News


Palo Alto pledges $8M to preserve Buena Vista

With council set to rule on park's future, city manager sets aside funds to prevent resident displacement

With the fate of Buena Vista Mobile Home Park still up the air, Palo Alto's city manager announced on Friday that he will set aside $8 million to assist with the effort to preserve the park.

The future of the city's lone mobile-home park has been in jeopardy since 2012, when the Jisser family announced its plans to shutter Buena Vista and build a condominium complex at the Barron Park site. The effort to close the park advanced last September, when hearing officer Craig Labadie ruled that the Jissers has offered sufficient relocation benefits to the roughly 400 residents who currently live in the El Camino Real park.

The City Council is set to consider in April the residents' appeal of Labadie's decision. Meanwhile, Santa Clara County and Palo Alto officials are making contingency plans for preserving one of the city's few hubs of affordable housing.

City Manager James Keene's announcement on Friday follows a similar action by the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, which last month committed $8 million in affordable-housing funds to preserving Buena Vista. The city's decision, which is subject to the council's approval, raises the pot of money for preserving Buena Vista to $16 million. The funds committed by the city are generated by development-impact fees and are pegged specifically for affordable-housing.

In announcing the $8 million allocation, Keene pointed to the concerns expressed by the community about "potential impacts to the residents and the loss of affordable housing."

"It is my hope that this action – following on the County's recent pledge of an equal amount – will inspire those who are concerned about the future of affordable housing in Silicon Valley and Palo Alto specifically, to come together and work toward a solution that will work for all," Keene said in a statement.

While members of the City Council have been advised not to comment on Buena Vista before the April appeal hearing, Keene said he has directed staff to reserve the $8 million in funds "for Council action at a future time." Keene also said that he intends to reach out to the county for "continued assistance on options related to the future of the park."

"Their staff's experience with mobile-home parks and affordable housing can be helpful to all concerned parties, especially during this period prior to Council's decision on the appeal," Keene said.

County Supervisor Joe Simitian, who along with Supervisor Dave Cortese made the proposal to devote county funds to preserving Buena Vista, applauded Keene's decision Friday. The city, he said in a statement, "has really stepped up." He added that the city funds are "key to generating additional support."

"This is a community that has long supported affordable housing, and that support is reflected in the actions of City leaders," said Simitian, a former Palo Alto mayor.

Keene's announcement was hailed as "terrific news" by the attorneys representing the residents of the largely Hispanic and working-class neighborhood. James Zahradka, supervising attorney at the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, noted that as recently as a month ago the effort to preserve the mobile park had no financial support from the public sector.

"Today we're looking at $16 million and a meaningful commitment from both the County and the City," Zahradka said in a statement. "It's extraordinary progress in a very short period of time."

Even so, the $16 million in reserves is unlikely to be sufficient to purchase the park from the current owners. Until last year, the Jisser family was under contract with Prometheus Real Estate to convert the land to a 187-unit market-rate development. Before Prometheus withdrew from the agreement, the deal was expected to net the Jisser family about $30 million. Furthermore, the family has not been receptive to prior efforts by Buena Vista residents to purchase the park.

In his statement, Simitian acknowledges the remaining challenges in preserving the park.

"What once seemed like a longshot is starting to look like a real possibility," Simitian said. "But we've still got a big hill to climb."

Comments

5 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 20, 2015 at 11:17 am

$16mil down...$14-20mil to go...

And yet the Jissers aren't selling...


28 people like this
Posted by cw
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 20, 2015 at 11:36 am

Where did the city manager get the authority to do this? I'm going to have to re-read the city charter. Maybe it's like an Obama executive order?

Maybe this is a good idea, maybe it isn't. But I'd like the people I elected (the city council) to make that call, not the un-elected city manager.


3 people like this
Posted by cw
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 20, 2015 at 11:43 am

And remember the warning City Attorney Molly Stump had about how council members shouldn't talk about Buena Vista during the election or else they'd appear to be biased when it came to determining whether the compensation Jisser was offering met the city code? I guess Keene decided to blow off her advice. How is the city going to say it's unbiased now that it has announced it wants to buy his land? What a mess! This is going to end up in court for years to come.


30 people like this
Posted by Playing with somebody else's money
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 20, 2015 at 11:48 am

Easy for a city employee to make decisions with taxpayers' money since it doesn't impact him. Supporters of the park should use their own money if they want to help.

Please don't mess w/ basic supply/demand market forces to pay for your welfare projects. The residents of Buena Vista could move to more affordable areas. Living and attending public schools in Palo Alto is not an entitlement, but don't know why so many people think it is.

Stop harassing the Jissers with your misguided sense of populism.


1 person likes this
Posted by Brian
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 20, 2015 at 12:34 pm

Brian is a registered user.

CW
You forgot that Keene isn't a council member. I don't think he needs to worry about perceived bias.


20 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 20, 2015 at 12:39 pm

City Manager Keene is himself living in public subsidize housing.

If this is for affordable housing, when can those on the BMR wait list, some who have been waiting many, many years, move in?

Both County Supervisor Simitian and City Manager Keene are using funds set aside for the creation of affordable housing to benefit specific individuals, the current residents of Buena Vista Park.

And have both government officials verified that everyone qualifies for BMR housing? the rent that some Buena Vista Park residents pay for their space would indicate that some have incomes that exceed the limits for a BMR unit.

And who is going to pay to bring the property up to building code, as well as bring up the utilities to safety standards (remember this is one of the causes that drove the current situation).

City Manager Keene is exceeding his authority, but is thinking he back the city council in a corner, because if the city council doesn't go along with this, the city council will have the low income housing special interest groups giving them alot of grief.


13 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 20, 2015 at 12:43 pm

Setting aside this sum is not the same thing as dedicating it, or spending it.

While Keene may be buying some brownie points with the tax-and-spend crowd, he doesn't have the authority to do any more than he has.

Another example of how poorly he is performing as a high quality City Manager.


26 people like this
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 20, 2015 at 12:44 pm

No. I oppose taxpayer money being "set aside" or spent by the City of Palo Alto for this possible purchase. However, if private money wishes to offer to buy the park that would be fine. It's called private property, folks; think if you were the property owner in this case.


12 people like this
Posted by Dave
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 20, 2015 at 2:28 pm

PA city council voted to hire the current CIty Manager who is supposed to be entrusted with running the city efficiently and profitably just like a CEO of any company that is hired by its board of directors. So this guy pledged 8 mil of tax payers money to further drag out the mobile home park saga. This is authority running amok and his action does not reflect the majority wishes of The community nor does it show any business sense.


1 person likes this
Posted by Chris Zaharias
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 20, 2015 at 3:04 pm

It feels like PA would rather have uber-wealthy people and subsidized poor folks, and no middle class. So be it.


1 person likes this
Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Feb 20, 2015 at 3:29 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

I hope the legal rights of all parties are respected.

There are certain uses of these funds that I would not support

BUT

I can see some interesting positive possibilities and await further discussion and specificity as to the uses of these funds should they ever reach a level sufficient to buy the property in a mutually satisfactory transaction.


12 people like this
Posted by Let cooler heads prevail
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Feb 20, 2015 at 3:47 pm

I feel this is probably one of the most compassionate offerings any Palo Altan has made since, ...well since Joe Simitian....

I am dismayed by the comments of my fellow Palo Alto residents. Who even are we, if we cannot venture to help those less fortunate than ourselves? I am but one voice, but hear me loud and clear. More of this needs to happen if we are to survive as a species, much less a city.


8 people like this
Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 20, 2015 at 4:39 pm

cooler,

I agree. There is a lot of hyperbole above and a sad lack of compassion.

This is a great step forward, especially since the Council's hands are tied. To those above inclined to be uncompassionate, consider this rationally. As the article states, the fund the City set aside can only be used for affordable housing. Both pots of money from the City and County were largely money used at Maybell to help purchase that property and were refunded after that fell through. The Maybell proposal would have cost - I forget now, ultimately $35M or maybe it was $45M in total, for 60 spots (people that may or may not have been existing Palo Altans), with other costs to the public, where this is far less money for over 400 low-income residents, existing Palo Altans, and will be repaid over time. If the money doesn't go to help at BV, the county portion has to be spent by the County within a certain radius of Stanford, and we face yet another situation like at Maybell.

We have money dedicated to affordable housing. Whether you like it or not, it will be spent that way. The highest use of that money is therefore to save the affordable housing of existing Palo Altans who will otherwise lose their homes. The homes they live in now are homes they sacrificed to live in, many of whom invested money to live there, too, and who will lose their investment without some help. This is without a doubt the most effective way to support low-income housing in our town, probably ever. The money is not a gift to the residents, but a way to retain the property as low-income in perpetuity, something the money is there to do, and would do so more efficiently than any other plan.

Our society and our town benefits when over 400 low-income people are able to stay stable, become educated, move up in the world, rather than being made unstable and possibly even forced onto public assistance -- which would be sad because clearly this is hundreds of people willing to sacrifice comfort in order to remain independent.

As for BMR lists - anyone can put themselves on a BMR list. They are not vetted lists. People are only vetted when they decide to ask for a property. The lists can be long, long, long, and yet nevertheless there have been properties historically going unclaimed, and people on the lists for short periods of time offered them. The consultant report said even among the BMR lists, people can be choosy. People choosing to consider BMR property (and often BMR income allowable thresholds are quite high) are looking and have options, including living in other communities, whereas the people living in BV are part of an existing community that will be a loss to our greater community if they have to pull up roots and leave.

This is a great step.


8 people like this
Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 20, 2015 at 4:45 pm

Is the previous $14.5 million the residents raised still available? Together with this money, it makes $30M. I think a savvy person could put together a package of tax writeoffs (because of the residents' nonprofit) and $30M for Jisser that would make an attractive offer, giving him a great deal and his money in advance of the coming spring/summer season, he avoids the risk and expense of a protracted battle (and later battle with the community who will be hopping mad if he evicts the residents and tries to build anything denser there trying to use "affordable" as the excuse, they can thwart him in the subdivision process), as well as the relocation costs to the residents.

There is probably a huge win-win here for everyone. Who can negotiate it, though, since the City Council cannot?


37 people like this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 20, 2015 at 4:59 pm

Complete craziness. I have long predicted, on this blog, that limo-lib guilt will force us PA citizens to use our own monies to support this private deal. I am proven right, but who cares.

We are now dumped into a long legal battle, which might cost us a ton.

And we have huge unfunded mandates in front of us. Doesn't seem to matter, apparently. Just kick the can down the road.

Why does Palo Alto agree to throw money away on boutique projects?

This thing should be put to a city-wide vote.


29 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 20, 2015 at 5:21 pm

Agreed. City wide vote if this moves forward.


47 people like this
Posted by GoneOnTooLong
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 20, 2015 at 6:40 pm

>> Greenacres: " the Council's hands are tied....Whether you like it or not.."

I disagree.
There is choice and there are options.

There are many better ways to create affordable housing, at a much lower cost per unit of housing. Managing this city's low income housing funding in an intelligent and cost effective way will allow more people to benefit from the same amount of money. Please don't close your mind to other options by promoting the idea that we have no choice in the matter.

This particular location (Buena Vista) unfortunately, is not viable, due to the high property value per acre, failing/failed utilities and infrastructure, and rampant code (construction, health, safety, zoning <setbacks, spacing, etc>) violations through out the property.

I say "No" to any proposal that would devote funds to purchase BV.
I encourage the city council to look for better ways to allocate the funds that the City may have available to create affordable housing in the area.


8 people like this
Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 20, 2015 at 7:08 pm

@ GoneonTooLong,

Older housing stock is always more affordable than trying to buy new.

You are also equating spaces with low-income residents, and they are not the same. We have 400 existing Palo Alto low-income residents, who would be repaying low and no-interest loans on a property with a regulatory agreement if it were purchased. The City would get the money back to support other low-income property while keeping the BV site low-income. The residents' association would be eligible to apply for state funds to improve the park because of the regulatory agreement.

No way could you come close to providing such cost-effective low-income housing in this area under any realistic scenario. Plus, we should be prioritizing the low-income housing of existing residents over buildings that may or may not ever be occupied by existing residents. It is the most ridiculous thing ever to spend tens of millions for a small number of spots for people coming from elsewhere while ignoring the needs of the people living among us. They should be the priority.


2 people like this
Posted by TheSolution
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 20, 2015 at 7:25 pm

Declare the mobile home park to be a historic landmark, then subsidize safety improvements. The residents can stay, but they may be required to dress in "period costumes" and answer questions from tourists.
The market value of the property would then drop, of coutse...


37 people like this
Posted by GoneOnTooLong
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 20, 2015 at 7:32 pm

>> Greenacres : "Older housing stock is always more affordable than trying to buy new."

No. That's not true.

>> Greenacres : "You are also equating spaces with low-income residents"

No. I'm not doing that.

>> Greenacres : " The City would get the money back to support other low-income property "

Can you present your math to substantiate that claim ?
It seems you have applied loan payments, monthly fees for upgrades/repairs, ongoing operating expenses/rent all saddled onto the residents. These residents currently have difficulty paying the modest rent ($675/mo) (as per the city's relocation decision).

>> Greenacres : "No way could you come close to providing such cost-effective low-income housing in this area under any realistic scenario. "

Of course you can.

>> Greenacres : "It is the most ridiculous thing ever to spend tens of millions for a small number of spots for people coming from elsewhere while ignoring the needs of the people living among us. They should be the priority."

These are the priorities and trades that should be made in open and public debate. I personally disagree with your priority to aid those who got here first.

Again, I encourage the city council to look for better ways to allocate the funds that the City may have available to create affordable housing in the area.


8 people like this
Posted by Retired Staffer
a resident of another community
on Feb 20, 2015 at 8:05 pm

I live in a mobile home park that is owned by the residents. The transformation from "Tobacco Road" to a nice, affordable community is quite remarkable and it happens when pride of ownership replaces uncaring landlords. I am providing a link to the Santa Cruz County Mobile Home Commission. The website includes a list of "resident owned parks" along with investor owned parks. The next time you are in Santa Cruz, check out the difference between the two categories. You will be amazed at the changes that will occur.

Web Link


20 people like this
Posted by ED
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 20, 2015 at 8:22 pm

Setting aside/committing $8M with out any public input? The city manager has the authority to do this unilaterally?, and city council has been advised to keep quiet about it? Good grief, just when I didn't think city hall could be any more screwed up then it already is, they out do themselves.


16 people like this
Posted by JQPublic
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 20, 2015 at 8:48 pm

I don't know which disgusts me more; people bleating for public monies or the public employees gladly ladling it out.


20 people like this
Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 20, 2015 at 11:09 pm

It is a horrible misallocation of money to use it to subsidize housing on such expensive property. BV residents would probably be happier to take a fraction of that money directly and move.


4 people like this
Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 20, 2015 at 11:13 pm

Public,
You have a perspective, and that's certainly a perspective some people have. However, applied to this situation, it doesn't make much sense because the money in this case is legally designated already for affordable housing and can't be used for something else.

We can't turn back the clock, but frankly I don't think any of this would have happened had our previous City Council not allowed a rezoning free-for-all that made all the developers expect upzoning everything was their due. The previous developer who purchased it put in an application for 4X zoning, and the current developer can expect increased zoning under state laws ironically geared to "creating" "affordable" housing.

Our City bears some responsibility for what happened, all rattling about the current situation aside. They should use the affordable housing funds to do right by longtime residents in our community.


9 people like this
Posted by Old-Time Palo Alto Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 21, 2015 at 7:54 am

I couldn't agree more with Greenacres. What has happened to this community's compassion, and valuing a diverse community that supports all its residents? For too many people these days, it seems all about the dollar and perhaps also a desire to live among increasingly elite, affluent groups. I believe the community benefits greatly from welcoming diverse populations as full and valued members of the community, and doing what we can as a community to support their ability to live here when their housing is threatened. This is what community is all about, as far as I'm concerned. I hope others in Palo Alto share this feeling, and that the vision of valuing a diverse community, and taking care of that community when its members are threatened, prevails when it comes to finding a way to preserve Palo Alto housing for Buena Vista residents.

Thanks also to Joe Simitian for helping to lead the way here.


20 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 21, 2015 at 8:51 am

If it goes to a city-wide vote, you'll have your answer.


22 people like this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 21, 2015 at 10:16 am

>I hope others in Palo Alto share this feeling

I don't share that feeling. I don't want PA to use my tax monies to support a generalized welfare system. I think my view is widespread in PA. However, I could be wrong...a city-wide vote is the way to tell.

Do you support a city-wide vote, Old-Time?


9 people like this
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 21, 2015 at 12:31 pm

Old-Time Palo Alto Resident@Old Palo Alto says 'I believe the community benefits greatly from welcoming diverse populations as full and valued members of the community'

Old Palo Alto does not receive any 'benefits', as they have always been opposed to locating affordable housing in their neighborhood.

And how many residents in Old Palo Alto neighborhood are pushing to zone their neighborhood for higher density housing - the necessary prerequisite for affordable housing? NONE.


22 people like this
Posted by Dave
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 21, 2015 at 12:55 pm

NO I do not support this pledge. Who gives this guy the rights to pledge $8 mil of tax payers funds? It would be like me pledging $8 mil for the BV park residents using my neighbors money. This is what happened when the best and the brightest are not representing the community. This leaves us with the predicament we are in where the hirings of qualified personnel really shine through! I cannot wait until the next voting cycle.


9 people like this
Posted by Lulu
a resident of Los Altos
on Feb 21, 2015 at 1:20 pm

In my mind, it is acceptable for the city to grant fund a nonprofit that works with developing affordable housing, or to deny the developer building permits for high density housing, but should not be using tax payer dollars to subsidize a select group of residents from being moved off of private property.


13 people like this
Posted by Dave
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 21, 2015 at 1:59 pm

Here this is what the guy made in 2013 probably more now with COLA. Why can he pledge his own salary? What gets me is all this compassionate talks and all the while using public funds to boost your own ego. If you are in so much love for this town then why aren't you working for $1/year like the former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger did?

"Keene, who joined the city in 2008 and was the city's highest paid employee last year with a base salary of $247,187 and total compensation of $264,488 (including benefits), will see two salary bumps. One, which the staff report refers to as "merit pay," would raise his base salary to $254,603, effective July 1, 2013. The other pay bump would push it to $262,241, effective the first pay period after the council approves the contract. He would also receive one extra vacation week per year, raising his vacation hours from 200 to 240."


22 people like this
Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 21, 2015 at 3:09 pm

I have every hope that something can be worked out that allows the residents to stay in the park, but it must be done without violating the rights of the property owner.

The owner has made an offer for relocation expenses, which was accepted by the reviewer, and the renters have now appealed to the city council. The owner has the right to a fair review in the appeal process that is now under way, as does everyone else.

According to my reading of the law, the property owner must pay relocation fees. He does not have to provide for such city amenities as parks, libraries, and schools. Likewise, benefits of having the residents here is not the responsibility of the landlord.

The city must be fair in its treatment of the owner. Having the city manager announce, a few weeks before the council review, that he is setting aside funds to help purchase the property seems like the city is stating a very clear bias. Council should disown this effort in order to re-establish their integrity, which is now questionable to many of us.

The council should then proceed with the legal process. If the owner wins the right to proceed with eviction and sale, then the city should have the right to make an offer to purchase, just as anyone else can make an offer. The owner can then decide which offer he wants to accept.

We should note that every day in Palo Alto, property owners put their houses up for sale. The houses go into MLS, potential buyers make their offers, and the seller can make a free choice. All this occurs without the intrusion of the city or county, and without people making negative comments about how greedy and unreasonable the seller is by trying to maximize the sale price.

The current situation looks like the city is trying to pressure the owner to accept a low-ball offer that the city and county will devise. This is wrong and illegal. If the city wants to assert ownership, the imminent domain process is always available.

We should also note that the Jissers provided this property for decades and were considered heroes by many people. How many of us have built a trailer park for low-income people with our own monies and kept it open for decades?

I suggest that we calm down and allow the legal process to follow through. Any city offer to purchase should be done after the current legal process has concluded.


14 people like this
Posted by Agenda
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2015 at 5:31 pm

I guess what the Jisser family wants does not matter. This deal stinks to high heaven. I would not be surprised if our city council was not behind this offer by Keene. They are not known for their high ethical standards ( holman and finders fees, kniss and her claims about e- mails, the recent report of brown act violations by the council)
I see a big lawsuit in the future. Does anyone think that Jisser will get a fair hearing from the city now?


7 people like this
Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 21, 2015 at 6:23 pm

@ Robert Smith,

You make some good points. What you are missing, though, is that the former Council biased the entire development environment in favor of Jisser and set the ball rolling against the BV residents by making upzoning so easy. Sure, Jisser had a right to sell, but he didn't have a right to develop the property at 4 times the density, which is what he was asking for with Prometheus and fully expected to get before the Maybell referendum. You can't roll back the clock, but he wasn't running the park as a charity, he was making money and it's possible he would have made different business decisions had the City not created a development environment that was so slanted against the residents and so favored Jisser raising his expectations above what would have been reasonable if zoning rules had been respected in this town.

Had the development environment been different and the residents had come to Jisser with a great offer that would have allowed him to extract himself cleanly from that investment and move onto something else, and without ever having stars in his eyes about 4X zoning with Prometheus, things could have been very different.

Everyone does have rights here. All this poor-poor-Jisser stuff is not inclining anyone to feel sorry for him. Having to go through process, including appeals, is not a violation of any rights, it's due process. Making the money available from the affordable housing fund is also not a bias, the City has a whole townful of constituents, a great many of whom feel the advantages to the City as a whole of retaining a large community of long-time low income residents is worth acting upon (with precedent to do so). While the Council seems to be very careful not to be involved, they also have to represent the whole town, including the many people who want them to make support for a purchase possible. Jisser doesn't have to take an offer. In fact, I can't see why making different options possible is in any way a disadvantage to or bias against him. Combining that $16 million (county+city) with the $14.5 M still available from the residents funding is equal to the Prometheus offer, and one could envision scenarios where, between not having to pay any relocation fees plus tax write-offs (related to the residents' nonprofit), Jisser could even come out doing pretty well. If he played his cards right, he might even be able to wrangle concessions on other projects.


22 people like this
Posted by Agenda
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2015 at 6:31 pm

"What you are missing, though, is that the former Council biased the entire development environment in favor of Jisser and set the ball rolling against the BV residents by making upzoning so easy. Sure, Jisser had a right to sell, but he didn't have a right to develop the property at 4 times the density, which is what he was asking for with Prometheus and fully expected to get before the Maybell referendum. "
This irrelevant and not based n facts. Council was not asked to up zone the BV site and jisser did not ask the council for upzoning.
Jisser has aright to close BV. He has the right to not sell BV, also.
It is questionable if he will get a fair hearing from the council given the current make up of the council, with an out of touch mayor and other council members with little to no respect for private property rights.
I see this going before the courts, with a huge lawsuit filed against the city


3 people like this
Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 21, 2015 at 7:19 pm

@Greenacres

The proper zoning of the property is an entirely different question that whether the owners can proceed with the eviction and sell the property for another purpose.

I agree with you about the zoning and future uses but I think the law allows the Jissers to meet the relocation requirements and then sell.


6 people like this
Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 21, 2015 at 8:12 pm

@Agenda,
The application never got as far as the Council, but the fact remains that Prometheus had proposed to put 180 apartments on the property which is approximately 4 times the maximum zoning and would have required an ordinance, which Prometheus could have felt confident in that development environment prior to Maybell referendum that it would get.
Web Link

@Robert Smith,
You're right that legally zoning and the right to close are two different things. But from a business standpoint, different decisions almost certainly would have been made had our Council not been giving away upzoning like candy before the Maybell referendum. It's clear that Jissers expectations were raised by the partnership with Prometheus. There's no laws at issue here, only pointing out why doing the right thing by the residents of BV isn't unreasonable given City Council's past actions. When people complaint about "bias" above, they conveniently forget the biases favoring developers that led us to where we are.


12 people like this
Posted by Agenda
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2015 at 8:33 pm

Greenacres-- what Prometheus wanted Is irrelevant to this discussion. This issue is the right of the jissers to close BV and the right to sell or not sell the property.
Jisser has made a fair offer. The arbitrator decided it was so. Our misguided council has decided to hear an appeal. They are now trying to pressure Jisser to sell by having Keene pledge money towards the purchase. I am the only one who thinks that Jisser will not get a fair hearing from the council.
I am also wondering if certain council members will have to recuse themselves from the discussion, given their cozy relationships with certain members of friends of buena vista


8 people like this
Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 21, 2015 at 10:48 pm

@Agenda,

Even Jissers lawyers acknowledge the legal right of this appeal. So far the closure process is on the short side of how long these things take. You DO have an agenda, and that is to present a bias against the residents, who have a right to appeal.

You're whining about bias against Jisser, so my pointing out that Jisser had the cards all stacked in his favor leading up to this is relevant.

How exactly is the City's coming up with the money, making another business opportunity for Jisser, a "pressure" to sell? Oh brother. Mommy, make them stop offering me MORE money than Prometheus! Even though I can't build as much as we thought we could then! Make them stop offering me tens of millions of dollars and a tax write off. Oh, they're so biased poor poor me!

Please excuse the demonstration there, but that's how you are coming across. You aren't exactly making the case of bias against the Jissers when due process is proceeding, and you're claiming even a legal appeal is evidence of bias.


11 people like this
Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 22, 2015 at 1:10 am

@Greenacres:

"How exactly is the City's coming up with the money, making another business opportunity for Jisser, a "pressure" to sell?"

Here is how.

The city has announced its desire to purchase the property. The city manager made this announcement only a few weeks prior to the appeal hearings.

If the city were to find that the owners had not met the law in their relocation offers, it could appear to people as a biased decision designed to increase the pressure on the owners to sell at a price less than fair market. Clearly, the property is worth if it no longer has the status of a protected trailer park.

It seems to me that the city can no longer represent itself as an objective judge but has become an interested party to the entire matter.

If this ends up in court, the attorneys for the landlord are likely to feature the city's interest in purchasing as a reason for invalidating any ruling unfavorable to the owners.

If the city wants to make an offer once the owners have cleared the status of the property and can put it on the open market, that is fine with me. Otherwise, it really looks like coercion.


5 people like this
Posted by Supply & Demand
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 22, 2015 at 6:17 am

Let Palo Alto citizen decide if this is a proper way to spend public money (City & County).

Furthermore If it is then should we keep the place as current or convert it to an apartment complex and how dense? And who has the right to live there?


5 people like this
Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 22, 2015 at 8:35 am

@Robert Smith,
But the City has not expressed an interest in purchasing the property. The City has expressed the availability of funds from the affordable housing fund to be used (loaned) at BV to aid in the potential purchase if it is possible.

Council didn't make the decision, the City manager did. You forget our strong City manager structure.

The City Council also represents a great many constituents calling for their aid in negotiating a sale to residents, and yet they stay out of it. It seems to me all this attempt to conjure bias for Jisser when the Council seems bending over backwards to stay out of it.


5 people like this
Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 22, 2015 at 9:26 am

Supply & Demand,

We have an affordable housing fund. The right place to air those concerns is not in whether they should be spent to help existing low-income Palo Altans. But please consider this: when we help ensure stability for existing longtime low-income residents, we support a diversity of a local economy that reduces traffic, we support cohesion and community, we provide opportunity at a low cost relative to the costs of just dealing with the social problems when people at risk go over the edge. The residents of BV are not currently in subsidized housing, they have shown a desire for independence and a real sense of the value of education and working their way up in society. We should support that with the funds we have available already designated for that purpose.

The fact is, these funds are designated for affordable housing. They can't be spent any other way. I think it's pretty clear from recent events that Palo Altans would prefer the money was spent to help existing low-income residents over zone-busting new developments with large giveaways to for-profit developers that cost far more per space.


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Posted by Dave
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 22, 2015 at 10:31 am

[Post removed due to inaccurate factual assertions.]


6 people like this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 22, 2015 at 11:39 am

Our police need a new affordable home (aka police station). Buckets of money dedicated to one type of subsidized housing can be redirected to another type of subsidized housing: A new police station! $8M is a good start in that direction.

In the meantime, PA should not spend a dime of that money on BV, without a city-wide vote of our citizens.


14 people like this
Posted by GoneOnTooLong
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 22, 2015 at 12:39 pm

>> Greenacres : "The City has expressed the availability of funds from the affordable housing fund to be used (loaned) at BV "

Can you please provide a link to the statement by the city that the $8M identified in this article is in fact a loan ?




10 people like this
Posted by Surprised
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 22, 2015 at 12:55 pm

Can the city really do something like this without the consent of the citizens? After all it is our tax dollars. How can the city choose to commit $8M to something like this unless it was money from some fund that was earmarked for the purpose of low income housing? The city has any number of uses for the money ranging from infrastructure upgrades to PAUSD. Perhaps the additional parcel tax that is being sought to being made permanent would not have even been needed if this money had been made available to it.
It just seems not only legally wrong but a huge over-reach of authority. Not to speak of mis-placed priorities. Why the money just for the residents of Buena Vista? It seems that honest rent paying middle class citizens who dont live there deserve as much support if not more!


10 people like this
Posted by Jack M
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 22, 2015 at 1:02 pm

I don't understand all the speculation. The owner speaks freely of the situation. I just called him and he told me that Buena vista is NOT for sale. The family is simply closing down the business to explore development options.

The potential to develop the land and sell it is much greater than what people think to be true.



3 people like this
Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 22, 2015 at 1:04 pm

"How can the city choose to commit $8M to something like this unless it was money from some fund that was earmarked for the purpose of low income housing?"

Surprised,

It is indeed from a fund earmarked for affordable housing, as has been stated many times.


14 people like this
Posted by John
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 22, 2015 at 1:22 pm

To all who are so inspired by the city funding the eye sore , you should take a drive and look at it. What a waste of time and money

Glad to hear Jack M that the owner is a developer and is not will to waste public money on this place


10 people like this
Posted by All smoke
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Feb 22, 2015 at 1:25 pm

This is all smoke IMO. BV will close; the only unknown is how much of a payout the current residents will receive. This is the point of the appeal. Offers to buy BV and maintain it as a mobile home park are simply for show unless they involve the full market rate price of the property.


12 people like this
Posted by Jack M
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 22, 2015 at 1:38 pm

Still cannot believe there is a "payout". This process has been going on for more than 2 years. How is it that the park is still full. Really the owner wants to close it and the people after 2 years need a payout. a two year notice is a year and 11 months more than everybody else would have received.


2 people like this
Posted by Marty
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Feb 22, 2015 at 2:43 pm

The owner is required to satisfy the legal provisions of state and local law in closing a mobilehome park. The city ordinance Web Link requires submittal of a Relocation Impact Report(RIR). In addition to providing a plan to pay mitigation costs to the mobilehome owners for loss of their homes, the land owner must provide "a description of any proposed new use for the site" in the RIR. The RIR Web Link that is currently under appeal states:
"6. Description of Proposed New Use for the Site (Section 9.76.030 (d) (1)):
Located along the regional El Camino Real transit corridor, the proposed development would replace the 117 unit Buena Vista Mobilehome Park (approximately 5 acres) with a new, well designed infill apartment home community. Approximately one-half acre of the original 5 acre site of the mobilehome park will be retained by the Park Owner for future development."

In response to posts above implying the city is pressuring the Jisser's to sell the property it is clear from the RIR they filed with the city that the Jisser's intention is to sell this land for development.


15 people like this
Posted by Jack M
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 22, 2015 at 3:12 pm

Marty. Simply put you are wrong. The owner already filed the rir and a hearing officer has already ruled in favor of the owner. A development does not have to be proposed. The owner has already stated he has the right or close.

They are simply closing the park. Mixing the closure with a development would be ludicrous. The owner made it clear several times the park is only closing.

I'm Sure once closed and the people are moved out we will be arguing over the development. It's why the tenants have no chance. They have to be evicted prior to any sale or development.


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Posted by Marty
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Feb 23, 2015 at 12:30 pm

@Jack M
Please re-read my post. The quote about selling the land so it can be developed for infill apartments comes directly from the RIR filed by the Jissers. This statement is a requirement of the ordinance. The ordinance and RIR are linked in my post above.


9 people like this
Posted by Bill
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 23, 2015 at 1:03 pm

The Relocation Impact Report in your link was submitted in February, 2014 when Prometheus was still part of a proposed development plan for the site of the mobile home park. However, Prometheus pulled out in July, 2014. So, as Jack said, your information is wrong because it is not based on the current situation.

There are many other theads about the possibilities and the lack of a required development plan for the Buena Vista site on these forums. The zoning density of the site has also been debated over many different threads here.

I think it would helpful for those in favor of saving the park to put together some type of bullet points on the benefits and hopefully cost savings that might result from keeping the park in its present form. Perhaps it could be hosted on the Friends Buena Vista web site.

Those opposed, would be better off expressing their thoughts in written form to City Council. I've talked to members of council, and they are under the impression a that large numbers of residents are in favor of purchasing the park. So, if you disagree, you should make you thoughts known.

Honestly, I think that Council is not aware of the level of discomfort and disagreement among residents about purchasing Buena Vista. I would hate to see all of the effort spent on developing the new residentialist majority squandered on a misreading of the general public's dislike of the purchase option. People in Palo Alto don't want to anyone kicked to the curb, but in the end this is really a private property issue.


13 people like this
Posted by Kathy
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 23, 2015 at 1:19 pm

It's unfortunate that the Buena Vista families will have to move, but this is the way of the world when you rent --- when you don't your home or when you don't own the land on which your home sits. There are many others who have been in similar situations in Palo Alto and have had to move elsewhere. Palo Alto is not the only place to raise a child and send them to school. Children can be successful in all the communities which surround us.

If the city wants to build affordable housing and then decide on eligibility for living there, that would be one thing. This is another.


6 people like this
Posted by June
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 23, 2015 at 2:59 pm

This is so clearly an issue that should be given a vote of all registered voters in Palo Alto. Our city council should punt to a ballot on this issue!


7 people like this
Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 23, 2015 at 4:44 pm

@Bill,

Thanks for your comments.

There are two very separate issues involved here that are being confused. One is how the city should deal with the proposal from the owners to pay relocation costs and repurpose the park. The other issue is whether the park should be saved and whether the city should take a role in that.

I happen to want the park saved and have no problems with the city and the county making a contribution to saving it. HOWEVER, before we can get to the point of considering that, the city has a legal obligation to deal with the proposal from the owners, which was accepted last fall but has been appealed to the council.

Based on state and local law, the council must make its decision purely on the question of whether the relocation payments offered are "reasonable".

Many legally irrelevant issues to this key decision are being raised. Amenities provided by the city, value of the residents to the city, value of diversity to the community, whether the city has enough low-income housing, all of these are irrelevant to the issue before council. It is simply whether the relocation payments are reasonable.

Once thc council has resolved this issue, they are free to make an offer to the owners, which the owners are also free to reject. The city could also presumably invoke emminent domain to force the owners to sell to the city.

What the city must avoid doing is being influenced to reject the proposed relocation payments because they have decided that they want to buy the property and save the park.



6 people like this
Posted by WellSummarized
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 23, 2015 at 5:27 pm

Robert,

Your most recent post I think summarizes the situation well. The City *Council* cannot mix its decision in the relocation appeal process with the possible desire of a majority of Palo Alto *Citizens* to have a trailer park on the BV site.

I echo concern of others that comments or actions by Council members or City employees that appear to mix these two items could lead to litigation should the City Council uphold the BV residents appeal of the relocation settlement.

And spending money on *THAT* would really upset me and many others.



4 people like this
Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 23, 2015 at 8:53 pm

@ Robert Smith,
Thank you for your valuable summary. I don't think the City Manager's simply making the money available demonstrates any bias by Council, though, it's just realistic about timing in the event of the possibility. Many people, including me, having been asking for them to use the affordable housing funds at BV since before the Maybell referendum. Compared to the activism the City Council engaged in at Maybell (these are the same funds from the county, by the way), they are being enormously restrained here,

@Kathy,
The people at BV aren't just renters like everyone else. It would be more equivalent to a condo owner's association being able to evict people from their condos. The law recognizes mobile homes as a different category, because the homes aren't really mobile once they are in place, and the residents do invest a lot in the homes. It's more equivalent to the professors at Stanford buying their homes and leasing the land from Stanford. What if Stanford asked for the land back? They do have a right, but there are conditions in the contract -- same for mobile home parks, which is why there is a process going on now at BV. What if Stanford decided it wanted the land on which Gunn HS sits back? It wouldn't be out of the question for the City to consider eminent domain.

I'm not really an advocate of eminent domain, though if the owner were well-compensated, I wouldn't be sorry to see it. (now the firestorm of comments on that issue...)


Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Barron Park

on Feb 23, 2015 at 9:10 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


6 people like this
Posted by Baxter
a resident of another community
on Feb 23, 2015 at 9:21 pm

Hey Greenacres,

Don't assert that these mobile homes can't be moved. Come visit Web Link and get a proper review before you say it won't work. You'd be surprised what can be done with an 'old trailer'.


6 people like this
Posted by jerry99
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 25, 2015 at 2:25 pm

[Portion removed.] Mr. Jisser owns the property and should be allowed to sell it without having to endure this ongoing 2+ years of left wing liberal nonsense requesting endless City Council meetings [portion removed.]
A judge determined that the resident will be WELL COMPENSATED for moving so just do it and close it down. There was already an appeal process for that action so I can't imagine why the City Council has scheduled another "appeal meeting".
[Portion removed.]


5 people like this
Posted by george drysdale
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 6, 2015 at 2:45 pm

Preserving mobile home parks along the very high priced land along the coast of California is one of the slickest land swindles in American history. Read of the internet: The end of rent control: the crash ... and especially The end of rent control: the catastrophe in Capitola and the great Santa Cruz Land Swindle, MSN has them both together. Number one for two years concerning the most studied subject in economics, rent control e.g. property control. The Buena Vista is hugely expensive housing. Mobile home parks were a creation for the housing shortage after world war II. They are land banks for future development. Developed out as apartments the Buena Vista would be assessed out (believe it or not) at more than one hundred times the assessment and tax returns as it is now as a trailer park. If you want to really have affordable housing why not keep the Buena Vista as it first was: mud huts and grass shacks occupied by by Indians. Palo Alto's city council and supervisor Simitian should take a course in real estate economics before they make destructive clowns of themselves. George Drysdale economics teacher


5 people like this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 7, 2015 at 12:42 pm

>Developed out as apartments the Buena Vista would be assessed out (believe it or not) at more than one hundred times the assessment and tax returns as it is now as a trailer park.

Indeed. The supporters of subsidized housing always like to avoid such messy facts. BV is a private deal, and should be left at that...once the issue is resolved, according to market forces, the tax yield will be immensely higher than it is now.


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Posted by Memories
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 7, 2015 at 3:59 pm

Jack doesn't know Calif law for renters.


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Posted by just a bit of tax revenue info
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 7, 2015 at 4:52 pm

The current taxable assessed value for Buena Vista is #3,178,997, so about $40K a year in property taxes, many people pay more than that for the taxes on their single family homes.


7 people like this
Posted by lot
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 7, 2015 at 6:29 pm

If the residents bought it, it would go to an assessed value of $40,000,0000. Which, given their current rental, would be the same as 7 months rent just to pay the property tax each year. Let alone deal with paying off the loans on the $40,000,000. If someone else buys it and keeps it open, how are they going to do the necessary upgrades and turn a profit on only 5 months rent?


3 people like this
Posted by Marc
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 23, 2015 at 10:19 am

Before everyone runs off and says that buying Buena Vista will save the day.
Has anyone really looked at what would happen if they did? Has anyone done
any due diligence?

I predict that if some public/non-profit operator buys Buena Vista, within 2
years most of the current residents would be gone. Forced out by higher
monthly costs and the cost to repair their mobile homes.

Here's how I see it playing out.

A number of public enitities pledge money to be used to buy the property.
They can't just buy it outright, the money is used to back a loan that the
operator uses to buy the property. Let's say for $25 million dollars. And
they get the loan at 2% interest.

So the first thing that happens is that the monthly space rental costs go
up. The costs now have to include the mortgage payments.

Also the property/school taxes are now based on the new purchase price. So
again the monthly space rental costs go up.

The operator has to pay it's employess to manage the park. A complaint has
been that the Jissers were never around. So I am assuming that the operator
has to have management and maintenance on site. Again the costs go up.

It has been said that there needs to be significant improvements to the
parks' infrastructure. Let's say that it costs $5 million to make all the
improvements. Again the costs go up.

Now that the park has changed ownership, I am assuming that it has to be run
according to the latest codes. This includes active management of the
occupancy limits for each unit. It also means that each unit would have to
be inspected and brought up to code at the owner's expense.

I am also assuming that the new operator would have to go back to the state
and pull all the building permits that were taken out for any unit at Buena
Vista. Any unit that has been altered but did not have a building permit,
the changes would have to be removed and/or brought up to state building
code.

At the end of 2 years, most of the current tenants would be gone. Forced
out buy the higher monthly costs.


3 people like this
Posted by Desert Jack
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 24, 2015 at 1:26 pm

Very soon after 26 May, assuming Council approves the park owner's closure application, Buena Vista residents are probably going to receive their eviction notices. Tough but bearable since each notice also means a $60k payoff, give or take.

Next will be a push by the City and County to buy Buena Vista to preserve the park as affordable housing. The $8M allocated by the city manager for the purchase must not be rubber stamped by Council - other affordable housing proposals need to be evaluated to determine the best use of the money.

The public is entitled to a debate on the acquisition of Buena Vista, not a fait accompli. Even better would be a city referendum.

BTW - will any residents of Buena Vista who don't qualify for affordable housing be required to move so their spaces can go to those with demonstrable need?


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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