City finds flaws in plan to compensate Buena Vista residents

Owner of Palo Alto's only mobile park asked to make further revisions to Relocation Impact Report

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.


Posted by sounds good, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 9, 2013 at 3:53 pm

IMO, CPA is acting properly here to reduce the possibility of costly litigatiohn. They need to 1) make sure all i's are dotted and t's crossed before signing off on the RIR, 2) see that the soon-to-be-former BV residents get a proper payoff ("relocation fee"), and, only then, 3) cautiously move forward with closing BV as a mobile home park.

Posted by Not an issue, a resident of Community Center
on Aug 9, 2013 at 4:04 pm

What happens if the city cannot get questionnaires from all the residents? How does the city know that this is a stall tactic by the residents? How many cities within " close proximity" of palo alto have mobile home parks? Since many of these homes are not up to code how much are they really worth? What about all the unlicensed modifications that have taken place?

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 9, 2013 at 4:07 pm

Not an issue - off the top of my head, I know that East Palo Alto, Mt. View, Sunnyvale & Redwood City have mobile home parks.

Posted by Not an issue, a resident of Community Center
on Aug 9, 2013 at 4:12 pm

Hmmm- thanks for the clarification. I was not sure which cities had them. I wonder if those cites we're included in the report. As far as the price of comparable homes, I wonder if intangibles are figured in ( I.e. palo,alto school district location) .

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 9, 2013 at 4:25 pm

Not an issue - I don't know about other local cities, such as Los Altos, Cupertino, etc. [Portion removed.]

Posted by Great, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 9, 2013 at 7:18 pm

CPA - that is going to hurt the tenants. The owner will now file suit against the city costing all of the tax payer big money. Further the ordinance will not hold in a state court. When the ordinance comes off the books the tenant will have no protection.

This is one of those victories that will cost you the war.

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 9, 2013 at 7:55 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 10, 2013 at 9:34 am

If one resides in a mobile home park, you must realize by the very nature of your living arrangement that the condition lacks any long term permanency and stability. The mobile home park had a great run for a long time. But it's run its course.

Life changes and circumstances dictate many different paths we find ourselves taking in life. Sometimes we downsize, sometimes we move onto bigger and better. The bottom line is that not everyone can afford to live in Palo Alto, anymore than most of living in Palo Alto can afford to live in Atherton.

My point is that no one should be entitled to or guaranteed to live exactly where they want to. Nor should the person/people who actually own the property be dictated as to whether or not they can sell it. If anyone has the greater right, it should certainly be the people who have made the investment, earned that ownership, and incurred all of the responsibility and liability. They should have every right to develop the property, within zoning laws, and earn a profit. The government should not be holding them hostage, demanding that they must be a low-income landlord forever. They wish to progress, move on, develop and improve the property, which would develop and improve the entire surrounding area. I'm quite sure that the vast majority of home owners in Barron Park would welcome this progress and for good reason.

Posted by jane, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 10, 2013 at 11:45 am

Well said Marrol.

Posted by levity, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 10, 2013 at 4:31 pm

Marrol is incorrect on several fronts. S/he says "you must realize by the very nature of your living arrangement that the condition lacks any long term permanency and stability." Not really. There are many very long term residents there. Of course, Marrol's and my definition of " you must realize by the very nature of your living arrangement that the condition lacks any long term permanency and stability" may differ, but here in the very migratory Silicon Valley, in real estate terms, five years is considered long-term.

No one "earns that ownership." You buy property and are the owner. It's nothing to do with earning it, except of course, earning the money to purchase. Anyone involved in a residential real estate transaction involving many residents knows that it can be quite complicated, especially a mobile home park. It's not about a greater or lesser right, it's about different rights, the rights of the owner(s) and the residents who have to be relocated. This particular property's owner(s) didn't earn their slumlord moniker overnight.

It also hasn't "run its course", as in natural attrition. The owner wants to sell and with their privilege of being a property owner comes responsibility. We all know that responsibility often equals a massive headache. There is no figurative droit du seigneur here. It's balancing the needs and desires of many within the dictates of law.

The points about living where one can afford to make sense. What's very unfortunate here is that this is a terrible time for tenants to try to uproot and move in Silicon Valley. If they're invested with solid jobs and schools, their reluctance makes absolute sense. It's also not an easy time for a landlord to displace tenants, for the reasons just stated, but it makes perfect sense that this is a desirable time to make a lot of money on the property.

The bottom line is that no one is holding the landlord(s) hostage here. They've known for a long time what sort of property it is and how difficult a sale can be because they have a legal responsibility to their tenants.

Marrol calls this "progress", but many, in addition to the residents, say it's not. There's an upside and a downside to building high density housing there, just as there has been an upside and a downside to the landlord running a mobile home park. Nothing, when it comes to wanting to displace many tenants, is easy peasy, simple or can be reduced to "good and bad".

Posted by Jane, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 10, 2013 at 5:19 pm

It's astonishing to keep hearing the tenants call the owner a slumlord. These "homes" are owned by the tenants, leased for a period of time from the landlord. Thus if all the tenants were to fix up (with permits this time around) their units, the park may actually look nice. [Portion removed.]

Posted by palo alto parent, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 10, 2013 at 5:22 pm

Levity - Marrol is actually correct about the lack of long term permanency - that is true of any rental property. The residents of Buena Vista have a particularly good deal since they have rent control.

That said, reading through what the Jisser's are offering the tenants and mobile home owners is a pretty lowball offer. The cost to rent a 2 bedroom apartment in Palo Alto/Menlo/Los Altos (all have great schools) is at least $2500. The City would like Jisser to provide at least that which is $30K.

Posted by Maria, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 10, 2013 at 5:34 pm

Jane, [portion removed] He has not used the rental income to repair and maintain park buildings, plantings, paint, paving, lighting, etc. He has rental income from the cell phone tower next to the spa. Each carrier pays him thousands each month. The gas station pays rent in excess of 10k per month. The mobile home park has been his cash cow for years. [Portion removed.]

Posted by Jane, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 10, 2013 at 5:43 pm

Maria. You are WRONG. The park looks like the "slums" because of
The units. NOT the lighting or roads. The units are 95% of the visual eye sore.

Palo alto parent. - the owner has offered 31k as the lowest offer up to 56k. Get the facts straight

Posted by Maria, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 10, 2013 at 5:54 pm

Jane, when the residents take over ownership of the park it will, for the first time in 27 years, be properly maintained and improved. :)

Posted by bob, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 10, 2013 at 5:54 pm

maria you have to keep your story straight. You want the landlord to pay you to leave. You argue the law allows this because you own the home that is parked on his land.

Therefore Jane is right the eye sore of the park is the units not the land or the lights and etc. [Portion removed.]

Posted by jane, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 10, 2013 at 5:58 pm

maria. When the tenants own the park in 27 years??? Did the tenants own it before that??

I don't think so, I knew the owners before this, they were good people. The tenants have never owned the park. And per the appraisals they never will

Posted by Maria, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 10, 2013 at 6:08 pm

Jane, I wrote "when the residents own the park, FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 27 YEARS IT WILL BE PROPERLY MAINTAINED. [Portion removed.] Yes, I agree with you, the Weiland's were a very nice family. The downhill began when the current owner bought the park in 1986, 27 years ago. Since then, NO MAINTENANCE!

[Portion removed.]
They, like the city and ABAG realize that affordable housing must be maintained, as it never comes back. It can only be replaced by subsidized housing. They, like the city, realize that it would be to Palo Alto's detriment to lose the diversity the mobile home park provides. I don't think anyone wants Palo Alto to be inhabited solely by millionaires. The mobile home park provides a rung on the ladder to home ownership. By purchasing a mobile home, the resident takes a step up the ladder toward entry into the middle class.

The purchase of the park by its residents is the right thing to do.

Posted by bob, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 10, 2013 at 6:31 pm

maria. What the tenants wants is financially not feasible. Its childish to believe a mobile home can exist in Palo alto with current price of land. The developer is doing everything by the books.

Step 1. Negotiate with the city.
Step 2. If negotiation doesn't work, then sue the city.
Step 3. Evict the tenants.

Its a typical strategy used by companies that are successful.

Its only a question of time and it is slowly running out for the tenants

Posted by Maria, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 10, 2013 at 6:33 pm

Bob, the city has not accepted the owner's application yet!

Posted by bob, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 10, 2013 at 6:38 pm

Maria. Again its only a question of time. I'm glad you agree when using the word 'yet'

Posted by Jane, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 10, 2013 at 7:54 pm

Why remove the word "slum tenant" from the previous posts? The word slumlord is directly used to describe the landlord and that is ok by the website's standard. In this case the park is an eyesore to the neighborhood and the direct cause are the homes. These homes are owned by the tenants NOT the landlord. Therefore the word "slum tenant" should be ok to use especially if the word slumlord is allowed !

Posted by Retired Staffer, a resident of another community
on Aug 10, 2013 at 9:13 pm

Why lose this affordable housing? Why not follow a course of action that is beneficial to all parties and sell the park to a non-profit mobile home housing corporation that will upgrade the property and keep the rents in check for the residents. This strategy has worked in dozens of places here in California and other states.

Web Link

Web Link

Web Link

These programs are win-win-win. Palo Alto should investigate them thoroughly.

Posted by Levity , a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 10, 2013 at 10:17 pm

Jane - I am not a tenant there. Never have been, either, and he is known as a slumlord by others who've never lived there, also. I've never known anyone who lived/lives there. Of course the tenants are partially responsible for how the place looks.

Palo Alto Parent, by definition, permanent includes long term. I used the term long term, not permanent, and Marrol used both. Of course there are many long term tenants. I know people who have been tenants for more than ten years in one location, including mobile home parks. Nothing is permanent, not even land ownership, but there is such a thing as long term tenancy and it is more common that people realize.

Posted by Kris, a resident of another community
on Aug 11, 2013 at 6:55 am

I heard about this story from my sister, a person living in PA.

Wait- am I reading this correctly? There is a mobile home park (TRAILERS) taking up a prime historic piece of P.A.- the owner wishes to sell- what's the problem?? He, as well as anybody else- should be allowed to sell whatever properties they wish. Since when is the community and taxpayers responsible for re-homing these people? What's going on?? Why should the community be responsible for ensuring the roofs over these trailer-park denizens heads? The owner should be allowed to sell whatever he wants, WHEN he wants.

I have an idea for him: Create rules and regs for trailer park: Units must be kept up, painted, trash picked up etc- when a tenant breaks that rule,which they WILL- give them a fine. When they can't pay the fine, evict them. Pretty soon all of the trailer people will be evicted. Problem solved. Then he can turn the trailer park into a public park, plant rare and expensive plants there so the "out of towners" (euphemism) will come and take cuttings,uproot donated expensive plants and leave used diapers and beer bottles there just as they do at Atherton Park.

Posted by Jane, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 11, 2013 at 8:14 am

Levity - [Portion removed.] I don't care if you lived there or not. I don't care a out the reputation he has. He owns a land that has trailers on it. The trailers are owned by the tenants. The trailers are the problem. Not the dirt or the light and so on.

Further if he also owns the buildings in front of the park. Why do they look good and well kept. I am starting to feel bad for this guy. Not only does he have to go through hoops that nobody else in Palo Alto has to worry about. He also has to deal with people like the ones that post on this site.

Posted by Maria, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 11, 2013 at 12:56 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by Levity, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 11, 2013 at 9:13 pm

Jane: He has to deal with people who post here? Please. Who's making him? If he "has to", then he's not very bright.

Keep telling yourself that he's a good guy who takes care of the park.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 11, 2013 at 10:50 pm

What would interest me is a legal/objective analysis of what the sale options are for the current owner.

The argument of what someone thinks should be done (i.e., the moral and/or social argument) versus what legally can be done appear to me to be two different universes. I could be wrong, but my best guess is that the seller will eventually get the price he wants, not what tenants are hoping to pay.

But my best guess means nothing compared to what information a real estate lawyer can provide.

Posted by jane, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 12, 2013 at 7:52 am

Levity- You seem to be like some of the other who just dont want to understand. The owner has made it clear for 10 to 12 years he wants to sell. He has full knowledge that the buyer cannot keep it as a park. (land cost are to high). Further it is against the law for him to fix the homes since they are not property that belongs to him. The home are eyesore in the park.

Its the people choice to fix their homes or not. This cannot be argued!!!

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