The Village Trailer Park (VTP) continues to be a tenuous issue for the Santa Monica City Council. Yet, a planned development that would be built in place of the VTP seems to finally have enough momentum to move forward, albeit with the support of a bare majority of council members.
Thanks to a 4 to 3 vote Tuesday evening, developer Marc Luzzatto’s proposed East Village development, which would replace VTP with 377 apartment units, survived a second reading. The development agreement (DA) can now move forward.
It was the second time within five months that the proposed mixed-use development hung in the balance during a second reading. Under city law, any ordinance or legislative act must be voted upon twice before officially going into the books as an active decree.
When VTP was up for a second read on Tuesday night, three council members raised concerns about the project’s density. Council members Kevin McKeown, Tony Vazquez, and Ted Winterer all voted against the DA, with McKeown being the most vocal of the density issue.
Specifically, McKeown brought to the attention of City staff and his colleagues an issue that was raised by members of the community: the planned project may not be as dense as advertised.
McKeown had a conversation with City staff, discussing density calculations. Staff mentioned it has been common practice for the Planning Department to use the amount of road a developer gives up control to City Hall to determine the overall density of the project.
Based upon that project, McKeown observed, it would be possible for a developer to build a project that may not be as dense as city law would otherwise require. In effect, a developer would not be making any substantive sacrifices when providing a community benefit, according to McKeown.
It ultimately became a question of whether City Hall would apply the letter of the law or a common practice when considering developments.
McKeown also said there may be some “lack of clarity” as to how remaining residents at VTP will be protected during construction and how relocated residents can pursue their respective grievances.
In addition to the density calculations, Winterer also took objections with the overall designs of the project, saying plans made the new buildings look as if they were designed to protect residents from a Minnesota winter.
The last time Luzzatto’s DA was in front of the dais was in December, when the second reading of the proposed project was heard moments after four members of the current council were sworn in, including newcomers Vazquez and Winter.
At that meeting, the council had voted 4 to 3 against the second reading of the proposed development based upon concerns of a lack of affordable units.
When the VTP came back to the council in March, Council member Gleam Davis, who was one of the four who voted against the proposed development in December, switched her vote to a “yes” three weeks ago. Davis stated at the last council meeting she believed Luzzatto had satisfied the concerns she raised three months earlier.
The same voting bloc who voted in favor of the proposes development during first reading – Mayor Pam O’Connor, Mayor Pro Tem Terry O’Day, Council member Bob Holbrook, and Davis – maintained their respective “yes” votes on April 9.