News

More action urged to save Buena Vista

Residents, supporters ask Palo Alto officials for quick action to avert displacement

With one month left until the final verdict, Buena Vista Mobile Home Park residents and their supporters on Monday night made a plea for more city action to prevent the park's closure.

The City Council last month affirmed the adequacy of the closure application for the sprawling park that is home to a largely Hispanic and largely lower-income community of about 400. The decision, which is set to be finalized on May 26, will clear the way for the Jisser family to close Buena Vista and to begin the six-month eviction process immediately after.

On Monday, Don Anderson and Gail Price from the group Friends of Buena Vista urged the council to take action in the next month that would help avert the park's closure. They were joined by a group of Buena Vista residents, which included Nicolas Martinez. The message was clear: We need help and time is running out.

"We want to make sure that council members are aware that Buena Vista residents are exploring all possible options and we are heavily relying on the council and the City of Palo Alto to do all that is within their power to preserve Buena Vista," Martinez said. "We are extremely concerned, especially about Buena Vista children and how quickly families will have to act in order to get them into new schools in August, or the latest September, of this year.

"Time is running out but we, the residents, are hoping for a better outcome," Martinez said.

Price, who served on the City Council before concluding her sole term in December, urged three specific actions. The council, she said, should add more money to the $8 million that City Manager James Keene had already set aside for potential purchase of Buena Vista from the Jisser family. The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors has also designated $8 million for Buena Vista preservations, though supervisors indicated last week that they may add another $3.3 million to the pile from the county's affordable-housing fund.

The group launched its presentation by showing a video of various council members talking at the April 21 meeting about how much they'd like to preserve Buena Vista. Councilwoman Liz Kniss urged the residents at that meeting to stay hopeful and Councilman Marc Berman talked about how important Buena Vista residents are to the community.

Both Anderson and Price urged the council to back this talk with action. Anderson said the vote, and the subsequent newspaper headlines about the council authorizing Buena Vista's closure, was "devastating to the residents of the park." Time is of the essence, he said, to save the Buena Vista residents.

"Please imaginr yourself in the following situation: at the end of May, you're served with a notice to vacate your home no latter than Thanksgiving or Christmas or be forcibly escorted from the premises by the sheriff. In less than three months from the end of may, your children will start the new school year. What do you do?"

Anderson implored the council to "be proactive between now and then" so that after it completes its deliberation of the closure application, it can take immediate steps to avert the closure. Even though the council mandated on April 21 that the Jisser family increase the relocation-assistance package offered to Buena Vista residents, even the increased assistance isn't enough to keep the residents in the area.

"I think we all understand that no relocation package is really going to allow residents of Buena Vista to live long-term anywhere anything like 35 miles from Palo Alto," Anderson said.

Price urged the council to consider policy changes as soon a possible that would allow the city to tap into more revenues for Buena Vista's preservation. The council should also direct city to staff to do "whatever advance work" needs to take place so that the city can act on a possible alternative to the park's closure. The city should also try to secure additional funds by seeking contributions from the business community and relevant state and federal programs. Events, she said, are quickly unfolding and it's time for the council to "move from rhetoric to action."

"As our elected officials, your deliberations and actions must reflect your commitment to Palo Alto residents, affordable housing and economic and ethnic diversity – all that Buena Vista is and represents." Price said. "You can oppose and prevent displacement by taking action. Only by doing so will you protect Palo Alto's reputation as a caring community."

For more on the history of and latest news about the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park, view the Weekly's Storify page: The fight for Buena Vista

Comments

24 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 28, 2015 at 9:28 am

We can all admit that those who participate in these online forums have our opinions - some extreme to one way or another.

I am curious (it will never happen) if this issue was put to a vote by the general public, how it would stand. To put taxpayer money into a BV purchase or not.

This is a city-wide issue, not just the surrounding neighborhood - as it involves city money, not neighborhood money. Millions as a matter of fact.


15 people like this
Posted by Marc
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 28, 2015 at 9:41 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 have to be a decreased to 80 units (to meet current building code) , that means monthly fee of $3,113.13

Can all the people currently living at Buena Vista afford to pay at least $2,100 per month?
More likely $2,500 - $3,000 per month? If not, then there is no point talking about a plan to keep Buena Vista open.

No matter what happens they are not going to be able to stay at Buena Vista and pay what they pay now.

/marc


6 people like this
Posted by Sam
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 28, 2015 at 9:44 am

Why not a one time parcel tax for about $1000?

The city can then buy the property and give it to the BV residents, they would own the land as well as the mobile structures on it.

A one time $1000 parcel tax is a drop in the bucket to all the home owners in Palo Alto. Wouldn't even notice the money. Then we'd all feel really good about ourselves and our city!


2 people like this
Posted by Jas
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 28, 2015 at 9:58 am

Since the city doesn't have enough funds to purchase the property outright from the Jissers, why not distribute the $8 million that is already allocated for saving BV to the residents. If there's 100 families there, that's $80k per family which is enough to cover the rent in Palo Alto for over 2 years.


2 people like this
Posted by 38 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 28, 2015 at 10:09 am

[Post removed.]


17 people like this
Posted by pacsailor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 28, 2015 at 10:32 am

@Sam, actually $1000 means a lot to a lot of PA residents. Do not forget that there are lots of retirees in PA.

@Marc, excellent calculation, not many have thought about the operations cost of BV.

What baffles me most is why no non-profit stepped up to offer funds to the purchase price, they all want the owner to carry the responsibility of caring for the residents of BV.


2 people like this
Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 28, 2015 at 11:09 am

I would like to once again ask our innovative community to step forward and innovate! We are unlikely to get a big donor, but

What if there was money that could offer to purchase the park at market value now, and allow the residents BMR ownership of the land? In other words, the residents accumulate some wealth over time, while the property remains affordable into the future, and the property is also then eligible for tax credits to repair and upgrade the park? (Just like our current BMR program?) What if we could raise the money through crowdsourcing small investors, rather than waiting for one big one (which would have happened already)?

Step forward, Palo Alto Forward!!! We have so many bright young people who could put this together! And the beauty of it is, it could help others around the Bay Area in the future.

An organization whose purpose is to crowdfund to save low-income communities in similar straits. It could provide an investment for people in other parts of the country, world, and even Bay Area, with a decent return and maybe even a tax write off as part of it, while also providing affordable housing and preventing displacement of low-income communities. (What if this could be done specifically with artist communities, with community art as part of the deal??)

What if we could offer shares of land in the heart of Palo Alto, almost like bonds, to be held for 10, 15, 30 years? And what if those shares were always first offered for purchase to the residents, and when sold (as BMR land still), the seller could get a nice profit and also write off the difference between the profit and the prevailing market value? People outside of Silicon valley could invest in SV real estate, for a good cause, too.

The great thing about crowdfunding is you get the commitments but the money isn't actually charged unless the deal goes through. Crowdfunding real estate is already happening. This would be a new model in order to keep coherent communities of low-income residents from being forced out wholesale like this in rapidly gentrifying areas.

A partnership with an organization like Habitat for Humanity would help, too.

If anyone has ever considered doing something like this, the advantage to you professionally is that right now there is a tremendous amount of publicity available the moment it gets up and running. It's really 11th hour and would take someone ready to commit to getting this done. But it could be a really effective thing for the future, and would be a public benefit without being dependent on the whims of public funding. Kind of like Nature Conservancy meets Habitat for Humanity.

Crowdfunding for our community! It just needs someone to lead!


37 people like this
Posted by Biased reporting
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 28, 2015 at 11:11 am

Does it mean anything to anyone--The Weekly, the council, the friends of BV, that this is private property and the owner does not want to sell. The council is exceeding their authority. The Weekly needs to get a clue and stop their mindless cheerleading for this. We need some unbiased reporting not the stuff that the weekly is printing as "news". I understand why the weekly is doing what they are doing--continuing to champion people and policies that will benefit them and not the residents of Palo Alto.
The council needs to okay the closure and let the owner proceed with his plans


37 people like this
Posted by Desert Jack
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 28, 2015 at 11:30 am

First the bad journalism: "Even though the council mandated on April 21 that the Jisser family increase the relocation-assistance package offered to Buena Vista residents, even the increased assistance isn't enough to keep the residents in the area."

Accurate statement: Council told Beccaria to revise his appraisal so that the value of schools and safety is included, even though Beccaria told Council that the value of schools, and presumably of safety, is already embedded. Not the same thing as Council telling Beccaria to increase the appraisal. And the law does not require the Jisser family to provide assistance sufficient to keep BV residents in the area.

Next the red herring: "We are extremely concerned, especially about Buena Vista children and how quickly families will have to act in order to get them into new schools in August, or the latest September, of this year."

Really? When I was in third grade (many years ago), my family moved over the Christmas holidays. We arrived in our new town on the first Monday in January and on Tuesday I was enrolled in my new school. Buena Vista parents have the whole summer to work this out.

"We need help and time is running out." Right - this has been going on for about a dozen years but eventually time does run out.

"The council... should add more money to the $8 million that City Manager James Keene had already set aside for potential purchase of Buena Vista from the Jisser family." And why is that? We're talking about new money that's not already designated for affordable housing and would essentially be an assessment on all property owners in Palo Alto. Besides, the Jissers have not indicated any interest in selling the park.

"The group launched its presentation by showing a video of various council members talking at the April 21 meeting about how much they'd like to preserve Buena Vista." Talk is cheap - and it's what politicians are good at. But Council's inability to articulate a position of leadership may end up being very costly for the rest of us.

Since politicians are interested in their own survival, perhaps Council should consider what may happen if they blunder into a lawsuit by the Jisser family. Some citizens (after all, people other than BV residents do live in Palo Alto) may think it's time to break out the recall papers.


33 people like this
Posted by Skeptical
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 28, 2015 at 11:49 am

@Sam -- Stop volunteering other people's money. Feel free to donate any amount you would like for this effort, but don't ask me to.

Even assuming that the park could be purchased(which it apparently cannot), is this really the most efficient way to provide BMR housing in the community? And instead of getting a structure in the end you will just end up with a bunch of old trailers....


1 person likes this
Posted by PAmoderate
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 28, 2015 at 1:01 pm

PAmoderate is a registered user.

Perhaps rather than constant, unwarranted rate increases by our government-run utilities monopoly and bleating by Measure A proponents, let the Jissers sell and get your tax money that way.

We apparently are so hard up for cash from our government, why stand in the way of a property tax windfall?


1 person likes this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 28, 2015 at 2:02 pm

@PAmoderate, where did you hear the Jissers want to sell?


6 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 28, 2015 at 2:34 pm

Enough of this story already


2 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 28, 2015 at 2:45 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

Wow,

Twelve posts on this so far, ten against (I'm going to consider Sam's proposal as an ironic spoof), one deleted and one impassioned call for a crowdfunding campaign to save the day, if only someone will step up to lead it. The same call was made several months ago, to little apparent effect, so I don't think BV supporters should get hopes up.

Are those people from the same city whose city council members, all nine of them, from various positions in the political spectrum were shown in the brief documentary shown at the start of the city council meeting? All of them expressed the desire to take effective action to save Buena Vista, in collaboration with other government bodies and non-profit groups.

People with a stake, either financial or ideological, in seeing the mobile home park closed and eventually developed with maximum return to the owners can smell victory. I hope it's a wish-fulfilling sensory disorder and that, in some form, the Buena Vista community can continue to exist in our Barron Park neighborhood.


2 people like this
Posted by Tim
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 28, 2015 at 3:49 pm

So many opinions, so little accurate information.
There is no tax money involved. None. Nearly $20 million has been pledged - all from Private developers required to pay into affordable housing funds administered by the city and county, Stanford among them.

All this has been covered in the news. Best to be informed rather than make false assptions leading to baseless assertions.


3 people like this
Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 28, 2015 at 4:28 pm

Marc,

I did some similar calculations and got similar results.

A few notes:
1. The city/county could of course elect to subsidize the operation, but that might get politically difficult as prices increase.
2. There is a rent control ordinance in place. I suspect the city can repeal it.

In any case, the residents may yet discover that Mr Jisser was doing an excellent job.


10 people like this
Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 28, 2015 at 4:31 pm

Tim,

To say that there is "no tax money" is inaccurate.

1. The monies are future TAXES on developers. It may not be general tax, but it is a tax. Of course, such taxes are passed along to renters/purchasers of the new building. Someone is paying it.
2. There are multiple other ways that they might be spent, some of which might be more efficient at helping low-income families.


2 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 28, 2015 at 5:00 pm

Semantics. Developer fees = taxes. It's a state/county/city money grab; plain and simple.

When we paid a "fee" to the DMV (which was dropped and then put back)...did you see that as a fee or a tax? Either way, they were taking money for no apparent reason and using it on government outlays.

Bottom line is that the developer fees/taxes are public monies...for public projects.


13 people like this
Posted by Gone OnTooLong
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 28, 2015 at 5:57 pm

@Tim
You said "... so little accurate information....Nearly $20 million has been pledged"

Only $16 Million was "pledged" per any reference I can locate. $8M was from SCC, and $8M was from Palo Alto. Total of $16M "pledged"

Please cite your reference that someone has "pledged" the additional $4M.


27 people like this
Posted by let it die
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 28, 2015 at 6:19 pm

“We are extremely concerned, especially about Buena Vista children and how quickly families will have to act in order to get them into new schools in August, or the latest September, of this year.”

Enough with the pity party. The residents are the ones who decided to file the appeal; this whole process could have been over when the hearing officer made the decision in October, but the residents chose to drag it out. They should have been spending the entire past Winter and Spring assuming they were going to have to move and figuring out choices for new homes and new schools. In fact, if it was going to be this traumatic for them, they should have started this process in 2012 when the owner filed for closure. But Winter and Friends strung them along for the past 3 years convincing them some magical billionaire is going to come in and want to buy them a $40million present. Here’s the problem with that plan: no one with that much money is stupid enough to want to buy the dump.


Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Barron Park

on Apr 28, 2015 at 6:59 pm

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


12 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 28, 2015 at 7:00 pm

Let it die ---// well said...


12 people like this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 28, 2015 at 7:03 pm

>Are those people from the same city whose city council members, all nine of them, from various positions in the political spectrum were shown in the brief documentary shown at the start of the city council meeting? All of them expressed the desire to take effective action to save Buena Vista, in collaboration with other government bodies and non-profit groups.

Jerry, they are hardly from the political spectrum, unless you consider Palo Alto part of the national political spectrum (it is well to the left side of spectrum). Unanimous consent by our city council, especially when liberal or green items are on the agenda means very little...remember Measure D and high speed rail? This BV fiasco is heading towards a legal train wreck for our city, and it will the fault of the city council. BV is a private deal, and it should be left at that.

If any public money is proposed to be spent on BV, it should be put up to a city-wide (or county-wide) vote.


18 people like this
Posted by why
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 28, 2015 at 7:29 pm

It seems like every day or two PAO publishes another "news" article on BV and, predictably, elicits the same responses from the same readers. What's the point??


14 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 28, 2015 at 8:24 pm

In other news today, Nepal reported over 8000 dead from a powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake. Please send money, clothing to your nearest Red Cross office


3 people like this
Posted by Concerned Resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 29, 2015 at 11:03 am

[Post removed.]


6 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 29, 2015 at 12:25 pm

[Post removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 29, 2015 at 12:44 pm

@why
I've had similar thoughts, although maybe PAO is providing a service by allowing addicts a chance to get relief and not have to suffer the 'shakes' everyday.
@Marc, and now I'm being serious. Thanks for your calculations. And you took into consideration all the costs, not just the purchase price. I hope the city and county officials will do the same thing.

But from all the discussion, I'm stretching the definition of that word here, it sounds like it's assumed the Jissers' will sell to the highest bidder like all the other real estate sale transactions going on in this town. That is probably not a good assumption to make.

The question of rents, what are they currently?...and what can the tenants afford?...going back to Marc's numbers is a good one.


18 people like this
Posted by GoneOnTooLong
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 30, 2015 at 7:01 am

I found this interesting.
From Web Link
From the May 2, 2013 RIR page 7...
"if the Jisser Family had increased space rents at the park for the past 12 years in the amount allowed under the ordinance, the average space rent would be $1,550.87 plus utilities. Currently the average space rent in the park is $685, with some spaces as low as $675 and some spaces as high as $695. "

I was not aware that
1. not only was BV under Rent control, but that the owner had held individual space rents down to currently a thousand dollars a month LESS than what he is entitled under the ordinance. and
2. To add insult to injury, he must also pay as part of the mitigation assistance, the difference between current BV rents and local apartment rents. Thus his generosity over the years in keeping space rents down voluntarily (and the lost income) has ended up costing him over a $million more in additional rent offset (approx = (($1k/mo x 12 mo) x 100 units))


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

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