September 29, 2020 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Affordable Housing Lawsuits Take Centerstage:

The Santa Monica City Attorney’s office has been working on two cases that deal with developers who have not complied with the affordable housing requirements specified in their development agreements (DA) with the city of Santa Monica. A DA is agreed to by the City and a developer when the developer offers public benefits in exchange for being permitted to develop their project with parameters outside of the of the City’s zoning standards.

At the May 11 City Council meeting, Council members unanimously approved all the settlement conditions mentioned by City Attorney Marsha Moutrie in the lawsuit against Blackrock Realty Advisors Incorporated, the owner of The Plaza at the Arboretum. The 350-unit complex is located at 2200 Colorado Avenue.

The lawsuit was filed this past February in response to numerous and widespread violations of the affordable housing deed restrictions that were part of Blackrock’s DA with the City. A key violation stated in the City Attorney’s complaint was that Blackrock “failed to verify the eligibility of applicants and tenants in units that were designated by contract to be affordable for low and moderate income tenants.”

The settlement conditions approved by the Council include having the property’s DA and deed restrictions be revised to comply with the City’s current affordable housing ordinance and guidelines, and having tenants for the affordable units be selected from the City’s waiting list to ensure compliance. Blackrock must also conduct affordable housing training and hire permanent, experienced, affordable-housing staff, pay for the next audit of their DA, pay any relocation expenses for tenants that must move because of their negligence, and attach copies of the deed restriction to residents’ leases.

Deputy City Attorney Gary Rhoades told the Mirror the final settlement between Blackrock and the City wouldn’t be worked out until at least sometime mid June.

The other case has to do with the Dorchester House which is a luxury condominium complex located at 1040 – 1044 4th Street. The 1982 DA for this complex states that all of the complex’s 15 first floor units would be deed restricted for affordable housing. Rhoades stated that last June his office contacted the owners of all 15 units to verify, “whether they were renting as per the deed restriction.” The owners of twelve of the units were cooperative, but the owner of the remaining three units Novin “Kathy” Golshani did not cooperate. A suit was filed on May 10 by the City Attorney against Golshani who is an officer or manager of Bilet Properties, LLC because she has among other things, failed “to verify the eligibility of occupants in units that were designated by contract to be affordable for and occupied exclusively by low and moderate income tenants.”

Rhoades stressed that his office was “not filing suits against those owners that are working with us” even if they violated the DA.

Also at the May 11 Council meeting, the City’s Director of Planning and Community Development, Eileen Fogarty, noted in her presentation on DA compliance review that there are 14 DAs in the city subject to compliance review but two of them have not yet been built. Her department’s review found that all developers were in compliance in terms of paying the necessary fees to the City and most were “in complete or nearly complete compliance with their development agreements” in terms of other issues.

Four development agreements are in complete compliance, five are in substantial compliance and are requiring limited follow-up, and three are requiring more intensive follow-up to ensure compliance. The Planning Department will come back in September with a report on those DAs that required follow-up. There will now be an annual DA compliance report to the Council every January.


HANNAH HEINEMAN

Mirror Contributing Writer[email protected]

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