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|Planning Commission Wants Smaller Project, More Benefits for Santa Monica Trailer Park Site|
By Jason Islas
June 22, 2012 -- After approximately 15 hours of discussion spread over a month, the Santa Monica Planning Commission unanimously recommended that the City Council approve a Development Agreement (DA) for the Village Trailer Park site Wednesday.
But the commission's recommendation included some major caveats, such as decreasing the size of the proposed 486-unit project, increasing benefits for trailer dwellers who will have to move, and adding more open spaces to the proposed 400,000 square foot mixed-use development.
Despite the endorsement, the process could face another hitch. A Los Angeles Superior Court Judge has agreed to hear the complaints of two trailer park residents who claim they have the right to stay in what is one of Santa Monica's two remaining trailer parks.
"The judge in the lawsuit issued an interim order that does nothing more than conclude that the settlement agreement between the tenants and Village Trailer Park is an enforceable agreement" said lawyers representing the developers. "This order is not a final judgment, because the whole case has not even been litigated."
Wednesday's Planning Commission decision moves forward a project that Council member Kevin McKeown, as well as the City's Landmarks Commission, have tried unsuccessfully to derail.
“It is clear under state law that (Village Trailer Park, LLC) will be able to close” the park, said Planning Commissioner Richard McKinnon. “Our job was not to argue with that, but to make sure there's an adequate package for residents.”
The commission recommended that stipends for residents who want to move into the new development once it's finished should be increased from $1,190 to $1,652 a month, for up to five years.
As part of the DA, the 38 remaining trailer park tenants are offered a first right of refusal for one of the 38 low-income or extremely low-income units in the new development.
In addition, the commission wants to assure the easiest possible transition for those who will be displaced, McKinnon said.
As a result, they recommended that each tenant be provided a case manager who handles most of the heavy lifting -- both literally and metaphorically -- of moving, he said.
The commission asked the council to consider telling the developer to add another 24 affordable units to the development, while reducing the number of total units by adding more two- and three-bedroom condos.
“The current design is too big,” said McKinnon.
The site, he said, should serve as a transition from the smaller, residential neighborhood just north of Colorado Avenue to the larger Bergamot Transit Village -- a proposed 767,000 square foot mixed use residential complex -- to the south.
“The current design isn't that,” he said. “There's too much going on at the site.”
Originally McKinnon presented a motion that the Council postpone considering the DA until a Bergamot Area plan is adopted, but that motion failed. The final proposal -- to recommend the DA to the council with changes -- passed five to zero.
Chair Gerda Newbold and Commissioner Jason Parry -- though present for most of the meeting -- left before the vote.
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