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Developer to File Lawsuit Over Santa Monica Council Trailer Park Decision

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

January 8, 2013 -- Owners of the Village Trailer Park (VTP) filed a claim against Santa Monica Monday afternoon, claiming that the City Council welched on a deal when it voted to rescind approval of a development agreement (DA) that had taken six years to broker.

Filing a claim is the first step to formally filing a lawsuit against the City.

The owners say that the Council's December 11 decision to reverse approval of the DA “was illegal, breached the MOU (Memorandum of Understanding)... and breached the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing,” according to the document filed with City Hall Monday.

The MOU the owners refer to in the claim was entered into on November 27, 2007 after the City negotiated with the owners to keep the park open while the DA was drafted.

When co-owner Marc Luzzatto and his partners decided to close the park in 2006, the City negotiated with them to keep it open while the DA process went forward.

Under State law, they were required only to give residents at the trailer park one year notice before closing.

That process has lasted over six years now.

In November, the Council voted 4-to-2 to accept the DA which would have replaced the trailer park with a 377-mixed-use development. The DA also included a provision for Luzzatto and his partners to donate a piece of the land to the City so that 10 trailers could be kept on the property.

But once two newly-elected Council members -- former Planning Commissioner Ted Winterer and Tony Vazquez, both considered to be advocates of slow growth -- took their seats, Council member Kevin McKeown, a long-time opponent of closing the park, decided that the Council should take another look at the DA.

Citing concerns about the number of affordable units in the project, McKeown placed a motion on the December 11 agenda to reconsider the agreement.

McKeown claims there should be at least 49 affordable units.

The DA that was approved in November included seven extremely low-income units and nine very-low-income units.

The motion passed with Winterer, Vazquez, Council member Gleam Davis and McKeown voting for it.

But Mayor Pro Tem Terry O'Day, who voted against the motion to reconsider the DA, told The Lookout after the December 11 meeting, “We made a decision to accept fewer units for keeping existing” trailers.

"The Claimants expended significant time and resonrees over a period ot' several years to design and study several iterations of projects that would satisfy the City," the document said.

An earlier version of the project presented to the Council in July had included 483-units and made no provisions to keep spaces for trailers.

The revisions were made after the Council recommended that the developer scale down the project and consider the possibility of keeping the trailers on the site.

Opponents of the project have expressed concern about what would happen with the 36 residents still living on the site, some of whom are elderly or infirm.

The DA included several relocation options for residents living on the site, including one that would allow them to move to Mountain View Trailer Park, the City-owned park on Stewart Street.

As part of that plan, the developer would have bought residents a new trailers if they chose that option.

When the Council voted to rescind the DA on December 11, O'Day worried that the relocation packages may have been forfeit.

After the meeting, Council member Bob Holbrook, another opponent of McKeown's motion, warned that the decision meant that Luzzatto could make a claim against the City.

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