News

Santa Clara County in a 'race against the clock' to save Buena Vista

Board of Supervisors approves process for finding partner to assist with mobile-home park's preservation

Acknowledging the long odds and the short window of opportunity, Santa Clara County officials on Tuesday reaffirmed their commitment to avert the likely closure of Buena Vista Mobile Home Park.

By a unanimous vote, the county Board of Supervisors authorized staff to conduct a competitive process for identifying a partner who would help preserve the mobile-home park as a "permanent source of affordable housing." The partner is expected to be a nonprofit that would join the county and Palo Alto in acquiring the 4.6-acre site from the Jisser family and that would then be responsible for maintaining Buena Vista.

Before the vote, the board acknowledged that time is of the essence. The Jissers' two-year quest to close Buena Vista moved forward last week, when the City Council tentatively approved the closure applications while mandating new home appraisals that take into account the park's safety and the value of having Buena Vista's children attend Palo Alto schools. The council is set for formalize its approval of the closure application on May 26.

Even so, hope remains for preserving the low-income and mostly Hispanic community, which is home to about 400 residents, including about 125 children.

The county has already allocated $8 million toward Buena Vista's preservation, and Palo Alto City Manager James Keene followed suit by earmarking another $8 million for the cause, pending council approval. The county also has an additional $3.3 million in affordable-housing funds available through its general-use permit agreement with Stanford University.

The key now is finding a partner who would join the preservation efforts. And as Supervisor Joe Simitian noted Tuesday, there is not much time left. After May 26, the Jissers would have the ability to post notices of vacancy and begin the six-month process of evicting the park's residents.

"We're scrambling. Time is our enemy," Simitian said Tuesday.

Both Simitian and county staff also emphasized that they have no intention of having the county become involved in maintaining a mobile-home park. That task would go to a third-party nonprofit that specializes in preserving such parks. The board's vote allows the county to engage in an "informal competitive bidding process" to find the appropriate nonprofit. So far, at least three have approached the county to express interest in such a partnership, he said.

Gary Graves, the county's chief operating officer, emphasized that the county's role is largely to "facilitate" a partnership between a third party and the property owner. He said his office is talking to county counsel to make sure "we're walking the fine line very carefully" in ensuring that the county's role is limited.

"There has been some effort in terms of trying to identify who has the experience doing this and how we would arrange an agreement with them in terms of what exactly they would do so as to make sure we are at an arms length and not in any way involved," Graves said.

Yet even with the tight deadline, Simitian said he is far more optimistic today than he was in January, when he and board President Dave Cortese first proposed allocating $8 million in funds for Buena Vista's preservation. In addition to the city earmarking $8 million of its own money, Palo Alto's state and federal representatives are looking for other funding sources.

There is also the possibility of the Buena Vista residents narrowing the funding gap through a tax-exempt revenue bond and pooling the bond proceeds with county and city funds. Simitian said he would expect such a bond to potentially bring in another $8 million to $10 million for Buena Vista's preservation.

"If you take the purchase price of the property, which is yet to be determined, subtract the portion of cost that could be borne by a tax-exempt revenue bond and then look to city and county to use affordable-housing fund to split the remaining cost, you're in the ballpark in terms of being able to put the offer on the table that is appealing to the current owner," Simitian said.

He also noted that the county's and the city's bid to preserve Buena Vista has one advantage over potential commercial buyers. He estimated that the relocation benefits that the Jissers would have to pay to each of the roughly 100 homeowners would be roughly $60,000, pushing the total to around $6 million. The public entities, meanwhile, would not have to pay this sum because there would be no relocation associated with their purchase of the site.

Despite this advantage, Simitian emphasized Tuesday that the preservation effort is now "a race against the clock."

"The challenge is that no matter how substantial the relocation allowance is, there's really nowhere for anybody to go," Simitian said. "So then the question is: How do you actually avoid the closure of the park and its sale for subsequent development and preserve it?"

The county quickly approved his request and directed staff to explore the various options in the nonprofit world. The potential partner would assume the liability for the tax-exempt revenue bond and then would own, maintain and manage the park. Cortese said at the conclusion of the discussion that the county knew all along that "this is long odds and an uphill battle to try to get this done.

"But whatever process comes about involving third-parties or anything else, I think really almost from a moral standpoint we have very little alternative at this point, given the board's appetite to keep the affordable housing there," Cortese said.

Related content:

Attorneys debate the value of a Palo Alto education | April 17, 2015

Lawyer: Buena Vista evictions could start next month | April 16, 2015

Buena Vista's closure hangs on new appraisal | April 14, 2015

Buena Vista residents make final plea to save their homes | April 13, 2015

Videos from the two Buena Vista hearings

The Weekly has compiled an archive of news coverage capturing the many voices of the people involved in the fight over Buena Vista.

Comments

7 people like this
Posted by payout
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 22, 2015 at 1:31 pm

"He estimated that the relocation benefits that the Jissers would have to pay to each of the roughly 100 homeowners would be roughly $60,000"
Since the originally payout offers averaged $25,000, does this mean that the value for a PAUSD education is estimated to be $35,000?


24 people like this
Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 22, 2015 at 1:33 pm

"He [Simitian] estimated that the relocation benefits that the Jissers would have to pay to each of the roughly 100 homeowners would be roughly $60,000, pushing the total to around $6 million. The public entities, meanwhile, would not have to pay this sum because there would be no relocation associated with their purchase of the site."

Are we to believe there will be no expenses in addition to the purchase price? Don't the "public entities" intend to rehabilitate this long-neglected trailer park after they buy it?

Or is a planned few $million outlay of public money being temporarily concealed under the table here?


36 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto
a resident of Mayfield
on Apr 22, 2015 at 9:30 pm

I am tired of seeing this as front page news in today's Palo Alto Post. Enough already. The final outcome after all this bickering is very predictable and the trailer renters should have been making alternative plans all along. Joe S. needs to stop making the renters into victims who have no options or choices. It is a trailer part rental area, not a prison. It is very arrogant to make PA education seem so far more superior to education in other fine surrounding communities.


34 people like this
Posted by Anthony Gallo
a resident of Mayfield
on Apr 22, 2015 at 11:53 pm

Supervisor Simitian should be in theater instead of whatever it is he does now. Does he really think that the majority of people believe the Buena Vista mobile home park will be preserved. The Supervisors and his colleagues can truly feel magnanimous with the $8-$10 million they have set aside to appease Simitian's erratic and bullying behavior. They know full well that the balance of the funds necessary to salvage this park will never be raised and, therefore, their generosity never called upon. Unfortunately even Simitian's overwhelming arrogance will not save the day for these residents. Just how stupid does he think all of us are? I feel sorry for the people represented by this political hack. His colleague on the board should show some integrity and oppose this ego motivated effort. [Portion removed.]


21 people like this
Posted by GoneOnTooLong
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 23, 2015 at 7:44 am

There is no need to rush.
The owner has been mightily abused by the city county and renters. He will never sell to them.
The owner will just develop it himself and sue the city for (among other things) 15 years of delay and jacking up the mitigation costs in order to make it so expensive for the owner to close the park that he would accept low ball city/county offers for the property.

Given Simitian's statement as presented in the article...
"He also noted that the county's and the city's bid to preserve Buena Vista has one advantage over potential commercial buyers. He estimated that the relocation benefits that the Jissers would have to pay to each of the roughly 100 homeowners would be roughly $60,000, pushing the total to around $6 million. The public entities, meanwhile, would not have to pay this sum because there would be no relocation associated with their purchase of the site. "

That is a clear admission that 15 years of rent control at BV and the added requirements that the owner compensate the renters for "safety" and "Schools" was done to increase the owners mitigation costs, and thereby give the city and county a financial advantage in a purchase of a citizens private property.


4 people like this
Posted by Jim
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 23, 2015 at 7:52 am

Thank you Joe Simitian, Winter Dellenbaugh and whoever else is persevering. It seems there really may be a chance that Buena Vista will stay. Residents should be thanked for not accepting the powerless attitude stated in the above comments. If this works, Palo Alto benefits - not just residents there. Jim Keene should do all he can to help make this happen.


20 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 23, 2015 at 9:13 am

[Portion removed.] We PA all know this is a one sided reporting of events and it does not truly show the real sentiments of citizens near the BV park.

If Joe feels that this cause is so personal to him as widely reported, I would like to see him put up his own money for this other than pledging and raiding public resources. Just another government employee gone rouge!


21 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 23, 2015 at 10:21 am

Unbelievable. With so many other issues in this city, the city has focused so much time, effort and money on an old trailer park. The Jisser family has endured indentured servitude after a decade-long high-dollar mutiny by the tenants, their lawyers and the city.


11 people like this
Posted by palo alto resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 23, 2015 at 10:35 am

Instead of expending so much time and energy, for soundbites related trying to "save" a property that is not for sale, lets put that energy toward helping these people find, safe homes.

And as far as the "comparable" arguments, there are no comparable mobile home sites within 35 miles that have zero amenities and allow converted RV's.


19 people like this
Posted by Hahahahahahahaha ...
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 23, 2015 at 12:02 pm

I cannot stop laughing! When a non-profit proposed to actually build, at little cost to the taxpayers, some decent affordable housing not far from the mobile home park, the Palo Alto voters voted it down:

Web Link

Now the representative of the same voters proposes to spend other taxpayers' money to keep the mobile homes as THE affordable housing in Palo Alto.


11 people like this
Posted by 38 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 23, 2015 at 1:32 pm

@ Anthony Gallo....Joe Simitian is in theater. He's a politician !!! They're all a bunch of actors. And yes, like most politicians he probably thinks his constituents are stupid.


12 people like this
Posted by Jane t
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Apr 23, 2015 at 1:36 pm

It's not over yet, the council is actually contemplating on how to modify the package further in order to raise the compensation. As if $60k per unit is not excessive already. I am willing to guess that the Jissers will sue the city while the RV park remains open for the next few years. Who could blame them, can anyone please explain how a old trailer/mobile home with zero value is worth $60k because it is parked on someone's land not going to lead Palo Alto into a law suit?


Like this comment
Posted by Anthony Gallo
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 23, 2015 at 3:28 pm

[Post removed.]


10 people like this
Posted by Code Violations
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 23, 2015 at 3:33 pm

I hope the county and the City of PA makes the residents of Buena Vista bring their residences up to code. Code enforcement should be called so it is on record that much of the housing there is unsafe, and that it's been reported as unsafe and out of code. That puts the city in legal jeopardy if they don't follow through and correct the violations. [Portion removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by Code Violations
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 23, 2015 at 3:41 pm

[Post removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by Nanny state
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Apr 23, 2015 at 3:42 pm

[Post removed.]


10 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 23, 2015 at 7:09 pm

No wonder the trailer/RV park gives the impression of being a "stable" neighborhood. The windfall profit they are expecting for their vehicles which have no value would provide an incentive not to move - but even hold out for more since more is being promised to them.


10 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 23, 2015 at 9:31 pm

Why bother have this comment board if you are removing postings that express a different view point? Thus is joke of a newspaper if all you want is to hear your own self talk.


4 people like this
Posted by Stir the pot
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 24, 2015 at 6:37 am

Well, me, this paper is not about balanced reporting and journalistic integrity. This paper is about increasing profits and pleasing certain people in the community. When criticism of said officials becomes to vocal, the "editor" steps in and removes those comments. Nothing offensive about the comments removed--they just did not meet the stance that the weekly is pushing on this issue.
In general, the weekly's coverage of this issue has been one-sided and biased. I think we all know which side the weekly is pushing and why


2 people like this
Posted by Marc
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 24, 2015 at 7:26 am

I have done some rough calculations:

At Buena Vista there are 117 “units”. For this exercise I am going to assume that they all pay the same monthly rental fee.

$30,000,000 30 year fixed mortgage @ 2.5% interest = monthly payments of $173,103

Property tax from SCCA calculator is $362,003.00 per year.

$5,000,000 loan to update park = $28,906 monthly payments.

3 employees @ $45,000 per year = burdened labor of $202,500 per year.

So that is a total of $2,988,611 per year or $249,050 per month.

That means a per unit monthly fee of $2,128.64 for 117 units

If these has to be a decrease to 80 units, that means monthly fee of $3,113.13

So before anyone runs off, can all the current tenants of the park afford monthly fees of at least $2,100 per month?


5 people like this
Posted by george drysdale
a resident of Professorville
on Apr 24, 2015 at 8:04 am

Believe it or not the Buena Vista now has a place in world history. Palo Alto because of it's very well educated electorate has a thinking two thirds rather than a thinking third like most communities. Maintaining the Buena Vista as a trailer park in and of itself is a financial disaster. Land rents in Palo Alto are around four times what they are throughout the rest of the U.S. (supply and demand). Simitian knows he's wrong but heh, he gets good press in the Mercury News. Politician better grow up in Silicon Valley because for engineers and scientist knowledge of economics is survival.

Geroge Drysdale on the interent: The End of Rent Control, etc.


2 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 24, 2015 at 10:08 am

@ ha...

Never ceases to amaze me how so many people choose to ignore that the Maybell project was oversized/dense, under parked and too tall...asking for waivers on everything. All they had to do was respect the zoning for the area...the project would be halfway built by now.


2 people like this
Posted by Anthony Gallo
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 24, 2015 at 12:51 pm

Hey George Drysdale:
If Palo Alto has a thinking two thirds electorate than how did certain individuals ever get elected to represent that area? Was there a massive brain freeze on election day?


5 people like this
Posted by JO
a resident of Menlo Park
on Apr 25, 2015 at 8:05 am

I don't understand why millions of dollars of public funds would be spent to benefit a handful of residents. Everyone who lives in this area has had to deal with rising housing costs. Why should these mobile home park occupants be singled out for special public assistance? It's unfair, and it's absurd. Those millions should be spent toward affordable housing for all, not just to save this particular group of families.


7 people like this
Posted by Anthony Gallo
a resident of Mayfield
on Apr 25, 2015 at 10:39 am

JO you are completely correct but Mr. Simitian decided he needed some positive press and attempted to ride to the rescue. It would be one thing if he did this out of concern for the people affected but he did it to make himself look large and in charge. He probably will get a few photo ops out of it and then move on to something else where he only has to use mouth power. He is an example of an elected official that has grown comfortable in a district which he believes will always vote him in (and he is probably right). He can now draw his paycheck for the next 10-12 years and really does not have to work. He then will slide right into a hefty state retirement plan. No mobile home park for him. We are all in trouble when elected officials think they can do whatever they please with our tax dollars. But that district has had had a history of people who wouldn't know a poor person if they fell over them. We have had Dianne McKenna who spent a fortune on a now abandoned Children's shelter, Lizz Kniss who is an RN but thinks she is a doctor and now Mr. Simiian, back for a repeat performance. Really trying to address the housing crisis in this county would take work and people who care.


2 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 25, 2015 at 12:38 pm

In Simitian's defense, I assume more people asked him to help the Buena Vista residents than those who asked him to help the Jissers.


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

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