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Santa Monica Rent Control Board Postpones Trailer Park Decision Again

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark


Rusty's Surf

By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

May 28, 2013 -- The stalemate over a mixed-use development on the site of one of Santa Monica's two remaining trailer parks will continue for another two months after the Rent Control Board tabled a final decision again last week.

The Board voted unanimously to postpone a vote granting a removal permit for 99 rent-controlled trailer pads -- to be replaced by 99 rent-controlled units in the 377-unit development -- until its July 11 meeting, the day before the Board must make a decision.

For some three hours, Board members hashed out their concerns about the development's density and unit-size, issues that are beyond their purview. They also remained concerned that the development would not provide enough affordable housing -- currently 41 units -- and that the developers should deed-restrict more than 99 units as rent-controlled.

“I do not like the plan to close the Village Trailer Park,” said Rent Board member Christopher Walton. “I was disappointed when the City Council approved the development agreement.”

Still, Walton acknowledged the position the Board was in, pointing out that denying the removal permit would lead to “immediate litigation against the Board.”

Walton asked co-owner Marc Luzzatto if he would increase the number of rental units by 10 percent, bringing the number up from 99 to 109.

“I thought I had adequately addressed that issue last time,” Luzzatto said, reiterating the point that by replacing every rent-controlled pad with a rent-controlled apartment, he had met the City's requirements.

However, Luzzatto said that he and his partners would be willing to provide 119 rent-controlled units for the next 10 years.

“We have the residual park,” Luzzatto said. “We've committed to the City that we would keep it open for 10 years.”

After those 10 years, the residual park -- with its 10 rent-controlled trailer pads -- would close and those pads would be replaced with rent-controlled apartments.

In exchange, Luzzatto said, he would hope to forgo the application process for the removal permit of those 10 rent-controlled units in the future, since he would have already replaced them.

Rent Board Chair William Winslow said that although he didn't necessarily agree, it was his understanding that through its staff, the Board “already agreed in principle to the key elements of the removal permit application about six years ago.”

That was part of good-faith agreement negotiated between the City and the trailer park owners meant to prevent closure of the park before a development agreement was negotiated.

Over the course of those six years, a DA was negotiated, approved and rescinded by the City Council, leading to a $50 million lawsuit by Luzzatto and his partners.

After several months of negotiations, the Council approved a revised version of the DA, sending the developers to the Rent Board to seek approval of the removal of the 99 trailer pads.

If the Rent Board does not meet the July 12 deadline, it would be subject to a writ of mandate, forcing it to make a decision.

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