An effort by the owner of Palo Alto's sole mobile-home park suffered another setback this week in his quest to convert the park to an apartment complex when the city rejected his attempt to tally up the costs of relocating the park's residents.
City officials on Thursday informed the attorney for Toufic Jisser, whose family owns the Buena Vista Mobile Park, that the Relocation Impact Report for the park remains incomplete -- the second such finding in the past month. The family is required to submit a completed report, which includes survey responses from every Buena Vista household, before the proposed conversion advances to the appointed hearing officer, Craig Labadie.
The city's decision, stated in an Aug. 8 letter from Assistant City Attorney Grant Kolling to the Jissers' attorney Margaret Nandas, means that the Labadie hearing will once again be delayed.
The city's decision is based on three reasons. First of all, the Jissers' relocation specialist has failed to get questionnaires from every household of mobile-home park (the same problem the city flagged in the first version of the report, which was submitted in June). The revised report claims that many residents have refused to cooperate with the process despite repeated efforts by the relocation specialist to get the needed information. It argued that "the likelihood of obtaining 100 percent compliance is not realistic."
That explanation didn't convince the city. Kolling wrote that because the relocation specialists have failed to get the questionnaires from all residents, the city will now attempt to do so. The report suggested that the city's hearing officer assume that all questions that weren't answered by residents be treated as if the question couldn't be answered or the answer was "no" or "not applicable." Kolling responded that the city "will not make any assumptions" in determining whether these assumptions would meet state law. Rather, the city will now "exercise its discretion for a reasonable period of time" by trying to contact residents directly and asking them to supply the missing information.
Another problem identified in Kolling's letter is the applicant's failure to provide purchase prices of comparable mobile homes, as well as the cost of moving into comparable condominiums or apartments. While the revised report includes extensive information about rates at other mobile-home parks, the city's response points out that only two of the 29 cities included in the report's matrix were located within close proximity to Palo Alto.
The third problem pertains to the relocation assistance that the Jissers offered to each household. This includes a lump sum of $11,000 for relocation and an offer to purchase each mobile home. The total relocation-assistance packages would range from $31,000 to $56,000, according to the report.
The city's response argues that the relocation assistance falls short of what it would cost for a resident to rent an apartment in Palo Alto for a year. The city, according to Kolling, is "unable to determine that the proposed relocation assistance would meet the requirements of the City's conversion ordinance."
Given these concerns, the city "is not yet prepared ot set a hearing on the mobile-home park conversion application" or inform Labadie that the city has provided him with all the needed information to comply with local law.
Once the application is deemed complete, it will be forwarded to Labadie, who will determine whether the mitigations proposed by the Jissers are sufficient to compensate the roughly 400 residents of Buena Vista would would be displaced. Residents will have a chance to appeal Labadie's decision to the City Council.