Developer drops plan to buy Buena Vista Mobile Home Park

Property owner's attorney says closure application will not be impacted

Prometheus Real Estate Group has backed away from its plan to build high-end apartments on the Palo Alto site of Buena Vista Mobile Home Park, adding a fresh layer of uncertainty to the park's future.

The San Mateo-based real estate company last month submitted a quitclaim deed with the Santa Clara County Clerk-Recorder, effectively nullifying its 2012 agreement with the Jisser family, which owns the mobile-home park at 3980 El Camino Real. The proposal has been heavily criticized by residents of Buena Vista, a low-income community of about 400 people in Palo Alto's Barron Park neighborhood.

Despite the decision by Prometheus to back out of the deal, the Jisser family is proceeding with the closure process, their attorney, Margaret Nanda, said Monday.

"The application is not withdrawn," Nanda told the Weekly, referring to the plan to close Buena Vista. "We have not withdrawn it."

Nanda said the development application has always been separate from the closure application, which remains "pending." The Jisser family has been negotiating Buena Vista's closure with the city for more than a year and a half – an effort that received a big boost in February, when Palo Alto officials approved the family's "relocation impact report" for the mobile-home park. The report, which is required by local law and lays out the terms for compensating the park's displaced residents, was the subject of a three-day public hearing in May. The hearing officer, Craig Labadie, is expected to rule in August on whether the report offers adequate compensation to the low-income community.

Joe Jisser declined to discuss the Prometheus decision and referred inquiries to the company. Prometheus officials did not return phone and email requests for comment.

Grant Kolling, senior attorney at Palo Alto's Office of the City Attorney, said the Prometheus decision is not expected to impact the closure application "directly."

"The closure is proceeding as scheduled," Kolling said.

The quitclaim deed, which Prometheus filed on June 21, was submitted "for the purpose of eliminating any interest the grantor may have in and to the subject property," the document states. The grantor in this case is Prometheus, which in 2012 reached an agreement to purchase the property from the Jisser family.

According to a "memorandum of purchase agreement" the Jisser family filed with the county in August 2012, the family had agreed to sell to Prometheus the Buena Vista property "upon the occurrence of certain events and subject conditions more specifically described in the Purchase Agreement." Because the terms of the purchase agreement remain private, it's not clear which events triggered Prometheus' decision to withdraw their interest in the property.

Though the move might not avert the displacement of Buena Vista residents, it could bring new redevelopment options for the site, which opened as a tourist camp in 1926 and became a mobile-home park in the early 1950s. The park now includes 98 occupied mobile-home spaces, 12 studio apartments and one single-family unit, according to the relocation impact report submitted by the Jisser family in February.

Last year, the residents offered to buy the properties from the Jisser family through a combination of low-interest state and federal loans and the purchase of membership shares by a specially formed resident-owned cooperative. The family rejected this offer. The Palo Alto Housing Corporation, a nonprofit that develops affordable-housing complexes, had also considered last year teaming up with Prometheus to build about 65 low-income apartments on the site.

During the closure hearings in mid-May, dozens of residents testified about the hardships they would have to endure if forced out of the mobile park. These include finding new jobs, placing their children in new schools and finding new homes at comparable rates -- a prospect that everyone agreed is nearly impossible in the Palo Alto area. Blanca Fonseca, one of the residents who testified, said she had recently toured other Peninsula communities and saw most of the mobile homes selling for $70,000 or higher, far above the appraised value of $23,000 that she would receive from the Jisser family for her Buena Vista home.

Fonseca asked the hearing officer to think about the residents as he considers the closure proposal.

"It's very important for us to live in our community," Fonseca said.

Melissa Morris, attorney for the Buena Vista residents, said during the final day of the May hearings that she and her clients have been "trying to figure out a way to work with the owner to preserve the park and I think there's clearly in this room a lot of will to have this happen."

"There's a lot of political will in Palo Alto," Morris said in her concluding remarks. "Quite frankly, there's a lot of dollars out there from people willing to make it happen. Perhaps, as we go forward, we can talk about that as a possible resolution as well."

Winter Dellenbach, founder of community-support group Friends of the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park, told the Weekly on Monday that it's too early to tell what effect Prometheus' decision will have on Buena Vista's future. It does, however, create an opportunity to plan for other alternatives for the site. During the May 13 hearing, Dellenbach urged the Jisser family to consider an alternative that would protect the residents from losing "everything."

"We need to find a sensible solution where your family is compensated and can make some money and these people end up with a life and a future," Dellenbach said.

Marie Kear, vice president of the Buena Vista Mobile Home Residents Association, told the Weekly that while the residents are generally happy about Prometheus' withdrawal from the partnership, they don't have enough information yet to know what this portends for the park. The goal for many, she said, remains buying the park or finding another way to stay there.

"This is something we own, even if it's a shack," Kear told the Weekly. "We have more freedom being here. It's like you buy a house, you live in it and you have your family -- and now you have nothing."


Posted by winter dellenbach, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 8, 2014 at 7:12 am

Prometheus dropping its option to buy Buena Vista opens the door for a different plan for the property that allows BV residents continuing to live there on all or part of the 4 acres. The residents, a non-profit housing provider, or a consortium of public and private entities and funding sources, with city participation, needs to fill the vacuum. Leadership, political will, creative thinking and funds are required. All parties must rise to the challenge - a vacuum will not remain even if other developers may be daunted by community opposition to developer-caused displacement of Palo Alto homeowners at BV.

The recent Hearing on BV revealed that the property owner is making about 800K a year from space rent, a very good return on his investment according to expert testimony. He can fulfill his wishes to sell and to profit by offering a reasonable amount to residents as legally required to compensate for the overwhelming losses each household will incur if forced to move. Better yet - negotiate a sale that allows residents to remain, making relocation payments moot, thereby saving the owner a lot of money he can add to his profit column. The owners could bring honor to their family if they do well from doing good.

Resident displacement will happen more as the land boom continues. We should expect the city to concretely address the issue of displacement of Palo Alto residents due to development - make it the hard rare thing rather than the easy out for developers. Our Comprehensive Plan states the city has a duty to preserve and maintain BV as a mobile home park if feasible, and that BV provides the city an important source of affordable housing. The city must fulfill its duty and and act, creating policy and law that protects all Palo Alto residents.

The plan for BV would have had residents out long ago and the place sold for luxury housing for young tech workers. That did not happen and opposition remains strong. Now let's support a humane, reasonable and profitable resolution.

Posted by question, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 8, 2014 at 9:23 am

How does the # of incoming PAUSD students from the newly approved Stanford housing compare to the 100 or so BV PAUSD students who would leave when the park closes?

Posted by bob, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jul 8, 2014 at 9:33 am

Just more poor journalism from the weekly. Did the developer cancel the contract? or did the time on the contract expire? With the land value increasing from $30M to over $40M over the last 18 months, its most likely that the owner let the contract expire looking for more $$$. This is actually the most likely scenario, but the weekly reports without logic as usual. Please Winter, if you feel so sorry for these people who are being illegally compensated for leaving. Why dont you look for funding to help them move off the owners land.

Posted by Kay, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 8, 2014 at 10:10 am

@Bob to add to the poor journalism, the caption under the photo says "Palo Alto's online mobile home park" online?
No its a real park with real homes and real people who are effected.

Posted by OPM, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 8, 2014 at 10:31 am

@ Winter.
You talk about the property as if you own it, but you don't. What you may own is "your" home, I don't know. I hope one day when you choose/need to sell your home you do the "socially responsible" thing and reduce your price far below the market value so that someone less fortunate can afford to live in Palo Alto... maybe you will, but I seriously doubt it. I doubt any of the people who advocate for the owners of Buena Vista to do this would do the same with their own home/property (i.e. sell at a reduced price).

The owner is following the law. The law is there for a reason, to try to provide an equitable solution for each party.

Its always so easy to be the hero with other people's money/property. Good luck.

Posted by Good News, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 8, 2014 at 10:36 am

Glad it might not be a huge apartment complex - we don't need extra traffic.

Also support the mobile home park closing. Before anyone calls me uncaring, ask this: Why do they get to live in Palo Alto while others in their income bracket have to live elsewhere? Why are their children so special that they can attend PAUSD while others live in RWC or San Jose? Is that fair?

Palo Alto has evolved and change is hard for people to accept. I would move elsewhere if I could not afford to live here - no one has a right to live here. I recently attended our high school reunion and only a handful could afford to move back to Palo Alto.

Posted by Background, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 8, 2014 at 10:39 am

The Weekly, and everyone else, seems to forget that one of the main reasons for closing BV is due to the aging infrastructure and the enormous upgrade costs. Even if it were to be brought up to current standards the residents would be displaced for a long time and have to upgrade their trailers. Sorry to say but it seems time to close the place down.

Web Link

Posted by bob, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 8, 2014 at 11:02 am

dont forget Maybell. It could have been 60 apartments for seniors with a few townhomes. FYI the townhomes were necessary to offset the $15M they had pay for the land. But the people of Palo Alto, argued the over crowding of the schools and the increased traffic and shot the project down. Now we are going to get 35 to 40 $3M homes on that lot. Who buys these? how about rich techie families with children. Now we are really going to have traffic issues and school issues.

Posted by Josef Stalin, a resident of another community
on Jul 8, 2014 at 11:07 am

Any redevelopment of the property, even one that results in the current residents returning to live on the property, will require that the residents be relocated while the property is being redeveloped. Thus, Jisser will be required to pay relocation expenses even if the current residents return to live on the redeveloped property. All subsidized ("affordable") housing in Palo Alto is for the existing occupants of the housing. When those residents leave the affordable housing, the housing is sold to the next person on the waiting list. The current residents of that housing don't get to keep the housing in their family in perpetuity. A "consortium of public and private entities and funding sources" is not a viable option as the recent successful referendum against the Maybell Avenue project proved. Any redevelopment of the property will require that the new development comply with the zoning ordinance regulations, including density. Evidence was presented at the public hearings when Palo Alto's mobile home ordinance was adopted that the property's underground utility infrastructure will have reached the end of its useful life by now and will have to be replaced. That replacement alone will require the current residents to be displaced and will result in expenses large enough to require that any new development comply with the zoning ordinance regulations.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 8, 2014 at 11:08 am

"Despite the decision by Prometheus to back out of the deal, the Jisser family is proceeding with the closure process, their attorney, Margaret Nanda, said Monday."

Folks - it's going to close with or without the Prometheus sale. One can only guess at why the deal is off. Certainly the reality that PA is finally saying no to up-zoning would cause Prometheus to recalibrate their original plan and perhaps the sale price. Nevertheless, the property is zoned for R-15 and still represents an economic opportunity for developers, even at R-15.

Posted by palo alto resident, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 8, 2014 at 11:32 am

Based on the sale of Maybell - the BV property is worth about $40 million. And at current R-15 zoning (again based on the estimates for the Maybell site) that is 60-80 housing units, depending on how much low income housing is included which allows for extra density. I suspect Prometheus backed out because they knew they wouldn't get the zoning change, but it still remains a really valuable property to the Jisser family.

@Winter - if the residents still want to buy the property, do they have enough funding to pay the Jissers $40 million (minus the relo fees which haven't been established) AND replace all the utilities AND bring all their units up to code?

Posted by allen edwards, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 8, 2014 at 12:22 pm

I have a motor home and have seen my share of parks where some percentage of the people there are permanent residents. Several of these parks have tried to close, convert to condos, sell off as individually owned sites, etc. What is going to happen to BV is that the owner is going to kick their tenants out and the property will sit for years vacant. All their plans will fall through. The owner will be out his million a year in rent and be kicking himself for what he did. Just watch.

Posted by Bob, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 8, 2014 at 12:27 pm

Allen - this isn't another park. This is Palo Alto. The city purchased land for 15 million. Then flipped it for 22 million 12 months later. FYI.

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 8, 2014 at 12:47 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Crescent Park Dad is likely correct about the mobile home park's future. Whether Prometheus or another group, it's going to change.

Posted by Greenacres, a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 8, 2014 at 1:17 pm

Allen Edwards has a point. We're headed into an election with a major residentialist backlash that is broad-based and still really in its infancy. Jisser is now faced with an expensive process involving millions of dollars he'll have to come up with for eviction, paying his attorneys fees, for an indefinite period of time.

If residents of BV can purchase the park, Jisser gets his money now. He gets to be a rich man and get on with his life.

The sale of Maybell isn't really a comparable sale, since Maybell is in the middle of a residential neighborhood where small old ranch houses go for $2M now and larger homes on decent-sized lots can go for $3-4M. BV is on El Camino, and it's pretty clear the residents are not going to let it be upzoned. Additionally, they learned through Maybell that the City can't necessarily ask for the maximum even under zoning, that residents have power to fight for a lower density under the zoning, and given the nearby overdevelopment, citizens may begin battling the City on bigger development issues like safety if someone tries to push it there.

I think how egregious it is for someone to use density bonus rules as an incentive to evict true low-income residents in order to put in a handful of not-really-affordable BMRS in order to otherwise bust the zoning, will be enough to spur many residents to fight the rule itself over that property.

But assuming the park can be justified as worth $40 million. Here's a few suggested scenarios:

Residents have $14.5 M
City lets them use the $7.2M they had committed at Maybell but has now been returned. Money from our affordable housing fund has to be used for that purpose, and this would be to save the affordable housing of existing low-income Palo Altans.

Now residents have almost $22 M.

If Jisser takes $22M, what is his tax bill going to be for that? Off the top of my head, let's say it's $7 M. If Jisser instead donates the difference between a new theoretical valuation and $22M, he gets a big write off. The residents have formed a non-profit. That's what happened at Maybell, PAHC got the property even though it wasn't the highest bid because of a charitable write-off. I heard Larry Klein's firm handled their end of the sale. Maybe they could help do the same here?

Now the residents' offer is worth almost $30M.

How much would Jisser have to pay for attorney fees and relocation expenses in the end? And lose in interest and investment opportunities over an uncertain future? That's got to be worth $3-5 M at least.

Now the residents' offer is pretty comparable, Jisser gets his money now, and BV residents can stay while retaining their homeowner status. They can apply for grants to upgrade the park systems through their nonprofit.

Some of our bright, caring minds in this area put their talents in service of setting up a crowdfunding site expressly for the purpose of creating an investment vehicle to save affordable housing without requiring public funds, a kind of Nature Conservancy meets Kickstarter.

Give people outside of SV especially a chance to invest in small chunks of SV to save the affordable housing of long-time residents from being destroyed through gentrification. It's a decent investment opportunity, gives the existing residents a chance to build some wealth rather than being shuttled into welfare housing, no money is required from public funds, and the property remains affordable indefinitely. In Kickstarter fashion, pledges can be made and money isn't taken from investors until the deal goes through at which point it can be produced instantly by charging the credit cards of those who committed funds. Such an effort could include funds for improvement.

The Residents have $14.5 M. Jisser gets the abovementioned write-off, and City loans whatever is needed (holding off on their new drapes at city hall will give $4.5 M to start) so that BV can immediately be purchased by residents and retained as affordable housing into the future. They give us 5-10 years to accomplish #2 and pay the City back. This is not unprecedented as the City co-owns other residential luxury property to achieve stability for highly paid employees, it can do the same so we can retain a low-income community in our midst.

There are other options. I think the City should be involved in whatever extent possible. If they invest temporarily, there is very little risk or ultimate use of public funds. If people object to more money than is in the affordable housing fund being used, the City's input can be limited to a few years, just to give residents time to come up with other funding sources. But now is the time to act!

The residents of BV are not in subsidized housing, they have invested in less-auspicious true low-income housing, sacrificed just like the rest of us to live here. Unfortunately, they were also uniquely vulnerable given the City's overly zealous pro-development climate and the prospect of the developer getting whatever zoning exceptions it wanted. Imagine Stanford saying it wants its land back and everyone in their $2M Stanford mansions needs to leave. No? That's another way the BV residents are vulnerable. Stepping in to help, especially if it can be done with no ultimately big public outlay is the right thing to do, and can be a win-win-win for everyone, including Jisser.

Posted by palo alto resident, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 8, 2014 at 2:58 pm

@greenacres - you are thinking creatively which is good. I agree that BV and Maybell are not totally comparable because BV is on El Camino. But a new town home project in Menlo Park is selling at about $1.7 million per unit, its very comparable location,but a similar unit in Palo Alto would probably sell for more because of the schools, and BV is in the Gunn district. That means projected sales of 100-150 million dollars for a developer building 60-80 possible units on that site. So it is a very valuable piece of property.

Posted by DAZED, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jul 8, 2014 at 3:31 pm

I just saw a picture of the Buena Vista Auto Camp from the 20's. What a nice cozy spot with lots of oak trees. Definitely not the same place, but still sad to see an old part of Palo Alto go away. Seems the norm now.

Posted by Dennis, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jul 8, 2014 at 4:29 pm

[Portion removed.] Get those eyesore old mobile homes out of here and let this area grow to be the world class high tech area Palo Alto and Mountain View are meant to be. Silicon Valley is one of the best places for intellectual development in the world. Time waits for no one, and it certainly won't wait for an out of date mobile home park. Move forward.

Posted by UC Davis Grad, a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 8, 2014 at 4:46 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by Eye of the Beholder, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 8, 2014 at 4:49 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by Rupert of henzau, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 8, 2014 at 4:59 pm

Well, first of all the city should not spend a dime on BV. They have no right to use this city money to save BV-- unless they subsidize all renters in the city.

[Portion removed.]

I am wary of " friends" groups in Palo Alto-- look what friends of alma plaza and the library have gotten us!

Posted by Greenacres, a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 8, 2014 at 5:30 pm

@ Dennis,
I'm willing to bet you've never even seen the Mobile Home Park. It's not exactly very obvious. What is visible from behind the gas station could be made beautiful for a few thou in new hardscape. Not exactly a reason to displace an entire community of over 400 people.

I'd choose BV and the skyline above it any day over that hideous giant out-of-scale hotel across from Arbor Real or any of those Apartmentzillas going up between there and San Antonio. Most of us here have had it with the overdevelopment and would rather save the community living there than just fight over density. The City is also developing without any regard to what it is doing to the fabric of our community over here, and saving BV would be a small way to compensate for the harm they've done with the overdevelopment to date. Their own survey showed people are less happy over here now, when this was always in the past the most interconnected part of town. (Its why we had such effective grassroots last year.)

I'd also choose BV over the horrible traffic a new development there would create.

In case you hadn't noticed, having a tech hub involves people who fill all kinds of jobs. If those who already live here and work locally can stay, that avoids adding to the traffic snarls.

@Rupert ,
The City can help without ultimately being on the hook for spending public funds on balance, although you should realize the money from the affordable housing fund that is available now because of the sale of the Maybell property cannot be used for other purposes.

Do you have any other objection than your concern for an ultimate outlay by the City?

Posted by Eye of the Beholder, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 8, 2014 at 5:42 pm

There are people, and I am one, who find an Eichler home in poor condition to be uglier and more outdated in appearance than a well-hidden, but well-kept group of mobile homes. Especially when the inhabitants are good citizens who cause no trouble to anyone, and are raising a future generation of well-educated good citizens through their own sacrifice.

Dennis is in no place to judge.

Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community
on Jul 8, 2014 at 6:47 pm

Still have to upgrade the site, remember visiting in the 80's, was run down, old and need repairs. If the Paly Gym costs have gone up, costs to bring BV up to code would cost even more.

Posted by Margaret Fruth, a resident of Ventura
on Jul 8, 2014 at 8:17 pm

Margaret Fruth is a registered user.

This looks like an opportunity for a win-win, because there is funding available. A number of posters are ignoring the fact that Palo Alto does have public funds for low income housing, whether or not the posters' personal beliefs support this. How mean-spirited you sound!

Posted by resident, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 8, 2014 at 9:45 pm

Sorry Promtheus backed out. But it seems like the RIR , appeals, etc caused Promotheus to back out.

Hope another respectable developer takes interest. The neighborhood really wants this area im porved. There are just the known handful of BP residents ( outside of BV) who want this ghetto type housing to remain. Its always the same 5 people posting for BV. Approx. 1400 households exist in Barron Park.

As a residnet of Barron Park I look forward to this blighted area getting developed.

Good luck to Mr. Jisser, you deserve the profits as you have been patient and followed the rules. Mr. Jisser took steps to assist residents that went beyond his legal obligations

Posted by Bob, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 8, 2014 at 10:27 pm

This has gone on for way to long and now mr Jisser had lost one opportunity to sell his property. Why has he not sued the city yet? This is crazy, since when do renters have this many rights? And please don't repond by saying these are home owners. I went trough this place. Theses are trailers not homes and even the law stated this. B

Posted by Greenacres, a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 9, 2014 at 12:50 am

@ "resident" of "Barron Park"
I don't know where you are, but most people in the neighborhood are for helping BV residents remain. Support spans the range of people who want to help the residents to those who want the property to remain single-story and no more developed, or both (for many, it's both). Surveys have shown widespread support for helping the residents. PASZ, the group behind the Maybell referendum, has made a statement in support of the City acting to help the residents purchase the mobile home park.

Mobile Homes are a unique kind of property, and thus occupy a unique place in the law. Mobile homes owners are property owners, they own the mobile homes which are, by standards of the rest of the nation at least, not really very cheap. The law recognizes that once mobile homes are in place, they aren't really mobile anymore, and that mobile home owners are property owners with need of specific protections. The mobile home owners also rent the space on which their homes rest.

Jisser entered into a contract with Prometheus, a developer whose application was for approximately 3 times the density of the existing zoning, and who did not make a development application under existing zoning. So one may reasonably conclude that the offer was made assuming they would be able to significantly violate zoning laws, which no one has a right to do. Residents of the neighborhood proved they could stop such zoning violations with Measure D. There is a major residentialist backlash brewing in this town and it's only just beginning. Prometheus finally figured it out, and will have their hands full at San Antonio anyway. Jisser and Prometheus both knew what they were doing when they made an application that depended on significant zoning violations, and it didn't work out.

Posted by Bob, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 9, 2014 at 7:03 am

Greenacres - again these are NOT homes. NOT homes of any kind. They are NOT even mobilehomes as per your last entry. 90% of these are travel trailers. Actual units that can attach to a truck and be hauled off.

Further, as I stated in my first post, I don't believe that Prometheus canceled the contract. I believe they ran out of time. Mr Jisser could have extended the time, but chose to go for a bigger offer. With Maybell selling for $22M they have twice as much land at the same zoning. Thus its worth over $40M. Any hope for this place to stay open was eliminated.

Posted by OPM, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 9, 2014 at 9:39 am

I agree that the closing of the park is inevitable at this point.

Think about someone creating a law that dictates the amount of money you can make on the operation and/or sale of your own property through legal activity (we all live in a city/state that does this...).

Now think of complying with that law but then having your neighbor(s) go to the City/state in an effort to compel you to go above and beyond what is legally required (taking money out of your pocket) because it will make them "feel" better about life...

sometimes its good to try on someone else's and let live...

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 9, 2014 at 10:49 am

@ Bob - I'm a realist in terms of BV's future. And I'm all for private property rights, following the law and staying within established zoning requirements.

That said, you obviously don't know much about mobile homes. Whether it is BV or another park, the word "mobile" has more to do with the delivery of the trailer than it's future portability. Especially true about the BV trailers is that they are not fit to be moved, let alone trailered to another location. The reality is that the BV trailers will be demolished once the eviction is complete.

This doesn't just apply to mobile homes. Take a look at Duveneck School. Instead of moving the (no longer needed) portable classrooms, they demolished them and hauled off the debris about a week ago.

Posted by randy albin, a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 9, 2014 at 12:18 pm

palo alto is not what it once was. it is ridiculously expensive. where is sanity? drop this developer and see if the trailer park goes on. what a silly topic to need to be reporting about

Posted by bob, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 9, 2014 at 12:19 pm

Crescent Park Dad, being that the trailers are owned by the tenants and not the owner, how is the maintenance (or lack of maintenance in this issue) the owners fault. if the unit is not mobile and you want to blame the land owner for this, then he/she should only be responsible to repair the mobile home to the point that it is mobile again. NOT make them buy the unit at an above market price and pay rent subsidies as well.

we may all have different opinions on this matter, but please do not make a private citizen responsible for doing the governments work.

Posted by Bill, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 9, 2014 at 3:09 pm

Well, rather than wasting time giving a point by by point rebuttal to the [portion removed] comments from WD and the poster Greenacres, let me briefly sum up the consensus of my Barron Park neighbors.

The mobile home park has reached the end of a useful life. Buena Vista was appraised at $15 million as a mobile home park and $30 million as an empty dirt lot. Residents would be happy with development of the site. Residents don't want an under-parked monster complex, but would be happy with something that fit the scale and character of the area. Obviously, unless one of us buys the site ourselves, the choice isn't ours. But, seriously, nobody is going to miss the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park and the variety of problems it imposes on the neighborhood.

The small number of radical pro-Buena Vista supporters want people to believe that there is great support for keeping the park. That is simply not true. Most of the residents aren't participating in PASZ meetings, because most do not care at all about the closure of the mobile home park. Barron Park residents are concerned about density and zoning, and many are watching the proposed changes to the city's comprehensive plan with disgust and horror. The new plan will dump a lot of "affordable housing" along El Camino and in our neighborhood. That's great for the city's housing advocates, but terrible for almost all of us.

If the candidates supported by PASZ come out in favor of keeping Buena Vista, they will lose in November. Keeping Buena Vista, especially with the help of funding from the city, will show that they are against any development. That's not a reasonable position in this market at this time. The PASZ leadership may have forgotten that what got a lot of people excited about Measure D wasn't development, but zoning and density. Telling someone that they need to keep a dilapidated trailer park open for another 50 years or sell it at half price is going to be as popular as Palo Alto's hated historic homes ordinance.

What the pro-Buena Vista supporters don't realize is how much damage they are doing to the future of affordable housing in Palo Alto. Advocating restrictive ordinances and requiring large pay-outs for displaced residents isn't going to make more developers rush in to fill the affordable housing need. For every story the Buena Vista residents told at the closure hearing in May, there are many other stories from people who struggle to live here [portion removed.] Many of these other people will be hurt because thought Buena Vista would be a fun battle to win.

Posted by Greenacres, a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 9, 2014 at 3:54 pm


I actually appreciate some of the reasons you feel as you do -- some of the old-timers who live in Buena Vista have expressed similar sentiments. But there are ways to solve those problems without razing the whole park.

Let me ask you this -- do you have objections, if a reasonable offer (let's assume a private partner with cash) is made to purchase the park and accepted by the seller, and the park undergoes some renovation and repair, as well as some improvements in park governance as a result of the park co-op residents group (thus dealing with some of the problems that immediate neighbors as well as the majority of residents at BV, too, have experienced?) If it was a renovated, nicely kept mobile home park, would you feel differently?

Because the compensation to the residents, that's a separate issue. They are entitled to it by law. All arguments about Palo Alto ordinances don't negate the fact that our local ordinance is neither unusual nor unprecedented. It really is no different than if Stanford said it was terminating its leases on the large faculty houses and Gunn HS, and giving no one any compensation for their homes/schools -- except for the order of magnitude of economic loss in absolute (though probably not in relative-to-occupant-income-and-asset) terms.

So, first of all, just looking at facilitating the sale to BV residents from purely a practical standpoint, look at everything that has gone up on El Camino in your area in the last two years. Does any of it fit the scale and character? Now that overdevelopment defines the character, and the planners are allowing overdevelopment above the overdevelopment. Measure D was a lot of work by just ordinary people. Are you willing to do what they did, and in fact, take it further, to avoid overdevelopment at that site? Because that's the choice. From a purely practical standpoint, it's a far simpler prospect for citizens to keep a sensible scale in the neighborhood by saving the mobile home park. It's far simpler for me as an involved resident to contemplate saving BV and improving it than any alternative.

Secondly, no one is talking about eminent domain or taking over the park by edict, or forcing Jisser to keep running it. I think the City should help facilitate a sale to the residents. For example, they facilitated the sale at Maybell, and there was a tax write-off there that made the deal more attractive with PAHC than the highest bid by a regular developer. The City can't and shouldn't force the seller to sell if he doesn't want to, no one is suggesting he can't do what he wants. But selling to the residents brings up the possibility that some of the deal could be a tax write off, because of the residents' nonprofit. The City can and should help, especially since their giving away extreme zoning violations left and right almost certainly had everything to do with the motivation to shut down the park now in the first place.

The City money many of us are talking about is from the affordable housing fund. It was used to help purchase the property at Maybell and has now been returned. It can only be used for affordable housing. Given the sentiments you expressed, I would think it preferable loaning the money to BV to help existing Palo Alto residents, over loaning the money to purchase another property for a large subsidized project, that will almost certainly challenge zoning.

Most residents aren't participating in PASZ meetings because physically meeting frequently is hard. There never was a huge number of people even before the election. But don't mistake that for involvement, we still all talk to each other in our real lives and electronically.

In the case of saving BV, I think the interests of people who don't want overdevelopment and those who want to save affordable housing locally intersect about as well as ever happens in life, especially since it is really the last place in this area where you can get low-cost housing in exchange for lesser housing (it's not subsidized), and the residents of BV are long-time Palo Altans.

Posted by Greenacres, a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 9, 2014 at 4:08 pm


With all due respect, too, I think your opinion is not representative of the neighborhood's. There have been surveys within BP and by Stanford, and really the majority are for helping their neighbors and for retaining the park. This can be done in a way that is ultimately no skin off the general fund. My question to you above was made sincerely and is not rhetorical.

Posted by Rupert of henzau, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 9, 2014 at 4:32 pm

No city money should be spent on BV. Those that fell the need to save BV (I.e winter and the friends of BV) should raise the additional money to purchase and bring BV. Up,to code. This can be done by taking out loans and/or mortgaging and/or selling homes.
And I would not call that biased survey carried out by Stanford researchers as being indicative of anything.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 9, 2014 at 5:29 pm

@ Bob - I was just addressing your point about "90% of these are travel trailers. Actual units that can attach to a truck and be hauled off." The point of my response was that the reality is that none of those trailers are going to get hauled off. They are not road worthy and will get demolished once they are abandoned.

I don't know who pays for that demolition and clean up. If I were Jisser, I'd say it should come out of the mandated "compensation" fee that he pays the residents to move. The residents own the trailers...they should be responsible for the removal (one way or another), not the property owner. In other words, we are in agreement on this.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 9, 2014 at 5:31 pm

I agree about the surveys. The questions were biased and skewed towards getting the result that they wanted. Bogus all the way.

Posted by Jane, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 9, 2014 at 5:53 pm

I spoke to the owner breifly at the hearings. He seemed shocked why people assumed the land was for sale. The goal was to close down the business and redevelop himself. Thus all of this talk about selling it to the residents is obsolete.

Posted by But, but, but...., a resident of Greater Miranda
on Jul 9, 2014 at 5:54 pm

Does anyone really want to see a high-density luxury apartment building go up on this site? More high density development means more traffic and more crime, even if they have security guards.

How about some lower density homes?

Posted by Barron Park Resident, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 9, 2014 at 7:12 pm

@ Greenacres -

Please, please do not cite the Barr and Padilla survey as evidence that a majority of the Barron Park neighborhood supports the residents. The survey has been discredited because of the lack of clarity on whether the survey was anonymous. The authors say it was anonymous yet each survey had a unique number. Barr and Padilla later clarified this issue but long after I and other neighbors threw away the surveys. Several other BP neighbors have raised this issue before on this forum.

Maybe a majority of BP residents do support the residents, but we just don't know.

Posted by palo alto resident, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 9, 2014 at 8:13 pm

@jane - your comment is the one that makes the most sense, if I were the Jisser family, I would develop the property myself too - 60-80 homes, 100-150 million in sales. I'd probably get my real estate license too!

Posted by Greenacres, a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 10, 2014 at 1:06 am

@Barron Park Resident,

I don't have to rely on just the Stanford study to know. I know because I know the sentiments of so many neighbors because of Measure D. Just as I told Gail Price before the election that the vast majority of the neighborhood was against upzoning Maybell, because I could see that, I'm saying now, the vast majority are for helping to save the mobile home park. There are a variety of reasons people feel that way. I would love to get more clarity on your concerns and whether those can be allayed, if it's possible to save the park in a way that you, too, could support as a neighbor.

@palo alto resident,
I think probably a safer comparable to look at what prices have been in the area, not somewhere in Menlo Park (which has actually been more expensive than Palo Alto in many sectors). Arbor Real townhomes have been more in the $800k - $1.2M range, and some of those are huge because it's a PC zone.

If building under existing zoning, if the developer wants to build more marketable, large homes, the property will have to be less densely built. Also, RM-15 zoning is supposed to be on the lower end of the scale adjacent to R-1, which this is on one side, so one wouldn't necessarily be able to count on even 60 homes, in fact if the Council allows low-income residents to be evicted and density bonus rules that exist for the purpose of creating affordable housing are used to create a few unaffordable BMRs, that property will almost certainly become ground zero for opposing the bonus density rules, because that situation would be a poster child for what's wrong with them. They're a giveaway to developers that create incentives to gentrify and tear down affordable housing more than create it.

Developers are conservative because they can lose their shirts if things turn. If I can only count on for sure, say, 40-45 homes, and looking at Arbor Real, I might really only be able to count on $1M per townhome, if I spend $40M on the land and $10-20M building the's not such an obvious win. The property on El Camino may be in the same area, but it's not comparable to the Maybell site which is in the middle of a neighborhood, across from a park, within walking distance to three top-notch schools, and across from and in the middle of single-family residences that range in price from $1.5M on the very small side to $4M. You're not going to get that on El Camino if the property is covered with single-family residences. So, while the Maybell sale certainly upped the value of BV, it didn't make it comparable.

And, now that developers all over town have to remember that there are zoning rules, they can't necessarily count on violating the zoning in their calculation.

It's also true that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. There really are many advantages to Jisser to taking an offer to sell to the residents.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 10, 2014 at 5:34 am

If Jisser keeps the land and develops the property himself, there is no $30mil. outlay. And he will make far more than $13mil. In profits.

Posted by Hennessy, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 10, 2014 at 7:02 am

[Post removed.]

Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 10, 2014 at 8:34 am

Good luck to Mr. Jisser in re-developing the property. As one of the main entry paths to Barron Park, it would be great to have a modern quality development there with proper parking. I think many in Barron Park feel like I do - if the current residents stay, fine; if new neighbors come, also fine; but please develop the parcel into something other than the current eyesore, preferably within the current zoning.

Posted by Barron park-ER, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 10, 2014 at 8:52 am

I agree with Fred. I live in Barron and I support a re-do of the parcel.

Posted by jane, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 10, 2014 at 9:26 am

everybody I know in Baron Park for the wants the place redeveloped as well. Just under the current zoning like Maybell

Posted by Purple, a resident of Los Altos
on Jul 10, 2014 at 11:28 am

I admire and respect the dialogue here since most of it is thought provoking. If I were the owner, I would follow this thread for ideas to evaluate. I have some level of empathy for all parties involved. As someone who spent 3 years trying to purchase a home in this nonlinear market, I can somewhat relate to the residents of the park. However when we finally succeeded in purchasing our home, we were in the middle of evaluating a relocation out of the a matter of quality of life and stability for our family. So each of the park residents has this choice to make. No one is entitled to housing here or to their "rights" in a market that has literally gone "wild". We have to make our own choices as should the residents of the park by way of taking charge of their destiny rather than waiting for someone to "save" them. If we want to exercise our rights, sometimes we have to fight for them, particularly when we don't have the upper hand such as power or money. The owners of the park purchased private property and they should be allowed to sell, close or redevelop the property accordingly (within the guidelines of mobile home park ordinances). As a resident who is now faced with over 1,000 commercial vehicles (including 10 and 18 wheeler semis) per day traveling our narrow city street (located within 1 block of 3 elementary schools) due in part to a Google Maps Routing error; I empathize with surrounding residents who want to protect the peace and quiet of their neighborhoods. Once traffic inundates an area, there isn't a clear path to reversing the damage or the danger. In the end, I am grateful that we can all have the freedom of a voice in the matter, yet hope that the enforcement of the laws in place, rather than politics, will prevail for the better good of all.

Posted by palo alto resident, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 10, 2014 at 12:34 pm

@purple - well said.

@greenacres - you are right that Arbor Real is probably a better comp for potential housing at BV, the two most recent sales were for $1.6 and $2.1 million. You are also correct that BV is bordered on one side by R-1 zoning, but it is also bordered by R-30/Planned Community on 2 sides and commercial on the 4th. No idea how that translates into actual housing units, but with 111 units, BV is currently far denser than R-15. So whatever goes there will bring less density than is currently on site, not more.

Posted by Greenacres, a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 10, 2014 at 4:08 pm

@palo alto resident,
Can you provide the addresses and links to those sales at Arbor Real, because you do know there are some large detached single-family homes on the back side of the property, it's highly doubtful any condos sold for that. The standalone homes on Wisteria Lane (tall skinny homes on small lots) nearer the trailer park are all still mostly under $1.4M, and the sense is that they've topped out at that.

The other problem with equating them is that Arbor Real is a PC zone, and as such, was allowed to surpass all kinds of size restrictions, Many of the townhomes in Arbor Real are quite large. If someone has to actually live within zoning now, such as they WILL have to do at BV, they're not going to be able to put in the max without dropping the size of the units, which makes them less and less valuable or marketable.

As far as I know, Jisser is not currently a developer -- cutting his teeth on something like this, especially when he could just walk away with the equivalent of $30M for the land is just not a smart business decision. If he must live within zoning, and faces uncertainly about exactly how many units he could put there, and uncertainty about how much the development will cost and when it's possible even to begin building...again, the lower end of that potential range is in the not-making-money side.

With all due respect, Purple, thanks for your compassionate post, but you got one thing wrong: think how you would feel if your house were on leased Stanford land, like the faculty houses near Stanford, and Stanford suddenly decided it wanted its land back and wanted to break the lease. Would anyone expect the residents NOT to fight for just compensation for the loss of their asset under the law? It's exactly the same with the mobile home owners. The are property owners, and there are laws to protect them precisely because many people are too prejudiced against the poor and wouldn't treat the poor man's assets the same.

The application for development made on that property by Jisser and Prometheus asked for very major zoning violations. Our City was in the habit of granting such major zoning violations left and right. So our City Council's complete lack of respect for zoning laws and the Comprehensive Plan contributed to the developer's motivation to even begin the eviction process. We can't turn back the clock, but we can make an effort on behalf of helping the residents, especially if it can be done in a reasonable way.

I appreciate "Fred" above's candor in saying he doesn't care either way as long as the property is improved -- I say it's possible and worth it for the answer to be, improve the mobile home park, and help the residents purchase it. It may only involve effort and willingness -- can we at least give this a try for the sake of our neighbors?

Posted by palo alto resident, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 10, 2014 at 6:04 pm

@greenacres - both were condos, one sold in March, one in June, they were large though 4 bedrooms. Links below. As far as Jisser not being a developer, he owns the land, I seem to remember that he paid 8-10 million for it and can hire one of the big construction companies and architects to help them. Even at the low end of zoning, there is plenty of room for profit.

I agree that there are laws in place to protect the owners on mobile homes. This closure has been planned for 10-12 years and the laws appear to be followed. This wasn't precipitated just because of Prometheus, it has been in the works for many years.

Links to sales:

Web Link

Web Link

Posted by palo alto resident, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 10, 2014 at 6:10 pm

@greenacres - the most recent sale on Wisteria Lane was for $1.6 million.

Posted by Jane, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 10, 2014 at 8:25 pm

Greenacres. You wrong with your Stanford comparison. The reason is that Stanford would buy out a lease. However if the lease expires the building/home would default back to the owner. The BV residents do not have a lease. The owners has stated repeatedly that all lease have expired and the tenants rent month to month. Therefore using your logic if the mobile homes are not mobile the tenants should vacate leaving the home behind without forcing the owner to buy and pay rent subsidies.

I still belive the owner is going through the process just to put a case together and sue the city. Why else has he not raised the rents?

Posted by Greenacres, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 11, 2014 at 12:44 am

@ palo alto resident,
Thanks for the links. I only see the sale in June for the condo on Rickeys Way. It is a large one, over 2200 sq ft, but even though it's almost new, it still only sold for $1.6M. By comparison, an old 1950s original flat-roofed single-family residence right across the street from that development, at 2000 sq ft, even smaller, sold for over $2M, around $400,000 more than the condo. That neighborhood, bounded by El Camino on one side, and Alma on the other, has never had the property values of the Greenacres/Barron Park neighborhood where Maybell sits. Even in the downturn, if a single-family residents was over 2,000 sq ft, it was pretty much over $2M no matter how dumpy.

Again, you haven't made the case that what could be built at BV would sell for even comparable to Rickey's Way, since Arbor Real was a PC zone that got away with busting height, size, parking, and other zoning restrictions that won't be possible under RM-15. Again, if you have to live within all the parameters, if you make things denser, you make them smaller, which ends up reducing what you can sell properties for. Over 2,000 sq ft is highly desirable. Under 1400 is much less so. Wisteria Lane could no longer be built because of the internal lanes which are so small it's hard to even turn a car around. And you see even a standalone house there only sold for $1.6 M. That's more than I expected from looking at Zillow, but for comparison, an old original fixer in the neighborhood nearer Terman of that size sold for $300,000 more than that last fall, and would probably be even more now. There is still no basis to believe the values you could get for condos at BV would be comparable to Maybell or Arbor Real.

Posted by Greenacres, a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 11, 2014 at 1:20 am

@palo alto resident,
There aren't many comps into the neighborhood because there isn't a lot of turnover, but this large relatively new home (but with only 1 car garage) sold for over $3M in December - it's on the corner of Driscoll and Maybell about a block from the park/site of the erstwhile rezoning:
Web Link

Just from the standpoint of being a builder, building lower density lowers my expenses/outlay because fewer kitchens and bathrooms have to be built, and one-and two-story homes reduce labor costs, and things can go up a lot faster. If I can get $3M-$4M for single-family residences on 6,000 sq ft lots without fighting anyone, versus $1.6M each for 2 condos on a plot that size (living within all the zoning restrictions) and almost certainly facing a battle when I try to subdivide, the former is a no brainer. This is why upzoning is so popular, it changes the latter calculation when developers can pack more onto the same space. It just gives them a short-term profit at everyone else's expense.

Posted by palo alto resident, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 12, 2014 at 3:29 pm

@greenacres - I guess my real point is that there is plenty of room for a developer - whether it is Jisser or someone else - to make a profit on this property under the current zoning. I think I remember that Jisser bought out other partners for 8-10 million.

Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 21, 2014 at 11:53 pm

Kudos to Winter Dellenbach for her compassion and diligence and tenacity here.

Shame on local leadership -- Council, commissioners and staff -- for not doing more to broker a deal along the lines that Winter indicates. I would think converting the park from a group of disorganized renters to an HOA would entail a significant improvement to the site from a physical standpoint.

I thought it notable and slightly confounding that there was disconnect and dissonance between the referendum at Maybell and the defense of our neighbors at Buena Vista. I would think in both cases the principal is stopping greedy interests acting in their own interests but adverse to everybody else. People I like and respect were For D AND passionate about saving the park, for instance -- Nancy Krop comes to mind. And there are plenty of Against D who haven't said boo about BV.

The deal offered Jisser would be a reasonable profit for him. Why he is entitled to maximize his profit, especially given the externalities?

It is notable that GS reports that Palo Alto Housing Corp would have worked with Prometheus to develop the property but have not apparently figured out a way to help the BV residents organize and defend or buy their homes.

This is another good litmus test for the upcoming Palo Alto City Council candidates.

By the way I think discourse would be improved considerably if more than 5 of the first 55 posters here would do so under their full names.

Lastly, is there someone living at BV who wants to step up and run for Council? We need more residentialist and opposition candidates.

By the way, is it time for a Rent Board or Tenants Union here and not just a pro-landlord "mandatory mediation process"?

Posted by steven, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 22, 2014 at 10:16 am

"We need to find a sensible solution where your family is compensated and can make some money and these people end up with a life and a future," Dellenbach said.

so, if they have to live somewhere else than Palo Alto they will have no life or future ?

really ?

Posted by palo alto resident, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 22, 2014 at 10:51 am

@Mark Weiss - To answer your question "The deal offered Jisser would be a reasonable profit for him. Why he is entitled to maximize his profit?" Because he is the property owner and we live in a capitalist country. The residents of BV have known for 10-12 years of his intention to close the Park.

Posted by Bill, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 22, 2014 at 11:49 am

The idea that the closure is a negotiation is what is completely confounding to my neighbors in Barron Park. There are lots of folks working hard to stay in the area. Not one of them is asking for a hand out. The state law gives the Buena Vista residents compensation from the park owner. The city ordinance gives many more of the residents compensation than than they are entitled to under state law. There's nothing that says the owner can't close the park and sell the land. So, pretending that there is some happy solution where the owner gives up millions of dollars (or Palo Alto taxpayers make up the difference) is pure fantasy.

Posted by Greenacres, a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 22, 2014 at 12:17 pm

You haven't been following the threads apoarently, so I'll try to recap:
1) Mobile home owners are renters and property owners, so they have legal rights in a closure because of that unique vulnerability. If you owned a house on Stanford land, and they wanted to terminate the lease early, you, too, would probably not leave without negotiating for whatever compensation you were due, and if Stanford were just trying to sell to make money and it involved 400 of your neighbors, you, too, would probably try to buy the pkace, too.
2) No one is asking the owner to give anything he isn't due up. Neither should he be asking the residents to, either. However, when the owner was asking the City to upzone his property to many times existing zoning, he was not only asking for a handout from the City amounting to millions of dollars, he was planning on adding an unconscionable amount of density to an already densely populated part of Palo Alto that is in gridlock and could use services, not more housing. (Hint: CC wants us out of our cars but we aren't that close to Mitchell Park or retail.)
3) Surveys of neighbors shows broad support for helping residents purchase the park, for a variety of reasons.
4) If the City makes available to BV the funds from the affordable houpsing fund that have now been returned from Maybell, and adds to the existing offer, between a tax writeoff and not having to evict, the owner could have an equivalent offer to the $30M, perhaps slightly better. The resident nonprofit would be eligible for applying for grants to improve the park.

Posted by palo alto resident, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 22, 2014 at 3:12 pm

@greenacres - @Bill statements are actually pretty accurate, your recap is not. The owner is planning on closing the Park. He is no longer asking to change the zoning and it sounds like he is no longer planning to sell BV, instead he is planning on developing it himself.

Posted by Rupert of henzau, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 22, 2014 at 3:19 pm

Also the survey that green acres refers to has been discredited as being biased. There is nothing stopping those that want to keep BV open from raising the money to do that- as long as mr jisser gets the price he is asking for. Maybe a kick starter campaign or a mortgage on their homes. But not a penny of city money should be expended on this.

Posted by Greenacres, a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 22, 2014 at 11:26 pm

@palo alto resident,
Everything I said is accurate, please tell me what you disagree with. I actually have no beef with either of the factual statements you made at the end of your post. They do not conflict with anything I said.

Because of Measure D, I am well aware of the sentiments in this area towards BV, and just as I knew that most people were against upzoning that parcel, I am well aware that most (not all, but most) are for helping the residents of BV to purchase and improve the park.

I am in agreement with you that a crowdsourced effort to help purchase the park would be ideal. However, you should not be so quick to dismiss the application of the city's affordable housing fund to help purchase BV. Those funds can only be used for affordable housing -- would you prefer they went to start another confrontation like at Maybell somewhere else in town? If not, far better they go towards a purpose most residents support, to help EXISTING low-income Palo Altans. Plus, it's a loan, not a gift. Low interest, but then, rates are quite low now (but ordinary people don't have such access except through such loans). The City will get its money back.

Posted by Greenacres, a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 22, 2014 at 11:26 pm

My apologies, I was addressing my last paragraph there to you, not palo alto resident.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 23, 2014 at 7:40 am

I don't understand the financial calculation that makes the $13mil offer from the BV residents equivalent to the $30mil offer that Jisser received from Prometheus. I know Prometheus is out, but the owner can self-develop and profit for approximately the same amount.

How does 13 = 30?

Posted by BL, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 26, 2014 at 7:07 am

BL is a registered user.

I took the Stanford survey on BV and would like to see the results. Does anybody know what if the results are posted?

I do not believe in "Greenacres" reply that most Barron Park resident support keeping the park open. I believe most BP resident wants to help the BV resident relocate. Why would BP home owners want a moblie home in their backyard and all the negatives associated with it.

Posted by BL, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 26, 2014 at 7:13 am

BL is a registered user.

I also agree the Stanford survey was biased. It provided information on why the mobile home park should be kept open and had unique numbers for each survey. We also do not know who the surveys were sent out to.

Posted by Greenacres, a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 28, 2014 at 2:12 am

@Crescent Park Dad,
The financial calculation that makes an equivalent offer has been discussed before.

The residents had $14.5 M, not $13M.

The amount the City committed at Maybell was $7.2 M (or $7.1M), which I'm told is money that cannot be used for anything else but affordable housing. (It would be a low-interest loan, not a gift.)

$14.5 M + $7.2 M = $21.7 M

At Maybell, PAHC did not make the highest offer, but because a donation/write-off situation was worked out with PAHC, which is a non-profit, their offer was accepted because it worked out the best financially for the seller. It's hard to know what Jisser's tax situation is, but it's quite conceivable the same could be done here, since the residents also have a nonprofit. Just assuming the valuation is $30M, if Jisser made a tax-deductible donation to the nonprofit of the difference, the $8.3M, it's quite conceivable that 35% of that is actual value to him from the write-off, or almost $3M.

Now we're at $24.7 M

How much would Jisser have to spend to evict the residents? By law, he's going to have to compensate them for their property. He's going to pay the lawyers a bundle, and he loses the use of the capital during that process. Realistically, not having to go through the legally-required eviction process if he sells to the residents is worth $3M -$5M easily.

Now we're at $27.7M - $29.7M, or pretty close to $30M, depending.

Jisser also gets use of his money immediately, which is worth something, too, in terms of investment and interest value. How much is impossible for an outsider to say, but it could be substantial.

If the offer wasn't quite enough, I personally think the City should consider making other short-term loans just simply to make the purchase by the residents possible, with the provision that those funds be paid back in 5 or 10 years, enough time for some kind of crowdfunding to be worked out or other grants to be applied for, including to upgrade the park. I think it's certainly a bigger priority than beautifying City Hall to the tune of over $4M, and it just delays the use of the money by a few years, it doesn't mean those things couldn't be done in a few years when the money is paid back.

Right now, time is of the essence. Does this City Council value affordable housing? They just about beat us to a pulp in Greenacres and BP over it when so many of us felt the plan was bad and didn't think it needed to be done by busting the zoning of the neighborhood and through a plan that was mostly a market-rate development. Now that the money the City used from our affordable housing fund at Maybell has been returned, where is the urgency to save the affordable housing, especially to help EXISTING Palo Alto residents in actual (rather than heavily subsidized) affordable housing? The City helped facilitate the deal at Maybell, they should be doing so here, too. They shouldn't push or make any unfair rules, but they can help negotiate, and they can make a commitment for the funds in the affordable housing pot.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 28, 2014 at 5:52 pm

The IRS limits the amount a person can donate on an annual basis (overall). AGI, property sales, type of charity, operational vs. non-operational, etc. play a huge role in how much can be deducted. I would not assume your projection for donation-deduction benefit is correct at all.

Further, if the BV property is held as business, there are other tax strategies that could prove much more lucrative to Jisser than to donate to a BV-resident-non-profit fund. For example, he could roll the entire proceeds into another property or development.

Posted by Greenacres, a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 28, 2014 at 10:35 pm

@Crescent Park Dad,
You may be right, I definitely do not know the tax implications. However, the city clearly does, as much was said at City meetings of the Maybell sale going to PAHC even though they did not have the highest bid because a favorable tax write off was worked out. I have been told Larry Klein's firm represented the buyer, so they should know how to help at BV, too. It could be because of the low-income housing that the write-off could be better and there may be tax credits.

My point is, the possibility of an equivalent offer exists and should be explored if so.

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