COLORADO AVE — Two residents of Village Trailer Park secured a big win last week when a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge ruled that they could not be moved from their homes, despite the owner’s desire to close the park.

The June 13 ruling by Judge Cesar Sarmiento says that the Village Trailer Park cannot terminate the leases of Catherine Eldridge or Loretta Newman unless a government entity tells them they must move.

That could be a problem for Village Trailer Park, LLC., a company that has been trying to close the park since 2006 to make way for a 500-unit mixed-use development with affordable housing and high-priced condominiums, particularly since Newman and Eldridge live on opposite ends of the park.

The Planning Commission was expected to decide whether or not to approve the development agreement for that project at its meeting Wednesday night. Results of that meeting were not available by presstime.

A development agreement is a piece of legislation that allows a developer to build outside of the local zoning requirements.

That will be pretty hard to do if the plans remain as they are, said Frances Campbell, Eldridge’s attorney.

“We have an order from the court saying that Catherine Eldridge has the right to live in F-12,” Campbell said. “I’ve seen the development plan. They’ve got a building, building D, right on top of her space.”

The case stems from a settlement agreement reached in 2003 to end a lawsuit filed in 2000 by over 60 residents of the Village Trailer Park against the company over problems with lot lines.

While the majority of the tenants took money in the settlement agreement, Eldridge and Newman didn’t stop there, Campbell said.

“She held out, made a carve-out so she would settle the case, get some money and they couldn’t do anything to move her from her home,” Campbell said.

That carve-out, which also applied to Newman, was the basis for the case that Sarmiento ruled on last Wednesday.

According to the ruling, Bruce Cleeland, Village Trailer Park, LLC.’s attorney in the 2000 case, stated in open court that the company would not move either woman “for any other reason” unless the government stepped in.

While that could happen in the case of a mandated evacuation, a development agreement wouldn’t meet that mark, Campbell said.

The company tried to refute those words by distancing itself from Cleeland, but the judge didn’t go with it.

“After accepting the benefits of the settlement agreement Village Trailer Park did nothing until this litigation, eight years after the parties entered into the settlement agreement, to claim that Mr. Cleeland was not their attorney,” the order reads.

Eldridge’s attorneys were thrilled when they received the ruling Monday.

“We are the killer of giants,” said Nima Farahani, Campbell’s law partner.

Marc Luzzatto, a co-owner of Village Trailer Park, did not agree.

“This is far from over,” he said.

The judge ruled on a limited number of issues, and the company still has defenses to raise, Luzzatto said, but kept mum on what they were.

Noel Weiss, Newman’s attorney, also took a cautionary tone.

“This is not a final binding judgment,” Weiss said, pointing out legal maneuvers that the defense could take before it resorted to an appeal.

It should raise a red flag for commissioners considering the matter, he said.

“I think discussing it is fine. I don’t think they should decide unless and until Village Trailer Park makes a statement about what they’re going to do with Eldridge and Newman,” Weiss said, suggesting that the ruling could entitle them to sizable incentives to move. “What they do with those two, they should do with everyone else.”

ashley@www.smdp.com

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