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|Santa Monica Trailer Park Slowly Disappears||
By Jason Islas
March 9, 2012 -- The sun is setting on one of Santa Monica's two last remaining trailer parks, with units being demolished to pave the way for a new 350-unit residential project.
This week, four park-owned trailers were torn down at The Village Trailer Park on Colorado Avenue in order to move forward a process that began in 2006 when owner Marc Luzzatto announced his intention to get out of the trailer park business.
Demolition of the trailers is pretty standard, according to City officials.
“They do not need permits to remove the trailers,” said Jing Yeo, special projects manager with Planning and Community Development.
The trailers that were demolished were all vacant and the process was approved by the City's Building and Safety Committee, Yeo said.
“We're doing everything completely by the book,” said Luzzatto. “These are trailers we own. We have the discretion as to how to dispose of the trailers.”
Nick Sanelli, a longtime resident of the park, said he is sad to see this unique way of life fade. He said there are still 50 residents living in the trailer park who will have to relocate.
“They are being offered a box somewhere,” he said of residents' living options after they move out.
Last month, the Landmarks Commission voted not to designate the 61-year
old park a landmark since the designation could not legally cover the
The attempt to designate the park as a landmark was the last strategy employed by residents and advocates hoping to save the park.
City officials have maintained that Luzzatto is well within his legal rights to close the park. In fact, according to State law, Luzzatto was only required to give residents a one-year warning the park would be closed.
When Luzzatto announced that he would close the park in order to build to build 240 condominiums and 109 rent-controlled units, the City intervened to give residents more time.
In order to keep the park open longer, the City negotiated a good-faith agreement with Luzzatto. A Memorandum of Understanding designed to give residents more time to relocate is the main reason residents are still living at the park more than five years after Luzzatto initially announced his intention to get out of the trailer park business.
The battle has been a contentious one at times, with residents threatening to litigate.
In December, Council member Kevin McKeown tried to get the council to look into buying the property, a proposition that City staff said would have set the City back $22 to $30 million.
McKeown suggested exploring all options, including the possibility of exercising the City's right to eminent domain. However, that option was rejected by the council, which decided to ask Luzzatto if he was interested in selling to the City and if so, for how much.
As demolitions go forward, it doesn't seem likely that the City will buy the property.
“Spring is the target for getting this process finished,” Luzzatto said.
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