who told fellow council members Tuesday that between potential hazards in the form of uncapped utilities and the park’s involvement in both a potential landmarking procedure and draft environmental impact report, staff and officials needed more time to make sure the demolition was appropriate, or if the park needed to be preserved as-is until those two processes were complete.
Care was especially necessary in this case, because Village Trailer Park represents one of the last truly affordable places to live in Santa Monica, and is inhabited by the elderly and disabled.
“We are a community committed to affordable housing, and at Village Trailer Park affordable housing occupied by vulnerable seniors is threatened,” McKeown wrote in an e-mail Wednesday. “I want to explore all of our options, and I’m glad that the park ownership has agreed to give us some additional time.”
Although a relocation plan for the proposed redevelopment of the trailer park offers tenants the chance to live in new, low-income apartments, a federally-subsidized apartment or one offered by Community Corporation of Santa Monica, many of the residents are elderly and living on fixed incomes.
Some pay $400 per month or less in rent. The situation has led to great angst as to where those seniors and other residents will go once the park closes.
Some said they cannot afford the rent increase necessary to leave the park, even to move into other subsidized housing in Santa Monica.
For the intervening five and a half years, Luzzatto’s company has kept the trailer park open while its development agreement wound its way through City Hall.
In that time, residents claim that Luzzatto has engaged in sketchy or illegal practices to encourage residents to leave, and violated safety measures, including those protecting workers and residents from asbestos.
According to a two-page timeline submitted to the City Council by Village Trailer Park Co-Chair Catherine Eldridge, staff with the Air Quality Management District had to come by three times to stop demolition work because owners or management had not notified residents properly.
Representatives of the AQMD could not confirm that by press time.
Luzzatto responded that he knew nothing of AQMD’s involvement in the demolition.
Staff will continue looking into the matter, which may be agendized for the City Council meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 8 if further action is needed.