The effort to prevent the closure of Buena Vista Mobile Home Park has spread well beyond the city's borders in recent weeks, with state Sen. Jerry Hill, state Assemblyman Rich Gordon and U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo all joining the drive to raise money for the park's preservation.
Hill and Gordon co-signed a letter earlier this month to the California Department of Housing and Community Development asking the agency for assistance in identifying potential sources of funding for preserving what they call "vital affordable housing." This came weeks after Eshoo submitted a similar request to Julian Castro, secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The requests come at a crucial time for Buena Vista, which is set for a City Council hearing next month. Palo Alto's lone mobile-home park has been going through the closure process since late 2012, when owners first announced their plan to convert the Barron Park site to a market-rate apartment complex.
The effort by the Jisser family to close Buena Vista received a boost last fall, when a hearing officer signed off on the Jissers' plan to compensate the hundreds of residents who would be displaced. Residents are appealing that decision, with the City Council set to hear the appeal on April 13.
Meanwhile a parallel effort is under way to raise money for preserving Buena Vista. Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, a former Palo Alto mayor, kickstarted the fundraising drive in January, when the board approved his proposal to set aside $8 million in county funds for the park's preservation. The following month, Palo Alto City Manager James Keene followed suit by pledging $8 million in local funds, pending the City Council's approval. Both the county and the city allocations come from funds specifically designated for affordable housing.
"As you know, we represent the Silicon Valley, the driver of California's economic engine but a region in danger of losing its prized socio-economic diversity as a result of the astonishing growth in housing costs," the March 9 Hill and Gordon letter to department Director Claudia Cappio states.
"Efforts to explore potential funding sources to preserve homes at Buena Vista are underway, and we ask for your help. As the City of Palo Alto studies solutions, it would be of great benefit for their leaders to know what opportunities HCD may uncover," the letter from Hill and Gordon states.
Eshoo's letter to Castro makes a similar case. The park "at the heart of my Silicon Valley Congressional district ... is being sold and the residents are at risk of becoming homeless or having to relocate out of this high-priced community," Eshoo's Feb. 18 letter states.
Eshoo also cited the recent $8 million county allocation and noted that the board "hopes to collaborate with the City of Palo Alto and other agencies in this effort."
"Innovative, collaborative efforts are necessary to avoid displacement for families with few or no options to remain in our community," Eshoo wrote. "With your assistance and the efforts of local government and non-profits, I'm confident we can create a solution that will benefit the families of the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park and allow them to remain in the community that is their home."