VTP redevelopment approved

After a six-year battle between the residents and owner of the Village Trailer Park on Colorado Avenue, the Santa Monica City Council voted 4-3 in favor of a revised VTP redevelopment agreement last Tuesday night. The new agreement was adjusted so that the proposed condominiums are converted into apartments, the number of affordable housing units increases, and a portion of the park continues to be allocated for 10 mobile home spaces, which will operate for up to 10 years.

The previous development agreement included 377 total housing units, 216 of those being condominiums. The remaining units would be apartments, with 16 of them available to very low-income residents, as stated in last Tuesday's meeting.

However, the new agreement converts all housing units to apartments, with 35 retained as affordable housing units for very low income residents, and three saved for extremely low-income residents.

Of 109 trailers, 99 will be displaced by the redevelopment.

Councilman Kevin McKeown, who voted against the VTP project, was still dissatisfied with the amended proposal.

"The project that was presented and eventually approved [last Tuesday] night doesn't go beyond what the law requires for affordable housing," said McKeown. "And yet, that's the number one priority we have set as a city in negotiating development agreements." Current residents who are being forced out have eight relocation options, including moving to Mountain View trailer park, temporarily relocating to an apartment before returning to VTP, or moving to conventional rental housing.

According to the Affordable Housing Production Program, an affordable housing obligation which was implemented under 1990's Proposition R, multifamily developments, or apartments, can allocate 10 percent of the units to "very low" income households.

Councilwoman Gleam Davis initially voted against the project, but said she changed her vote because the package of relocation benefits had been "significantly improved," and the amount of affordable housing was increased to meet the AHPP.

"I felt that my concerns had been addressed and I voted 'yes,'" Davis said.

Another relocation option would allow residents to move to new low-income apartments under construction on Ocean Avenue, across from the Loews Hotel, according to the development agreement.

Lania Bentin, a former resident of the trailer park, relocated to an apartment owned by Community Corporation of Santa Monica, a nonprofit organization committed to developing and managing affordable housing, early last year. During her public comment at the City Council meeting last Tuesday, Bentin described her positive relocation experience and said that the developer and president of The Luzzatto Company, Mark Luzzatto, and his staff were helpful and compensated her fairly.

"I am grateful for my relocation," Bentin said. Although the development agreement has been approved after years of disputes, there are still some issues to address, such as disagreements regarding parking and architectural details.

Luzzatto was unable to comment on the City Council's decision due to litigation issues, but he provided a statement by e-mail.

"We think we've arrived at a solution that will allow everyone involved to move forward in a very positive way," Luzzatto said.