Residents who would be displaced by the conversion of Buena Vista Mobile Home Park into a complex of high-end apartments should receive a far greater compensation than what is being proposed by the project's developer, attorneys for the tenants allege in a letter to the city.
The San Jose-based Public Interest Law Firm, which is representing the residents, submitted a letter to Palo Alto's Office of the City Attorney arguing that the Relocation Impact Report, a document analyzing the impacts of Buena Vista's closure, is incomplete and contains "gross underestimations of the relocations benefits to which the Park's residents are entitled." The report, which the Jisser family (the owners of the park) submitted to the city on May 2, is required by the city's municipal code.
Palo Alto has 30 days to review the document and consider whether it's complete and consistent with the city's ordinance. After that, the report will be the subject of a hearing to determine whether the proposed mitigations are sufficient to compensate Buena Vista residents.
In the May 24 letter, the attorney argued that the report is flawed and incomplete and that the proposed compensation is insufficient. The letter on behalf of Buena Vista tenants is co-signed by three attorneys from the Public Interest Law Firm and Fair Housing Law Project (a project of the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley) and attorneys from Western Center on Law and Poverty. The attorneys call on the city to reject the report.
The relocation report estimated that the mobile homes at Buena Vista have an average value of $18,816. The Jissers have offered to pay at least $20,000 for the 59 percent of the homes worth less than that. The most expensive home in the park is worth $45,000, according to the report. The homeowner has offered to pay $56,000 for this unit.
Among the major problems with the relocation report, the attorney's contend, are its failures to "perform any analysis of the cost to purchase condominiums in Palo Alto or similar communities" and to put forth any evidence about "the reasonable cost of relocation." While the estimates in the report consider the value of each mobile home, it does not take into account their location in Palo Alto, which has one of the highest property values in the nation.
"The in-place value of a mobile home at the Park is not just the value of the physical building, but includes the benefits of living in Palo Alto, such as access to excellent schools and proximity to transportation," the attorneys contend.
The attorneys claim that the relocation report "downplays the benefits" of Buena Vista's location in Palo Alto by claiming that other communities are "equivalent to Palo Alto." This claim, the letter states, "is absurd." The letter notes that Palo Alto's median home price of $1.47 million is far above Mountain View's ($775,000) and Sunnyvale's ($712,000).
"The appraised in-place value must consider the current market and the neighborhood characteristics in the location where the home is sited -- not in neighboring cities," the letter states.
The letter also alleges that the report is incomplete because the property manager has failed to survey every residence at Buena Vista (71 of the 98 eligible residents completed the questionnaire used in the report) and because it does not disclose the purchase price of the mobile park.
Under the proposal that the city is evaluating, the mobile-home park at 3980 El Camino Real would make way for 180 apartments, which would be developed by Prometheus Real Estate Group. More recently, the developer has been considering including 65 apartments for low-income residents as part of the proposal.