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“Green” Developer Could Be Partner in Santa Monica’s Village Trailer Park Development

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier


By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

December 16, 2013 -- One of the nation’s leading developers of “green” housing could back plans to build on one of Santa Monica’s two remaining trailer parks.

While Village Trailer Park owner Marc Luzzatto denied rumors that he is trying to sell the four-acre parcel on which he recently got permission to build a 377-unit mixed-use residential development, he said that he is currently in negotiations to bring a financial backer onboard.

“I will head up the venture. I will be in the venture,” Luzzatto told The Lookout Friday. “And we're bringing in a partner.”

That partner, he said, could be Houston-based The Dinerstein Companies, which boasts $1.06 billion in LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)-certified multi-family and student housing projects around the country.

Still, negotiations are in the early stages.

“No final decisions have been made,” Luzzatto said. “The process will take several months to play out.”

Dinerstein representatives said they are excited at the prospect.

“We've been trying and looking in Santa Monica for a number of years,” said Josh Vasbinder, The Dinerstein Companies’ west coast partner.

The firm is active around southern California, said Vasbinder. He said that it has projects, among other places, near San Diego and Woodland Hills.

The Dinerstein Companies also has a 196-unit residential development in Playa del Rey slated to open early next year.

But, the firm hasn’t had a project yet in Santa Monica, a city known for its emphasis on eco-friendly development.

“We're looking at this as a long-term investment for us,” Vasbinder said. “We believe in the vision.”

Part of what Vasbinder likes about the Village Trailer Park development is how close it will be to public transit.

The new 377-unit project will be a half-mile from the future Expo Light Rail stop at Bergamot Station, which, when it opens in 2016, will connect Santa Monica to Downtown Los Angeles by train.

Proponents of such “transit-oriented” development argue that it helps alleviate traffic and promotes environmentally-friendly practices like commuting to work with public transportation.

Once a deal is made, it will bring the project - - more than six years in the making - - one step closer to completion.

In 2006, Luzzatto decided to close the trailer park, a move that roused some residents to protest.

At the time, the City brokered a deal with Luzzatto, who agreed to keep the park open while he negotiated a development agreement (DA) for the property even though State law allowed him to close the park after giving residents one year notice.

In November 2012, the City Council approved the development, but soon rescinded its approval after two newcomers, Ted Winterer and Tony Vazquez, along with Councilmembers Gleam Davis and Kevin McKeown voted to bring it back, citing concerns that it lacked sufficient affordable housing.

In response, Luzzatto sued the City for $50 million in damages because, he claimed, it reneged on a deal made in good faith.

Eventually, the suit was settled out of court and Luzzatto got his DA after adjusting the amount of affordable planned for the site to 41.

Also, in the plan, Luzzatto agreed to keep as many as 10 trailers on the property for up to 10 years.

One concern residents had during the negotiation process was that Luzzatto would try to off-load the property.

That will not happen, he said.

“I will be with this project,” he said. And, Luzzatto said, whomever he ends up partnering with, “they aren’t going to make any material changes to the project.”

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