Dozens of residents of Buena Vista, a 117-unit complex in the Barron Park neighborhood, attended the Monday, Oct. 1, meeting of the City Council to beseech city leaders to halt a redevelopment proposal by the developer Prometheus Real Estate Group. The San Mateo-based developer is looking to purchase the property at 3980 El Camino Real and build a 187-unit housing complex.
As the Weekly first reported last month, Buena Vista residents had recently received letters from one of the park's property owners, Joe Jisser, informing them that his family was exploring redevelopment options. Prometheus has acknowledged that it is considering redeveloping the property, which the city would have to rezone to allow the greater density sought by the developer.
More than 30 residents attended Monday's meeting, many carrying signs that said "Save Our Homes." Many urged the council to do something to stop the redevelopment plan that they said would displace them.
Misael Morale Sanchez, an 18-year-old student at West Valley College, said he feared the redevelopment plan would cost many of the children who currently live at Buena Vista an education. He said he was able to save up and pay for his tuition only because his parents can afford to pay the rent at the mobile-home park.
"For folks like myself, who attend college, we can afford to go to college because of the affordability of having been able to live in this mobile home park," Sanchez said. "For that to be taken away may cost us our education."
Other speakers, including several children, approached the council with more direct pleas.
"My concern is about all of our kids," said Jennifer Munoz, a student at Terman Middle School. "Where will we be living if you close down our homes?"
Winter Dellenbach, a Barron Park resident and frequent critic of the city's "planned community" rezoning process, also asked the city to do what it can to keep the current residents at Buena Vista, one of the few areas in the city with affordable housing. The residents of the mobile park, like their counterparts in other parts of the city, are simply trying to follow their dreams, said Dellenbach, who lives within a few blocks of the park.
"These people should stay where we are," Dellenbach said. "Some have been here for decades. They're some of the most vulnerable among us but they're not victims."
Because the public spoke during the "oral communications" portion of the meeting, the council was procedurally prohibited from responding to the residents' concerns. But Planning Director Curtis Williams exchanged contact information with some of the residents, and Mayor Yiaway Yeh said staff will reach out to them to try to address their concerns.
Buena Vista, which currently includes 104 mobile homes, 12 studios or cabins and one single-family residence, is one of the few developments that directly addresses Palo Alto's frequently cited shortage of affordable housing. Residents currently pay about $800 to $1,300 a month in rent.