News

Mobile-home park closure would displace 400

Community groups rally to help Buena Vista Mobile Home Park residents

The planned closing of Buena Vista Mobile Home Park in Palo Alto to make way for an apartment complex took a step forward Tuesday night, Dec. 11, as attorneys for the property owners, the Jisser family, gave residents a terse reading of terms for their eventual eviction.

Residents of the 86-year-old mobile-home park on El Camino Real, who had received notification of the potential sale of the property in mid-September, said after the meeting they were stunned that the closure might become a reality. About 400 people live in the park.

Their eviction would be the largest dislocation of residents in Palo Alto since 1942, when about 184 residents of Japanese ancestry were sent to World War II internment camps, according to a 1940 Palo Alto Times article. In 1962, about 110 homes were demolished to make way for Oregon Expressway, the most recent displacement of Palo Alto residents, fair-housing proponents said.

Several advocacy groups vow they won't leave residents to fight alone, however. The Community Working Group, the Palo Alto PTA Council Executive Board, the Peninsula Peace and Justice Center, and the newly formed Friends of the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park said they are rallying behind the residents.

Buena Vista, the city's only mobile-home park, is located at 3980 El Camino Real and contains 115 mobile homes and 12 studio units. Joe Jisser and his family currently own the property but are under contract to sell to Bay Area developer Prometheus. The Jissers filed an application with the city for conversion on Nov. 9. Prometheus intends to build 180 apartments on the roughly 4.5-acre property but must obtain a zoning change from the city first.

In building rentals, the developer is not required to offer any units at below-market rate, City of Palo Alto officials have said. But under a 2001 city ordinance, there are numerous steps the Jissers must take before the city can consider approving the conversion. Those include surveying the residents and completing a relocation-impact report that assesses the value of the mobile homes, the cost of comparable housing elsewhere and moving expenses, among other things. The ordinance requires the property owner to provide "reasonable relocation assistance" to the tenants.

Advocates say that the city has an even greater responsibility: to keep Buena Vista open.

"To the extent feasible, the city will seek appropriate local, state and federal funding to assist in the preservation and maintenance of the existing units in the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park," the city's Comprehensive Plan states.

"The city has an affirmative duty to uphold the Comprehensive Plan, and we expect them to do that in this case," said Winter Dellenbach, a former fair-housing attorney and Barron Park neighborhood resident who is spearheading the Friends group, which is comprised of 60 residents from various neighborhoods. "They're not going to be allowed to wash their hands of it."

Advocates also argue Buena Vista residents will not be able to find comparable housing in the area, let alone in Palo Alto.

Providing financial assistance to move won't make up for the loss of opportunity, they said.

"How do you compensate for a Palo Alto education? You can't put a monetary value on Palo Alto schools. I don't think you can put a dollar amount on a Palo Alto education and what it would do to their lives," said Nancy Krop, vice president of advocacy for the Palo Alto Council of PTAs.

"Even given relocation payments, it won't come close to keeping them in Palo Alto," Dellenbach said. "They will leave with some money in their pocket, but it will not be a solution to the long-term housing problem."

The Community Working Group, which spearheaded the creation of the Opportunity Center for the homeless, among other projects, has formed a task force to advocate for Buena Vista residents. They have introduced residents to attorneys who specialize in mobile-home law and could accept donations and or assist in fundraising for the residents, said Dr. Donald Barr, a founding member of the Community Working Group and longtime homelessness-prevention advocate.

Barr said the risk of homelessness for many at Buena Vista is "very real." Those who end up moving in with relatives because they cannot afford housing would be considered homeless under the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.

Closing Buena Vista would also be a setback for the city's supply of affordable housing, Barr said.

The Community Working Group developed 88 units of low-income housing at the Opportunity Center and is working on 801 Alma, the 50-unit, low-income family housing near downtown.

"One hundred and 15 is a pretty big chunk of a decade and a half of work on low-income housing -- and then bam! -- three-quarters of the number of units are gone. All of your work was devalued by the loss of these units for these families. That doesn't feel good," he said.

Buena Vista residents probably won't have access to the affordable 801 Alma units because of a long waiting list, he said.

Curtis Williams, the city's director of planning and community environment, acknowledged that finding replacement housing will be "very tough." The city has between 500 and 600 rent-restricted units for affordable housing, but all are occupied, and there are long waiting lists.

Advocates have floated the idea of the city buying the Buena Vista property so that residents could remain. Jisser said that such a decision would be up to Prometheus and the city, as he's already in a contract with Prometheus to sell the site.

Williams said the city would have to seek state and federal funding to purchase the Buena Vista land. But he cautioned that it is "a very expensive property."

The city does have leverage regarding entitlements and changes the property developer might want.

"If they have any hope of moving forward, they need to come up with a plan to provide housing on site or elsewhere," he said.

"Our sentiment is certainly (toward) if there is a way to keep them there and fund it. Secondarily, it would be to find places as close as possible in Palo Alto for them to live," he said.

Jon Moss, executive vice president and partner at Prometheus, said he is not against considering different alternatives for assisting residents, including renting the new apartments to Buena Vista residents if subsidy funding could be found.

In the meantime, David Richman, a housing relocation specialist hired by the Jissers, said he plans to meet with each household to develop a relocation plan that must be submitted to the city. The ordinance allows him to identify housing within a 35-mile radius and to offer a lump sum for moving costs, the value of the unit, first and last months' rent and a security deposit.

Qualifying low-income households and persons with disabilities could receive financial assistance for up to one year if their new location costs more than Buena Vista's rents, he said.

Despite the show of support for Buena Vista residents, not everyone favors keeping the mobile-home park intact.

"I am thrilled that finally the Buena Vista property -- which is not a 'buena vista' (but) more like a 'mala vista' eyesore -- is going to be redeveloped. This is the happiest news I've heard in a very long time," Pamela Diken, a Barron Park resident, told the Weekly.

"As far as the tenants are concerned, it is very nice that Jisser is willing to give the tenants money for relocating, and if he wanted to be a little bit nicer he could set aside 25 units (of the new complex) for low-income housing and not have to worry too much about the complaints that he will definitely receive," she said.

But Krop of the PTA said the closure would affect not just the residents but classmates at neighborhood schools. About 12 percent of Barron Park Elementary School students -- 42 children -- live at Buena Vista. Twenty-two students attend Terman Middle School, and 29 attend Gunn High School.

She said the PTA Council Executive Board voted to form a committee to explore whether there is a role for PTA in the issue. PTA Council represents all 17 of the Palo Alto PTAs, but each PTA is its own entity and has not voted on the issue. They have formed an advocacy group to preserve affordable housing in whatever form it takes, she said.

The impact of their move would be dramatic -- and not just in sheer numbers, she added.

"The cultural diversity, all of the cultural events (that Buena Vista students bring) at the schools would all just be gone," she said.

Dellenbach likewise views Buena Vista as essential to the fabric of the community.

"Buena Vista is on my doorstep. It's part of my neighborhood. It's part of what makes Barron Park Barron Park," she said.

"Can you imagine if this were Professorville or Crescent Park or Greenmeadow and if we said that 400 members of our neighborhood would just disappear? I surmise that people would be up in arms.

"I just feel they are our neighbors, and I'm concerned that our neighbors be well and prosper," she said. "These are Palo Alto residents, and we want to keep them in Palo Alto, whether in Buena Vista or other housing. We don't want to see them scattered to the winds."

Related stories:

Editorial: Interests collide over Buena Vista's future

Buena Vista residents urge city to save their homes

Palo Alto mobile-home park faces redevelopment

A history of Buena Vista Mobile Home Park

Comments

Posted by Carlos, a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 14, 2012 at 10:21 am


"The cultural diversity, all of the cultural events at the schools would all just be gone," she said (Nancy Krop, vice president of advocacy for the Palo Alto Council of PTAs).

When PTA people make exaggerated statements like this one, I really wonder if we have the right people representing us at the PTA. Has this person even been to our schools lately? With or without Buena Vista, there's pleny of diversity at our schools. Please don't use the 'diversity' card to push your own agendas.


Posted by Fair to all, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 14, 2012 at 10:35 am

No one is entitled to live in Palo Alto.

If my wife and I couldn't afford our mortgage, then we would move with our kids to a lower cost neighborhood. It would not be pleasant, but I would not expect Palo Alto to subsidize us so that we could stay in the city.

If they covered our relocations costs? Wow, that would be incredibly generous.


Posted by Ernesto USMC, a resident of Ventura
on Dec 14, 2012 at 11:05 am

I agree with the first two posters.

Mobile homes are much cheaper housing on a $/sqft basis than condos or single family homes, precisely because they come with the risk of not owning the land underneath. When someone voluntarily incurs this risk, enjoys the benefit that comes with it (being able to live in a very expensive area without the normal expenses), they should not then cry foul when the risk factor is realized.

Using the "diversity card" to justify subsidies for any select minority group is a slap in the face to any minority earns his own way in life and wants only to be judged on a level playing field (not the "level only when its convenient for us" playing field that many want these days).



Posted by jerry99, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 14, 2012 at 11:06 am

Some of those units are is such terrible shape and so close together that I am surprised that they have not burned down yet. Let the city find other areas for mobile home parks like along 101, and build decent mobile park homes, not the complete squalor that is Buena Vista. It is an eyesore that decreases property values and provides a breeding place for crime. Replacing it with apartments will provide a good place for families to live and send their children to the nearby Palo Alto schools. It is a real plus for the community and helps the new Palo Alto companies to have their employees be able to rent in Palo Alto and have great schools for their children. I understand that under the city regulation that generous allowance will be made to relocate and compensate the residents for their moving.


Posted by John P, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 14, 2012 at 11:08 am

It would be good riddance to the firetrap trailers that have been ther for decadees. It would really improve the neighborhood. Most of the people in favor of keeping Buena Vista live in other parts of Palo Alto and want to keep it as-is, as long as it is not in their neighborhood.


Posted by Enough!, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 14, 2012 at 11:14 am

You think this City cares about the displaced? Only in the most NIMBY way do people in Palo Alto care. I don't know how many times I've had people in Palo Alto tell me I should find somewhere more affordable, like Iowa. Or, if they see I don't have a nice car etc, ask me how I live here. Palo Alto has lost it's diversity.


Posted by TruthSayer, a resident of another community
on Dec 14, 2012 at 11:16 am

The entitlement mentality embraced by people like Nancy Krop, the 'Peninsula Peace and Justice Center,' Winter Dellenbach, and the residents of the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park is disgusting.

Let's review a few facts:
1. The residents of this mobile home park have benefited for 86 years from having greatly-reducted costs of living because they chose to lease land from someone else, rather than put down a deposit and buy land.
2. The residents entered into their lease agreements voluntarily and without duress. They've known for 86 years they were leasing the land, not buying the land under their trailers.
3. By reducing their household expenditures by leasing land, rather than putting down a deposit on land elsewhere and owning it, they've been able to purchase other things throughout their lives. This was their choice on how to spend their money.
4. The residents now want to have their cake and eat it too - they want to avoid the pain of their poor decisions (not buying their own land), and now want to tell the land owner what he can and can't do with his own property.
5. Tenants are not owners. They do not have property rights.
6. The land belongs to someone else. That property owner can do with the land as he sees fit.

Grow up Krop, PPJC, Dellenbach, and the residents of Buena Vista!

Read the Constitution. Live it. Love it. Stop wanting an ever larger government to tell others what to do with their private property just so it benefits you, and makes up for 86 years of your poor decision-making.


Posted by Allen Edwards, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 14, 2012 at 11:27 am

Isn't the city under considerable pressure from the state to have better ratios of housing to business. Cutting almost 300 units is serious. If the city has to re-zone to allow the development, can't they just not rezone? Seems like most comments are against the park but my guess is that the park was there before they were. Is it a case that you want your property values to go up by removing something that was there when you bought. Nice idea but doesn't seem like a very good argument.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 14, 2012 at 11:28 am

The city should not buy the property and become the landlord. That is not the charter of this city, nor should it be modified to such.

Previous articles point out that the BV property is woefully out of date on current code requirements. The expense to update the property (which the city is pressing the current owners to do) is the reason the owners are getting out.

So not only is there a cost with purchasing the property, but there would be additional cost to bringing the place up to current standards. Oh - and the cost of managing the property, etc.

There's a reason no one else is jumping at this opportunity to purchase the property. It is a non-profitable, non-breakeven business proposition. In other words, the property in its current state is a lock to cost the new owner far more than what will be brought in.

If some non-profit wants to jump in take on ownership - then that's great. But we're not seeing that either.

Certainly the city can delay the sale by holding up the zoning change. But what hasn't been discussed is that the current owner could choose stave of his/her losses buy closing the park altogether and leaving it vacant. No moving assistance, no financial incentives. Just shut it down and stop the negative cash flow. Don't be surprised if this happens if the city does not allow the zoning change.


Posted by common sense, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 14, 2012 at 11:30 am

There have been several recently built or projects under construction for low income households: Treehouse (Charleston/El Camino), 801 Alma, Maybell Ave. The city has provided financing for these projects.

The development of the mobile park home has been know for a while, certainly while these low income housing projects have been reviewed & approved.

Perhaps the city can help find many of the mobile park residents homes in these new projects.


Posted by Raymond, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 14, 2012 at 11:44 am

To most of the other poster's here; it's all good until it's you getting displaced right? Folks like you cry the loudest under the same circumstances. Where's your compassion? It's almost Christmas for Christs sake! (pun intended)


Posted by Fred, a resident of Woodside
on Dec 14, 2012 at 11:44 am

The residents had a great run for 86 years. They all knew that the selling of the land might happen someday. Well, that day is here. End of story.


Posted by yada yada yada, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 14, 2012 at 12:06 pm

To Allen Edwards

The proposed developer is seeking to build housing there (187 units), to replace the mobile homes. It's not currently a park in the sense of grass, swings, sand box, etc.

The mobile home park currently has 117 units, not 300. So the rezoning will be increasing the # of units from 117 to 187. That's what's on the table. Not going from 300 to 0.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 14, 2012 at 12:29 pm

Not intending to be disrespectful - but how is compassion going to solve the problem?

There are several choices on the table, and certainly room for more:
1. Re-zone, sell. Move occupants with assistance. Impact - current residents will not be able to afford to stay in PA. Finding new home difficult. Impact - current owner will no longer lose money on property. Impact on surrounding neighborhood is improvement of waning conditions and appearances.

2. Refuse rezoning. Current owner unable to upgrade due to costs. Site either falls further into disrepair or owner just closes it down to avoid steep penalties and to stop negative cash flow. Impact - current residents forced to move, quite possibly without any assistance.

3. Sell to non-profit. Probably best hope for current residents. Problem is that no such organization has stepped up to do this. Viability of solution is very slim.

Option 3 is highly unlikely. So you are down to 1 or 2. My compassionate POV is that option 1 is a heck of lot better than the probable outcome of option 2. At least the current residents get some sort of assistance.


Posted by Resident in Green Acres, a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 14, 2012 at 1:21 pm

I support this project to replace the mobile home park with a more up to date new residential buildings. If this mobile home park is located in Professorville or Crescent Park, or near Downtown it would have been long gone half a century ago. The changes in Palo Alto will continue whether one likes it or not. Just look at the new low income housing complex (a major form of entitlement) that will be built on Maybell Ave. in Green Acres. Take a look at the new residential complezes at Alma at E. Meadow, and the completed formerly Hyatt Hotel townhomes. Many residents do not like the changes for good and sound reasons, but the changes will take place. The same applies to this mobile park home. We have more low income housing units in South Palo Alto which is already grossly 'unfair' scenario. We have asked for and never got a complete list of how many low income housing already in the City, most of them we know are in the southern part of the City. (The reason is in part, that the low income housing projects are not all owned or administered by one organization.) But I am sure, the City knows the overall number and locations of this type of low income housing. There are already plenty of diversity in the City's public schools with or without the residents of this mobile home park residents. I support the new development. However, my preference is that the new rental complex be constructed for 'regular' seniors, i.e., not low income seniors. That focus will not (or only minimally) further burden the schools in South Palo Alto.


Posted by Wendy Whiner, a resident of Greater Miranda
on Dec 14, 2012 at 1:37 pm

Would it be too much to ask the property owner who is displacing these people to let them have first pick of the apartments once they are built, and at a rate comparable to what they paid for their lots in the mobile home park? Or would that require too much compassion?

The property owner/developer should do the right thing and at least relocate these people. Because of him they will soon be homeless! They live where they live because they can afford it, which is why most people live where they live. It's just that they can afford less than most Palo Altans, so let the property owner pick up the slack!


Posted by What right thing?, a resident of Meadow Park
on Dec 14, 2012 at 2:37 pm

Wendy Whiner: Please read the earlier comments carefully before you post. A trailer park is where no resident owns the land. They pay rent for the land on which their trailer sits. So they are not land owners who are being evicted. Please understand this simple fact before you post your comment.
If the residents become homeless that will be because of their own poor decision making. For decades they have lived very inexpensively in one of the most expensive areas in the country. It was their choice and they saved a lot of money by receiving low cost accommodation. Now like the rest of us they simply have to live within their means - every free lunch has to come to an end.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 14, 2012 at 3:28 pm

^^ "If the residents become homeless that will be because of their own poor decision making. For decades they have lived very inexpensively in one of the most expensive areas in the country. It was their choice and they saved a lot of money by receiving low cost accommodation. Now like the rest of us they simply have to live within their means - every free lunch has to come to an end.^^

It's doubful that your above statements are accurate. They have lived w/in their means - in lowcost housing that leaves a lot to be desired - but "inexpensivel" is a misnomer, as it's relative to one's income level. Poor is poor, & poor people live where they can afford to - you know, like you & I do - but w/many fewer options. Until you know their exact circumstances, you can't know if any of them were able to save $$. We don't really know. Change, for poor people, is often terrifying, because it easily spells disaster for them. It's a vicious cycle.

The best that can happen w/this scenario is that they get $$ to relocate. While I personally think that could actually be a good thing - w/some planning & some advocacy on their side, they could have an improved quality of life - I'm not in their shoes, so I can only understand that it's terrifying. IIRC, a number of them are undocumented & some disabled, which greatly reduces their optimism.

I hope that these folks get apprised of their rights & responsibilities for their best interests & so that whatever happens, they don't have evictions on their record nor do they have added conflict w/the property owners. No one needs that type of drama. Since PA has crappy renters' rights, there's not a lot on their side, legally.


Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community
on Dec 14, 2012 at 4:25 pm

Why do we have to judge, I knew people who have lived here in the 80's and 90's, I am not going to judge or say they did a poor decision that caused them to reside at the trailer park.

I know the prices for land have gone way up, prices for leases, rent have pushed old businesses out. Why would someone pay millions to keep a,single story, rundown property or prices from way back then. You don't pay a million dollars, fix up a place, sell or rent for less money.

I am low income, wouldn't want to buy something like an investment and not get a ROI.


Posted by stretch, a resident of another community
on Dec 14, 2012 at 4:29 pm

The City of Palo Alto owns plenty of land that they could lease to the people in the mobile home park. At one time, the City was thinking about building affordable homes on some of it for employees, so that they could actually have employees living in Palo Alto and available for emergencies. What a concept! As a matter of fact, some City employees rented mobiles in theis park so that they wouldn't have to drive in every day from Modesto, Manteca and Patterson (where they could afford housing). Simple solution: satisfy the NIMBY people in Barron Park by building apartments, lease city land to the mobile owners.


Posted by What right thing?, a resident of Meadow Park
on Dec 14, 2012 at 4:32 pm

Hmmm and Garrett: What exactly is your point?

Any property owner is entitled to do what they want with their property. That is one of the basic rights of this nation. They are offering the tenants an excellent deal with relocation assistance. What was the last time a landlord offered you relocation assistance to move to your next place?


Posted by Frank, a resident of another community
on Dec 14, 2012 at 4:38 pm

As a former mobile home owner in Sunnyvale one must recognize that their rented space is not guaranteed for life. I got out of the endless rises in space rent, moved out of state, and now own a wonderful real home free and clear.


Posted by Golightly, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 14, 2012 at 5:21 pm

Golly whiz, why can't we all just be billionaires?


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 14, 2012 at 7:12 pm

What right thing - that's where you're wrong. For not the first time, I'll say this: property owners can't do whatever they want. If they could, they would, but they can't.

As for the point I was making in my previous post, if you don't by understood by now, you probably never will. But judging them by your interpretation of values is useless.


Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community
on Dec 14, 2012 at 7:18 pm

First of all I sgree, the property is changing hands, the new owners is buying an older rundown trailer park, the company that will be building new rental housing. I don't see anything wrong with this plan. Again they are building the property. The old owners who purchased the land, with the trailer park and other buildings. The park could have been fixed up but instead the All American Market buildings was improved for new tenants.

The trailer park need a huge amount of capital to bring up to date, code. Now comes the fun park, how many money will you have to spend to fix up a place where the rents were low. When work is all done at trailer park, how much rent do you charge to get back your Investement.

Other idea is to find someone who is willing to spend their money on fixing BV Park, charge the same rent.


Posted by parent barron park, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 14, 2012 at 7:45 pm

Please let Buena Vista be replaced !!! Can't begin to explain how horrible it is.

How can we organize those who want it replaced??? any suggestions??

Its always a few "loud" voices like "winter' who want to control palo alto opinion... Commissioner please think for yourself.. take a poll of Barron Park and learn how many people want the trailer park replaced.


Posted by another parent, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 14, 2012 at 8:41 pm

"....Krop of the PTA said the closure would affect not just the residents but classmates at neighborhood schools. About 12 percent of Barron Park Elementary School students -- 42 children -- live at Buena Vista. Twenty-two students attend Terman Middle School, and 29 attend Gunn High School.

She said all 17 district PTAs recently voted to support Buena Vista residents."

I'm donating triple to PTA next year.

This is the type of advocacy I expect out of our community, and what makes our schools great. Its not only the right thing to do, it's the SMART thing to do.



Posted by Aracely, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 14, 2012 at 9:25 pm

I am a mom at Barron Park elementary which many of the children from Buena Vista Mobile Park attend. When I read some of the comments, I was saddened with the tone of so many of the emails. I am reminded that it is easier to turn a blind eye to the struggles of others when one does not know them personally. Some of my friends live in Buena Vista. I have met many kind, engaging and resilient people who call this park home. In fact, one of the things I love about Barron Park is the diversity we enjoy. I believe this contributes, in part, to our children's understanding of the world at large and fosters empathy. Our community would be a poorer place were we to lose so many of our neighbors and our friends.


Posted by Barron Park, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 14, 2012 at 10:46 pm

I like having BV in the neighborhood and I value what the residents bring to the area. Someone referred to crime problems -- may be, but I am not aware of any.

However, keeping BV would sooner or later (actually, sooner) require a major rebuild for utilities and safety, one that is simply not economically feasible with the present operation. And it would be nonsensical for the city to take on the significant costs and liability of preserving it (rather like it were some kind of valuable historical artifact?).

Can you imagine the results of a tax measure election for the city to buy and maintain BV? Won't happen. And no one else is going to step in to take on those costs and risks either.

You can, of course, readily refute this conclusion. Just become the person who personally raises the money to buy, rebuild, and maintain the property.


Posted by Retired Staffer, a resident of another community
on Dec 14, 2012 at 10:57 pm

I live in a mobile home park ("manufactured housing community") that is owned by us--the resident homeowners. There are only two such communities in Santa Clara County but almost 20 in Santa Cruz county because the local redevelopment agencies and housing authorities over there encourage and assist homeowners in buying the parks from investors. The problem is that park owners typically want their money "right now" and a resident buy-out can take longer--over a year in some cases. Because of the economics (and stigma) involved, I live in a 1500 square foot home with two bathrooms in a beautifully landscaped, private community for less than $600 per month including all utilities and basic cable. That's how obscenely profitable mobile home parks are.


Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 14, 2012 at 11:16 pm

@retired staffer - is there room in your community for the Buena Vista residents? Sounds like it could be a good outcome for them.


Posted by About Prometheus, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 14, 2012 at 11:36 pm

Here are some comments about Prometheus.Web Link


Posted by Retired Staffer, a resident of another community
on Dec 14, 2012 at 11:40 pm

@Fred--Unfortunately, there is only one home available here now. My point is that resident ownership of Buena Vista and upgrading are doable but it would take government involvement. There is a state fund for resident purchases and frequently parks can be brought up to code with only modest rent increases, due to the diversion of profit money to infrastructure.


Posted by Retired Staffer, a resident of another community
on Dec 15, 2012 at 1:40 am

In fact, here's a similar struggle in Santa Monica.

Web Link


Posted by Antoine Dodson, a resident of another community
on Dec 15, 2012 at 7:21 am

The conditions in which those residents live are deplorable at best. I empathize with the struggles of relocation, especially as a parent myself, but that's not an optimal family environment by any stretch of the imagination. It's actually very sad.

Give the residents some financial resources and relocation assistance. It would be far more humane than keeping that armpit of a community in "business." BTW, shame on the owners. I wonder how the space rent collectively affords THEM to live? Would they want any of THEIR family members in those nasty trailers?


Posted by jane, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 15, 2012 at 8:48 am

Regarding: Antoine Dodson. I went to the owner last month in fact and complained about the despair condition of the park. Especially the resent graffiti on the laundry room. The owner had the building painted that same day. The next day I personally went to thank him, and to my surprise the graffiti was back.

Sadly he was not surprised. HE explained this was a day to day routine for him. Also explained that he only owns the land. Not the trailers themselves. The people living in the trailers own and maintain their own trailers.


Posted by What right thing?, a resident of Meadow Park
on Dec 15, 2012 at 9:47 am

Hmmm: This is not about the owners doing "anything". All they are doing is exercising their right to sell the place - while providing the residents relocation assistance and anything else that the law requires them to do.
What you seem to want is for them to give you the land for free or invest a lot of money in making upgrades - but without being able to get market rates for their investment.

I agree with you that we will never agree. And thats because the reasons are self evident.

Aracely: No one is passing a judgement on anyone in particular. All the conversation is on the issue of SOME people wanting something for nothing. If the residents would pay market rates for the improvements (either to the park or the new construction that would result), then there is no issue. The issue is that a number of those making comments seem to imagine that they have a right to land that is not theirs to being with or the right to live in a particular place that they do not own.


Posted by graffiti-angry, a resident of Ventura
on Dec 15, 2012 at 10:08 am

@ Posted by Barron Park, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, 11 hours ago
"I like having BV in the neighborhood and I value what the residents bring to the area. Someone referred to crime problems -- may be, but I am not aware of any."

and then....

Posted by jane, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, 1 hour ago
"...Especially the resent graffiti on the laundry room. The owner had the building painted that same day. The next day I personally went to thank him, and to my surprise the graffiti was back.

Sadly he was not surprised. HE explained this was a day to day routine for him."

So, Barron Park, is graffiti all over your property or community a crime or not in your definition? Why not ask some of the businesses up and down the very same stretch of El Camino that the home park in on what they think? I have to wonder who is doing all the graffiti on the old Compadres, on the side of The Glass Slipper Inn., etc. the list goes on.


Posted by Francoise Lang, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 15, 2012 at 10:36 am

Our 2 youngest children go to Barron Park Elementary School and we have befriended many residents/children of Buena Vista Park. We (our family) think of them highly and don't want them to go. Even if I understand the "rights" of ownership, as a community, I still think we need to take care of each others. The Buena Vista Families are our friends and part of this neighborhood community.
The value of my home is far less important that having families who rent trailers become homeless. The aesthetic of the trailer park is a minor sore on the eye compare to the mega mansions being build around here after demolishing charming smaller house.
Last, the children speaking at the city council receive our applauds as they know what they will loose (a chance to get a great education) if they were to move to another city.


Posted by What right thing?, a resident of Meadow Park
on Dec 15, 2012 at 11:01 am

Francoise: As one of the earlier posters said if you feel so strongly about this staying in place, then please arrange for the financing to purchase the place!

It is totally duplicitous to say that you dont want them to go but then are you personally willing to buy the place? Why is this any different than the rest of the residents of Palo Alto who are tenants paying rent? What about them?


Posted by Media Bias, a resident of another community
on Dec 15, 2012 at 11:09 am

Gotta love the media bias of the headline--why not "New homes for 300+ coming to Palo Alto" ??


Posted by Retired Staffer, a resident of another community
on Dec 15, 2012 at 11:13 am

FYI--Mobile home parks are inspected by the State Department of Housing and Community Development and not the city in which they are located. For any number of reasons, inspection funds have been diverted. It took me SEVEN MONTHS to get my water heater inspected. That's the reason for deterioration of many parks.


Posted by Law Man, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 15, 2012 at 11:38 am

Imagine a world where a land owner leases a space to a person and after the lease expires has to pay that person to leave. These people should consider themselves very lucky that the owner has to help them relocate.

And the city should consider itself very lucky that the landlord has not sued them yet. Last I checked the city passed the mobile home park closure ordinance with full knowledge that buena vista is the only mobile home park in the city

Wow as an attorney a light bulb just clicked....


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 15, 2012 at 11:56 am

That's the thing - those posting in favor of keeping the park, loving the residents, its diversity, etc., aren't offering practical solutions & are ignoring the reality of the rights of landowners. This is naive & useless at this point.

What's helpful for these residents is relo money, which is often the standard when a place is being torn down. What's not helpful is that the laws favorable toward renters aren't great in Palo Alto.

What might a relo package to these residents consist of - does anyone know?


Posted by Mike, a resident of University South
on Dec 15, 2012 at 12:16 pm

What will the resident's do with their mobile homes?


Posted by Retired Staffer, a resident of another community
on Dec 15, 2012 at 12:50 pm

If someone in city hall would really like to help these folks out, here's a way to go. New Hampshire has many resident-owned parks, and New Hampshire doesn't like to fund anything.

Web Link


Posted by Marie, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 15, 2012 at 2:46 pm

Marie is a registered user.

Am I missing something? Is there any requirement that the city rezone this property to enrich the owners and prospective owners? Simple solution: keep the zoning as it is. Let the owners develop as they wish under existing law and zoning. If the Palo Alto Housing Corporation is interested in buying this property to keep it low-income, they should not have to pay more than any other willing buyer would pay with the existing zoning.

If the Palo Alto council would simply enforce current zoning, much of our current controversy over new development would disappear. Why do they feel the need to enrich every developer that comes along with some scheme to change zoning, which usually increases the job/housing imbalance and/or increases housing density, increasing pressure on the schools.

Until we have satisfied ABAG's assessed job/housing imbalance, the only zoning changes should be that which would increase low and moderate income housing, since that is where most of the ABAG criticism is coming. Or, get them to change their allocations.

I am a property owner and landlord in Palo Alto. I do not understand the general theory that property owners are entitled to change the zoning of their property for their personal enrichment, when it is to the detriment of other residents. We bought property under existing zoning. That is what it is worth. Most community benefits are a joke.


Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 15, 2012 at 3:02 pm

I agree with @Marie's point above. Zoning changes either put money in the pocket of the new owner, or the old one, who sells for more than they would otherwise. If we enforce the zoning, the price of the land goes down - tough break for the seller, but so what? The idea, which seems to have currency, that a developer needs to make a profit because s/he paid up for a piece of land - where did that come from? If you overpay, them's the breaks; it happens all the time. Why should we care if spec developers (or those who sell to them) make money or not?


Posted by Bob b, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 15, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Fred and Marie, the property is already zoned. I believe the old owner or new can build to the current zoning and make a profit. The zoning change is to build more in line to what the city needs.


Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 15, 2012 at 5:24 pm

@Bob b- how so? Why would the developer seek a zoning change if it was not to make more money? He certainly wouldn't do it to make less money. Do you know the specifics?

I do not know the specific in this case. In the case of Alma Plaza, the developer many times complained that without higher density he would not make money. I was taken aback that the city would be the least bit responsive to such an argument. If a developer overpays for a property, s/he has no one to blame by him/herself.


Posted by Its up to you re: renting, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 15, 2012 at 7:16 pm

Lots of people would like to have a different location, whether renting or owning. But that doesn't do it. You have to provide money to have some type of home, or you have to rent. Mobile trailers are not permanent, so you don't have the right to stay there.
Others suffer from condo prices, and homes.
You must get the money or rent.


Posted by Jon, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 16, 2012 at 6:04 am

To the residents of the Buena Vista Mobile home Park – be a good neighbor.

Much has been written over the future of the Buena Vista trailer park. Opinions online and in print range from "the owners of the property have a right to sell their property within the bounds of the law and a developer has the right to develop the land within the zones restrictions set by the City"….to…. "Palo Alto has a social obligation to provide low income housing and not turn the mobile home park residents onto the street".

I would like to offer a perspective of someone directly impacted by the residents of the Buena Vista trailer park. We live in the townhome complex known as "The Villas de las Plazas" directly opposite the trailer park. My experiences over the past 10 years with the residents of the trailer park is:

1. The Villas de las Plazas complex streets are used as a thoroughfare from El Camino Real to the trailer park:
a. The complex streets are private; the maintenance is paid from our dues not by the City.
b. Buena Vista residents routinely drive through our streets rather than turn left at Los Robles from El Camino. This traffic places wear and tear on our privately maintained streets.
c. When the Buena Vista residents drive through our complex, they often drive at very fast speeds even though the street is only 300 yards long, which includes two S bend turns. Our kids might play in the streets or we could simply be backing out of our driveway and the Buena Vista resident's drivers represent a hazard. The response to my vocal requests to the residents to slow down is usually ignored or a dirty look or "the finger".
2. Litter and trash:
a. We take pride in ownership of our complex. There is weekly maintenance of the front gardens and residents keep their front lot pristine.
b. Sadly, in addition to vehicles driving through our complex, Buena Vista residents often walk through the complex and frequently I pick up after them: empty soda cans, liquor bottles, candy wrappers, take out food containers. Yesterday, I went out in the early morning, to find an empty Amazon.com box with the bubble wrap still inside. The addressee on the label is a resident of Hammertree Lane in zipcode CA 94303. How did the box get to my front lawn? Neither I nor any of my neighbors know this addressee and even if we did, we would not discard an empty Amazon.com on our front lawn. Recently, there have been reports of thefts in Palo Alto, including UPS delivered packages stolen from front porches. Obviously I have no proof, but how did the box land up on my front lawn?
3. Loud music late at night:
a. Most Saturday nights and sometimes during the week, residents of the Buena Vista trailer park throw a party with loud music. The music must be produced by very powerful equipment for it to be too loud 200 yards from the source.

The Prometheus Real Estate group, who proposes buying the Buena Vista property for re-development, approached our board of Directors with their proposal and to solicit our feedback. We voiced our concerns, primarily that our streets are used as a thoroughfare and Prometheus's response was that the entrance to their proposed development would be much closer to El Camino, thus removing the temptation to use our complex as a thoroughfare. To me this demonstrates "a good neighbor" - taking the concerns of neighbors into account and not trespassing.

I have no objection to the people who live in the Buena Vista trailer park - they are for the most part friendly and add some color to the neighborhood. However, the behavior of some residents is simply atrocious. My simple request to the Buena Vista residents is: "be a good neighbor", treat others the way you would like them to treat you. Don't litter our front lawns, turn down the party music a few dozen decibels and most importantly don't use our complex as a through street – use the traffic light at Los Robles and El Camino as the rest of Barron Park does, even if it means waiting a minute or two longer.


Posted by common sense, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 16, 2012 at 9:02 am

The 801 Alma affordable housing project is adding 50 units, and the Maybell project has planned 60 units (senior affordable housing). In addition, the redevelopment of the Palo Alto bowling alley site will probably have another 4-5 units. Then there is the Alma plaza redevelopment which has another 15 below market rate units, and the Hohbach development on Park Blvd, (82 apartments, of which around 15%- 12 or more units, should be below market rate rentals).

The existing inventory of affordable housing includes 652 below market rental units and 257 below market ownership units. But very few move out of these units, but it does happen.


Posted by Very Concerned, a resident of The Greenhouse
on Dec 16, 2012 at 10:36 am

Having rented at Prometheus's Tanland property, I can confirm that the company has NO concern for the welfare of their tenants. A large condo was built 10 feet from our windows; cutting all sunlight out from our apartment. They kicked us out so they could modernize our apartment. They did not offer another apartment at a comparable rate. The only one available was smaller and more expensive.

Buena Vista should remain. Palo Alto has been losing its conscience for years. The hard-working middle class that keeps our City running is no longer welcome. Everything is about money. We have lost what makes us special; diversity, inclusiveness, varied housing options. We are sending the wrong message to our youth.

Is the Glass Slipper next?!


Posted by I laughed, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 16, 2012 at 10:57 am

"Is the Glass Slipper next?"

I had to laugh - seriously?


Posted by common sense, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 16, 2012 at 12:49 pm

@very concerned - although I have sympathy for the situation that the Buena Vista renters are in, I would say Palo Alto has not lost it's conscience - with about 1,000 below market rate housing units.

You should realize those below market rate housing unit pay little or no property tax; if those properties were priced at market value, the rest of the property owners would not need to pay a special parcel tax for education, nor additional parcel taxes to pay the bonds being used for school construction.


Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community
on Dec 16, 2012 at 2:16 pm

Palo Alto as we know has changed since the 50's, I am not going to go there. The need for housing in all types of income classes have grown. So much the cost of space for housing has grown tight.

As rules of real estate goes, it is all supply and demand.

Right now as it stands this property and the Glass Slipper are worth more in the upper income bracket.


Posted by everybody calm down, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 17, 2012 at 11:23 am

Old Palo Alto is dead. We are not merely a community of yuppies, yoga instructors, and computer programmers, or at least we weren't when I was growing up. I'm sick of hearing self-proclaimed "liberal" rich white people complain about the 1000 square feet of affordable housing in Palo Alto. Who cares that those people don't make as much money as the average resident? They pay their rent, they have jobs, and they are living the American dream--giving their kids a chance to get a fantastic education so their children don't end up in a similar situation 20 years from now. This isn't about compassion, and it isn't about racial profiling. Cutting these people a little slack so they can get a decent education is the best thing for Palo Alto at-large.
I grew up in Barron Park, and some of those people are pretty cool, actually. It's not like they're all thugs and criminals or something. They're the same as everyone else who's been in South Palo Alto since before the dot-com boom. If their landlord is losing money on the property, can he just raise the rent? Why do they have to displace all the current residents?
Reading through the five or so comments directly above mine, I see that there is a special parcel tax paid by those in higher brackets to make up for those who can't afford to pay. You could make an argument that this is unfair, but I think it's more unfair that "colorful" places like EPA have no public school system to speak of, due to lack of sufficient property tax. Also seems unfair to punish children for their parents' inability to make ends meet. Palo Alto is so much more than an affluent community, and if we can make public resources available to those who really REALLY need them, what harm can come of it?


Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 17, 2012 at 11:35 am

Everybody calm down - Ravenswood school district gets almost as much per student as PAUSD spends and their school district is steadily improving. Getting rid of the Tinsley program and putting that money (and the type of parents who would be the type to start PTA's, donate to the schools and volunteer) back in EPA would help Ravenswood even more.

It sounds like Buena Vista needs too much $$ in infrastructure to remain a mobile home park. We should concentrate on helping the residents find new homes and perhaps allowing the current students to stay in PAUSD even if they move out of the District.


Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community
on Dec 17, 2012 at 12:19 pm

Kids or no kids, single or married, gay or straight, worker or retired, educated or non educated, rich or poor? Who gets housing, Palo Alto born or newcomers.


Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community
on Dec 17, 2012 at 12:58 pm

The while point. Palo Alto has grown beyond buildings, houses and shops. We have businesses, schools and rentals like everywhere else, but mention Palo Alto to someone in London, Sydney, Cape Town, they do know.

I know people who lived in all 3 places, desired to live, work or get educated in Palo Alto.

We have folks wanting a place to live.


Posted by litebug, a resident of another community
on Dec 19, 2012 at 12:12 pm

(former resident) Why are there no nice neighborhoods of manufactured homes (not the kind on wheels) in Palo Alto? These homes are often nearly indistinguishable from "stick built" houses and if placed on individual landscaped lots in neighborhoods, rather than in a "trailer park" setting they are quite attractive yet offer less expensive housing. There are several of these neighborhoods where I now live. In some areas the people own the lot and in some they don't but you can't tell one from the other just by driving through.

It is disgusting to read all the bashing of people in Buena Vista who are too poor to live elsewhere.


Posted by bill kelly, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 19, 2012 at 3:44 pm

Way to vilify people from less income than the average in Palo Alto! This situation points out that 1) People of all incomes like to live in Palo Alto a place with good schools and 2) it's incredibly expensive to live here. I have compassion for the people who live in Buena Vista, many of which live on a shoestring and send their kids to PA Schools. I will not vilify the owner for wanting to sell, or the CPA for the cost of upgrading the existing place to bring it up to code. I just wonder whether we could find replacement places of equal cost per month in Palo Alto?


Posted by BP resident, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 29, 2012 at 4:57 pm

Palo Altans DO CARE. But in real life, hard decisions have to be made. It's not about compassion. The owner is going to offer some accommodations. The development firm will also (relocation $, new mobile homes, etc). The city gave Risser *10 years* of tax free ownership to STAY OPEN. City Council passed the buck and made that short term accommodation, now they have to make another difficult choice. It will be complicated, probably ugly.... but PLEASE don't oversimplify it by insulting loving, caring neighbors of the BV park and say we "rich Palo Altans" are heartless or greedy!!


Posted by Reality Check, a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 10, 2013 at 9:34 pm

Posted by Barron Park, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, 11 hours ago

"I like having BV in the neighborhood and I value what the residents bring to the area. Someone referred to crime problems -- may be, but I am not aware of any."

and then....

Posted by jane, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, 1 hour ago

"...Especially the resent graffiti on the laundry room. The owner had the building painted that same day. The next day I personally went to thank him, and to my surprise the graffiti was back.

Sadly he was not surprised. HE explained this was a day to day routine for him."

So, Barron Park, is graffiti all over your property or community a crime or not in your definition? Why not ask some of the businesses up and down the very same stretch of El Camino that the home park in on what they think? I have to wonder who is doing all the graffiti on the old Compadres, on the side of The Glass Slipper Inn., etc. the list goes on.

@jane: This may be a late message but after seeing this I only have to tell you something. I believe you should read more clearly what he has to say. "may be, but I am not aware of any." Just because you get one information off of the post later from his does NOT mean you have all the right to go forward off of someone elses opinion. He obviously agreed with a may be, and didn't decline. So stop your rumbling and pointing fingers to satisfy your need to blame someone. This shows how sad people grown these days given the slightest hint of power.


Posted by LK, a resident of Ventura
on Aug 18, 2013 at 7:45 pm

[Post removed.]


Posted by palo alto parent, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 19, 2013 at 11:58 am

LK - I feel for the residents of Buena Vista, but the owner told the City 12 years ago that his plan was to eventually close the Park because its infrastructure was at the end of its lifespan. We should concentrate on finding new homes for the residents instead of simply complaining.


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