DOWNTOWN — City Hall is one step closer to opening up new low-income rental units at the Mountain View Mobile Home Park after a unanimous vote by the Housing Commission Thursday recommended to move ahead with a plan to purchase new units at the site.

The decision came over protestations of some residents of the privately-owned Village Trailer Park, for whom the presence of city-owned Mountain View has become a threat because it is one of the potential places they will be relocated should the owners of Village Trailer Park succeed in closing the facility as planned.

Though current residents of Village Trailer Park are shortlisted as potential renters for the new units, the vote was more about preserving an ever-dwindling number of resources to expand the amount of affordable housing in Santa Monica, said Chloe Edwards Bird, vice chair of the Housing Commission.

The City Council set aside over $9 million from its now-defunct Redevelopment Agency in 2010 as part of a three-prong plan to finance sustainable units at Mountain View. Much of that money is wrapped up in a contract with Golden Homes West, the company that builds and installs the units.

If City Hall doesn’t move to use it before the contract expires, the cash reverts back to state coffers under the byzantine rules that the Legislature developed when it dissolved redevelopment agencies statewide in February, and Santa Monica loses 44 potential very low- and low-income housing units.

Those are units City Hall can ill-afford to pass up.

A recent report to the City Council on Santa Monica’s affordable housing needs indicated that the city will have to create nearly 700 low- and very low-income units by 2021 to keep up with demand in Southern California.

That report is still in draft form, but it gives an idea of the need even as Santa Monica officials struggle to cope with the loss of redevelopment money, which funded 75 percent of affordable housing efforts in the city.

Add to that the fact that there are approximately 3,300 people waiting to snag an affordable housing spot in Santa Monica, and the picture only worsens.

“There are ungodly few options,” Bird said.

Possible City Council approval of the new units could not come at a worse time for a group of residents of the Village Trailer Park who have been fighting since 2006 to block a proposed development that would replace the park with a mixed-use condominium project replete with 109 affordable units.

The development agreement for the project will come before the Planning Commission in May, and owners have continued to create plans for the relocation of existing residents.

Though Thursday’s vote was not part of the relocation effort that City Hall has helped broker, Mountain View has long been expected to play a role, and the installation of the new, sustainable units is being done with the Village Trailer Park closure in mind.

The City Council requested that spots remain open at Mountain View to make sure those living at the Village Trailer Park have a place to go that would approximate their current living situation if and when the park closes.

While much-needed infrastructure improvements were taking place at Mountain View, officials deliberately allowed spots to open and be kept open throughout the park for that purpose, said Barbara Collins, housing manager with City Hall.

If current tenants from the Village Trailer Park did choose to move to Mountain View, however, they would not be allowed to bring the trailers in which they currently live. That is a problem for many who see those units not just as home, but as investments.

It’s part of the complicated situation that comes from the mixed ownership and rental scenario that exists in many trailer parks, something that would be difficult to recreate under the rental or rent-to-own schemes available for the sustainable units built at Mountain View.

The effort may be imperfect, but it’s the best City Hall can do now that affordable housing production has become an uphill battle, Bird said.

“This is a rare opportunity to serve the extremely low-income population and it offers aspects of a way of life that aren’t available in other kinds of housing situations,” Bird said. “We’re trying to preserve something. We can’t preserve everything about it, but we’re really trying to fill a niche. We’ll never be able to do that perfectly.”

ashley@www.smdp.com

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