News

Council to hear appeal over Buena Vista Mobile Home Park

Residents' fates rest in hands of Palo Alto councilmembers

In what could be the decisive battle in the two-and-a-half-year war over closing the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park in Palo Alto, the City Council is set to hear an appeal by residents of the El Camino Real park next Monday and Tuesday.

The hearing could cap the long and emotional process that since the fall of 2012 has galvanized the community and thrust the park's residents into the spotlight. A working-class enclave in a city known for sky-high real estate prices, the 4.6-acre mobile-home park has for decades provided affordable housing to about 400 residents, many of them Hispanic and on the lower end of the local income scale.

If the council rules that the compensation offered to the residents by the property owner for relocation is sufficient, those residents are expected to be evicted and the park closed. Last fall, a hearing officer concluded that the relocation assistance is enough; Buena Vista residents are appealing that decision.

The hearing will begin on April 13 at 6 p.m. with public comment. Under rules outlined in a recent letter from City Attorney Molly Stump, speakers will be allotted 3 minutes each, unless Mayor Karen Holman further limits the time allocation due to the number of people wishing to address the council. A group of five or more people at the meeting may select a spokesperson to represent them, in which case the spokesperson would be allowed to speak for up to 10 minutes, according to Stump.

Following public comment, the Buena Vista Residents Association will be invited to make a 30-minute presentation, followed by a 10-minute testimony by a witness. The witness for the residents will be Elizabeth Seifel, president of Seifel Consulting.

According to a letter from the attorneys for the residents association, Seifel has "extensive experience advising public and private sector clients regarding real estate and development matters." Her presentation will outline the "unique features of Buena Vista" that must be taken into account when identifying comparable housing; the current housing market in which the Buena Vista families will have to find comparable housing; and the location and features of alternative housing that would be available to the residents based on the relocation assistance approved by the hearing officer.

The park owners will then be given the same opportunity. This week, the attorney for the Jisser family indicated that the expert witness for her side will be David Beccaria, whose firm appraised the Buena Vista properties as part of the Jissers' Relocation Impact Report. According to attorney Margaret Nanda, the decision to call Beccaria as an expert witness was prompted by a recent review commissioned by the residents' association that challenges Beccaria's methodology. Beccaria this week offered a point-by-point response to the critique. Though Beccaria noted that property values have increased since early 2013, when he wrote his report, he maintained that the firm's reports "are valid relative to the effective date of the report."

After the presentation and the expert testimony from each side, the council may either proceed directly to hearing each side's 15-minute rebuttal, or it might opt to ask questions and make comments first, followed by the rebuttals.

The council's deliberation and decision on the appeal will follow. If the meeting extends too late on Monday night, the council will reconvene the next day, also at 6 p.m., to conclude the hearing. Members of the public will only be allowed to speak at the April 13 meeting.

In advance of the hearings, the Weekly has compiled an archive of documents, videos, photos and news articles that illustrate the history of the closure process and more recent efforts to coordinate funding and plans for preserving the park, should the council next week rule in favor of the residents.

The archive is posted at Storify.com/paloaltoweekly.

— Palo Alto Weekly staff

Comments

43 people like this
Posted by GoneOnTooLong
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 10, 2015 at 8:07 am

>> "the 4.6-acre mobile-home park has for decades provided affordable housing to about 400 residents" <<

Should read : The owners of the 4.6-acre property have for decades provided below market rate rental space for the trailer and mobile home owners to park their units on the owners property.

>>"Last fall, a hearing officer concluded that the relocation assistance is enough"<<

should read : Last fall (11 months ago), the City's own hearing officer (an administrative judge versed in the law and with expertise in these matters) concluded that the relocation assistance being offered by the park owner is enough.

/end/


10 people like this
Posted by Susan
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 10, 2015 at 10:22 am

I have followed this closely, even reading the documents. The owners required relocation amount is way low and unrealistic. Or maybe it is laughingly low. Though who can laugh given how many lives are going to be ruined if the council just rubber stamps the ridiculous decision the lawyer (Hearing Officer) made last year saying the amount was fine. The record of that Hearing says the property owner makes about $800,000 a year off rents at Buena Vista. The place is not maintained well - been true for years - though it is the owners responsibility. The council must do the obvious and acknowledge the law isn't being followed by the owner. The place can't shut down till the laws requirements are followed. In the mean time, it must get purchased by a public or private entity that allows residents to simply keep living here.


34 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 10, 2015 at 10:56 am

So the CC hearing is supposed to be about whether the relocation allowance is the correct amount.

I wonder if the CC/Mayor will restrict public comments to that specific discussion point or not. No doubt there will be a long line of people who are going to want to appeal to CC and ask that the CC prevent the closure...for other reasons beyond whether the relocation fee is the correct amount. It be interesting to see if the CC/Mayor has the huevos to keep the discussion on point...and cut-off any speaker who waivers from the singular subject on the agenda.

@ Susan: the BV site is not for sale.


23 people like this
Posted by 38 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 10, 2015 at 11:28 am

The city council should stay away from this. The property owner has rights, among which is the right to sell. Mr.Jisser has been more than fair to the tenants over the years and has made a generous offer to assist these families in relocation. No doubt there will be a law suit filed against the city should they foolishly try to block this transaction.


26 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 10, 2015 at 12:01 pm

I also wonder if the CC will say, "$x is not enough, make it $y and we're OK."

In other words, will there be an endless loop or will there be a stopping point?


5 people like this
Posted by Becky Sanders
a resident of Ventura
on Apr 10, 2015 at 12:30 pm

Please check out the Media Center volunteer-produced video about the rally at City Hall on March 9:

Web Link


10 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 10, 2015 at 2:17 pm

Sorry to say I'm ambivalent on this issue because I don't know as much as I should about it, altho I've read many of the articles about it for a couple years. I think I know what owners' property rights are...a good place to start. Rental income from BV is, and has been, very low for a very long time and very low compared to what the family could be getting with whatever plans they have in mind for the future of their property...key words..."their property". That works back to our free market economy, capitalism, et al. It's here, we live with it and most, but not all, seem to adopt it. There are many who put in hard work to be successful and made lots of money for their hard work, but then there are the others, also hard working but mostly backbreaking labor jobs, not lazy, but just unfortunate not to be able to afford a better education beyond high school.

After CC's long hearings and debates on this issue I have a hunch it will go the owner's way. I think there needs to be a readjustment, updated to today's values, to the relocation costs. I don't think they were fair when the judgment was made before. With that offer those BV residents would have to move and live far away from here, being disrupted and separated from former neighbors and good schools. There should be a value put on that also.


2 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 10, 2015 at 2:17 pm

Sorry to say I'm ambivalent on this issue because I don't know as much as I should about it, altho I've read many of the articles about it for a couple years. I think I know what owners' property rights are...a good place to start. Rental income from BV is, and has been, very low for a very long time and very low compared to what the family could be getting with whatever plans they have in mind for the future of their property...key words..."their property". That works back to our free market economy, capitalism, et al. It's here, we live with it and most, but not all, seem to adopt it. There are many who put in hard work to be successful and made lots of money for their hard work, but then there are the others, also hard working but mostly backbreaking labor jobs, not lazy, but just unfortunate not to be able to afford a better education beyond high school.

After CC's long hearings and debates on this issue I have a hunch it will go the owner's way. I think there needs to be a readjustment, updated to today's values, to the relocation costs. I don't think they were fair when the judgment was made before. With that offer those BV residents would have to move and live far away from here, being disrupted and separated from former neighbors and good schools. There should be a value put on that also.


23 people like this
Posted by R Wray
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 10, 2015 at 2:52 pm

Just because a renter happens to rent some space from a property owner doesn't give the renter the right to be subsidized by the owner (or tax payer) for the rest of the renter's life.

Support property rights.


27 people like this
Posted by GoneOnTooLong
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 10, 2015 at 3:02 pm

@Gale Johnson You said:
>>"I think there needs to be a readjustment, updated to today's values, to the relocation costs."<<

You might at least read the city's documents pertaining to the upcoming hearing at:

Web Link

It them you will see that the relocation package does already provide what you are asking for (among other things)...
"An amount equal to 100% of the on-site fair market value of each mobilehome, .... The appraisals shall be updated to reflect
current market conditions within six months of the owner's relocation from the Park. ......(and).... A lump sum amount equal to 100% of the differential between average rents for apartments in the cities surrounding Palo Alto and the average space rents in the Buena Vista Mobilehome Park for a period of 12 months, which shall be updated to reflect current market conditions within six months of the resident's relocation from Buena Vista. "


2 people like this
Posted by Chance
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 10, 2015 at 4:33 pm

This sounds like an excellent movie script. Tony PA vs. trailer people. An oasis in the desert /or/ the 1/8 per cent. You know all those salt ponds next to Redwood City that were going to be filled and housing built -- maybe fill them and have an even larger trailer park there !! Palm trees, swimming pools, Costco, everything!


10 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 12, 2015 at 9:00 am

@GoneOnTooLong

Thank you. I took your advice. It was a tough read but very revealing. It was an eye opener to me about how much research has gone into this on both sides. And it gives me an appreciation of the tough job and decision making that CC has ahead.


6 people like this
Posted by take a statistics class
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 12, 2015 at 2:07 pm

Why does the appeal letter keep referring to the Stanford survey like it’s a wonderful piece of evidence?

They continue to cite the fact that the survey said Buena Vista has no dropouts, but if you actually read the survey it says “we were unable to identify any of the children (age 18 or younger) as having dropped out of school.”

Who in the world measures dropout rates stopping at children 18 or younger? That can’t possibly provide meaningful data. A student who got held back once could be 18 in 11th grade, if they don’t show up for school the next year they don’t count as a dropout because they are older than 18? What if they dropped out at 17, but the study was conducted 2 years after they dropped out, they no longer count because they are now over 18?

Either the survey cannot be trusted because it was designed solely to forward an agenda, or Stanford simply has no idea how to conduct an actual study. Either way, anytime the lawyers bring it up in the hearing, remember you cannot trust any data they cite from it.


12 people like this
Posted by two simple facts
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 12, 2015 at 5:15 pm

This hearing is to decide whether "the compensation offered to the residents by the property owner for relocation is sufficient". It was already declared sufficient by the hearing officer. BTW the quality of our schools was specifically NOT included as part of the City's ordinance.

And Buena Vista is not for sale.


14 people like this
Posted by m2grs
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 12, 2015 at 8:55 pm

Whatever the decision it might be let's hope Palo Alto will not be dragged into a monumental lawsuit by the Jisser family. They have the financial resources to launch the legal battle. It can go all the way to the Supreme Court. The financial damage to Palo Alto can be ruinous.

Halfmoon Bay lost a legal battle of similar kind that almost bankrupted the city. Does Palo Alto want to use the money, contributed by its tax-paying citizens, to fight such a battle?


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

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