CITY HALL — The Landmarks Commission on Monday denied an application to give special status to one of two mobile home parks left in Santa Monica.
Commissioners voted five to two — with Roger Genser and Margaret Bach voting in opposition — against designating the Village Trailer Park a local landmark, a status which would have prevented changes to certain pieces of the park.
Commissioners spoke of an appreciation for the sense of community and uniqueness of the place, but seemed troubled by the specific elements that they had the authority to protect.
Trailers technically cannot be landmarked because they are considered vehicles, and therefore could be moved from the park at any time. Neither could the commission weigh in on the use of the land as a trailer park.
That would leave the concrete pads upon which the trailers stand, private paved roads, a club house, laundry room, swimming pool, manager’s residence, management office and landscaping.
“I keep moving back to the idea that this is more of a use,” said Commissioner Nina Fresco.
Preserving the community and feel of the park was beyond the scope of the Landmarks Commission, and would have to fall to the arts, said Commissioner Barbara Kaplan.
“We’ll leave it in the hands of the novelists, poets and photographers,” Kaplan said.
The decision came in spite of a report by consultant ICF International, a Los Angeles-based consultant which determined that Village Trailer Park met two of the potential six requirements for historic designation.
A property or building must only meet one requirement to qualify for designation.
According to Peter Moruzzi, representative for ICF International, the park’s layout exemplified a design from the period between 1950 and 1970 and it embodied the cultural attitudes of its community.
Village Trailer Park would not meet state or national standards for landmarking, but its place as one of two remaining sites for mobile homes or trailers in the city — alongside city-owned Mountain View Mobile Home Park — made it part of an economic development that had almost vanished, Moruzzi said.
“For the city of Santa Monica, it’s a unique resource,” Moruzzi said.
Robert Chattel, the consultant hired by developer Marc Luzzatto, begged to differ.
“We do not think the Village Trailer Park is extraordinary,” Chattel said. “The fact that there are only two left does not raise this to the level of a landmark.”
The loss was a blow to park residents, who have argued for months that the two parcels represent a living museum dedicated to the common man, unlike most landmarks created by the ultra wealthy.
“This was not built to glorify the rich and famous,” said Catherine Eldridge, co-chair of the park’s homeowner association. “It was for the common worker.”
Residents had another motivation beyond class pride to root for the designation.
Landmark status would have stymied attempts to develop the land into a large mixed-use project with retail, condominiums and affordable housing.
The plan, which has been in the works since 2006, would require the residents to move out of the park or take up residence in one of the affordable units in the new development.
If the property was landmarked, it would have made it more difficult to disrupt the elements already there, including the ubiquitous pads spread throughout the park.
David Latham, a resident of the park who campaigned for landmark status, called the decision “disheartening.”
“I hate being powerless,” Latham said. “That’s the problem.”
The decision can be appealed to the City Council. It’s unclear at this time whether or not the residents of the park will choose that option.