November 13, 2012

To: City Council
From: The Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City

RE: Village Trailer Park DA (Item 7-C)

Tonight the City Council will be voting on whether to approve a deeply flawed development agreement for the Village Trailer Park (“VTP”). Marc Luzzatto and his Village Trailer Park (“VTP”) partners seek many millions of dollars in special development rights flowing from demolition of virtually an entire neighborhood of 109 affordable housing units and displacement of most of the
families who currently live there. Under the LUCE, City Council has broad discretion to delay, dramatically reduce, or reject this development agreement, which at its core bestows extremely valuable, privileged rights and which fundamentally changes the site’s zoning.

In fact, the Council has the legal obligation to reject a Development Agreement for the VTP where it does not include a strict Transportation Demand Management (“TDM”) program that actually enforces the targeted goals and provides penalties for non-compliance. This project is expected to generate over 2,000 net new daily car trips in an already highly congested area. Yet the Development Agreement is toothless. It states explicitly that the failure to achieve the required goals is NOT a breach. Without strict enforcement measures the LUCE commitment of no new net p.m. trips would be transformed into a hollow slogan.

The Council also has an obligation under LUCE (Goal D24.13) to “retain Village Trailer Park to the extent feasible . . .” which means it must ascertain what is the most feasible means to do that. But also missing, and critical, are the real economics of this windfall to the developer in rezoning this site and
approving its project, including in analyzing the Ron Goldman “park alternative,” which is summarily rejected in the staff report. Without such an economic study, it is impossible to know whether the park alternative is a better project for the city, for the infrastructure and for residents, as well as the VTP community. Any purported claim of unfeasibility has never been demonstrated either by the developer, or the City, as it must be.

Further, the staff report discusses at length that approval of this project can precede an Area Plan because, allegedly, key components of the Area Plan such as the street layout have been met. However, there is no evidence of this, or of a draft area plan to determine this. No Area Plan has been approved. No draft Area Plan has even been circulated. Is the staff report opining that community input reviewing a draft plan and city council approval are mere formalities?

Moreover, LUCE defines “key issues” for the area plan for this Mixed-Use Creative District to include not only district-wide street grid connectivity but also a parking district to consolidate parking into shared facilities and a district wide TDM strategy." (LUCE chapter 2.6 Goal D 24.2). None of that is before you, thus making it impossible to determine whether this project works appropriately to meet those directives.

Nor is planning staff equipped to opine on the legal issue of whether this project can go forward in the absence of an Area Plan. And, its “legal opinion” is wrong, given the fact that just a couple of pages earlier in LUCE, the only exemption expressly given was for a different project (Hines/Bergamot), and only for that one project. No similar exemption is given for VTP, even though the drafters of LUCE knew of this very issue.

Lastly, the City Council should continue this VTP hearing -- and let the voices of residents, as communicated through their new and existing representatives, debate the project AFTER they take office. There is no emergency here that would support having this issue heard now, as opposed to a month from now when the new council is sworn in and there is a draft Area Plan for review.

The future of VTP, and the development of that site, is an extremely important issue that involves the entire community. It’s only fitting that it be heard by the councilmembers who were elected last week, along with their colleagues, rather than a partially lame-duck body.

Diana Gordon,
Co-Chair, SMCLC