Town Square

Post a New Topic

Buena Vista hearing opens in Palo Alto

Original post made on May 13, 2014

A three-day public hearing on the fate of Palo Alto's only mobile-home park, Buena Vista, began Monday night. A room full of park residents in black T-shirts that read "Save our home!" listened to their legal representation and the attorneys for property owner Toufic Jisser go head to head on the adequacy of the relocation benefits currently being offered to them.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, May 13, 2014, 9:35 AM

Comments (28)

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 13, 2014 at 10:38 am

In the end, this will be all about the money (compensation). The park is going to close...at what price is the only question.


Posted by the truth, a resident of Barron Park
on May 13, 2014 at 10:48 am

I'm a teacher in Palo Alto and I would love to live in Palo Alto but cannot afford it and I live where I can afford. I was

This is a "at the wrong place at the wrong time" for these residents. Jisser has every right to sell his property and the residents will either have to work harder to stay in Palo Alto or just move to Redwood City etc.... plus Jisser is even planning to compensate residents, wow very, very nice. Life sometimes is not fair and Jisser has every right to sell that property. He took the chance on that investment with his own money and now can make an even bigger profit.

Jisser is entitled to that profit and is being a very good person offering the compensation. Like I said, times change and not everybody will always be able to live in Palo Alto.

Their is huge mobile park in Redwood City off fifth ave where it would be very affordable. Especially with compensation being offered. Just move the mobile home to Redwood City which is very possible. Kids would have to got to Redwood City Schools but such is life and life is not always fair.

I do not see how any of this is debatable.




Posted by Jane, a resident of Barron Park
on May 13, 2014 at 10:52 am

I went last night to the meeting to get a feel of the situation. Really the owner has not raised rents in 29 months and only twice since 2008? Is this guy for real? My home was valued at 150K around 1986, We moved in late 1985. Its worth 1.8M today (if not more). that is a 12X since that time. The owner bought the place for 4M. Using the same logic it should be worth about 48 million.

I think its time to start raising the rents. I believe these people have been living off his back for way to long.

Further, did you hear how the city agreed with the owner back in 2000 that the park had a 10 year life. Its been 14 years and now he has to deal with all this nonsense.

I think its time for our city counsel to get off their a** and do something here. This guy has carried this affordable housing for 14 year and they have yet to do a single thing to help.


Posted by ho hum, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 13, 2014 at 11:37 am

This is all about compensation: BV residents want more, owner wants to pay as little as legally possible. Looks like the mobile home park will finally close though.


Posted by ho hum, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 13, 2014 at 11:56 am

Save our homes? This is all about compensation: BV residents want more, and the owners want to pay as little as legally possible. Looks like the park will definitely close, though.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 13, 2014 at 12:00 pm

The city council has no say at this point. They are only facilitating the meetings/hearings.

It would make so much more sense (and save time) if they would agree to binding arbitration and have a neutral (state appointed) judge to render a final decision.

Eliminate the drama, emotions and the whining by both sides.


Posted by Aquamarine, a resident of Stanford
on May 13, 2014 at 12:14 pm

It's interesting that only Crescent Park Dad's comment makes sense, isn't nasty or rude, and seems to grasp the facts without rhetoric.


Posted by Silly, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 13, 2014 at 12:56 pm

If the city doesn't save Buena Vista, it has NO leg to stand on when it argues for low- and middle-income housing EXCEPT lining developers' pockets and contributing to gridlock.

The hypocrisy is overwhelming!


Posted by Silly, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 13, 2014 at 12:58 pm

How can the city oppose Buena Vista while rezoning everything in sight for low- and middle-income properties?

The hypocrisy is staggering and the city only wants to line developers' pockets, not serve residents.


Posted by palo alto resident, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 13, 2014 at 3:45 pm

@silly - the City has no legal grounds by which to "save Buena Vista" at this point all they can do is influence the $$ the current residents receive.


Posted by Rupert of henzau, a resident of Midtown
on May 13, 2014 at 3:54 pm

[Post removed.]


Posted by Midtown, a resident of Midtown
on May 13, 2014 at 7:25 pm

What is the park worth if it does not get up zoned for the 184 unit apartments. Probably not the $30M bid for it. If it is not up zoned maybe the residents can buy it?


Posted by Wondering, a resident of Midtown
on May 13, 2014 at 9:23 pm

For those in the know on this, how much of the relocation benefits being offered are required by law/contract and how much are being offered for goodwill? Though I agree that the package does not seem like it would allow residents to relocate in this area it does seem otherwise generous and enough to get a good start in a more affordable area.


Posted by Margaret Fruth, a resident of Ventura
on May 13, 2014 at 9:26 pm

Margaret Fruth is a registered user.

Mr. Jisser's attorney states: "the ordinance in Palo Alto is extremely poorly drafted. It does not require, as other conversion ordinances do, a period of time for negotiations between park owner and residents for the purchase of the park." But nothing in the ordinance prohibits the owner from negotiating with the residents. So far he has refused to do so.


Posted by Responder, a resident of College Terrace
on May 13, 2014 at 11:29 pm

@the truth/confused: So, are you a resident of Barron Park as your id claims, or are you a "a teacher in Palo Alto and ... would love to live in Palo Alto but cannot afford it?" No offense intended, but clearly you do not understand the more complex issues involved with mobile home ownership and the associated responsibilities of a mobile home park owner (which they know when they buy the park). Please do not think that someone renting a house when the owner decides to sell is even remotely similar to someone who OWNS a mobile home when the park owner decides to sell the land. There is a reason that the law is different in these two cases.

PA Weekly: Why are you posting all of these duplicate comments? "confused" posted the exact same comment FOUR TIMES, which was identical to what "the truth" posted. Then "Wondering" and "Margaret Fruth" have duplicate posts. You guys seem pretty on top of deleting what you se as offensive posts or multiple posts by the same poster - can't you clean this up so it does not look like there are twice as many posts as there actually are?

No offense to the posters - this is clearly a PA Weekly bug!


Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park
on May 13, 2014 at 11:29 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

[Portion removed.]

@Confused

Did you inquire about the cost of buying a mobile home and renting space in that very affordable-looking mobile home park? The Buena Vista residents we heard from tonight and the mobile park housing expert who gave testimony last night spoke of the near impossibility of finding lodging they could afford, mobile home or apartment, if the park is dissolved and they receive $18K–$30K to take into the housing market.

@Jane

"I think its time to start raising the rents. I believe these people have been living off his back for way to long."
Truly an out-of-the-box proposal. How do you think that would play out? Would the owner be required then to upgrade park amenities, provide an on-site manager, fix the place up so those people who remained after the rent was hiked wouldn't be talking about the cockroaches in the 50-year old laundry facility as we heard tonight.


Posted by Responder, a resident of College Terrace
on May 13, 2014 at 11:55 pm

@Jane: Your post seems very slanted, and, like "truth/confused," you don't seem to understand the difference between mobile home OWNERSHIP and apartment rental.

[Portion removed.]

For the record, I own a private residence in Palo Alto (nowhere near BV) and have no financial, emotional, or any other personal interest in BV - I simply think most of the masses do not understand the real issues and are quick to opine on erroneous "property rights" ideas and do a real injustice to the BV residents who have more invested that the casual observer realizes.


Posted by Park will be closed, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 14, 2014 at 5:35 am

[Portion removed.] There are those that insist on keeping the park open--to do that it will need to be bought. Those that support that concept are asked to put up the money.
According to the articles, the city knew since 2000 that the park would be closed and also the article states that the rent has not been raised for 2+ years, so how have the jissers not treated the residents fairly?
Are you suggesting that the jissers be forced to keep the park open?


Posted by jane, a resident of Barron Park
on May 14, 2014 at 7:19 am

Wow, I went to these hearings last night and what a waste of time. People are crying about losing their homes and the owner is sitting there looking like a bad guy.

Does the city of palo alto have any morals. the owner made a deal to close the park down in 2000. The city asked him to keep it open for 10 years. In return they promised to give him some benefits if he kept it open and in turn they have given him nothing. oh ya that is not correct. They gave him this ordinance. And now 14 years later they have an opportunity to step in and make things right.

And the media really needs to start getting the story right. They alway draw the attention to what sells without the detail about what is really going on. This actually makes the problem worse. Please dont strive to be the first to tell the story, be the first to get it right.


Posted by Responder, a resident of College Terrace
on May 14, 2014 at 9:21 am

Wow, I describe what a city's comprehensive plan is and why it dictates the culture and values residents move here for, and the whole thing gets censored!!! Seriously?

PA Weekly, why do you not want residents to understand how things work in ALL city governments? I can't imagine what was offensive in that post - especially not the WHOLE section!


Posted by Greenacres, a resident of Green Acres
on May 14, 2014 at 9:32 am

@Wondering,
I believe the relocation benefit negotiation is all about what the law requires, period. Mobile home park residents are property owners with unique rights and vulnerabilities. They also have to unfortunately combat more than their share of prejudice in the retention of those rights, as some comments demonstrate.

I looked into this issue once and I can't remember if state law describes this, or if state law requires local governments to have a rule, or if state law describes what is required unless local law goes one better... You can find the info by search, though.

If residents are entitled to comparable, they are entitled to comparable even if the sticker price is outrageous. After all, that's why the owner wants to sell in the first place, property here is outrageous. The poorer property owner has as much right to see justice under the law as the wealthy. In fact, if you find yourself thinking the sticker price of the compensation seems reasonable, there is something wrong there, because property in this area has never been reasonable. The settlement amount should make you whistle and shake your head in wonder same as walking into any open house and then more when you find out the actual sale price. Same as the mindbogglingness of $30 million for that small patch of dirt the owner would get.

The biggest reason property in this neighborhood is outrageous is proximity to the schools, easy walking distance to excellent elementary, middle, and high school that exists nowhere else even in Palo Alto. There is ample evidence many residents of BV value that, like their neighbors around them. School district policy is that when children have been attending a given school for so many years, they may continue to attend even if they move elsewhere in town, because the transition is so disruptive. In some towns with good districts back east, if you move out, you are entitled to pay to stay, and maybe Palo Alto can make that available? It won't be cheap, though.

Because there isnt a comparable situation locally, I don't know what the right answer is, that's why I'm not a judge, but I do know the right answer isnt to deny the residents their rights under the law.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 14, 2014 at 10:10 am

Hmmm is a registered user.

"They also have to unfortunately combat more than their share of prejudice in the retention of those rights, as some comments demonstrate." That about covers it, Greenacres. It doesn't help that most of their homes can't be taken w/them or resold, because they're too decrepit.

I'm glad that greedmonger Sam Zell and his REIT don't own this park, because then the residents would likely be in worse shape.

When low income people in mobile home parks try to get as much comp as possible for a buyout, they're looked down upon by others. But it's fine for the park owners to make as much as possible. It's unforgivable if the little man does, though. The tactics used are usually to make them more "other" than they already feel, because, after all, they live in a mobile home park, or that whole "If it was *me* who couldn't afford to live here anymore, I wouldn't get any help blah blah blah." Stupid.

These negotiations are standard.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 14, 2014 at 10:22 am

@ Greenacres: Staying in the school district is not as simple as "pay to stay". The student/family has to apply for the transfer via their new school district. If the new school district says no, then that's that. The "no" typically stems from that the new school district does not want to forfeit the state education dollars that comes to them on a per student basis. If the student gets an OK to transfer (and PAUSD agrees to the transfer) then the state dollars go to PAUSD.


Posted by Greenacres, a resident of Green Acres
on May 14, 2014 at 1:10 pm

Greenacres is a registered user.

"That about covers it, Greenacres. It doesn't help that most of their homes can't be taken w/them or resold"

Just to be clear, the fact that mobile homes aren't really mobile once in place is actually an established fact recognized in the law and has nothing to do with the shape they are in.

@Crescent Park Dad,
You're right, pay to stay in the school district is more complicated. I was just bringing that up as another consideration so people understand that if residents are legally entitled to comparable housing, the price tag is going to be a lot higher than what is on the table. This may change the whole calculation for the seller. However, once people think they are going to be laughing all the way to the bank, it's really hard to derail them, they won't typically negotiate something in good faith.

I would like to ask Prometheus and Jisser to please have a heart and give the community a year to figure out how to basically buy out the contract at the $30m (minus the cost of the closure). Give us some time to figure out a way to co-own the park until the residents can buy it over time (under BMR guidelines). Or let us techies figure out how to crowdsource investment to save it, the closure is garnering a lot of publicity. You will both be wealthy beyond what most people ever expect in life either way. You will both have other opportunities to make even more money that don't involve taking away the opportunities of hundreds of local children.

I would like to call on our City Council, once again, to make a pre-emptive statement promising not to grant any future zoning violations on that property. (Unfortunately, even so, bonus density rules ostensibly and laughably to encourage building affordable housing, give the builder a huge incentive to evict the low-income residents anyway, in order to get densified luxury housing and a few not-so-affordable BMR units the previous tenants won't be able to live in even if they could afford them.)


Posted by palo alto resident, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 14, 2014 at 2:30 pm

@greenacres - When the original plan was drafted, "comparable schools" were not part of the requirement for finding comparable housing. It included things like comparable size, age, condition, transportation and other things but schools are not part of what can be considered when coming up with the compensation amount. From the City website Web Link

For a similar park in Santa Monica (which I believe was being replaced with almost 400 housing units plus retail and office on a similar size of land) I think the residents received $20K as compensation.

And this piece of land just gets more valuable as time goes on, its worth close to $40 million based on the recent sale at Maybell which is similarly zoned.


Posted by Responder, a resident of College Terrace
on May 14, 2014 at 2:51 pm

@palo alto resident:

If you are refering to the case at this link: Web Link

There is no comparison. That is truly a "trailer park," NOT a "mobile home park." And note this MAJOR difference:

"Those remaining have been given the option of moving into a new trailer purchased by the developer a few blocks away at Mountain View Trailer Park, or moving to an affordable rental unit and accepting a payment of about $20,000."

They are offered a new "trailer" in another park a few blocks away. If that was an option being offered to BV residents I bet there would be a lot less uproar.


Posted by palo alto resident, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 14, 2014 at 5:44 pm

@responder - Most people use trailer park and mobile home park interchangeably. The park that closed in Santa Monica was a mobile home park, as is the park that some of the residents moved to. It is not a campground or RV park. BTW - many of the structures at Buena Vista are campers/RV's that have been converted, they are not mobile/manufactured homes. Photo example from BV, a camper with the top of a pickup truck camper in the background. Neither are "mobile homes".

Web Link


Posted by Greenacres, a resident of Green Acres
on May 14, 2014 at 7:29 pm

Greenacres is a registered user.

@palo alto resident,
Thanks for the link. It seems eminently reasonable, and the law appropriately applied. Jisser would have known this only applied to BV -- I invite everyone to read it -- just curious, was there any official protest or legal challenge?

Jisser got a huge amount of money for mobile home lots in rent, and let's face it, most of those people were paying premium to live there for the schools, just like people with higher incomes than that do in the neighborhood. The City Council was within its rights and duties to make an ordinance applying to the closure, as provided for by state law.


If you were a member and logged in you could track comments from this story.

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

Scottís Seafood Mountain View to close, reopen as new concept
By Elena Kadvany | 11 comments | 3,427 views

Who Says Kids Donít Eat Vegetables?
By Laura Stec | 9 comments | 1,745 views

Breastfeeding Tips
By Jessica T | 11 comments | 1,583 views

How Bad Policy Happens
By Douglas Moran | 19 comments | 1,073 views

The life of Zarf
By Sally Torbey | 6 comments | 640 views