MUST READING FOR EVERYONE

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Dear Commissioners and all,

Re: Comments, Item 9-A, 6-20 Planning Commission meeting [VTP property, DA 07-005]

Thank you for this latest continuance. And, again, my apology for needing to visit this upon you so close to Wednesday’s meeting. Still moving slowly, now post-surgery after the 5/30 meeting. That circumstance, and need now to review video of your good work at it [and at the 5/23, 6/6 meetings], have served to complicate/delay these efforts to offer in any concise and reasonable way comment that might yet be of use to you…

At this point, I now find myself quite disappointed and, along with yet more telling evidence accumulating, much less hopeful that justice — the critically most important thing to me –will be served in this matter.

It has been alternately incensing, then heart breaking for me hearing commentary offered at these meetings; inaccurate and even dishonest assertions, and truncated lines of necessary conversation have abounded at them.
Heart-breaking because this is such a tragic waste of precious mental energy having you so valiantly struggling to reach a fair accord with this impossible matter.

Incensing for me since I (and other of my neighbors) know so so much about the view-guiding, still un-talked-of fuller history of this, yet have no way to move a more usefully-impacting conversation about the matter.
And, without that, a more appropriate focus for deliberation looks now unlikely to be had, and the very workable good prospects for restoring this still business-viable piece of our City’s history look now also to be denied realization.

Appropriate focus? As earlier cited (on the “first comment” page of those 4 I first struggled with in e-mail to you),
these most important lines from the H-TIR (p.4) suggest where that focus should be:

“On July 10, 2006, the Owner gave twelve months’ notice of termination to tenants that VTP would close on July 31, 2007…In an attempt to avoid litigation [my italics…] over the park closure process, the applicant and City agreed to process a DA [abbr.] application for a project that, among other things, could qualify for a removal permit under the City Charter…”

That, perhaps the beginning of the end for us at VTP. Initially, as I recall, the City was nearly as irate as VTP residents were that this opportunistic, insensitive property owner/developer duo would even consider it ok, in its seeking to cash in on land value, to breach without even talk of compensation, the legal business residency arrangements it had with trailer homeowners and the City government. Even more unbelievable, that it seemed to feel it also ok, for the service of its acquisitive development interests, that the City’s appropriate zoning of the land should simply be changed to accommodate that aim.

Clearly, back then—“in an attempt to avoid litigation”—a suit must have been in some discussion. Instead though, political considerations prevailing, actions moved in this seeming safer(?) DA “consideration”(?) direction. Now, years of contention later, this as yet unresolved, contract-breaking land-use aim remains the issue still deserving first attention. All this most admirable staff work, and these prodigious department machinations around neighborhood-inappropriate development details and untenable “relocation” peripherals, unfortunately continue to take attention off this abiding key matter: a theft and assault is a theft and assault ! To ignore that crime [albeit one so in-process as this one has been these 20 years] by self-distracting with attention focus on out-of-order aspects of it, serves only to further obfuscate and avoid the abiding need to deal with it.

As I watched video of these recent Planning Commission meetings, feeling again for your difficulties seeking a “handle for this “pot” filled with just too too many competing important matters”, I am also brought—- yet again!–to my own head-spinning difficulty in now trying to offer you here what might help your deliberations find their way to a satisfactory ending point.

Too, I remain as angry and befuddled as ever that your task needs [and really those of this entire City government], duty sworn as all are toward addressing the needs of the now nearly 100,000 Santa Monica residents living and working on these few square miles of land, are instead seeming so to be so hurriedly directed to the narrower, calendar-nailed service of this self-interested business.

As I and others have noted, life here into the next 2 decades—even if we ever get a workable 20-year General Plan update to assist us all—looks now quite more problematic* than matters did back in that now quaint-seeming earlier plan-setting time in 1984. {*On any day, but a few hours accessing thoughtful news outlets chillingly proves that, yes?}

Along with this DA, your Commission seems plagued still with a continuing stream of development proposals that would seem better processed if you had a clearer template of straight-forward guidelines. The by interests-corrupted LUCE tool seems already proving problematic for your decision-makings. I cannot suggest strongly enough that we all would be better served if…{as bit-similarly aimed back in Prop-t times when residents City-supporting pled for a development handbrake}…City government actions immediately made it even more a priority to complete, for public review-of and voting-on, that above-noted, still-in-process 20-year next General Plan.

Not only does it seem your- and other-department tasking would be easier with such a guiding plan made more
functional, the times approaching seem also to suggest more need now for the most nimble governance possible.

Anyway… Just what would I now be asking if I were in your final decision-making shoes?

Here are a few questions that I have had over the months, which might be of use to remind or stir your last discussion delving into this sorry matter. Actually, with my above-noted comments about where attention might really best be spent in considering this homes-thieving matter {i.e., instead, upon the legal aspect of this, yes?}, a number of these questions really seem of only passing attention-worth at this point. But, for the record, here they are, in approximate importance order (for me):

1—Exactly why can’t this matter be continued much further [so, perhaps via the earlier-suggested, broader ‘town-meeting’ idea, it might be better explored and progressed.] The developer has had it seems abundant time to make his case for this project. Santa Monica residents don’t seem to have had as equal an opportunity for full discussion about the flaws in it, the consequences it will bring, and about what may yet be shown as best needs for this property and its environs.

2—It seems that this property owner is in at least a 4-way contractual arrangement, what with financial considerations involving the State, Federal, and our local government [regarding low-income housing-support dispensations?], and with these trailer home-owning/space-renting parties maintaining living residencies on the grounds. In consideration of this unique realty arrangement, just how does the law protect these other entities should the landowner choose to no longer “do” the trailer park management business for which the land has been use-zoned? For the home-owners’ in particular, given that they now have little or no option to sell or move their trailers should this perpetuity-presumed residency arrangement be yet further breached by ending it, what provision is there for them to be granted appropriate recompense for the loss of home buy-in expense, asset growth in such over time, relocation expense, and life-harm from such an unanticipated imposition upon their living situation? Isn’t the fairest and simplest resolution for this matter, since the property owner clearly does not want to continue with said land-management business, that he simply sells interest of such to another who would relish the business? For the City, too, wouldn’t its desire and need to sustain properties affording it housing resource also suggest it may have action cause should the property owner seek to abandon this business use of the land, or, as now sought, to be seeking change of use from that for which it was thoughtfully zoned not all that long ago? Is this perhaps a realty dyadic- or triadic-situation mandating some exceptional legislation?

3—Does it follow that, just because this property owner is entitled to act to cease doing the trailer park management business, that the law also accords him some right to abandon with impunity the legal residency contracts he has with his home-owning/space-renting residents?

4—Evidence is clear that this property owner [via actions of his agents], in acting over these past 22 years to remove and not replace income-generating trailers from about ½ of the home sites on the property, cares little about “doing” the trailer park management business. If another party could be found who wanted to “do” said business, how difficult and or expensive would it be to put out tenders [to a variety of the many other mobile home parks in CA or other states] so that vintage trailers removed* from VTP might be replaced in kind, and so that the trailer park property could then be brought back to its earlier, visitor-drawing, historically iconic, and business-viable status? {*Too, out of all the unemployed now, there must be some who could even restore damaged trailers, or craft modern replicas of those lost vintage ones from the ‘40’s, ’50’s, and 60’s.}

5—Has any consideration gone to finding some way for the present trailer homeowners living in the park, along with any who may yet be brought into undertaking residency agreements on the property, so that it might be made a resident-owned property [in part or entirety]? Has any effort been spent trying to locate parties desirous of owning/managing such a business-generating, historic enterprise?

6—On what basis does the Rent Control Board decide if “removal permits” are found acceptable or not? As this developer seems to have now applied for such, and should the RCB deny his application, what recourse does he then have, if any, in continuing pursuit of this DA?

7—Whatever became of the trailer appraisals of market value worth done when Del Richardson and associates first gathered data about ownership and relocation interests in ~3/09? Have those assessments since be pegged to estimations of home worth at the time the closure notice was visited upon residents in ~7/06?

8—Just how is it that, as presently configured, there is just enough room for 109 decades-proven, reasonable home sites [~1000 square feet each, or ~109,000 sf (in all) for habitation, small yard, and small parking space] on these narrow VTP grounds, yet plans for some 486 homes and condos [363,280 sf +office, retail store, and open space, totaling some additional 61430 sf] will also comparably accommodate reasonable habitation on these very same narrow VTP grounds? Exactly how living-space different will these proposed new-built home sites need to be to accomplish satisfying that much greater person population, all also seeking equally reasonable habitation amidst such massive building and such greater space-filling fixtures on the land?

9—Just precisely why, after being found landmark designation-worthy on 2 of that Commission’s criteria [1 supposedly enough to suffice], was such designation for this VTP property denied?

10—Just how tight will these 838 planned vehicle spaces need to be on the ~361,000 square feet of the planned 4-level underground VTP parking facility? That a wonder since, at Santa Monica’s 3-level underground library parking facility, comprised of ~213,750 square feet, accommodation is only for a total of 570 vehicles. Too, there is the question, how noisy and how difficult will be the many goings and comings for these 838 vehicles onto and from the small streets adjacent this narrow VTP property? Further, have water table and other environmental matters passed muster for such an extensively deep underground excavation as this one on this narrow a property?

11—Affordable housing? It used to be that “affordable” meant persons didn’t need to put themselves at too-great residency-loss risk since spending was then capped in the 25-35% of disposable-income range for rental- or mortgage-cost debt each month… {We saw what gaming that process did in ’08, and see now that that game is still going on}… Will the buildings to be constructed on the VTP property allow rental- or ownership-arrangements so that monthly mortgage-, or rent-controlled housing-cost will equal the ~$275/mo to ~$375/mo expense which residents presently incur for their trailer homes?

12—Exactly why must we be considering developments such as this one, working by fiat-designed “interim ordinances” instead of with those previously vetted and set? What exactly is stopping our government from simply walking this City, discussing at length [and taking notes about] what should best be considered for next-use development in areas, bringing such projecting plans to public discussion and vote, and then setting clear usage regulations so planning and management of next-development needs throughout the City could then be a less convoluted and problem-inviting matter?

13—Just what exactly is going on with this recently begun “zoning element” updating process? Specifically, why is the present Euclid-modeled form of zoning no longer sufficient on its own for planning needs? How exactly will the abuses “form-based” (and other) zoning-code modes invite be avoided if such land-use code-setting models are employed in Santa Monica?

14—Just why, in the plans for this development, does Pennsylvania avenue, which now straight-line end-T’s to Stanford street directly in line with the back end of the VTP property, instead jog north across Stanford and enter the property at an access point up the street and about mid-way into the property [p.13, Item 5-a, 5/23 Planning Commission meeting, staff power point presentation]? If this may be a case of “money” having spoken to protect a property {i.e. that landscaping business facing Pennsylvania on Stanford}, might not “money” also be employed to similarly protect this entire VTP property?

15—Developers and architects worth their cost generally try to maximize building densities on the grounds available to them. While most understandable in isolation from other properties contiguous or near by, such construction aspiring can be most problematic in terms of the affects of said developments upon any properties or neighborhoods that are in fact adjacent to or close by. What, if anything, can be done to help developers nevertheless make their projects economically feasible when City mandated building size/form needs limit what might more profitably be sought if given opportunity instead to more-densely develop on a site?

16—Why is it so very hard trying to decide if this DA should be accepted or not? Said another way, why is it hard forcing a square peg into a round hole? Certainly, when a premise is problematic from the outset, logic generally promises that efforts to support it will be to some degree or other also problematic when continuing on with it. Too, it is crazy making when ill-ordered actions are forced upon one. In this case, needing to deal with suppositions and irrelevancies when original causative actions have set in motion a basically insane and unworkable process, can make for at least some amount of effort frustration.

17—Why does this whole development matter seem such a travesty?…This an easy one: When a unique and rare historic property, already set up and functioning for the environmentally-sensitive, appropriate-cost, space-efficient servicing of housing needs of a variety of low-income householders, is willfully debased*, then destroyed, so that an environment resource-wasting, neighborhood-crowding set of “replacement” housing edifices might then be built on it which are then anything but appropriately priced, historic, or desirable habitations for householders, such action becomes perhaps the very poster-model definition of travesty.

*Though with still re-usable pad-sites, about half of the trailers on the land have, by business-killing action of the property’s owner, been destroyed and removed from them over these past 20 years.

Of course, given more time, there are many others I could recall and note here, but, as you’ve no doubt found wrestling with this gnarly matter, all this wheel-spinning gets exhausting. Life is short, eh?

That said, and again with apology for all these newest words, let me end with this:

Should you, as I hope {and earlier asked}, convey to Council that this DA should be forthwith dismissed, the developer may or may not then seek to sue over the matter.

Certainly, had I had means [or been able to find affordable counsel of sufficient means to sustain], this crime against myself, my neighbors, and this City, would already have found itself in court. I think the case against this abuse of situation is huge.

As well, should your Commission, then City Council, find merit in stopping this development lunacy, I will be most happy to offer testimony in support of any litigation you may consequently choose to undertake or be respondent to.

Again, good luck with Wednesday’s deliberations….

Oh, and if I am able to attend, and any circumstance may then invite public comment, I would also most welcome being before you should you perhaps have questions of me re any of the above, or about other VTP-related matters…

Cordially,

David Latham


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