The proposed closure of Palo Alto's only mobile-home park took a big leap toward reality Thursday when the city accepted the property owner's application after more than a year of negotiations.
The city announced Thursday morning that the "Relocation Impact Report" submitted by the Jisser family for the closure of Buena Vista Mobile Home Park is now complete. The city made this finding after rejecting the Jissers' four previous versions of the report, which lays out a strategy for assisting the nearly 400 residents who would be displaced from their current location at 3980 El Camino Real.
In the new report, the Jisser family offers to buy mobile homes for their appraised value and pay for the "startup costs" of relocating, which includes first- and last-month's rent, a security deposit and 12 months of rent subsidies that reflect the difference between the rent at Buena Vista and the rent at the new locations. The level of "startup costs" would vary based on the kind of housing the residents would be moving into. For those moving into one-bedroom apartments, this sum would range from $12,000 to $16,300. For those moving into three-bedroom apartments, the sum would range from $20,000 to $30,600.
This is different from the Jissers' previous offer, which proposed giving each household a lump sum of $11,000 for relocation expenses along with the cost of the mobile home. The city challenged this approach and asked the family to offer larger sums to those households that cannot relocate their units "to reflect the rental rates for two and three bedroom homes," according to the city. The Jissers have also withdrawn an earlier offer to pay at least $20,000 for each mobile home, even for those appraised for less than that.
With the application deemed complete, it will now be up to the city's hearing officer, Craig Labadie, to determine whether to allow the closure of Buena Vista to proceed. The hearing on the report must take place within 60 days and residents will have a chance to appeal Labadie's ruling to the City Council. The council will not, however, have the power to stop the Buena Vista's closure, according to the city. Any potential appeal will be limited to the mitigations offered by the Jissers to Buena Vista residents.
In a statement Thursday, City Manager James Keene acknowledged that the city's purview over Buena Vista's closure is very limited but suggested that the city can take other actions to support affordable housing.
"The Buena Vista residents are part of the Palo Alto family," according to City Manager James Keene. "Unfortunately, the state law does not allow local agencies to stop the closure of a mobile home park.
"As a separate matter, however, Palo Alto can make funding available as an incentive for the preservation or creation of affordable housing in the City. I expect City Council will want to explore this option. Whether the property owner or the buyers of the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park will see this as an opportunity is a question they will have to answer."
The proposal to close Buena Vista and to build 184 luxury apartments at its site has been widely opposed by the park's residents and their supporters in the surrounding Barron Park neighborhood. Residents and their advocates had started a group called Friends of the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park to oppose the closure of the 104-home park, arguing that the move will diminish Palo Alto's diversity and force residents to leave the city, where affordable-housing options are famously in short supply. Last year, the association made an offer to buy the land from the Jissers for $14.5 million, only to see the proposal rejected.