Santa Clara County supervisors are preparing to raise the pool of money available for a possible purchase of Buena Vista Mobile Home Park by setting aside an additional $6.5 million for the cause.
The contribution is being proposed by Supervisors Joe Simitian and Dave Cortese. The full Board of Supervisors is set to consider the request on June 23. If the board approves the allocation, it would raise the total contributed by the county for Buena Vista's preservation to $14.5 million.
The proposal to adopt the extra funds comes less than a month after the council approved the request from the Jisser family to close Buena Vista, the city's only mobile-home park. On May 26, the City Council voted to allow the family to proceed with the closure after a contentious, two-year application process. The vote allows the Jisser family to begin the six-month eviction process for the roughly 400 residents who live in the Barron Park community.
Earlier this year, Simitian and Cortese led the effort to allocate $8 million in affordable-housing funds toward Buena Vista's preservation. After the board agreed to do so in January, Palo Alto City Manager James Keene set aside $8 million in local affordable-housing funds for the potential purchase of the park.
Much like its earlier $8 million allocation, the county's $6.5 million contribution would come from a fund set up by Stanford University as part of its General Use Permit. That fund currently has more than $16.8 million.
The contribution is also contingent on the city contributing a similar match toward the purchase.
If the board approves the additional allocation and Palo Alto agrees to match it, there would be $29 million available for the purchase of Buena Vista. The mobile-home park would be owned and managed by The Caritas Corporation, a nonprofit that specializes in mobile-home parks and that is now in the process of putting together an offer.
According to a report from Simitian and Cortese, the plan is to supplement the public funds with money from a tax-exempt revenue bond that would leverage the cash flow from space rentals from Buena Vista. Contributions from philanthropic sources could potentially help reduce any remaining funding gap, according to the county report.
In making a case for preserving Buena Vista and its 117 units of affordable housing, the supervisors pointed to the increasingly difficulty working-class families have in obtaining housing.
"As development pressures continue to increase in Santa Clara County, more and more working class families are finding it harder and harder to keep their foothold in our community," the report from Simitian and Cortese states. "Rather than drive them out, we have an opportunity to ensure they will always be welcome at the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park."
Simitian is part of a growing group of former Palo Alto mayors, council members and school board members that is working to preserve Buena Vista. Eighteen school board members, past and present (including all five members of the current school board), co-signed a letter on June 1 urging the council to "make every effort" to preserve Buena Vista. The list of signatories includes Carolyn Tucher, Diane Reklis, Gail Price, John Barton and Dana Tom.
A similar letter was issued on June 8 and co-signed by 24 former council members, including Larry Klein, Nancy Shepherd, Enid Pearson, Emily Renzel, Vic Ojakian, Judy Kleinberg and LaDoris Cordell.
"If the park closes and its residents are forced to re-locate, Palo Alto will not only be poorer for the loss of those 400 residents, but finding a way to replace close to 120 lost housing units will pose a daunting challenge for years to come," the letter states. "The most practical solution is simply to preserve the units in place at Buena Vista."
The Weekly has compiled an archive of news coverage capturing the many voices of the people involved in the fight over Buena Vista.