http://paloaltoonline.com/print/story/print/2013/05/17/letters-to-the-editor


Palo Alto Weekly

Spectrum - May 17, 2013

Letters to the editor

What's taking so long?

Editor,

I often travel Middlefield Road in Palo Alto. I'm also a patron of Palo Alto libraries, which have a very good selection of materials. I've wondered about the completion of Mitchell Park Library for some time now. I must ask myself, why is it really taking so long to construct and open?

Lorin Krogh

Encina Avenue, Palo Alto

Support diversity

Editor,

We bought our house in Barron Park seven years ago while we were living in Beijing, China, as expatriates. I come from France and my husband is American. I feel I am a "Citizen of the World." We chose Barron Park because of its unique feeling with few sidewalks, donkeys, chickens and the great schools. Now that we have been living here for five years, we know we made the right choice.

Two of our children are at Barron Park Elementary School and one at Terman. All three have friends that live in the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park. They've become part of our extended family, just like those that live in other parts of our neighborhood. It is because of that diversity, not just racial, but cultural and economic that we find this neighborhood rich. Both challenges and benefits from this diversity are there. Our children benefit from all their experiences with all their friends. It is the richness of our very diverse neighborhood that prepares them to have an open mind to the many ways you can live your life.

I have hardworking, family-oriented adult friends living in the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park. They want to provide the best schools for their children, just like we do.

I hope the city will support that diversity and the goals that the parents of Buena Vista are trying to reach.

Francoise Lang

McGregor Way, Palo Alto

City must find win-win

Editor,

The Weekly asks, "Should the city try to save the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park?" I am not so much concerned with the mobile home park itself as with its nearly 400 residents. These are our neighbors. Many of them have lived and worked in our community for many years. The children among them go to Palo Alto schools. The city needs to find a way to keep them as part of our community.

Almost none of the BV residents could afford to live elsewhere in Palo Alto. If they were forced to move away, our community's socioeconomic and ethnic diversity would be significantly reduced. Moreover, those who continue to work in Palo Alto would add to our traffic problems by commuting from out of town. We would all be worse off. And, of course, it would be a personal disaster for many of the BV residents themselves, particularly the schoolchildren, who would be denied the high quality education they are getting from the Palo Alto Unified School District.

This does not necessarily mean that the mobile-home park itself must be preserved. Rather, it is incumbent on the city to help find a win-win solution — one in which the landowner who wants to sell the land under BV gets a fair price, and the BV residents get housing they can afford in Palo Alto. Whether this is done by saving the mobile-home park or securing land and money to build enough very low-income housing for the current residents is of secondary importance.

Tom Wasow

Barron Avenue, Palo Alto

On Buena Vista Mobile Park

Editor,

Alas. It seems that money-making greed takes precedent over human needs again. The right to shelter is a right, not a privilege, and one of man's basic needs. There must be a better way than discounting human needs.

Lorin Krogh

Encina Avenue, Palo Alto

City must preserve BV

Editor,

My name is Fr. Matthew Stanley and I am Pastor of the one Catholic Church in Palo Alto — St. Thomas Aquinas. Our parish consists of over a few thousand families and includes the three church sites of Our Lady of the Rosary on Cowper, St. Albert the Great on Channing, and St. Thomas Aquinas on Waverley. I am also a resident of Palo Alto and live at St. Albert's Rectory.

I'm writing as a representative of the Catholic community of Palo Alto, asking you to please do everything that is feasible to preserve the affordable housing at the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park. Many of our parishioners live at Buena Vista and love it there. They are scared to be uprooted from the community and the parish that is very comfortable and dear to them. The people of St. Thomas Aquinas stand with the residents of Buena Vista in their desire to remain in their homes.

Palo Alto really needs this diverse community of hundreds of people. They add such a positive balance to our upscale town. Palo Alto has struggled for years to increase the number of affordable housing units, and now there is a threat to remove hundreds of low-income housing opportunities in one sweep. It would take years for our city to build up the numbers again. It doesn't make sense.

Forcing all the people at Buena Vista to find other places to live is not right or just!

Fr. Matthew Stanley,

Channing Avenue, Palo Alto

Try to save BV?

Editor,

Buena Vista Mobile Home Park has been around for more than 80 years, providing "real" affordable housing for working poor families. During that time the area has become increasingly unaffordable. Buena Vista has given residents an option to live near their jobs and schools. It's heart wrenching to think that 104 children in our school district would be forced to move out of our community.

Some residents write that there is no difference between all residents at Buena Vista losing their homes and a single family being priced out of Palo Alto due to a rent increase. This is not the same. If Buena Vista disappears,an entire class of working poor residents will be pushed out of Palo Alto forever.

Not everyone in Barron Park wants to see Buena Vista redeveloped. My children attend Barron Park Elementary and I think my kids benefit greatly from the cultural and economic diversity at the school. I am grateful that my children are being educated alongside students who come from a variety of backgrounds; this is what the real world looks like and I think they will be more prepared as a result. 12 percent of our school is Buena Vista residents; these students are an integral part of our school community.

I don't have a proposal for how to save Buena Vista Mobile Home Park but I do believe Palo Alto benefits from keeping these residents in Palo Alto and that the City of Palo Alto should do everything in its power to ensure this happens.

Eva Dobrov

Ventura Court, Palo Alto

City should save BV residents

Editor,

I have always believed that a person should be able to do what he wants with private property, but in the case of the sale of the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park land, there are other considerations besides sale and profit that have to be made. This parcel is not just land for sale, but also land that has been rented for many years to homeowners. A community grew that is venerable, and integrated into Palo Alto, of residents who are homeowners in Palo Alto.

Obviously, these considerations should have been addressed at the time of sale. But since they were not, the city of Palo Alto must assist these residents as valued members of the community. My understanding is that Prometheus wants to get a zoning change to build 180 apartments, on land that is currently zoned RM15 (15 units per acre). This parcel is about 4 acres. I feel that Prometheus needs to earn this zoning change by arranging for a substantial number of Buena Vista residents to be housed, either on this property or elsewhere in Palo Alto. Otherwise, no go on the zoning change.

As a homeowner in Palo Alto for 20 years, both in Ventura and in Greenmeadow, I value the fellow citizens of Buena Vista for their contributions to Palo Alto life. To arbitrarily disband their community seems to me to be a terrible statement of what we want in Palo Alto.

Michele Hollar

Adobe Place, Palo Alto

Let's consider solutions

Editor,

I urge city leaders to work with my Buena Vista neighbors on a creative solution that allows them to stay in our neighborhood.

My family moved to Barron Park for its diversity. My son attends Barron Park elementary where 12 percent of his classmates live in Buena Vista. We all enjoy our various cultural backgrounds and cherish our Buena Vista friends.

Other neighborhoods should be so lucky to have a wonderful community like Buena Vista in their area.

The Buena Vista property sale raises a key issue for our city — do we value diversity? As a world traveler, I learned so much from other cultures, and am very pleased my family gets to continue that education in Barron Park.

The sale is a unique opportunity for us to help our neighbors stay in our community, and find that "win-win" solution that strengthens us individually and as a community.

The city is required, by its housing element, to do all that is "feasible" to preserve and maintain Buena Vista Mobile Home Park.

Because Buena Vista is an invaluable part of our community, I urge the city to consider either of these "feasible" solutions (and brainstorm on other ones): (1) the Buena Vista Mobile Home park continues, under new ownership (given the tremendous wealth in this area, that's certainly feasible), or (2) requiring a developer to provide affordable housing for Buena Vista residents in exchange for receiving a discretionary zoning change to also build upscale homes for more profit.

Nancy Krop

McGregor Way, Palo Alto

Palo Alto needs diversity

Editor,

I do not understand how it can possibly be in the city's interest to destroy its last low-income neighborhood at a time when affordable housing for low-income and senior residents is in short supply.

How boring would Palo Alto become if "diversity" came to mean residents' choice of operating systems, not their type of employment. I've gladly supported school and library bonds because I'm proud we have great schools open to all kinds of students — rich and poor, recent immigrants and American-born.

Enlightened self-interest and simple justice both demand the city of Palo Alto use every fiscally responsible tool — such as zoning the land for low-income housing — to help the residents of Buena Vista Mobile Home Park maintain access to decent housing and education.

Christine N. Witzel

Barron Park, Palo Alto

More than mobile homes

Editor,

I believe the city should help the Buena Vista community, which is much more than a mobile-home park. The people who live in Buena Vista are our neighbors and their children are my sons' classmates and friends.

The Palo Alto Comprehensive Plan recognized Buena Vista because the city understands the value of a diverse community and the difficult position multiple landowners have when redeveloping their individual properties. The city's stated policy is to ensure that all affordable housing, including family housing and units for seniors on fixed incomes, remains affordable over time.

Our family lives in south Palo Alto by choice. We value the neighborhoods and our neighbors, and enjoy the richness that different ethnicities bring to each other's lives. The mobile homes could be replaced but the people of Buena Vista are part of our city. The city should honor the Comprehensive Plan and work with the residents and the property owners to find a solution to keep residents who wish to remain in Palo Alto. This city is full of smart, creative people and we can come up with a plan that works.

Keri Wagner

Edlee Avenue, Palo Alto

City needs affordable housing

Editor,

While the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park has a unique and historical place in the Palo Alto community, the real issue is the scale of the potential loss of affordable housing. It approximates the last 10 years of such housing created in Palo Alto.

The Bay Area population is growing. Palo Alto will become more dense. We need to facilitate housing development for households and families across the income spectrum. This supports our own economy and strengthens community bonds. Some 50 residents of Buena Vista work in Palo Alto, Stanford or PAUSD — an asset for families and the community whenever residents can live where they work.

I urge the City Council to find a solution that creates the potential for Buena Vista families to remain in Palo Alto. With limited means, the largely Hispanic Buena Vista community has thrived through multi-generational, extended family, neighborhood and community relationships. All our children need enrichment of a shared experience in and out of the classroom that can only be had by living in a diverse community.

This is a mass displacement issue: The park closure process must ensure due process for mobile-home owners under extreme stress of losing their homes, jobs and community. Any requests for zoning changes in a redevelopment plan must replace the loss of affordable housing. Buena Vista residents must have priority for such available housing. How we respond to this crisis reflects our community values. I trust that our city's decisions will reflect well on us all.

Sara Woodham-Johnsson

Bryant Street, Palo Alto

City needs Maybell housing

Editor,

Palo Alto needs the Maybell Senior Housing Project. As the Executive Director of Stevenson House on Charleston Road, I see every day the growing demand for affordable senior housing here.

Palo Alto is a beautiful community that has so much to offer to its residents. But housing is too costly for many seniors on fixed incomes. Elders who come to Stevenson House looking for affordable housing tell us of the long waiting lists they have encountered in their search for housing.

If low-income seniors must seek housing outside Palo Alto, it is a huge loss to the city. Every day I meet seniors who have amazing histories — seniors who have overcome tremendous difficulties in their lives, and yet continue to contribute greatly through watching out for each other, sharing their stories, and volunteering in the community. Their presence enriches our lives.

We are surrounded by schools: Hoover is next door, Abilities United one door down, and Challenger School two doors down. Mixing seniors and youngsters has not posed traffic issues and has yielded enormous benefits through intergenerational exchanges.

We urge you to visit us at 455 E. Charleston or at www.stevensonhouse.org to see for yourself the benefits of affordable senior housing on a busy thoroughfare.

I look forward to seeing the project completed, and to a close collaboration between Maybell Senior Housing and Stevenson House. If other land parcels are available, I would urge additional affordable housing for seniors whose numbers will continue to increase rapidly.

Thomas Pamilla

Morse Avenue, Sunnyvale

Barron Park developments

Editor,

The residents of Barron Park have been circulating a petition against the "spot rezoning" to permit high-density housing in the Barron Park/Green Acres community, specifically on Maybell Avenue.

I have read comments on Palo Alto Online that suggests that developers and those in favor of high-density zoning in this area are minimizing the concerns of residents. I wanted you to know that we have a petition of 95 supporters, and easily 100 in the next few days, against high-density spot rezoning in this neighborhood.

We want to make it clear that we are not against affordable, low-income housing, and we are not against seniors. We are against high-density spot rezoning that may be illegal, and surely does not take into account significant ongoing traffic and safety concerns, especially with respect to our children and students.

I personally witness on a regular basis young children on their bikes and on foot, weaving in and out between parked cars to get to and from school, resulting in near-misses as cars pull in and out from the sides of the street. There are no curbs, no sidewalks, no bike paths, and Maybell is one of the only access points into the neighborhood. Yet the residents and students from Juana Briones Elementary, Terman Middle School and Gunn High School are forced to share this road out of necessity. The irony is that our schools and communities urge us to have our children bike and walk to school for the sake of the environment, and yet the roads are unsafe for bike and pedestrian use. This proposal for adding another 75 housing units into a well-known problem area is unreasonable and irresponsible.

Elaine Dai

Abel Avenue, Palo Alto

Lack of trust

Editor,

After the City Council meeting on Monday, May 6, I was told that Jaime Rodriguez had a conversation with a couple of residents who previously appeared to speak during the public hearing.

Mr. Rodriguez told them that the city will not release a second draft of the RFP and also, there won't be any proposed alternatives that would be included in the RFP.

But WHY?

I'm asking this question because during the April 16 meeting, Mr. Rodriguez admitted that this meeting was the first opportunity for the Midtown community to voice their opinions on this proposed trail (most of us heard about it for the first time by reading an article in the Palo Alto Weekly on Jan. 18).

Mr. Rodriguez also assured us during that same meeting that he would for now on hear the community feedback and consider our comments to the revised RFP (comments which flag important safety issues!) and include in the RFP the community-proposed specific alternatives (now supported by over 100 people).

I sincerely hope that the Palo Alto community including myself won't be disappointed by a lack of trust in our civil officials.

Patricia Bouissou

Clara Drive, Palo Alto

Need buyer education

Editor,

A Weekly article by Kate Daly quoted real estate agents describing their strategies to entice buyers here and from China. Ken DeLeon commented, "What's kind of surprising, is how young these buyers are, in their late 30s and 40s." It reminded me of a couple in their 30s who bought a local property owned by Cuthbert Hurd, computer scientist and entrepreneur. He'd spent a lifetime breeding native plants, particularly the rare Arctostaphylos now prized as the Hurd Manzanita, and huge specimens of the yellow-blossomed California Fremontia (flannel flower). One subspecies is endangered. These trees were glorious. They were wild. They belonged.

The buyers, like any of us, had dreams for their land. When I asked how they liked the Manzanitas, they said, "Oh, we cut them all down. They were just weeds." They cut down a gorgeous 30-foot Fremontia at their driveway. They didn't know. I don't think we can expect the young — often exceedingly busy with families and work — or buyers from other areas to understand the nature of the land here. Can't we educate them about the rarities they inherit?

The late Mabel Crittenden, author of several guides to local wildflowers and trees, tended countless wild species in her garden. She gave me a wild Penstemon that's exploded into bloom for decades (unlike hybrids that need frequent replacing). After she died, her entire collection of botanical treasures was plowed into lawn. How local gardeners would have longed to take those rare plants home!

Perhaps, when we list our homes for sale, we might pass this information on to our hardworking real estate agents, who could inform their clients. If new homeowners were made aware of treasures like these, local garden clubs might transplant them before new landscaping was installed. Then, their parting gift to a satisfied buyer might be Mabel Crittenden's "Guides to California Wildflowers and Trees."

Anne Hillman

Alamos Road, Portola Valley

Oppose ag-gag bill

Editor,

"Despicable, unconstitutional, ridiculous, immature, idiotic, and mendacious." And that's just how Tennessee newspapers characterized the state's "ag-gag" bill now awaiting governor's signature.

"Ag-gag" bills criminalize whistleblowing that exposes animal abuses, unsafe working conditions and environmental problems on factory farms. Instead of encouraging whistleblowing and preventing these violations, ag-gag laws ensure that consumers and regulatory authorities are kept in the dark.

Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota and Utah have enacted ag-gag laws, but such bills were defeated in eight other states, thanks to a strong outcry from the public and newspaper editors. In 2013, new ag-gag bills were introduced in Arkansas, California, Indiana, Nebraska,

New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Vermont and Wyoming. The language has been invariably drafted by the infamous anti-consumer American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

Thirty newspapers and 60 national animal protection, workers' rights, civil liberties, public health, food safety and environmental conservation organizations have recently gone on record as strongly

opposing ag-gag bills.

Each of us who feels that our government must never restrict our right and obligation to know where our food comes from should urge our state legislators and governor to oppose the ag-gag bill.

Peter Anatoli

Clark Avenue, Palo Alto

Matadero Trail concerns

Editor,

I wanted to share my concerns about the "Matadero Creek Trail" and wanted to respectfully urge you to ask that the draft for the RFP scope be broadened to studying alternative bike paths and therefore allow for a second draft. I am a biker and am deeply concerned about the security of our children rushing to and from school and pedestrians, crossing half a dozen mid-block intersection and opening an opportunity for more accidents... I also feel that the mid-town community has not been appropriately engaged on this idea.

Philippe Bouissou

Clara Drive, Palo Alto

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