Uploaded: Thu, Feb 20, 2014, 1:04 pm
New report boosts effort to close Buena Vista Mobile Park
City deems 'Relocation Impact Report' for closure of Palo Alto's only mobile-home park 'complete'
The proposed closure of Palo Alto's only mobile-home park took a big leap toward reality Thursday when the city accepted the property owner's application after more than a year of negotiations.
The city announced Thursday morning that the "Relocation Impact Report" submitted by the Jisser family for the closure of Buena Vista Mobile Home Park is now complete. The city made this finding after rejecting the Jissers' four previous versions of the report, which lays out a strategy for assisting the nearly 400 residents who would be displaced from their current location at 3980 El Camino Real.
In the new report, the Jisser family offers to buy mobile homes for their appraised value and pay for the "startup costs" of relocating, which includes first- and last-month's rent, a security deposit and 12 months of rent subsidies that reflect the difference between the rent at Buena Vista and the rent at the new locations. The level of "startup costs" would vary based on the kind of housing the residents would be moving into. For those moving into one-bedroom apartments, this sum would range from $12,000 to $16,300. For those moving into three-bedroom apartments, the sum would range from $20,000 to $30,600.
This is different from the Jissers' previous offer, which proposed giving each household a lump sum of $11,000 for relocation expenses along with the cost of the mobile home. The city challenged this approach and asked the family to offer larger sums to those households that cannot relocate their units "to reflect the rental rates for two and three bedroom homes," according to the city. The Jissers have also withdrawn an earlier offer to pay at least $20,000 for each mobile home, even for those appraised for less than that.
With the application deemed complete, it will now be up to the city's hearing officer, Craig Labadie, to determine whether to allow the closure of Buena Vista to proceed. The hearing on the report must take place within 60 days and residents will have a chance to appeal Labadie's ruling to the City Council. The council will not, however, have the power to stop the Buena Vista's closure, according to the city. Any potential appeal will be limited to the mitigations offered by the Jissers to Buena Vista residents.
In a statement Thursday, City Manager James Keene acknowledged that the city's purview over Buena Vista's closure is very limited but suggested that the city can take other actions to support affordable housing.
"The Buena Vista residents are part of the Palo Alto family," according to City Manager James Keene. "Unfortunately, the state law does not allow local agencies to stop the closure of a mobile home park.
"As a separate matter, however, Palo Alto can make funding available as an incentive for the preservation or creation of affordable housing in the City. I expect City Council will want to explore this option. Whether the property owner or the buyers of the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park will see this as an opportunity is a question they will have to answer."
The proposal to close Buena Vista and to build 184 luxury apartments at its site has been widely opposed by the park's residents and their supporters in the surrounding Barron Park neighborhood. Residents and their advocates had started a group called Friends of the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park to oppose the closure of the 104-home park, arguing that the move will diminish Palo Alto's diversity and force residents to leave the city, where affordable-housing options are famously in short supply. Last year, the association made an offer to buy the land from the Jissers for $14.5 million, only to see the proposal rejected.
Posted by Greenacres,
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 26, 2014 at 6:23 pm
No one is suggesting anyone violate anyone's private property rights. The residents of the mobile home park have private property rights, too. The owner made a considerable amount of money both operating the mobile home park and in appreciated land value over the year. Mobile home parks, as I have already mentioned, are a unique real estate niche because the residents are both renters and property owners. Effectively, once the mobile homes are on site, they aren't really mobile anymore. No one sells them, they typically stay in place. That's everywhere, not just here and now. The residents rent the property but own the home. Kind of like Gunn High School. How would we feel if Stanford wanted their land back without giving us a chance to purchase the school site (at market rates)?
As a result of this unique situation with mobile homes, there are state laws governing the closure of mobile home parks. The owners have to follow the rules, and as I said, the owners of the mobile homes are property owners with rights, too. It is not "welfare" or actionable to expect those rights to be honored.
"This is a private property issue. The owner wants to sell that property, and he will win that issue"
So, what exactly are you assuming here, that he doesn't have the right to sell the property? Who is saying he doesn't have the right to sell the property? I'm not. I'm saying, the interests of Palo Alto residents, especially in this neighborhood, align with the residents of Buena Vista mobile home park, to help them assume ownership of the property and retain the park as affordable housing. That's all. Assume ownership by making a competitive offer. How many times do I have to say that before you realize I am in no way suggesting anyone's private property rights be breached?
You don't want to have to pay more taxes? Then don't support developer giveaways that result in the putting in of more high-density projects on this side of town, because they will be filled with people trying to send their kids to Gunn HS, and Terman Middle School (which is maxed) - you want to have to approve more taxes to open and operate more schools? (And you know very well that you will lose on the tax issue if it comes to more school funding.) Because that's not an incremental expenditure, we're maxed now, and putting in hundreds more kids means another couple of schools. High-density new construction is not without its costs, and those new residents do not pay for all of the City services they use, we already know that. If a developer comes in and puts in a high-density high-rise, you won't have any choice about paying for the services of the residents who move in, and it will be more residents than already live there.
Better we retain the existing mobile home park. It may be possible to do without a huge expenditure, or any ultimate public subsidy at all.
So again, the question for us bystanders is:
1) Can Jissers, under their contract with Prometheus, entertain other offers to buy the property, and
2) What would constitute a comparable offer (considering a purchase by the mobile home park residents would not have to involve the expense of evicting them and closing the park, and could involve some write off in any amount were donated to the nonprofit, if that were a desirable choice for the seller. Doesn't have to be. Again, what constitutes a comparable offer? Jisser gets his money faster this way and without the risk and expense of closing the park - under state rules, and state defers to local rules if they exist, but that's state law).
3) What can those of us who care about saving the park do to ensure that comparable offer can be made? We have many high-tech mavens in this town -- Will anyone step forward and put some energy into a creative solution?
Again, to make up the difference, I suggest considering the possibility of selling "shares" in Buena Vista, or half of Buena Vista, so that people can buy tiny plots of land in Silicon Valley that they can sell or donate back to the nonprofit over the years. Do we not have any young high-tech social entrepreneurs who want to figure out how to make non-profit co-ops work as a new model for retaining (market-based) affordable housing in this horrendously expensive place? On a kickstarter model, the sales wouldn't actually go through unless the goal amount were raised and the seller agreed. Or what about just a crowdsourced donation effort to save the park?
I'm not is suggesting you open your wallets necessarily - let those who want to save the park do that - just your minds and your hearts.
Posted by Greenacres,
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 27, 2014 at 6:30 pm
That site is along El Camino and well into Barron Park, it's 4 acres. I think you may be right that if it were upzoned at one time, there might not have been a stink, but now, I think residents would referend. We are so incredibly impacted here by so much recent construction, without commensurate attention to our infrastructure.
I am not a City employee. I live in the same neighborhood and care that if there is a solution, one be found. Not one that violates anyone's property rights, I have no idea why everyone keeps jumping on that, I am only speaking for myself and am not part of the current legal efforts. I try to be as accurate as possible, please point out any factual errors in what I have written above? (Please refrain from just restating a negative point of view, but rather, stick to the facts.)
I am suggesting it's worth the effort to problem solve this and see if there's a way to save the park and make the owner just as happy. Prometheus won't be happy, but they'll soon find some other corner of our town to ruin or another wall on El Camino to build like San Antonio and El Camino, one that doesn't involve evicting over 400 longtime residents from their homes and our community.
We've had teachers at the local school who couldn't afford to live anywhere else nearby - and when it's gone, it's gone -- I think it's worth trying to do something, especially since the ease of upzoning in the past almost certainly contributed to this situation. If the property is worth just as much not upzoned, why would anyone submit an application for upzoning, since it costs more and is more trouble to build more units?
Regardless - I'm not arguing that point, please don't jump on it again (Geez, there's why I repeat myself, people like Jane jump in without actually reading what I wrote and repeat THEMselves) the owner sees the property as worth $30M, so if it is to be saved, that is the target offer, no? If Jisser got an offer for $30M in total and no need to proceed with the eviction, or even $30M minus cost of eviction, and weighed that against $30M only after eviction -- most people would choose the path of least resistance for the same amount of money.
I'm saying, there are many reasons we should want to keep this park open:
1) It's real affordable housing, not some highly-subsidized program.
2) It's a lot of people, and they are part of the community, especially the school community. Unfortunately not a part of Zuckerberg's part of town, because he could save the entire park for all 400+ residents for less than the purchase of one of the homes around him. But an important part of this side of town where we are glad that we have more diversity.
3) Saving the park is ultimately a cheaper way to have affordable housing here than building large new properties at a cost of many tens of millions of dollars for a few dozen spaces. This situation highlights a problem that should be addressed: which is that the incentives to save existing affordable housing, which is more cost effective, not only don't exist, but the system works counter to saving existing affordable housing.
4) Saving the park means we don't even more density and traffic near the corner of El Camino and Arastradero. (!!)
5) Saving the park means that 4 acres stays 1 story long into the future, and we at least save some sky and sunlight on that one patch of El Camino. It's currently more dense than the zoning would allow, so in a sense, it is high-density, but less impactful than if it is razed and built up.
6) Saving the park means the parcel won't add the additional students to our nearby schools which are at a limit right now, especially Terman. Maybe the district would like the excuse to add another bond for Cubberly and a new middle school - well for that I lose on this point.
7) Saving the park means we avoid the whole eviction and/or upzoning mess/fight. Simplest path.
I could add more reasons. But I don't have another $10-$15million to give/loan the residents, or I would have done so already. (Geez, there's your answer to independently wealthy. No, I just care, like a lot of my neighbors who don't write do.) The question then becomes - is there a way to come up with the funds. The people trying to help the park residents have come up with $14.5 million, which is an astonishing feat. Now, is it possible to come up with the rest?
The City was going to loan $7.2 million from the affordable housing fund at Maybell. I heard it was likely to mostly be forgiven over the course of the loan, so I don't want to get into a discussion of what's affordable to the residents, that's for everyone involved to decide. Point is, our Mayor has suggested those funds could be made available to the residents of BV, and she hoped they would apply for them. For those of you who hate subsidized housing, that's $7.2 million already dedicated to affordable housing (can't be spent on something else), that will save existing residents who will still have some ownership, rather than going to build another new far more expensive subsidized property that will cost tens of millions more to house far fewer people. Is this suggestion realistic? I don't know, I'm just suggesting it's worth looking at.
We have a lot of young people concerned about affordable housing, not just in Palo Alto, but in this whole region. What about looking at developing a new "crowdsourced co-op" model, where someone sets up a way for people to buy shares or a small patch of Palo Alto real estate by Internet? Shares that would retain their value or even grow in value over time? That people all over the region and country could buy? That residents could buy back, and people could donate to their nonprofit co-op for a write off... If something like this could be done, what else could be done, in San Francisco for example, to crowdsource co-ops to retain affordable housing? Because older housing stock is instrinsically more affordable, and finding ways for people to have some ownership in the cheapest way possible is ultimately the most cost-effective way to provide affordable housing.
Maybe no one will want to do that. Maybe there's no way to do it legally. But maybe there is. Maybe someone will get a high-tech social entrepreneurship thrill out of meeting that challenge. It's worth bringing up, because there are over 400 low-income residents whose residency here is at stake. People who care about property rights seem to think the owners rights are the only ones that count. The residents of the park are not just renters, they also own property, and I submit that their investments in their properties, by percent of income, is probably greater than Jissers' outlay was. Multiplied by hundreds. I'm not saying that as any argument about laws, I'm saying there's an awful lot of one-sided ideologically-driven arguing here.
So, you supposed young people who care about affordable housing -- put that idea out there on social media, and see what you come up with. Any more ideas?
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