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Study sheds light on Buena Vista children

Original post made on Mar 18, 2014

While Hispanic children in Silicon Valley tend to experience high drop-out rates and steep barriers to quality medical care, the residents of Buena Vista Mobile Home Park defy both trends, according to a study published by two Stanford professors.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, March 18, 2014, 12:36 PM

Comments (47)

Posted by parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 18, 2014 at 1:03 pm

I'm so confused. This directly contradicts the frequent postings and reporting that this district, including the board, the administrators and the teachers, do not care about these kids.


Posted by And now for something completely different, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 18, 2014 at 1:08 pm

And now, all this will do a 180 degree change once these people are ousted and forced to live in some s---hole place with lousy schools and medical care.

The rug is being pulled out from under them in terms of this being their only chance at a leg-up.

Cruelty and greed know no boundaries.


Posted by Greenacres, a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 18, 2014 at 2:21 pm

@parent,
These online boards have their elements who for their own purposes like to constantly slam the parents and residents in this town. (This report has zero bearing on or relationship to the abysmal job the district administration is doing working with parents, especially when it comes to special ed. Perhaps you would be one of those said "elements"?)

The school board has long ago taken a public stand in support of doing what is necessary to retain the park. The neighbors, done fighting over Maybell, are almost unanimously in support of retaining the park (those that aren't would probably be happy if the residents owned it and the frontage to El Camino was made more attractive), the zoning group has even made a public statement in support of doing what is necessary to retain the park.

The City got so involved in trying to push that whole Maybell project through, they loaned $7.2 much from the affordable housing fund and even participated in the sale of the property. Why so silent here at BV, when far more affordable housing is at stake, and the people involved are all long-time Palo Alto residents? And when this sale probably wouldn't have even been on the horizon if not for the City Council granting whatever zoning exceptions developers want?

Saving BV is the most significant and tangible effort we could make to save affordable housing in this town in all the years I've lived here.


Posted by conclusions, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2014 at 2:26 pm

I guess it makes sense that locating low-income communities of color in affluent, resource-rich communities will be beneficial for the children.


Posted by parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 18, 2014 at 2:28 pm

@ Greenacres: I agree that it is critical to save this park. As to your first paragraph, here is the copy from the article. Abysmal job indeed. All I'm saying is that the blanket statements that the district does a poor job of communicating with special education families is incorrect.

The Stanford study suggests that the types of services offered by the local school district may have contributed to Buena Vista's nonexistent drop-out rate. Research indicated that 43 percent of the children in kindergarten through 12th grade were enrolled in some kind of special-education program, with English as Second Language as the most common example. In an overwhelming majority of cases (90 percent), parents of these children said they have met with the children's teachers within the past year. The report notes that parents "appreciated the schools' effort as well in making them feel comfortable – for example, a number of parents indicated that the school had provided for a translator."

"Generally, parents were very happy and appreciative of the education that their children were getting in Palo Alto," the report states.


Posted by Greenacres, a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 18, 2014 at 3:54 pm

@parent,
I'm not having any issues with what you are saying except your blanket statement about blanket statements...

This issue has nothing at all to do with the problems the district is having (of their own making, mostly). I think it's a low blow to try to use it that way.

Let's please focus on saving BV, because getting off-track on a hotbutton issue in education only does a disservice to everyone involved.


Posted by BV neighbor, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 18, 2014 at 4:06 pm

Citing this study to talk about special education is a little misleading. Only 4 of the students seem to be in special education, as in having an IEP. Most of the children receiving special services are getting help with English as a Second Language. It's actually surprising how few of the students are in special ed.


Posted by Anonymous , a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 18, 2014 at 4:53 pm

[Post removed.]


Posted by Other hand, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 18, 2014 at 6:24 pm

As with many studies like this, since there is no valid control group it is hard to separate cause from effect. The implicit control group is Hispanic families living in other towns. But of course the BV families made a conscious decision to live in Palo Alto, presumably getting less value for their housing dollar than they would have elsewhere. It seems likely it is because they value the available services, like education and healthcare, more than similar families. Given that, it seems possible, even likely, that these families would get better than peer group outcomes anywhere, not just in Palo Alto.

In fact, I think this study (as reported here) actually does a dis-service to the families, since it implies that PAUSD, not family engagement and effort, is the driver of the children's educational accomplishments.


Posted by parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 18, 2014 at 6:43 pm

I'd love to know how you came up with only 4 have an IEP. Is it because 4 students are not at their home schools? Not clear on your reasoning….


Posted by Greenacres, a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 18, 2014 at 7:07 pm

@Other hand,
Be that as it may, I think this study was important from the standpoint that some people have been leveling spurious negative characterizations of residents of the park, because they don't know who they are. These are long-time, hardworking Palo Alto residents, and it's an entire neighborhood that is part of the fabric of our community that will be wiped away. It is well within our means to do something that doesn't even ultimately cost the City money to save this park and the affordable housing.


Posted by BV neighbor, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 18, 2014 at 7:51 pm

The breakdown of the number of children receiving different kinds of services is in Table 3 of the report. There is a link to the report in the article.


Posted by Other hand, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 18, 2014 at 8:08 pm

@Greenacres - if the character of the residents is in question, it seems like the professors or someone should make a study of that. Bad people can have good children and visa versa, and there there can plenty of people without children who are pretty bad. Personally, I just don't like having a trailer park down the street, regardless of who is living there.


Posted by Bill, a resident of Community Center
on Mar 18, 2014 at 8:43 pm

Unfortunately PA Online doesn't have a survey option. So, I've put together a one question survey about what the City should do about the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park. Although the City can't legally prevent the park closure, I included the possibility of purchasing the park, since that seems a common sentiment among park supporters.

The survey will remain open until midnight on Friday night:
Web Link monkey.com/s/ZKGH7CM

I will post the results once the survey expires.


Posted by Bill, a resident of Community Center
on Mar 18, 2014 at 8:46 pm

Sorry here's the link again: Web Link


Posted by palo alto parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 18, 2014 at 9:14 pm

@Bill - even if the City wants to do something regarding BV, can the Jisser's break their contract with Prometheus to accept another proposal?


Posted by Greenacres, a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 18, 2014 at 10:29 pm

@Bill,
Your survey is a little slanted toward a negative result, don't you think? You listed all the negatives first and put twice as many options for how to say no than yes. There are other options for how to save the park, including some that don't involve city putting up money.

Palo Alto parent is right - can the Jissers entertain other offers under their contract with Prometheus?


Posted by Barron Park Resident, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 19, 2014 at 11:16 am

The property owner should be allowed to develop their property however they want and that is allowable by law & zoning. Period.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 19, 2014 at 11:17 am

@ Greenacres. I noted that a BP resident stated that he/she is against any trailer park in the neighborhood. I also have read many times that you state that BP is "almost unanimously" in support of saving BV.

If you're going to have any success in this, it may be wise to put together a verifiable roster of neighbors that support your crusade. You can't keep saying "almost unanimously" without real numbers to back you up. You'll have far more credibility if you can substantiate your support network.


Posted by mutti, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 19, 2014 at 12:59 pm

Palo Alto never has any drop-outs -- including the year my son dropped out. Students are transferred to Continuation School, which is in Mountain View district. Then they can drop out of there, and not show up on PAUSD statistics. And most parents of drop-outs in PAUSD -- like us -- can afford to send their child to private school when they don't cut it at Gunn or Paly. He had to repeat the school year when he dropped out of Gunn, but did graduate from high school at age 19.5, and then from college, and then from law school.....


Posted by Cat Mom Leonorilda, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 19, 2014 at 4:05 pm

It's a shame that the city is doing (virtually) nothing to help the BV residents who are being displaced out of the sheer greed of others, nothing to find a way for them to stay in this community and continue to give their children the educational opportunties they now have. A sad commentary on values in this area and in this country, in general. Absolutely no interest in helping others.


Posted by good point, mutti, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2014 at 4:06 pm

I bet that the drop-out rate and healthcare of children of middle-class, white families is also better in PA than in most other CA cities. Does that mean that children in such families are entitled to continued education in PAUSD if their parents are evicted from their homes in PA or chose to move to lower-cost, nearby communitites?


Posted by Beth, a resident of Stanford
on Mar 19, 2014 at 5:24 pm

Why not allow the children who currently reside at Buena Vista remain as students in the PAUSD until they graduate? That is, grandfather them in. While getting their kids to school will be a lot more complicated for the families that are relocated, at least they would have the option of keeping their kids in our schools.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 19, 2014 at 5:38 pm

Because that idea involves spending PA property tax dollars on non-residents. PAUSD cannot legally do that. In order to pull something like that off, each student would have to apply to their new school district for the transfer...which would involve each school district giving up their state funding (that they would receive with each enrolled BV student) and sending it to PAUSD. Given that most school districts are not like PAUSD (basic aid district - majority of funding comes directly from PA taxes), that the majority of funding comes from the state...the likelihood of giving up those precious dollars is pretty small.


Posted by Greenacres, a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 19, 2014 at 5:57 pm

If they can stay in Palo Alto, I believe the district policy allows them to stay in their home school. The cheapest way to do that is save the park.


Posted by Greenacres, a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 19, 2014 at 6:07 pm

@Crescent Park Dad,
After Measue D, I have a pretty good idea of the land use inclinations of this general neighborhood, and of the feelings about keeping the residents of BV here, which are very strong for. In fact, I had a pretty good and accurate idea before Measure D, and you sound very much like City Council who didn't want to listen to us even right up to the election. We had hundreds of petition signautre, internal surveys - it made no difference to the Council.

I even have a pretty good idea of the range of reasons the small percentage of those against have, and most are frankly addressable and solvable.

Quite a lot more of us are against anything tall or dense going there.


Posted by Greenacres, a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 19, 2014 at 6:22 pm

@Barron Park,
>The property owner should be allowed to develop their property however they want and that is allowable by law & zoning. Period.

That is true, but the offer on the property was made with the presumption that the builder could easily get whatever upzoning they wished, as they assumed in the proposal they would get three times the density and probably height and parking violations of zoning. This City Council IMO has the loss of this housing on their heads, and if the supposed concern they expressed for low income people during the Maybell debates was not gross hypocrisy and eagerness to further a developer giveaway, then our Council should act.

I do not think they should act in any way that hurts the property owner's rights, but we do have an affordable housing fund that can only be spent that way, and other options. The Council was so aggressive at Maybell, their inaction now when actual Palo Altans are at risk of losing their homes is almost inexcusable. Remember that the trailer park residents are property owners, too. Imagine Stanford wanting Gunn High School land back without giving us a chance to save it first.

The Council could make an attempt to understand sentiments in the neighborhood and make a statement that they will not agree to upzoning that parcel, that will take away that incentive. If at the same time, they help find a way to purchase the property with a competitive offer - helping advocates come up with the rest of the funds to make a competitive offer to Jissers (who would then get their money now versus later), the park could be saved and the owner actually better off.

The question remains - are the jissers able to entertain other offers under their contract with Prometheus?


Posted by Joe, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 19, 2014 at 7:53 pm

I hope folks take the opportunity to participate in the survey Bill created and included as a link in his post above. I think we are all curious to gauge the level of support for Buena Vista.

There are many legal problems getting financial participation from the City in the purchasing the park for the residents. Each of them would likely expose the City to lawsuits with damages in the millions of dollars.

First, the units themselves are owned by the residents. By funding the purchase of Buena Vista, the City creates another "Grocery Outlet Problem". That is, once an exception is made, others rush in, asking for similar help. For example people in danger of losing their condominiums could also ask for financial support, citing similar circumstances. If the City wasn't willing to assist them, these residents could bring suit against the City under the equal protection clause of the US Constitution and force the City to provide financial aid.

Second, as was mentioned in a previous thread, there has already been a deal struck between the owner and a developer. The City can not act in a manner that interferes with this contract without risking tortious interference (see: Web Link). I think this is the biggest risk facing the City right now, given how the City's attorneys mishandled the Relocation Impact Report (RIR) and why playing zoning tricks with the site is a legal dead end.

Third, if the City were to contribute money for an offer and the offer were rejected, the City could be sued by any or all residents in the park. Effectively the City would be admitting that keeping Buena Vista open now is a good idea, but their late action and half-baked effort ruined any chance the residents had of obtaining the park themselves for a much better price. I think this is "Plan B" for the Buena Vista attorneys and why they want the City financially involved, even with a token amount of money.

Now, with the looming Buena Vista closure hearing determining the compensation for the park residents, the City is in a tough spot. They can ask for significantly more compensation. But, they risk a lawsuit from the park owner seeking damages and declaring the closure ordinance invalid. The City is already on record with the "comparable to Palo Alto" argument which turned out be complete nonsense. If the ordinance was found invalid, California law would apply and many of the residents would get nothing since their residences do not meet the definition of a mobile home under state law. This, of course, would trigger a lawsuit against the City by the park residents.

I'm sure the park owner could "entertain other offers" but large deals generally come with fairly large penalties for backing out. The owner, of course, is under no legal obligation to accept any offer even if it was much larger.


Posted by Greenacres, a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 19, 2014 at 11:53 pm

@Joe,
Bill's survey is blatantly geared against the BV residents and only considers the possibility of yes in the context of the City putting in money. The How questions should have been separated from the yes/no questions. There should have been as many yes options as no options, and the yes options should have been represented as up front as the no. I'm for saving BV and I didn't see any Yes options on Bill's survey that I really agreed with.

The housing at Buena Vista is affordable housing, which is a critical aspect of it that makes it worth the City's involvement. The City already gets involved in building affordable housing. You will probably be relieved to know that the possibility of there being very much of that in the future is pretty low. BV is about it for large patches of existing affordable housing, it is the only trailer park, and it is truly the last place you can really trade off niceties for cost in this town. The City put securing the affordability of Terman Apartments by whatever means necessary in the comprehensive plan, and City employees even went to the extent of providing demonstrably false verifications to the state in the Maybell situation, and diversity and affordability are goals in the housing element. So you see, their silence now is the exception, not their trying to figure out how to help. Your slippery slope scenario is ridiculous.

"The City can not act in a manner that interferes with this contract without risking tortious interference"
The deal was made on the expectation that the City would upzone the property for the developer, which isn't going to happen now, even if the park is gone. The City telling Prometheus that the development climate has changed is just finally acknowledging reality. The City wouldn't be restricting the zoning, just letting the community know it doesn't intend to pass anymore upzoning ordinances over here.

The owner is of course under no legal obligation to accept any offer even if it was much larger, but which would you do: 1) money now, or 2) same amount of money later and only if everything goes right in a large-scale eviction.

The City isn't the only potential source of the funds.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 20, 2014 at 7:24 am

The only two parties who know what the property sale contract requires or what the terms & conditions are...the Jissers and Prometheus. Speculating on price conditions, exclusivity, additional offers, etc. is just that - speculation.


Posted by BOB, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 20, 2014 at 7:49 am

This is becoming insane. I've been reading about this for over a year. the Jissers want to sell their land and they can't because the people living their dont want to move. and to further add salt to the wound, the tenants are offering to buy the land at half the value. Is this still america? My neighbors were hispanic and rented the house down the street. they were asked to leave and couldnt afford the going rates. They are now living in Tracy. Wake up people, this is life. Take a drive down to the park and look around. this is not a typical mobile home park. 90% of the so called mobile homes are not mobile homes. they are old camping trailers with a dangerously looking structures built (most likely without permits) around them.

Asking people to move once the lease they hold has expired it common. Even if they own the mobile home, they could not have moved into the property without a lease. surely the lease had a time stipulated and surely they did not expect to be paid to move once the lease expired. of all the questions being asked by the people posting here, the main question should be why the owner has not sued. This is completely unconstitutional!


Posted by palo alto parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 20, 2014 at 8:29 am

It would be would be wonderful to keep the BV residents - especially the student - in Palo Alto. Does anyone know if the families applied to the Eden Housing project on Alma? It is low income family housing and would have kept them in PAUSD.


Posted by Ellie, a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 20, 2014 at 11:03 am

Bob (a couple of entries above mine) - You are confused about the facts that you speak to. I have followed the Buena Vista issue. Here are some facts that will help you. Reliable news article have clearly explained the below.

Residents at Buena Vista have not interfered at all with the closure and sale of the property. I wish they could, but they didn't. The owner has taken a year to comply with city and state laws that govern closing the park and getting rid of residents. There has been no delay but for the owners.

Residents offered the price noted by the appraiser (hired by the owner) to buy the park at fair market value as a mobile home park. So the residents offered a fair price - surely you think these homeowners have just as much right to make an offer as anyone else, if not more so since they live there. The land was also apprised if used for some sort of redevelopment - then it would be a lot more valuable. So there are 2 legitimate values for the park land. This was about a year ago I think and it has been noted since that the land could have lost substantial value given the current political land use realities since Measure D.

Mobile homes, generally speaking, are not mobile. It is a misnomer and leads to misunderstanding. Not in the most upscale or downscale mobile home park are they mobile with only a very few exceptions. Mobile home parks are not RV parks or recreational trailer parks where people drive them in and out. People mostly buy mobile homes that are in place, already in a park.

While residents rent the land their homes sit on, it is not a matter of leaving when a lease is up. It is a matter of state and city law that pertains to all mobile home parks in the state and city. Leases have nothing to do with this, here or anywhere else.

Finally - you say this is all clearly unconstitutional. You may want to become better informed as to the facts before you assert such a thing which simply doesn't apply to anything you are saying here.

Hope this helps.


Posted by Greenacres, a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 20, 2014 at 11:30 am


Thank you for your explanation, Ellie. Mobile home parks have strict laws for closure, because the homes effectively really aren't mobile, and residents are both property owners and renters, it's a unique situation.

The one thing I would say is that if Jissers have a contract with Prometheus for $30M and Prometheus wants to spend $30M whether they get their upzoning or not, that's the value of the property. The property is 4 acres - Maybell was 2.5 acres and we're told that was $15 or 16M, so the $30M is probably not far off the mark. If you think about it in terms of the number of 6000 square foot lots that could go there (a very crude measure) and what lots sell for there, you come out with about the same, give or take some Ms.

If an alternative offer could save Jissers the trouble and cost of evicting the residents, then the value of the property might be $30M minus those costs, but it's only actually that value if Jissers would accept. In other words, it is very important to know whether Jissers can accept another offer in order to even know how plan to best help.

One thing those involved in Measure D learned is that City Council and developers are not going to change their plans unless they cannot avoid it. Unfortunately, there was so much NIMBY-bashing and NIMBY-card-pulling during Measure D, it would be really easy to believe the same neighbors (since BV is close to Maybell) would not be supportive of retaining the park, which is not true, but City Council and developers would have to go out of their way to disbelieve all the press. The election and post-election evaluation from outside makes it seem as if the neighbors don't support affordable housing; it's easy for outside people especially developers to believe they'll still be able to get away with upzoning. Especially since our council codified upzoning for a handful of BMR units.

I hope those supporting BV will quickly move to demonstrate unequivocally that support for saving BV and the residents living there is high within the surrounding neighborhoods, especially if the park could be improved some. There is already rustling in the neighborhood lists about how to do this. Then City Council would know unequivocally that there will be no upzoning of that parcel, since neighbors clearly know how to put a stop to that. It could also give Prometheus something to think about in terms of the inhumanity of what they are doing, if they understand how much of a part of the fabric of the local neighborhood the residents are, and especially if an alternative source of funds could be located to bring the offer to Jissers closer to market value.



Posted by Steven, a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 20, 2014 at 12:04 pm

Sorry the folks at BV may have to move but isn't that what usually happens when you can't afford to live in a particular place any longer? Why are BV residents entitled to live in Palo Alto or to have access to Palo Alto Schools? People have to pay quite a bit to live here and attend those schools so how is that fair to them? Again, sorry their situation has changed but isn't that life sometimes? Sounds like the owner is willing to help with their relocation.


Posted by Bob, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 20, 2014 at 12:30 pm

Greenacres and Ellie, I did not need your explanation. My point is still valid. There are many laws that are on the books that if put to the test would be unconstitutional. And both of you are out of your minds. The value of the land is double that of the park. Thus proving joe's post above. These are law suits waiting to happen. Any involvement by the city to stop this is going to coat all of us millions. Smell the coffee, the mobile home park will close. Or our city officials are dumb.


Posted by Palo Alto resident, a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 20, 2014 at 1:10 pm

This would be a great time to choose human values Vs money. I, like many Palo Alto residents make efforts to live here becasue we want a better future for our children, and this city offers us that possibility. But we are not talking about my single family. We are talking about a whole community whose members want a better future, and rightfully so. Each family is unique, but in general, many people will have much to loose, displacing them could have a negative impact in those children's life paths, different from what they have been working for. This should concern us. But most things are possible when there is a will. I support the idea of relocating them in Palo Alto, in the other low income/ affordable housing places. Or allowing to move to East Palo Alto and join the VTP program. Unless the owner of the property reconsiders other ideas so that everybody wins.


Posted by bob, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 20, 2014 at 2:06 pm

palo alto resident - that sounds great. Put up $30 million and keep the park open. It is really mind blowing how when it comes to other peoples money, "human values over money" sound good. Since the owner has put his money where nobody else will, then I believe that he/she have more rights than the rest of us.


Posted by Greenacres, a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 20, 2014 at 2:46 pm

@bob,
Do you have any objections other than your belief that it's other people's money? What if a solution could be found that doesnt involve public funds? Please answer the question and don't just go back to logistics you don't like. (Which is why Bill's survey is grossly misleading, it links the yes or no with specific logistics, and leaves no option for other avenues.)


Posted by palo alto parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 20, 2014 at 6:12 pm

@greenacres - we still don't know if the Jisser's can even entertain an offer aside from Prometheus', but I think a lot more people would be behind it if the solution didn't involve public $$.


Posted by Bill, a resident of Community Center
on Mar 24, 2014 at 11:44 am

As promised here are the results of the one question poll about the closure of the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park. Only 34 votes, so not a big response. This was the only place the poll was advertised.

Question: What action should be taken on the closure of Buena Vista in Palo Alto?

Allow the park to close. No action is necessary since the residents will be financially compensated by the owner. (15 votes, 44.12%)

Allow the park to close. The City should make every effort to allow the park residents to remain in Palo Alto, but provide no additional financial assistance. (2 votes, 5.88%)

Allow the park to close. The City should make every effort to allow the park residents to remain in Palo Alto and provide additional financial assistance to the park residents. (1 vote, 2.94%)

The park should remain. The City should contribute financial assistance to help the residents purchase the mobile home park. (13 votes, 38.24%)

The park should remain. The City should purchase the mobile home park. (3 votes, 8.82%)

Thanks for participating!


Posted by Greenacres, a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 24, 2014 at 5:54 pm

For what it's worth to the universe, here's a social business idea. This is Silicon Valley, and this is a chance to do good for our community in a way that works with the market-place, compensates for some of the distortions that have favored developers recently, and saves BV (and possibly other existing affordable housing around the whole Bay Area). Bill did not consider this option in his survey, among others that might have changed his results (even so, it was still close to 50-50).

If you are interested or in a position to do this but want to know more, please contact me through Paloaltoville.com :

Many of us are deeply concerned about the impending closure of the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park. It is in the same neighborhood as the Maybell property and the last patch, 4 acres, of actual affordable housing in all of Palo Alto. Over 400 long-time Palo Alto residents live there, with children making up 10% of the local school population. The closure of the park would be a massive disruption to the fabric of the local community.

I'd like to ask for your help to find someone interested in putting together a social business to crowdsource investment in affordable housing in expensive areas, in order to save (and even improve) existing affordable housing. The goal would be to save (and even bring in funds to improve) BV, but it could be a model for saving affordable housing around the Bay Area.

The problem with incentives to build dense new housing is that new housing stock is inherently unaffordable. "Affordable" housing in new housing stock is by definition subsidized, government housing. The irony at BV is that the new owner of the mobile home property, after evicting over 400 low-income long-time Palo Alto residents, will then use density bonus laws ostensibly to encourage affordable housing to build a lot of expensive rentals with a smattering of below-market-rate units that NONE of the previous low-income residents could ever afford. It's a travesty.

My child has had teachers who lived at the mobile home park because they couldn't afford anything else around here. The housing at BV isn't part of a subsidized housing program, it's the last place you can actually choose to live somewhere less auspicious in exchange for lower housing cost in this whole area. Our City Council practically giving away whatever upzoning developers ask for absolutely contributed to this situation, and I think we owe it to those residents to do something.

Here's the idea:

There are already crowdfunded real estate sites, where you can buy investment property with lots of other people. What about doing that expressly to preserve affordable housing and even family-operated businesses in expensive areas? The BV residents have formed a non-profit that has already located about half the $30million necessary to make an equivalent offer to buy the property. What if the rest could be raised by lots of people across the country and world buying up small patches of Silicon Valley as a long-term investment (with a regulatory agreement with the BV nonprofit to keep it affordable)?

In Palo Alto's existing BMR program, low-income residents actually buy the property themselves, so they are homeowners who pay taxes and get the benefits of homeownership. When the property sells, they are allowed to get 30% of the general increase in the market over that time (and if prices have dropped, although this doesn't usually happen if people hold property for very long, they only lose 30% of the drop).

What if the crowdsourced business became that affordable housing broker? It would allow people in parts of the country where 30% of the typical increase in the Silicon Valley market is a DREAM investment to make good long-term investments while doing something good. It would allow low-income people in Silicon Valley to have more control of their destinies, to invest and build wealth themselves, while still retaining affordable housing as affordable. It's win-win-win for everyone.

If shares could be created that could be bought and sold like bonds/property, cashed in after 30 years, etc., or even donated directly to the residents' nonprofit for a charitable write off, if residents themselves could choose to buy more of the bonds themselves over time as their finances allowed, and if the money buyers offered was only charged to people if the goal amount was met and the offer accepted by the seller, then the business could operate much like other crowdfunding sites, only just for financing affordable housing. (I'm wondering also about finding a way to fund open space and parks this way, but I'm still thinking about how! Perhaps integrated with the investment in income property.) The people who are already trying to help the residents at BV have gotten inquiries from media around the world, so getting the word out to potential investors in this case (and for the idea) would be easy.

At any rate, I was hoping you could help connect me to people locally who might be interested in this kind of social enterprise.



Posted by Greenacres, a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 24, 2014 at 6:00 pm

I just wanted to add --

This same model could be used to save family-operated businesses in the same social business -- like Cho's (if the property could be bought).

Crowdfunding sells off shares of the land, people are only charged if the purchase goes through, and then people all over own a little part of Silicon Valley. They can buy and sell their shares or hold on to them until a maturity date or until the property sells (by mutual agreement) - and then they make the profit on their investment. No one can buy more than a certain amount in order to prevent a takeover, allowing the business to pay a reasonable rent in the meantime (probably servicing the taxes)...

Anyway, the logistics would have to be worked out, but it's just logistics, the crowdsourcing of real estate is a model that is already proven.

What about it people? Stanford students?


Posted by interesting, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 24, 2014 at 6:24 pm

Greenacres,

I can share an experience in trying to do something similar before, different market and different social cause. Is there a more specific email address with a specific subject line to contact you at paloatlotville? I've once/twice tried to make contact with paloatoville, and did not receive a reply to my message (s), so a subject line may help.





Posted by palo alto resident, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 25, 2014 at 8:32 am

@greenacres - this is a laudable idea, but before anyone goes through all that work, you need to know if the Jisser's can entertain any other offers. Their contract with Prometheus may not let them.


Posted by Greenacres, a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 25, 2014 at 5:11 pm

@palo alto resident,
>@greenacres - this is a laudable idea, but before anyone goes through all that work, you need to know if the Jisser's can entertain any other offers. Their contract with Prometheus may not let them.

You are absolutely right that this cannot be done at BV unless we know whether Jissers can entertain other offers. Does anyone know if there was any light shed on that when they offered the $14.5M?

Does anyone in the community have any contacts at Prometheus (Greg Scharff) who might be willing to simply ask them to give this a chance?

@Interesting,
Please try again with Palo Altoville. Probably just put Please forward to Greenacres from Townsquare in the subject line. It's still all volunteer, so that may be why things weren't answered right away. And Measure D got pretty heated for awhile there, if you didn't include your own name and contact info, the msg might have been disregarded. If you have experience, that would be fantastic -- my own belief with these kinds of things is you have to allow from one or two failures before getting it right, so better to learn from someone else's experience (not to say yours wasn't a success right out of the gate, if it was, then even more reason I'd love to hear about your experience). If you aren't able to reach anyone in a few days, please post here again, I'll try to figure out if there is a spam filter problem.


Posted by Greenacres, a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 25, 2014 at 9:18 pm

@palo alto resident,

The idea is also for saving more than just BV. It could save family-run businesses in Palo Alto, other existing affordable housing, etc.

I am hoping someone will get a spark and run with it, and start by saving BV. They'd have to start now! It's a perfect test case. And even if Jissers can't take an offer under their contract with Prometheus, having the whole crowdsourced ability to do so ready to go could change everything. Remember, with crowdsourced purchases like this, the money isn't charged unless the deal is accepted. So it's possible to put a real offer on the table, without actually having the money in the bank, yet with the ability to have the money virtually the next second.

So, putting together the social business idea could do a lot of good for our area anyway, and starting with BV could make all the difference. That's the reason this approach is so great, it's possible to make a REAL offer to Jissers without actually having the money in hand unless they accept.


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