Town Square

Post a New Topic

Buena Vista closure application "substantially complete"

Original post made by Joe, Barron Park, on Jan 24, 2014

The City has finally updated their web page about the closure of the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park. The park owner has since submitted two Relocation Impact Reports: one in December and one earlier this month. Although the City again found flaws in the December RIR, Senior Assistant City Attorney Grant Colling wrote in the City's response: "the City has determined that the Application is substantially complete in accordance with the Palo Alto Municipal Code." (see: Web Link)

The most significant change in the last two impact reports has been the elimination of lump sum payments in favor of compensation based on "actual costs." Previously, mobile home owners in the park would have received a minimum lump sum payment of $31,000 up to a maximum payment of $56,000. One part of this sum was a flat $11,000 for relocation expenses, the other was based on the value of the mobile home. The owner previously had offered a minimum $20,000 for each mobile home, no matter the appraised value. Homes worth more than $20,000 would have received their full appraised value, the highest of which was $45,000. (see: Web Link)

Under the park owner's latest proposal, mobile home park owners selling their units would receive an average payment ranging from about $12,000 for a one bedroom apartment to $16,000 for a two bedroom apartment. The payment includes the costs of moving, deposits and a 40 percent rent subsidy for one year. This amount is larger than the original lump sum offer of $11,000, which the City contended was too small to cover the cost of remaining in the area. (see: Web Link)

The park owner's latest proposal eliminates the minimum $20,000 payment for any mobile home at Buena Vista. Instead, mobile home park owners would also receive a payment for the actual appraised value of their mobile home. With an average age of 42, most homes in Buena Vista are likely worth far less than $20,000. As a result, some residents could receive significantly less under the current proposal, while a few owners with the newest units could receive a little more.

The City has until February 9th to respond to the park owners latest filing.

Comments (23)

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Winter
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 24, 2014 at 9:30 pm

To clarify, in part, the above posting (I am not able to review the documents now so cannot verify the specifics), consider the following:

This is the 4th not 2nd submittal to the city, by the property owners attorney, of the legally required Relocation Impact Report (RIR). The city has not yet found the RIR to be complete.

"Substantial compliance" seems an odd way to refer to the flawed 3rd submittal given the city's list of incomplete items the owner has yet to satisfy.The primary addition was demographic information provided by a city consultant.

As to the various details about the mandatory relocation payments that are to mitigate Buena Vista residents loss of practically everything, one fact trumps all others - compensation won't amount to a hill of beans compared to loss of homes owned, jobs, good schools, extended family, and community.

Can you imagine the uproar if 400 Palo Alto residents lost their homes to high speed rail? Surely we can find a way to prevent the 129 Buena Vista children from becoming collateral damage to redevelopment in an affluent town such as ours. The residents have offered to buy Buena Vista and the owner should take them up on their offer.

Join with neighbors, the PAUSD board, League of Women Voters, our Human Relations Commission, churches and synagogues to support Buena Vista residents by emailing: dellwinter@ gmail.com.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by palo alto parent
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 26, 2014 at 10:42 am

Mr. Winter - I read thru the docs, it sounds like the City is satisfied with the application with some minor requests for additional clarification of dollar amounts. I realize that the residents offered to buy Buena Vista, but if I remember correctly, their offer was for 13 or 14 million dollars less than the property's appraised value.

Eden Housing recently opened a 50 family unit on Alma, it is unfortunate that efforts were not made to help the Buena Vista residents move there instead of a probably futile battle to keep Buena Vista open. Short of someone donating 14 million dollars to add to the resident's offer, I don't see how that will happen.

I would love to see a community effort to help as many of the residents - especially those with children in PAUSD - stay in Palo Alto.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Margaret Fruth
a resident of Ventura
on Feb 14, 2014 at 10:56 pm

Margaret Fruth is a registered user.

The anonymous "palo alto parent" doe not appear to understand the defects in the filing.

The residents offered more than the appraised value. The owner & developer are counting on a density increase.

Does the City Council understand that this will be a major issue in the Nov election? That the residents of Palo alto will not allow this parcel to be upzoned?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by palo alto parent
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 15, 2014 at 9:31 am

@Ms. Furth - Per the City's website, Buena Vista has 4 different appraised values. (Go to item #24)

Web Link

$14,500.000 - The appraised value Current Use As Mobile Home Park
$28,835,000 - The appraised value based on highest and best use "predicated on the underlying land value as though vacant (existing zoning) less the applicable demolition costs"
$29,225,000 - The appraised value of the VACANT land at CURRENT RM-15 zoning
$29,225,000 - The appraised value of the VACANT land at proposed RM-40 zoning

Removing the Mobile home park adds almost $15,000,000 to the appraised value, with or without the zoning change.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Margaret Fruth
a resident of Ventura
on Feb 15, 2014 at 12:35 pm

Margaret Fruth is a registered user.

Dear Anonymous Palo Alto Parent,

Thank you for the heads up. This appraisal, commissioned & paid for by the owner, Joe Jisser, claims that the appraised value as a mobile home park is the same as it was in 2012, & includes an estimated 3-6 months probable marketing time (unlikely with ready buyers who have already made an offer). It also alleges that with the current RM-15 zoning & with the proposed increased RM-40 zoning it has exactly the same appraised value. The claim is that higher construction costs exactly offset the increase in value due to the proposed increase in density. If this were true, there would be no reason to apply for a zoning change. There is no update since 2013.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Midtown
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 15, 2014 at 7:38 pm

The city could loan the current residents the $15M so they could buy it instead of blowing it on 3 soccer fields at the golf course. (The golf course will probably cost $20M when it is all over). The city is all for BMR housing as long as some developer is making money on the deal. There is no money for the developers to be made by keeping the residents at Buena Vista, they have to go. An added bonus is that we will save money by tossing their kids out of the schools.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sam
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 15, 2014 at 8:12 pm

The intense pressure for high tech worker housing is driving, and will continue to drive a Darwinian housing market. The people who live in the trailer park do not contribute to the high tech sector in any essential way. They are only there due to historical factors that no longer apply. They need to go.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 15, 2014 at 10:45 pm

@Sam,
The people who live in the trailer park are my neighbors and long-time Palo Altans, and they may not be nouveau tech workers, but they do jobs that are just as important to our local economy and it's important for us to support the stability and diversity of this community. I have know teachers who lived there because it was the only affordable place near the school. I know it probably means very little to you, but to those of us who live here, stability and roots are actually pretty important, too.

The only reason it's in contract to close is the builder expected to be able to waltz in and put in 4 times the zoned density, hardly a normal market pressure. Our City Council prostituting itself to developers created a decidedly abnormal situation. (Excuse me, I take back the word "prostituting" - what is it called when you just give it away for free?)

You care about market forces? Those residents aren't getting any subsidies, they've been willing to make the classic choice of less illustrious housing for lower price all along. Razing that kind of housing to put in new luxury housing raises average rents and ends up displacing more people all over town as a side effect, in addition to all the other strains on the infrastructure and city services. (That has already happened with some of the other new housing that has gone on the market. Contrary to the unrealistic promises, the new housing is raising rents and reducing affordability, not lowering them.)

We would all be better off solving our transportation problems first, and there again, the marketplace will respond in a more natural way. If things become too unpleasant here, there will be spillover tech to other places, ultimately spreading around the wealth, a good thing.

The City was willing to go to extremes to push a project that would have razed 100 established trees and ultimately cost $30million for 60 spots, none of them for "high tech worker"s, so their inaction on this so far (in the same neighborhood no less) is inexplicable and unforgivable. If they were to loan almost an identical amount of money to the nonprofit at BV, $7.2 million, under the same terms they were willing to loan at Maybell, they would for far less money save the last patch of ACTUAL affordable housing in this town, and save the affordable spots for over 400 residents - and those are taxpaying contributors to our local economy. Now we have a surplus, we don't even have to use the same funds.

We have a short-term surplus, the VERY FIRST thing we should be doing with some of it is putting our money where our mouths are when it comes to affordable housing, and saving this trailer park. The low-interest loans ultimately are no skin off our noses and end up doing a great deal of good. If the park could thus be saved, residents could apply for loans to update it, retaining the whole parcel as decent, real affordable housing long into the future.

It does NOT need to go. The PEOPLE living there are our neighbors. I would much rather have them as my neighbors than snobs who think the only people who contribute are high-tech workers.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 16, 2014 at 10:03 am

Part joke, part serious, part snark, part why not...

Turn Maybell into a Trailer Park...low cost, low density housing...


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 16, 2014 at 10:13 am

@Greenacres - it is fine that you feel sympathy for the trailer park residents. But I'm their neighbor too and frankly, while I'm sorry it may not work out for them, that's life. It would be nice to have something nicer than an ancient trailer park at the end of my block. And the idea that the city should cough up money to preserve a trailer park - wow. I give you points for novelty there.

You seem to have a dim view of those who disagree with you - calling the city council prostitutes and disagreeing posters snobs. I hope you reconsider - they are all your neighbors too as am I. We happen to disagree, but that doesn't make you (or me) a bad person. Enjoy the beautiful day.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sam
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 16, 2014 at 11:17 am

"they may not be nouveau tech workers, but they do jobs that are just as important to our local economy"

Please, what important jobs do they do? Do they inject property taxes into our general and school funds, above the services that are required by their presence?

What is the deal with "diversity"? Please define it, then show why our city should spend millions on it.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 18, 2014 at 1:00 am

@Crescent Park Dad,
"Part joke, part serious, part snark, part why not...
Turn Maybell into a Trailer Park...low cost, low density housing..."

Or how about keeping people in their homes, keeping the trailer park a trailer park, keeping the 100 established trees at Maybell, and not being a spiteful @sshole because you didn't get your way at Maybell?

@Sam,
"Please, what important jobs do they do? Do they inject property taxes into our general and school funds, above the services that are required by their presence?"

Yes, when you own a mobile home, you do in fact pay property taxes. Web Link

I'm not suggesting the City spend millions. Quite the contrary, I'm suggesting the City choose to make a loan they will get back in order to save far more affordable housing for actual Palo Altans, than any other plan they've had for as long as anyone can remember. The City could arrange to purchase part of the property instead as an investment if they wish. There are many ways they could accomplish this and be made more than whole financially in the end, while providing for affordable housing they would otherwise seek, as they did at Maybell, to accomplish in a far, far more disruptive and expensive way.

@Neighbor,
Sam said, "The people who live in the trailer park do not contribute to the high tech sector in any essential way." He is including former teachers in our school district, for example -- I think calling him a snob was being kind and at the least, accurate.

@Sam,
As for diversity and the importance of people's work -- you have already outed yourself as a snob who thinks anyone who doesn't work in high tech doesn't contribute meaningfully, so what do you want me to say? I know people there who work(ed) as teachers, contractors, childcare workers -- I think as or more valuable to the local economy than anyone else. Those are values I think more of my neighbors share than those who think anyone who isn't a high tech worker doesn't contribute.

@Neighbor,
"calling the city council prostitutes"

I believe I said the City Council prostitutes itself to developers, which is different than calling them prostitutes. But then I corrected myself and took that back, because a prostitute does something for money, our City Council gives away our City to developers for free, or, at the neighborhoods' expense as it tried to do at Maybell.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 18, 2014 at 1:06 am

@Neighbor,
If the residents of Buena Vista could buy the park under the terms they've raised the money now, with the nonprofit they've set up, it would be possible to apply for money to renovate the park in the coming months and years. If the residents themselves finally have a stake in the park, they have an incentive to improve it, too. The impact of retaining the park on City services are far lesser than a giant development at four times the zoned density, starting with planning department resources. And we retain a huge, long-standing part of our local community.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 18, 2014 at 6:08 am

@ Greenacres. Dude, you need to take a breath and back away from the keyboard.

The joke is on you. Nice language BTW. I was in full support of the No on D campaign and was on this forum many times stating that CPA should not allow exceptions for the height and density. Also had signs in my yard, etc.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by palo alto parent
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 18, 2014 at 8:41 am

@Greenacres - if "the residents of Buena Vista could buy the park under the terms they've raised the money now" then the current owner would have to give up $15 million dollars. See the above appraisal info.

@Margaret - I totally understand your comments about the appraisal being paid for by the owner, but even at RM-15 zoning, I think that Buena Vista could easily sell for 30 million or more (the appraisal is a year old). 4 acres would allow 60 or so units of housing, at a conservative sales price of $1.2 million, that is $72 million dollars.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 18, 2014 at 10:37 am

@palo alto parent,
When I was speaking of "terms", I was speaking of the terms of the money the residents would have through the residents' nonprofit, i.e., regulatory agreements to keep the property affordable. it makes it eligible to apply or low income housing unding for upgrades. You and I have had this conversation before, and you know very well I am assuming the property value at $30 million.

If the City makes the identical loan to the nonprofit at BV that they were going to make at Maybell - and which the City as indicated their willingness to do (and which I mentioned again above) - that makes about $22 million. If the donation to the nonprofit is thus $8 million, that's about a $3 million writeoff, so effectively now, $25 million. It's going to cost $3-5 million (or who knows?) and time, and unpredictable legal costs and possibly a lawsuit to evict the residents, and the contract coukd fall through when the developer doesn't get their upzoning after all, which they won't. So, that's a comparable offer, in some ways, better.

I am not making a distinction between what the property woud be worth with and without the upzoning, because I know the people in ths neighborhood will not allow the upzonng, and pushing that fight will only inflame the populace more against City Hall.

@Crescent Park Dad,
Sorry, no one is defending the trees, the one thing the Council achieved with their push to develop Maybell that way (and they were originally behind it, I know this firsthand) was to completely co-opt and negate the element that screamed bloody murder about the smaller number of less established trees (that don't harbor nearly the wilfdlide) on California Avenue when they were cut. Notice now no one said a peep about 100 established trees to be razed at Maybell, the last patch of working historic orchard, including a few of the 100 year old oaks, conveniently not salvageable right where they needed for the plan. The suggestion you made in jest was made seriously throughout, as if it made sense to put over 400 people on half the space, raze the trees, cause even more safety problems because of the traffic of 400 people at that location, and not save people's homes at the trailer park now, which is eminently doable. City Hall didnt understand this area very well, and seemed very comfortable making poor development choice after poor overdevelopment choice, so I hope you will understand why I couldn't see the ridiculousness for just the humor.

(When faced with the same choice recently, Mtn Vw saved the orchard for community space and park.)

Given what's at stake for this neighborhood and trailer park, and what the neighborhood went through in the election, it didnt come across as very funny to me, and I'm sorry to have offended you, but I would react the same to anyone saying that. I hope you undertand why. Thank you for explaining, I appreciate knowing it wasn't your intent.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 18, 2014 at 10:55 am

@palo alto parent,
Whoa, where do you get that? Even if the units could be sold for $1.2 million each, which s kind of a stretch there on El Camino at that density, if they had to live with zoning restrictions, it costs a lot of money to put in such a development, easily $200-300 per square foot of just building costs for a luxury development as planned. Where the profit is easy to see at 4X the density, it's easy to see it evaporate in cost overruns if so much is paid for the property. $500k per unit of the size people want to spend 1.2 M for, and for 60 units, that's $30M for the building, not including gym, fitness center, etc. compare that to $30 M that was ultimately going to be spent on the low-rent apartments at Maybell and you see it's reasonable to estimate that much. (Does that include the land? Possibly, but land value on just that side was around $7 M, so it still makes my point. I don't see why develop 60 units at El Camino on that slim a margin, if it's even real.).


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sam
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 18, 2014 at 3:42 pm

"Yes, when you own a mobile home, you do in fact pay property taxes"

A pittance, compared to the services/schools that they require. They are a huge net negative.

This is a private property, and the owner can sell, when his family wants to. No need to upgrade zoning, just get out of they way, and let the private market impose its will. The vast majority of Palo Alto will be better off if this eyesore (go look at it!) is closed.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by palo alto parent
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 18, 2014 at 6:49 pm

@greenacres - my guess of prices was not based on Prometheus building an apt complex, but instead on the RM-15 zoning which would result in something much more like what is at Alma Village on Alma, those units are priced at 1.2 to 1.5 million. I don't know if you read thru the newest proposal, but Jisser actually downgraded the amount he is planning on giving the current residents to the appraised value of their units (which is as low as 2K or so and as high as 28K) plus a fixed sum of 12-16K for moving based on the size of their units, so I suspect his cost to sell and pay off the residents is getting lower and lower... I understand where you are going, but it would still require Jisser to be willing to take a financial hit and to be willing to take some of his "profit" as a write off.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 18, 2014 at 7:16 pm

@palo alto parent,
Alma Village is a PC zone - you could not build it under RM15, because in addition to density limits, there are height, setback, minimum parcel size, daylight plane, and other considerations.

No, I don't think my proposal does require Jisser to take a financial hit, and I think it gives him the use of his money now without a lawsuit - and lets him sleep at night.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 18, 2014 at 7:50 pm

@Sam,
If someone puts in a high-density condo at four times the density, as is the application, that will be a far greater burden on our infrastructure, schools, traffic, etc. And not an incremental burden, as the local schools are just about maxed right now.

I would much rather have a single-story trailer park there than another monstrosity that permanently takes away any hint that we have hills and sky in that direction. The infrastructure in the park can be improved, the attractiveness of the entrance, and the residents eligible for state funds to do so through the nonprofit, should they be able to purchase the park. If residents have some ownership, they also have an incentive to improve it.

Our City has an affordable housing fund - the money has already been designated for that purpose. Loaning it to the trailer park to allow them to purchase the property at market rates, the City will ultimately be made whole. We know the money will benefit existing Palo Alto residents. The residents remain part of the fabric of our community. There are many advantages.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by palo alto parent
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 18, 2014 at 8:12 pm

@greenacres - I think there are 100 or so students at Buena Vista, if they all leave when the Park closes, there will be no impact on the school from any incoming students if an apartment complex gets built. As far as Alma being a PC zone, they needed to change the zoning there to put in housing, Buena Vista is currently zoned as RM-15 which means for 4+acres, about 60 housing units could be built. Under existing zoning.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 18, 2014 at 10:20 pm

@palo alto parent,
" I think there are 100 or so students at Buena Vista, if they all leave when the Park closes, there will be no impact on the school from any incoming students if an apartment complex gets built. As far as Alma being a PC zone, they needed to change the zoning there to put in housing, Buena Vista is currently zoned as RM-15 which means for 4+acres, about 60 housing units could be built. Under existing zoning."

You seem to have an agenda. The Prometheus application is for 180 units on the 4+ acres, not 60 units, and clearly to violate more than just density. That's very likely to be far more than 100 students, judging by other nearby developments like Arbor Real, which we were also given the empty promise wouldn't add to the school population. Since you don't live here, you probably don't realize that the biggest driving force in housing around here is proximity to Gunn High School. Lots and lots of people will move in to put their kids in Gunn High School and the other local schools. That's what happens here.

Building under the existing zoning, RM-15, is far preferable to upzoning to 4 times the density. Far preferable to that is to retain the last patch of affordable housing in Palo Alto and help the residents stay here, at a far lesser cost than putting in new "affordable" housing. Or do you not like that because it doesn't benefit developers? I guess our Council likes affordable housing okay so long as it primarily benefits developers but not when it primarily benefits low-income residents at the smallest possible cost to the taxpayers.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Steins, sausage and spaetzle: Mountain View hosts second Oktoberfest
By Elena Kadvany | 4 comments | 3,066 views

Men Are Good For Three Things
By Laura Stec | 35 comments | 2,892 views

Two creative lights depart Palo Alto, leaving diverse legacies
By Jay Thorwaldson | 2 comments | 1,521 views

Reducing Council Size? Against
By Douglas Moran | 15 comments | 1,166 views

Storytime is Full
By Cheryl Bac | 6 comments | 1,063 views