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Santa Monica's East Village Project DA Passes Second Reading, Again

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark
By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

April 10, 2013 -- After more than six years of planning and negotiations, a reversal by the council to rescind its approval and a $50 million lawsuit, the East Village Project is finally moving forward.

On Tuesday night, the City Council voted to approve a Development Agreement (DA) for the second time, paving the way for the replacement of one of Santa Monica’s two remaining trailer parks with a 377-unit mixed-use project.

Tuesday's 4 to 3 vote likely puts an end to a series of political maneuvers to kill the project that culminated in December, when a newly seated council rescinded on second reading the old council’s approval.

Council member Kevin McKeown -- who along with new Council members Ted Winterer and Tony Vazquez opposed moving ahead with the project Tuesday -- acknowledged that Tuesday’s vote was likely final.

That was not the case in November, when McKeown reversed his vote after it became clear that the DA would pass. By casting his vote with the prevailing side, he was able to bring the vote back for reconsideration.

“Last time it made sense to reverse my vote and retain the right to call for reconsideration because an election had just happened and I knew the reconsideration would be before the new Council,” McKeown told The Lookout before the meeting.

“This time, the same seven people will be voting whether it's tomorrow night or in a couple of months,” McKeown, who spearheaded the previous effort to rescind the DA, said Monday.

McKeown said he was still disappointed in the number of affordable units proposed for the site -- a total of 41 “very low income” apartments -- as well as the project's proposed density.

Council member Gleam Davis voted in favor of the DA Tuesday after having supported the motion by McKeown to reconsider the original project.

The original DA proposed including seven extremely low-income units and nine very-low-income units as well as donating 14,400 square feet of the parcel to the City to keep 10 trailers on the site and later, be used to build affordable housing.

In January, the developer filed a $50 million lawsuit charging that by rescinding an approved DA the City had welched on a deal made six years ago when the owners agreed to keep the park open for the length of the DA negotiation process. Legally, the developer was only required to give residents a year notice before closing the park.

The new DA still preserves the 10 trailers, but the land will no longer be donated to the City.

The next step for the project will be to go before the Rent Control Board Thursday to seek approval of an application to remove 99 rent-controlled trailer pads.

Those 99 rent-controlled trailer pads will be replaced in the development as rent-controlled apartments.

If the Rent Control Board approves the application, the owners of the park can move ahead with closure of the park, which could be still more than a year away.

One of the relocation packages included in the DA for the 36 residents still living at the park allows for residents to move into affordable units at the Civic Center Village scheduled to open early next year.

“It's been a long road, and everyone is tired and ready to move on,” said Village Trailer Park co-owner Marc Luzzatto. “Tonight was an important step, but I intend to keep working tirelessly as I have for seven years to ensure that our city ends up with a project that is a big win for the residents of the trailer park, the immediate neighborhood, and the community as a whole.”

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