News

New report challenges Buena Vista appraisals

Attorneys clash over whether assessment should be admitted as evidence

With Palo Alto officials preparing to rule on the fate of the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park later this month, residents of the park are challenging a key property appraisal that was used by the park owner to determine how much compensation the evicted residents would receive.

The attorneys for the Buena Vista Residents Association have recently submitted to the city a new Appraisal Review Report that vehemently criticizes the home appraisals used by the Jisser family in their Relocation Impact Report, a key document in the closure process. Now, with less than two weeks to go until the City Council considers the adequacy of the Relocation Impact Report — among the last steps in the protracted closure process — attorneys for the two sides are squabbling over whether the critical new appraisal should be admitted as evidence.

The new report was crafted by James Brabant, a certified real estate appraiser, at the request of the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, Sidley Austin LLP, and Western Center of Law and Poverty, firms that have been working with the Buena Vista Residents Association. Brabant reviewed the appraisal of Buena Vista homes that was conducted more than two years ago by Beccaria & Weber and that was used to calculate the value of the mobile homes. Brabant's nine-page report concluded that the analysis included in the 32 appraisals by Beccaria & Weber was "flawed and does not provide reasonable estimates of in-place market value."

"It also appears that most of the shortcomings have resulted in an undervaluation of homes," Brabant wrote.

Brabant's assessment takes issue with the sales data that was used by Beccaria & Weber, a key consideration in determining how much compensation residents should receive when they move out. The Beccaria & Weber appraisal relied on 13 mobile-home sales, six of which took place in Buena Vista and five in neighboring communities, including Mountain View, Sunnyvale and Redwood City. Brabant's report notes that even though the Beccaria & Weber report appraised 32 mobile homes with a great variation in size, type and age, only 13 homes' values are used throughout the "comparable sales" analysis for almost all 32 appraisals.

"It looks like a very small sampling of sales was chosen from a potentially large data base that could produce misleading results," Brabant wrote.

Brabant noted that in some cases, two mobile homes were sold in the same park for two very different rates. Yet the appraisal only considered the sale with the lower price. For example, the appraisal relied on a home in Mountain View's Sahara Village that sold for $15,000 in 2012. Yet Brabant points to data showing that other homes in the complex were recently sold for $34,000. Others went for $22,000 and $20,000.

"The lower sale at $15,000 was utilized in all 32 of the appraisals," Brabant wrote. "Focusing on the lower sale and ignoring higher sales would likely produce a misleading result."

The range of the six sales from Buena Vista was from $3,000 to $29,000, according to the initial appraisal. Yet Brabant notes that he is aware of at least three Buena Vista homes that were bought for $50,000 or more. In one of the three examples, a home that was bought for $50,000 in the 2003-04 time frame was appraised for $16,000 by Beccaria & Weber. Another home, in the park's Space 110, was appraised for $30,000, even though it was sold in July 2012 for $50,000.

As part of his review, Brabant interviewed the owner of the mobile home in Space 110, Hariberto Avalos, who confirmed that he bought the home for $50,000 in July 2012 and that the home was in good condition. Avalos also reportedly said that he was unaware of the pending park closure at the time and would not have purchased it if he had known.

"He was notified of the closure about three months after he bought the home," Brabant's report states.

Brabant also notes that the prior appraisal didn't make adequate "date of value" to account for the fact that local property values have been skyrocketing. He noted that the median price for residential properties in Santa Clara County had gone from $593,000 as of January 2010 to $853,000 as of January 2015, a 44 percent increase. In Palo Alto, the trend was more significant, with the median price going from about $1.1 million to $2.2 million, an increase of 100 percent.

Attorneys for the residents are hoping that council members will consider the new analysis during their deliberations of the Jissers' closure application. However, Margaret Nanda, who is representing the Jisser family, is arguing that the Brabant report should not be admitted into the record, citing the city's appeals procedures. The procedures state that the "evidentiary record is closed" and that new documents "shall not be offered as a basis for decision on appeal, except that Council may allow new evidence if a party can demonstrate that newly discovered and relevant evidence exists that could not have been discovered with the exercise of reasonable diligence during the initial proceeding before the Hearing Officer." In this case, she argued, the information could have been commissioned and submitted months ago, during the initial hearing process last year.

The Residents Association, Nanda wrote, "must not be permitted to benefit from attempting to shirk previously established appeal procedures because they feel entitled to do so." There is no loophole, she wrote, that allows the admission of the appraisal and the accompanying Trulia listing, which purport to demonstrate the rising housing values.

"The proposed evidence is neither relevant, nor can be shown to have not (been) obtainable during the hearing procedure by a party exercising reasonable diligence," Nanda wrote on March 25. "Moreover, admitting the additional evidence would be extremely prejudicial to the Park Owner. The prejudice outweighs any probative value the proposed evidence may offer because the evidence is clearly not relevant and because it has been put forth in a way that intentionally circumvents the agreed upon procedures governing the process."

But while Nanda is criticizing the residents for submitting last-minute documents in an attempt to sway a decision, attorneys for the residents note that the Jissers' attorney employed the same practice during the May 2014 hearings in front of Hearing Officer Craig Labadie. During the last of the three hearings, Nanda agreed to revise the package to offer residents a 100 percent rent differential (the difference between their Buena Vista rents and the rents at their new homes), rather than the 40 percent proposed in the report. The last-minute addendum, wrote Nadia Aziz, an attorney with the Law Foundation, was done "at the end of the hearing, after all the testimony had concluded, and with no opportunity for the Residents Association to question the owner or its witnesses about the addendum."

"Given that the Hearing Officer allowed the owner to make last-minute additions to the RIR regarding the appraisals described in the RIR, without rebuttal and without any mechanism to appeal those unknown future amounts, the City should allow this report to serve at least as rebuttal of the methodology of the appraiser that will likely be performing those appraisals."

The report comes at a critical time for the roughly 400 Buena Vista residents who would be evicted if the mobile-home shutters. The Jisser family, which owns the park at 3980 El Camino Real, has been trying to close the park since fall of 2012.

Last year, the closure effort scored two big victories. In February 2014, the city signed off on its Relocation Impact Report, an analysis that offers compensation packages to the roughly 400 residents. In October, Labadie concurred that the report is adequate, paving the way for the park's closure. Residents are now appealing the Labadie decision, and the City Council is set to hear the appeal on April 13 and 14.

The new correspondence comes despite an explicit decision by the City Council in January to limit the new arguments from each side to 10 pages. In addition to various letters about appeals procedures and the new report, both Nanda and the Residents Association followed up with a 10-page "pre-hearing statement" summarizing their respective arguments.

Nanda wrote in her pre-hearing statement that the arguments raised by the Residents Association have already been considered and addressed by Labadie and noted that local law "clearly contemplates that it is the Hearing Officer to whom the decision as to the adequacy of the mitigation assistance is given."

"The Park Owner met the burden of proof by a preponderance of evidence," Nanda wrote.

Attorneys for the residents maintain in their pre-hearing statement, as they had all throughout the process, that the relocation measures proposed by the Jissers "lack substance and create no realistic expectation that residents will be able to find and secure comparable housing in a comparable community."

"The families who live at Buena Vista will likely be forced to move farther from their jobs and families, to leave the high-quality schools that their children are attending, and to say goodbye to the community that they have built in the years — or even decades — that they have lived in the park," the Residents Association stated. "The proposed mitigations are not sufficient, and the City Council should deny the owner's request to close Buena Vista."

Related content:

State, federal funds sought to save Buena Vista

Buena Vista rally brings hundreds to City Hall

Santa Clara County supervisors vote to support Buena Vista Mobile Home Park

Palo Alto pledges $8M to preserve Buena Vista

Comments

29 people like this
Posted by Jack
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 3, 2015 at 9:00 am

The "community they have built". Seriously! You mean the land they lease to place their trailers on?

Real estate has gone up!!! Yes it has. The land owners real estate. The mobile homes are not attached. Are we asking to home owner to give his land value to people who rented a place for their trailers?

This law suit against Palo Alto (the one that is coming) is going to be huge.


1 person likes this
Posted by Jack
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 3, 2015 at 9:00 am

The "community they have built". Seriously! You mean the land they lease to place their trailers on?

Real estate has gone up!!! Yes it has. The land owners real estate. The mobile homes are not attached. Are we asking to home owner to give his land value to people who rented a place for their trailers?

This law suit against Palo Alto (the one that is coming) is going to be huge.


1 person likes this
Posted by Janet
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 3, 2015 at 9:02 am

I hope Winter has pushed the city to a point that they are willing to get sued for votes.


19 people like this
Posted by Carlos
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 3, 2015 at 10:23 am

Can't deny the fact that the park residents have gotten some good agitators to make lots of noise. I just hope the rule of law eventually prevails and the Jissers can enforce their property rights. Don't want my taxpayer's money being wasted because of our city council's efforts to please these agitators.

Fellow neighbors, we all have a lot of skin in this game because it could set a dangerous precedent on what you could or could not do with property you rightfully own.


12 people like this
Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 3, 2015 at 11:09 am

Carlos,

The situation is proceeding as is laid out in statute for closure of mobile home parks. Both sides have rights, and they are exercising them. There are no issues or threats here to any general property issues.

Except this: if the mobile home park is closed, residents in the surrounding area face a battle with whatever developer wants to build there, with the increased density, traffic, and development, loss of water and daylight plane it will surely bring. The previous application was for four times existing maximum zoning.

I think people living here would much rather help their neighbors remain here, and retain some low-income housing in Palo Alto. It's not on the table now in this negotiation. But neither are any of the "precedent" you claim are at issue. Buena Vista residents have a legitimate legal claim, and they have rights, too.


2 people like this
Posted by george drysdale
a resident of Professorville
on Apr 3, 2015 at 11:40 am

"Ruinous compassion." Practically the entire valuation of the trailers is in the use of Jisser's land. There is no such thing as "affordable housing", just subsidized housing. With cheap living spaces in Palo Alto going for at least 500k this is quite a subsidy. How many teacher or law officers can be hired for a year for the cost of one "affordable housing" unit.

George Drysdale, a social science teacher


8 people like this
Posted by Let Them Eat Cake...Somewhere Else
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 3, 2015 at 1:15 pm

How dare these uppity residents exercise their rights and advocate for their best interest within the context of the law! This whole situation sure makes me miss the good ol' days....

Greenacres is correct, both sides have rights. There is a process that is required to be followed. From what I've ready no one is saying that the Jissers' can't sell their property, not the residents and not those deviant "agitators". I would also think that by willingly participating in this process the Jissers' accept the rights of the residents to a fair process (even if both sides don't agree on what's fair), so why can't some of you?

One last comment/question: Do you think that Palo Alto's ABAG housing requirements are a reason that a number of politicians are getting involved?

"As an advisory organization, ABAG has no direct authority over Palo Alto. However, there are significant state funds and legal repercussions tied to compliance with the State’s housing requirement allocated by ABAG.

It’s hard to calculate exactly how much money is tied to ABAG compliance but estimates range from as low as $2 million to as high as $10 million a year. The potential lawsuits that could be opened up by noncompliance could be even more expensive. See more about negative impacts of not complying with ABAG below."

Web Link


13 people like this
Posted by george drysdale
a resident of Professorville
on Apr 3, 2015 at 4:35 pm

Now we're coming to one of the basic themes in economics. ABAG is a group of politicians trying to look knowledgeable and benign. They have no real teeth. Atherton ignores them. Los Altos Hill ignores AGAG. Why? They just look at the numbers. Only the very few lucky lottery winners get affordable housing and they're the ones who can hang around town for five or more years to receive aid.

Geroge Drysdale


14 people like this
Posted by jerry99
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 3, 2015 at 6:38 pm


"Yet Brabant notes that he is aware of at least three Buena Vista homes that were bought for $50,000 or more. In one of the three examples, a home that was bought for $50,000 in the 2003-04 time frame was appraised for $16,000 by Beccaria & Weber."

Those are all old fire traps, nobody in their right mind would pay anything for and of them. If they are so "special" the owners can get a moving company to take them to a new location and live there. This is just one more looney tactic trying to delay park closure even beyond the current non justifiable 2 1/2 year closure process.


Like this comment
Posted by Me
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 3, 2015 at 10:11 pm

Boohoo


5 people like this
Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 4, 2015 at 1:31 pm

jerry99,

How would you feel if Stanford said they wanted their land on which Gunn HS sits back?

A mobile home park is a unique situation under the law. Anyone who gets into the business knows it's more complicated than just buying an apartment building.

Both parties are proceeding under the terms of the law. There's no need to bash vulnerable people.

Raising the money to potentially provide the property owner with a reasonable offer is also no skin off anyone's noses, especially since any monies so far made available from public funds are dedicated to affordable housing anyway. The spots of existing residents that would otherwise be lost ought to count with ABAG but are not, making all those development "incentives" at the state level pretty empty. (Developers first.)


11 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 4, 2015 at 4:15 pm

The Gunn HS land swap is a permament agreement. Bad example as Stanford cannot take the land back.

BV is private property. It is a mobile home park. There are State laws governing mobile home park closures...but those laws are all about moving compensation, nothing else. And the amount of the compensation is at issue here. Not whether the park can be closed.

This is why I don't get all of the grandstanding and the funding pledges. Funding for what? The park is not for sale.


2 people like this
Posted by Becky Sanders
a resident of Ventura
on Apr 4, 2015 at 7:21 pm

FYI a video just went up covering the Rally for BV on March 9. Create by Media Center volunteers, some of the perspectives may be ones previously not considered.

Web Link


2 people like this
Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 4, 2015 at 7:22 pm

SteveU is a registered user.

If the land owner wants an empty Mobile home park, that is his right after following the law on closure.

Do I have to approve of a Zoning change for something else? No Way!


6 people like this
Posted by schools
a resident of another community
on Apr 4, 2015 at 8:04 pm

Regarding these children having to leave the high-quality schools--- Shouldn’t the quality of the schools in this case be measured by how these particular students are performing at the school they attend? It shouldn’t matter how Asian students are performing at Hoover, or white students at Nixon, what matters for their case is how the Latino students are performing at Barron Park. In 2013 only 27% of Latino 2nd graders at Barron Park scored proficient or above in English and math. Finding a comparable school district for them won’t be a struggle because we need to find a district good enough; it will be a struggle because we need to find a district bad enough. Anyone have ideas? Compton maybe?


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

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