I: Relocation Offer Raises Fears Among Trailer Park Tenants
By Jorge Casuso
First of two parts
May 28 -- An offer for affordable housing is fueling fears
at one of Santa Monica’s two remaining trailer parks that
the days are numbered for the quaint community tucked away in the
city’s industrial lands.
The letter that arrived Tuesday from Community Corporation, the
city’s largest affordable housing provider, was meant to provide
a welcome option for the 80 or so households faced with eviction
left in the park. Instead it seemed to bring little comfort.
“Due to the closure of the Village Trailer Park, you are
eligible to begin leasing process for a unit with Community Corporation
of Santa Monica,” read the opening sentence of the letter.
The words -- and the accompanying application form -- were read
and re-read, repeated and analyzed by anxious residents in the tight-knit
community off of Colorado Avenue near the eastern edge of the city.
|Ray and Geri Meeks outside their mobile
home (Photo by Jorge Casuso)
It was a wakeup call for the trailer park residents, many of them
elderly, who were given a reprieve from imminent eviction last November,
when the City Council voted to pursue a development agreement with
the park's owners, who want to build a major residential complex
on the site. ("Evictions
Halted as City Launches into Trailer Park Development Agreement,"
December 3, 2007)
“I always thought Santa Monica was taking care of seniors,”
said Ray Meeks, a retiree who lives in the park with his wife Geri.
“But they sold us down the river on this one. What are we
going to do? I don’t know.”
Community Corp housing isn’t an option for the Meeks and
many of the trailer park residents -- who either make more than
the minimum to qualify, or have assets of more than the $5,000 cap.
“The bar is so low, no one can get under it,” said
Nick Sanelli, who did extensive renovation on the 1950 Pan American
trailer he bought in the park five years ago.
While many, if not most of the residents -- who include retirees,
local workers and even a pair of UCLA professors and their children
-- fail to qualify for affordable housing, they also can’t
afford to rent, much less buy, a home in the increasingly expensive
Most Village Park residents own their trailers and pay between
$300 and $600 a month to rent their spaces; by comparison, a one-bedroom
apartment in Santa Monica currently fetches an average of $1,436
a month, while a two bedroom goes for $1,896, according to the Rent
“They’re not offering us an alternative,” Sanelli
said. “We can’t move to a like location.
“The city doesn’t want a trailer park, although it
talks about diversity and fair housing," he said. "What’s
more diverse and affordable than a trailer park?”
Developers -- who plan to build 240 condominiums and 109 rent-controlled
units on the 3.85-acre site -- said they are trying to help the
residents find a home as quickly as possible in case negotiations
over a development agreement with the City unravel.
The talks were given the go-ahead last November, when the council
voted to enter negotiations with the developer to build the complex,
which would include 8,030 square feet of retail area, 34 above-ground
parking spaces and a subterranean garage with 469 spaces.
Several tenants had expressed an interest in affordable housing
and didn’t know that City law allowed them to jump to the
top of Community Corp's lengthy waiting list if a removal permit
has been filed for their building, said Marc Luzzatto, president
of Village Trailer Park, LLC, a corporation consisting of a group
“The idea here is that Community Corporation has very affordable
really wonderful housing in Santa Monica,” Luzzatto said.
“We just want people to have as many options as possible.
“I think it’s prudent for residents to look at all
options. . . since there is always the risk things don’t go
well in our negotiations, and we could exercise our option to close
As long as the negotiations last, the tenants can stay, said Luzzatto.
But if they were to end, tenants would have 114 days to leave their
“As long as we’re talking, we’re not going to
enforce our rights,” Luzzatto said. “As long as the
process is moving forward, we’re fine with them staying.”
If the negotiations lead to a development agreement, the tenants
could be in place for at least a year, said Bruce Leach, the City’s
lead planner on the project.
The project, which would require an Environmental Impact Report
(EIR), would have to go before the Planning Commission for approval,
then to the City Council and the Architectural Review Board, which
would need to approve the design, Leach said.
“This is not going to happen next month,” he said,
adding that it would be at least a year before construction could
II: Negotiators Tackle Thorny Relocation Issues Facing Trailer Park