News

Santa Clara County pledges more funds to preserve Buena Vista

Supervisors allocate another $6.5 million, contingent on match from Palo Alto

Santa Clara County supervisors on Tuesday upped the ante in a bid to preserve the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park when they unanimously voted to allocate an additional $6.5 million toward the cause, contingent on a similar match from Palo Alto.

With little discussion, the Board of Supervisors voted to contribute $6.5 million from its affordable-housing fund for the purchase of Buena Vista. The new allocation raises the county's potential contribution toward preserving Palo Alto's sole mobile-home park to $14.5 million.

The decision to allocate additional funds comes weeks after the Palo Alto City Council formally authorized the closure of Buena Vista, paving the way for the park owner to begin the eviction process for its 400 residents. Now, the county and the city are working with the nonprofit The Caritas Corporation to make an offer for the mobile-home park.

Supervisor Joe Simitian, who proposed the additional allocation along with board President Dave Cortese, told his colleagues Tuesday that "time is of the essence." On any given day, he said, the owner "is within his legal rights to accept that authorization and send a notice of termination to residents."

Yet the contribution also hinges on a city's match. In February, City Manager James Keene had set aside $8 million for Buena Vista's preservation, matching a January allocation from the county.

On June 29, the City Council will discuss Buena Vista and consider its next steps. If the council chooses to match the county's contribution, the total set aside by the city and the county would go up to $29 million. All of the contributions pledged by the city and the county thus far would come from funds designated for affordable housing.

"Developers pay affordable housing fees for exactly this reason," Simitian said in a statement. "We're fortunate to have two potential sources of affordable housing funds on which to draw – Santa Clara County's and the City of Palo Alto's. If we can put those two resources together we have a real shot at preserving the 117 units at Buena Vista and, ensure they remain affordable in perpetuity."

Cortese, who chairs the county's Housing, Land Use, Environment and Transportation Committee, said in a statement that as "housing becomes more expensive, more affordable housing is needed; but it is also harder and harder to find opportunities to develop affordable housing.

"Preserving the units in place at Buena Vista has got to be more cost effective than trying to replace them down the road," Cortese said.

Now, it's up to the Palo Alto council to decide whether to make a similar contribution. Nancy Krop, representing the Palo Alto Council of PTAs and the Sixth District PTAs, urged the council on Monday night to follow the county's lead. Both school associations passed resolutions in support of Buena Vista, whose residents include more than 100 Palo Alto students.

"As a city we can't just talk, we have to walk the walk," Krop said. "It's a unique opportunity to walk the walk and teach children in our community that this is how we care for each other."

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

Comments

66 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 23, 2015 at 12:03 pm

Nayeli is a registered user.

Ridiculous. This is lunacy.


39 people like this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 23, 2015 at 12:26 pm

>contingent on a similar match from Palo Alto.

Oh why not?...we don't need that new police station when we can expiate our liberal guilt.


33 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 23, 2015 at 12:54 pm

Disgust!


20 people like this
Posted by Jack
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 23, 2015 at 1:13 pm

Is $29m enough? Last I heard maybell sold for $22m and half the land!


67 people like this
Posted by MP NIMBY
a resident of another community
on Jun 23, 2015 at 1:15 pm

'"Preserving the units in place at Buena Vista has got to be more cost effective than trying to replace them down the road," Cortese said.'

It appears that math is not one of Mr. Cortese's strengths.


42 people like this
Posted by Grumpy Old Guy
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 23, 2015 at 1:17 pm

I understand the issue and sympathy regarding the people who live at Buena Vista. My question is what happens if the city and county buy the property?

Are they going to improve the property with a physical building for affordable housing? Are they then going to clear out the mobile home park to build on it? Will it remain only at 117 units? Or will the economies of scale for affordable housing require that they increase number of units that reside on the land? And if so, how's that going to be paid for?

And what's the long term costs to the city? It's not the initial buy-in that bankrupts a city - it's the long term maintenance and labor costs that will bite into the city funds. And remember - if it's operated as low-income affordable housing, this property is not going to generate market rate property taxes for the city/county infrastructure.


50 people like this
Posted by wondering
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 23, 2015 at 2:39 pm

Do the voters/ taxpayers have a say in this?


22 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 23, 2015 at 3:58 pm

@GOG

Spot on. As I pointed out above, the government's worst nightmare is that Jisser calls their bluff and sells to them.

Consider: The present arrangement violates code. A few vocal souls notwithstanding, the neighbors will roundly veto new high density BMR construction. Any alternative is a perpetual money sink, even after the necessary mass evictions.


5 people like this
Posted by Carrie
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 23, 2015 at 5:43 pm

Gets more interesting every day!


30 people like this
Posted by Ross
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 23, 2015 at 7:03 pm

"Preserving the units in place at Buena Vista", really? The county, and it seems the city too, are prepared to spend tens of millions of public tax dollars to buy land with dilapidated trailers, and then keep the trailers?

What is the seemingly very small skill-set required to be a county housing decision maker?


20 people like this
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 23, 2015 at 8:14 pm

"What is the seemingly very small skill-set required to be a county housing decision maker?"
Thank you, @Ross, you nailed it.
Your government at "work."


42 people like this
Posted by GoneOnTooLong
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 23, 2015 at 8:16 pm

It wouldn't be a new week if there wasn't another new article in PAOL about Buena Vista.

So reading this article, it looks like the County just "upped the ante" in the game of "who has more compassion ?...(with other peoples money)".
Will the City Council have the courage to say "not us" ? ... of course they won't. So its a given that we're now up to $29 Million for a trailer park.

After 15 years of watching this BV nonsense, I find myself so anti City government that I hope that Mr. Jisser plays hardball with them and takes the City and County for $50+ Mil. I would very much enjoy watching the City try to manage the trailer park.



22 people like this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 23, 2015 at 8:23 pm

"Ridiculous. This is lunacy."

Welcome to Palo Alto!


39 people like this
Posted by Unbelievable
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 23, 2015 at 10:28 pm

While I'm sympathetic to the BV residents spending $30M for the city to take over that dump is, as others have said, pure insanity. Any council member who votes for this plan will not receive my vote next election


45 people like this
Posted by Bonny
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 23, 2015 at 11:19 pm

Lunacy!! For that amount of money, probably 10 times as many units could be built in San Jose. Preserving a trailer park, what a dumbbbb idea. Also, will not vote for any council members who support this. Jisser must be laughing on the way to the Bank


40 people like this
Posted by Bill Kelly
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 24, 2015 at 7:22 am

My understanding is that the trailers are out of code compliance for density. We'd have to eliminate 50% or more of the residents to be in compliance. This is lunacy for the city/county to get involved, how would they decide who gets to stay and who gets to leave?


29 people like this
Posted by mmmmMom
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 24, 2015 at 9:18 am

Beyond stupid

This is ready & ripe for a tax payer's law suit. We have to stop this!


44 people like this
Posted by Dumbfounded
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 24, 2015 at 9:29 am

"Santa Clara County supervisors on Tuesday upped the ante in a bid to preserve the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park when they unanimously voted to allocate an additional $6.5 million toward the cause, contingent on a similar match from Palo Alto."

A unanimous vote for this idiotic plan? How on earth are these supervisors getting elected? Do we have any right-minded people running for office? Ditto for the PA City Council.


17 people like this
Posted by Hahahahaha ...
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 24, 2015 at 10:26 am

It's just so funny! When a non-profit seeks to build affordable senior housing on the Maybell site, the Palo Alto voters turned it down. Now it looks like the default affordable housing option in Palo Alto is a trailer park!


12 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 24, 2015 at 10:33 am

Yet another Maybell remark that totally ignores the PACC granted zoning waivers, height exception, density exception and the grossly under parked proposal. But if you want to ignore the facts, that's your perk fatigue.


4 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 24, 2015 at 10:35 am

Auto correct! "Prerogative "


31 people like this
Posted by 38 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 24, 2015 at 10:58 am

Liberal guilt is laughable, were it not so pathetic. Throw millions of taxpayer dollars at a guaranteed fail, all so we can feel good about ourselves.


21 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 24, 2015 at 12:06 pm

We all have ourselves to blame here myself included. While we are all busy working and making an honest living in order to keep the lights on in our firm/businesses, the local elected officials are basically running a scam with public tax dollars. This is a conundrum since most hard-working folks have to work and running for local offices is relegated either to the extremely wealthy or to those group of people that had failed to make a living out there in the real world (i.e. ability to comprehend what ROI is).

Based on some of their proposals on this issue, I am inclined to say that these career politicians are from the latter. The wheel of a Justice is slow but it turns. Once the level of public outrage has reached its apex, the tax payers can sue forcing these slugs to respect how tax dollars are spent.


23 people like this
Posted by noway
a resident of another community
on Jun 24, 2015 at 12:18 pm

Will other low income families in the county have the option of applying for housing if this $14.5 mio farce goes through? Or will it be earmarked for the special few already at Buena Vista and why? These are public funds meant to benefit the general public at large, not to make a few politicians feel good.


31 people like this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 24, 2015 at 12:22 pm

One thing is often overlooked on these subsidized housing deals: Loss of property tax, along with increased services. In the BV case, a prime piece of property will be largely lost to our tax base, while we will be left with about 100 school children to support (as well as police services). If the property is sold at market value, for market housing, that would be a nice addition to our property tax base (re schools).

If PACC donates money to this turkey, the FULL cost should be stated, over the next 50 years.

Liberal guilt can be VERY costly.


39 people like this
Posted by Gethin
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 24, 2015 at 12:39 pm

Gethin is a registered user.

What a stunning waste of time and money, by which I mean - our money!


23 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 24, 2015 at 2:07 pm

Yes, this could go very badly and sadly for current BV residents. But it's dragged on too long and with so many contributors just going off into la la la la land. Ladoris Cordell's piece was the worst.

My biggest concern is that the cost of this will be coming out of the affordable housing funds allocated and available, from county and city, which I think were intended to be distributed equitably for the most deserving that have their names on a list. Instead, it seems like BV is getting preferential treatment on this and are being put ahead of those others on the list. That should bother a lot of those folks speaking up for BV, I think, but who are ignoring those others in waiting. And of course, if this all goes south, our elected officials will be able to say, "Well guys, we gave it the good old college try". "Oh, and don't forget to vote for us again on the next election cycle". Yeah, right! I wish I could get inside of the heads of the Jissers today. I'd like to know what their thoughts are on this current attempt to buy their property. It could become a bidding war and they'd happily walk away with millions more than they expected. That's the PA way.

And of course, I've mentioned it, and others have too, that the purchase price is just the tip of the iceberg. The real cost will be revealed later (infrastructure updates, etc.), but we just need to buy into it first, now, before we get to hear about the real cost. Maybe P. T. Barnum had it right all along. Sad!


13 people like this
Posted by insanity
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 24, 2015 at 2:31 pm

This is the most ridiculous thing the city should get themselves into. we should not be throwing good money into bad. There is no way the city/county isn't going to have to bring everything back up to code and then what. I feel bad for the situation but really if Palo Alto goes through then they should all lose their home and reapply through the housing corp. PALO ALTO STOP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I sure hope someone from the city council reads the topic


6 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 24, 2015 at 4:07 pm

And, who will pay for the upgrade to the systems that are in desperate need of repair? And, where will the families go while the repairs are being completed?


18 people like this
Posted by Ruff Rider
a resident of Professorville
on Jun 24, 2015 at 4:40 pm

Gale -

I agree completely, and have a couple more thoughts.

1) Since the "plan" to buy Buena Vista has not been defined by element, no one can say how much it will eventually cost, assuming the Jisser family will agree to sell. $45M for the initial acquisition and upgrade may be about right but no politician or supporter will come forward and say what a future BV will look like. The myth being perpetrated by Simitian and his buddies is that all current BV residents will be able to stay, but right now there are too many units at the site and some of the families earn too much to qualify for affordable housing. If the legal number of units - 69 - is all that is allowed, then each unit will cost approx. $650k of public money. The idea of paying that much for an old beat-up trailer or RV is ludicrous even if the trailer or RV does come with a Palo Alto address.

2) I personally know one of the city's billionaires and several very wealthy multi-millionaires. (So will other posters since we all live in the same small city.) The uber-wealthy get that way because they have good business sense and know how to handle money. These people are asked for donations all the time, often resent it, and have no problem saying "no" to hair-brained schemes. Simitian et al can't count on philanthropic donations to make up any shortfall, and since the stuckee of last resort is always the taxpayer, there may well come a surprise $5M hit to property owners somewhere down the road. And by the way, the need to cover the $5M won't be publicized until the $40M (city, county, and bond) has already been committed and it's too late to back out. (A political trick, of course.)

A wise step by the city council would be to move directly to a referendum. If instead the members choose to approve the commitment of $14.5M in city funds to match the county funds, then Palo Alto citizens are likely to get their referendum anyway via petition. But then on election day they will remember how badly they were served by their "public servants."


4 people like this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 24, 2015 at 5:19 pm

@Hahahahaha ... wrote:

"It's just so funny! When a non-profit seeks to build affordable senior housing on the Maybell site, the Palo Alto voters turned it down. Now it looks like the default affordable housing option in Palo Alto is a trailer park!"

It would be funny if it wasn't so Palo Alto. As for the Maybell development, that can always be put to another vote with the right backing. The No camp has to win every single time, their Yes opponents only need to win once. It is a commonly used tactic. Just add sufficient parking to the project and why not? Seniors who are not multi-millionaires count, too, and also have a place in our community.

Affordable housing is sorely needed, but having local government go into the mobile home park business could turn out to be a money pit.


6 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 24, 2015 at 5:41 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

A government or government sponsored purchase OF BV would cost far more than the purchase price.

Here is the State law as to what happens if BV becomes public property and any of the residents have to be relocated to comply with codes or for any other reason:

" (b) This chapter establishes a uniform policy for the fair and
equitable treatment of persons displaced as a direct result of
programs or projects undertaken by a public entity. The primary
purpose of this chapter is to ensure that these persons shall not
suffer disproportionate injuries as a result of programs and projects
designed for the benefit of the public as a whole and to minimize
the hardship of displacement on these persons."

"7260. As used in this chapter:
(a) "Public entity" includes the state, the Regents of the
University of California, a county, city, city and county, district,
public authority, public agency, and any other political subdivision
or public corporation in the state or any entity acting on behalf of
these agencies when acquiring real property, or any interest therein,
in any city or county for public use, and any person who has the
authority to acquire property by eminent domain under state law."

" (i) "Comparable replacement dwelling" means any dwelling that is
all of the following:
(1) Decent, safe, and sanitary.
(2) Adequate in size to accommodate the occupants.
(3) In the case of a displaced person who is a renter, within the
financial means of the displaced person. A comparable replacement
dwelling is within the financial means of a displaced person if the
monthly rental cost of the dwelling, including estimated average
monthly utility costs, minus any replacement housing payment
available to the person, does not exceed 30 percent of the person's
average monthly income, unless the displaced person meets one or more
of the following conditions, in which case the payment of the
monthly rental cost of the comparable replacement dwelling, including
estimated average monthly utility costs, minus any replacement
housing payment available to the person, shall not exceed 25 percent
of the person's average monthly income:"

"7263. (a) In addition to the payments required by Section 7262, the
public entity, as a part of the cost of acquisition, shall make a
payment to the owner of real property acquired for public use which
is improved with a dwelling actually owned and occupied by the owner
as a permanent or customary and usual place of abode for not less
than 180 days prior to the initiation of negotiation for the
acquisition of that property.
(b) The payment, not to exceed twenty-two thousand five hundred
dollars ($22,500), shall be based on the following factors:
(1) The amount, if any, which, when added to the acquisition cost
of the dwelling acquired by the public entity equals the reasonable
cost of a comparable replacement dwelling.
(2) The amount, if any, which will compensate the displaced owner
for any increased interest costs which the owner is required to pay
for financing the acquisition of a comparable replacement dwelling.
The amount shall be paid only if the dwelling acquired by the
displacing agency was encumbered by a bona fide mortgage which was a
valid lien on the dwelling for not less than 180 days immediately
prior to the initiation of negotiations for the acquisition of the
dwelling. All of the mortgages on the acquired dwelling shall be used
to compute the payment. The amount shall be computed using the
lesser of the principal balance of the mortgage on the replacement
dwelling or the outstanding principal balance of the mortgage on the
acquired dwelling and the lesser of the remaining term on the
acquired dwelling or the actual term of the new mortgage. The present
value of the increased interest costs shall be computed based on the
lesser of the prevailing interest rate or the actual interest rate
on the replacement property. The amount shall also include other
reasonable debt service costs incurred by the displaced owner.
For the purposes of this subdivision, if the replacement dwelling
is a mobilehome, the term "mortgage," as defined in subdivision (h)
of Section 7260, shall include those liens as are commonly given to
secure advances on, or the unpaid purchase price of, mobilehomes,
together with the credit instruments, if any, secured thereby.
(3) Reasonable expenses incurred by the displaced owner for
evidence of title, recording fees, and other closing costs incident
to the purchase of the replacement dwelling, but not including
prepaid expenses.
(c) The additional payment authorized by this section shall be
made only to a displaced owner who purchases and occupies a decent,
safe, and sanitary replacement dwelling within one year from the
later of the following:
(1) The date the displaced person receives final payment for the
displacement dwelling, or in the case of condemnation, the date the
full amount of estimated just compensation is deposited in court.
(2) The date the displacing agency fulfulls its obligation to make
available at least one comparable replacement dwelling to the
displaced person.
However, the displacing agency may extend the period for good
cause. Also, the displaced owner and the public entity may agree in
writing that the displaced owner may remain in occupancy of the
acquired dwelling as a tenant of the public entity on the conditions
that the displaced owner shall only be entitled to the payment
authorized by this section on the date on which the owner moves from
the acquired dwelling and that the payment shall be in an amount
equal to that to which the owner would have been entitled if the
owner had purchased and occupied a replacement dwelling one year
subsequent to the date on which final payment was received for the
acquired dwelling from the public entity.
(d) In implementing this chapter, it is the intent of the
Legislature that special consideration be given to the financing and
location of a comparable replacement dwelling for displaced persons
62 years of age or older."

***************


6 people like this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 24, 2015 at 6:03 pm

>A government or government sponsored purchase OF BV would cost far more than the purchase price.

@Peter Carpenter: If you consider all that you list, plus the tax/service consequences, can you make a guestimate of the total cost of the proposed BV deal, by our PACC + SC County to Palo Alto? I am thinking about the next 50 years (my guess would be hundreds of millions of dollars)...but the next 10 years would be useful. Any estimate on your part?


11 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 24, 2015 at 6:12 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I would not make a guess on the cost of relocations if BV becomes publicly owned but I know from experience that the burden is on the public agency to prove that someone is not an eligible resident. Once people get wind of a public purchase the population of BV could experience a big increase and they would all be eligible for relocation - even people who are squatters.


15 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 24, 2015 at 6:12 pm

@ Peter Carpenter: I have no doubt that JoeS+Supervisors and PACC have no idea what they're getting into. And they certainly have no concept of value per dollar vs. building a new housing complex for far less money.

I have no doubt if this somehow gets through, there will be a referendum again...and it won't be pretty.


7 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 24, 2015 at 6:40 pm

I think I just found a new address...


10 people like this
Posted by Ruff Rider
a resident of Professorville
on Jun 24, 2015 at 7:54 pm

"Once people get wind of a public purchase the population of BV could experience a big increase and they would all be eligible for relocation - even people who are squatters."

Crazier by the day. And the supervisors approved this boondoggle unanimously
after "little discussion." CP Dad is right - the supes and PACC have no idea what they're getting us into.


12 people like this
Posted by Susan
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 24, 2015 at 8:19 pm

"One thing is often overlooked on these subsidized housing deals: Loss of property tax, along with increased services. "

Craig, you are correct. Why are our city leaders ignoring your point?


13 people like this
Posted by Maurice
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 24, 2015 at 9:20 pm

Didn't Stephen Spielberg make a movie about something like this a few years ago? It was called The Money Pit and starred Tom Hanks. Instead of dilapidated and overpriced trailers, it was about a dilapidated, overpriced mansion. The moral was still the same though.


8 people like this
Posted by GoneOnTooLong
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 25, 2015 at 8:08 am

@ Peter Carpenter:
"Here is the State law as to what happens if BV becomes public property and any of the residents have to be relocated to comply with codes or for any other reason....."

Thanks for reminding us of this.

I wonder if the City Lawyer has advised CC regarding the ramifications of public involvement in this purchase, and the extent to which the city will become legally responsible for the relocation and upgrade costs, and whatever else the state laws mandate when residents are dislocated for a public project..

The BV renters and their legal team have demonstrated that they are quite willing and adept at demanding assistance and compensation for any inconvenience or dislocation.



10 people like this
Posted by Emily Renzel
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 25, 2015 at 9:34 am

Several commenters have compared Buena Vista to the Maybell project. They ignore three important facts. 1. Buena Vista is located on a major arterial so it has little impact on neighborhood traffic, and 2. Buena Vista provides 100 low income/below market housing units right now and has had no adverse impact on the neighborhood. It requires no intensification of use. 3. Since 1975 the City has tried to protect Buena Vista as an important part of our community in our Comprehensive Plan and zoning, because the pace of development in Palo Alto has squeezed out lower priced housing throughout our community and has had for decades a severe jobs/housing imbalance.

Some of the harsh commenters above also ignore the fact that the State of California has mandated that Palo Alto show how it will provide adequate low income/below market housing to support our employment base. If we do not save the Buena Vista housing, the State will mandate that we make provision for it elsewhere -- in places that are far less suitable.


13 people like this
Posted by save our money
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 25, 2015 at 10:55 am

The main difference between the Maybell project and Buena Vista is that when you invested in the Maybell project, you were investing in the development of an actual building. A building that would provide humane living conditions and that was equally accessible to all seniors who qualified. Not to mention that, whether we liked the idea or not, they had a plan to pay for it by selling off pieces at market rate.

To make Maybell comparable to Buena Vista, PAHC would had to have paid 2x what the property was worth in its condition, paid for it almost entirely with city money, not factored in any cost for improvements, proposed erecting a tent city on it, only let in people who already lived within a mile radius, and let the property get to over 4 times its appropriate density. 56% voted against Maybell just because of the density. Imagine the vote count if the rest of this was true and you’d get an actual tally of the support for saving Buena Vista.

But how nice that someone from Crescent Park finds Barron Park to be the suitable place for a trailer park. What would be a place less suitable? Crescent Park?


9 people like this
Posted by 38 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 25, 2015 at 11:27 am

What's so harsh about comments that make sense? Liberals love to sugar coat everything so that no one is ever offended. Nearly everyone of the comments above then must be harsh because the posts are against the city wasting taxpayer dollars on this guaranteed failure of a proposal.


6 people like this
Posted by Bill
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 25, 2015 at 12:48 pm

> If we do not save the Buena Vista housing, the State will mandate that we make provision for it elsewhere -- in places that are far less suitable.

It's more likely that the State would mandate that not all of the 100 affordable units should be jammed into 2.5 acres of 45 year old RV's, fifth wheels and vans. They might ask that affordable housing be built in north Palo Alto! Oh, the horror! We must act now!

I think it's odd that anyone would bring up Maybell at this point. But, let's review. PAHC bought the site with money loaned from the City. Because there wasn't sufficient affordable housing money and grant restrictions, PAHC had to sell off half of the site to a private developer (who may or may not been paying the husband of the head of the PAHC) and build large townhouses for sale on the open market. Screw the orchard and the last remaining open space in south Palo Alto - this was only way we could fund it.

Now, that affordable housing might be built elsewhere in Palo Alto (maybe in north Palo Alto for God's sake!), the County has $8 million dollars for affordable housing for Buena Vista. On top of that, Joe Simitian discovers an additional $6.5 million in the back of his sock drawer that he can use too. Never mind that Ms Kniss, former County Supervisor herself and Council liaison to PAHC, sat silently and never said a peep about over $14 million in County funds for affordable housing during the Maybell debacle.

Before we rush in to this, as Council did when they came up with the deeply flawed mobile home closure ordinance, let's all take a deep breath and think about this.


2 people like this
Posted by Michael
a resident of University South
on Jun 25, 2015 at 2:25 pm

"They might ask that affordable housing be built in north Palo Alto! Oh, the horror!"

We got ours up here, Bill: Webster Wood, Oak Court, 725 Alma, 801 Alma. It's your turn.


2 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 25, 2015 at 2:51 pm

"Liberals love to sugar coat everything so that no one is ever offended."

That's because their opponents tend to be very thin skinned. They get totally riled over the slightest tweak and miss the point. Like giving medicine to little kids, you know: "a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down... " [Portion removed].


Like this comment
Posted by palo alto resident
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 25, 2015 at 3:25 pm

To add to Michael's "They might ask that affordable housing be built in north Palo Alto! Oh, the horror!"
North Palo Alto Affordable housing (North of Oregon Expressway) The Opportunity Center, Barker Hotel, Emerson House, Elm Apartments, Pine Street House, Sheridan Apartments, California Park Apartments, Webster Wood, Oak Court, 725 Alma, 801 Alma.


1 person likes this
Posted by Michael
a resident of University South
on Jun 25, 2015 at 3:59 pm

Thanks for the assist, palo alto resident. I was listing only the major sites in University South, where I live, from memory.


4 people like this
Posted by Emily Renzel
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 25, 2015 at 6:13 pm

It should be noted that only five of the many posters above had the courage to identify their real names and locations. All the rest are anonymous with perhaps untrue neighborhood identifications. Yes, I live in Crescent Park, but I care about good planning in ALL Palo Alto neighborhoods. Peter Carpenter, who does have the courage to identify himself, actually lives in Atherton and one has to inquire why he is so interested in Palo Alto affairs - long after he moved away from our fair city. All of the rest of you, please be upfront and tell us who you really are and where you really live.


5 people like this
Posted by Agenda
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 25, 2015 at 6:21 pm

Emily-- all the posters are adhering to the TS policy. If you want a discussion of only identified posters, then I suggest you start a blog with that requirement. Also note, that Emily on wants identified posters that agree with her to post comments. Otherwise why question peters comments? Not surprised by Emily's comments though, given how past and present council members have always tried to silence dissent in the ranks.


2 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 25, 2015 at 6:44 pm

@palo alto resident

Thank you for pointing out those places available that you think, and I assume you're correct, that are affordable for those fortunate enough to be living there. But, what are they paying for rent? And what does affordable in PA mean these days? That might not be low enough for so many of our day laborers servicing our needs every day...doing our house cleaning, yard work, caregiving, clerking, servicing our cars, cleaning our teeth, etc. So where do we go from here to make it affordable for them to live here? I always ask tough questions.


And @Emily

If you're the same person who served our community and on CC so well for many years, and so many years ago, thanks for your service! But for you to now bring up the threat that the State's ABAG mandate is holding over our heads...well, I'm not worried. In many ways it's a toothless mandate, I think. Some council members, past and present, have already balked at it and are opposed to it. We submitted our required report (woo! woo! good for us) on time earlier this year and now we get to kick the can down the road for a few years. How easy is that not to do anything?

I've asked, with no responses yet, for somebody to explain what those required income levels are, based on the mandate. If I remember correctly there are 4, maybe 5, levels. I guess no one really knows because it's a moving target in PA these days. So, we can talk about affordable housing and wanting to do something about it, but we don't seem to be getting anywhere on it. And, for the most part, any effective ideas border on taking from the rich and giving to the poor...very socialistic...and Robinhood like. But, if we want to go that way let's at least have a vote on it. Greece tried that with all it's entitlements for years and now it's almost bankrupt and might have to go off the Euro. Spare us. Let's take care of our poor and needy in the good old fashioned American way. We can do it. I have my doubts about the proposed BV way.


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Posted by palo alto resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 25, 2015 at 7:16 pm

@Gale Johnson, except for the Opportunity Center, all the place I listed were Palo Alto Housing Corp facitilies. Here is the link to the income eligibility:

Web Link

But just to pick one, the Barker Hotel (single occupancy only) has rent of $396 a month and income eligibility of $27,930.


6 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 25, 2015 at 7:20 pm

Even though I am a tax payer here, this issue now becomes a County wide issue. When Mr. Joe S. continues to pander county tax dollars with PA follows right behind, every tax payer in Santa Clara county needs to know of this shenanigans.


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Posted by CCW
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Jun 25, 2015 at 7:30 pm

If the county and city buys Buena Vista who is going to pay for all the upgrades that are needed ( new plumbing, seismic upgrades etc.)????


5 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 25, 2015 at 7:38 pm

CCW- we are.

I am willing to bet the entire month of my own staff payroll that Joe S. will not be paying for any of this. However, he does an excellent job on propositioning the purchase of BV using our tax money though. Every month it seems he has a new number to pledge and it gets bigger and bigger....


2 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 25, 2015 at 7:51 pm

@palo alto resident
Thank you for that information!


6 people like this
Posted by Winter
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 25, 2015 at 9:12 pm

No taxpayer funds are involved as has been said many times in the last year. Funds that developers must pay into are being used. The Co. $ is from Stanford fdevelopment. The funds are money for affordable housing. The non-profit that wants to buy BV as affordable housing allowing residents to remain, is putting in millions of it's own funds plus a bond that is also financed and serviced by the non- profit - again no tax money. The infrastructure will get needed upgrades - no tax money again. A good way to learn accurate info about BV is to go to fobv.org. And read the ample coverage in our local papers.


6 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 25, 2015 at 9:41 pm

@Winter

What is the end product at BV?

What city code concessions will it require?

How many people will occupy it?

If fewer occupants than now, what happens to the others?

Who pays for their relocation?


2 people like this
Posted by Roger Overnaut
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jun 25, 2015 at 9:47 pm

"I am willing to bet the entire month of my own staff payroll..."

Show the courage, such as it may be, of your convictions. Put your own money where your mouth is, not your staff's payroll.


4 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 25, 2015 at 10:22 pm

1) Funds that developers must pay into are being used. And where do you think developer gets the money? They financed this amount through public financing which is used to subsidized redevelopment at a very favorable rate....translation tax payers heavily subsidized this money at very low interest rate

2) non profit funds - again this pile of money is a grant that is heavily subsidized by the Feds/State A.K.A the tax payers for the entire County and the State if California

3) Bond- Again another term for tax payers subsidized IOUs

So just shooting from the hip and assuming that your info are even accurate, most of these avenues are heavily subsidized by the tax payers of this City, County and State.

So why are we on the hook to invest in something that gives us a negative ROI?

And even if this deal goes through, why are the BV residents got to stay while there are tons of real needy people in this entire county that also need the help i.e. "The Jungle"?

Put this proposal on the ballot so the voters can decide. Why is Mr. Joe S. continue to push this unilaterally? Is he thinking that everyone in PA is so dense that they have no clue that this is a scam?




2 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 25, 2015 at 10:41 pm

@roger- I understand. However, I don't get pay monthly like the regular employee. As a general partner, I only have quarterly profit payouts .

But ok....I am so confident that Joe S. does not dip into his 401k/personal assets for this awesome proposal of his. So yes I will throw in my quarterly profit sharing too!


5 people like this
Posted by Ruff Rider
a resident of Professorville
on Jun 25, 2015 at 11:29 pm

Winter -

The $29M may not come from direct tax proceeds however it is public money and the taxpayers have a right to be concerned that it is spent in the best way.

The additional $11M will be from "non-recourse tax-exempt bonds issued by a public entity." What assurances can you give that a potential default won't leave the taxpayers holding the bag?

I must have missed the fact that Caritas is going to put in millions of its own funds. Please elaborate. (I'll assume $3M from Caritas, subject to correction.)

The hope that philanthropists will contribute $5M is just that - a hope. Hope is not a plan. Who will make up the shortfall if the $5M cannot be raised through donations?

So now we're at $48M. What analysis is there to show that this amount is sufficient to buy and upgrade the park? If it turns out not to be enough, again who will make up the shortfall?

Do you agree that BV families whose income is too high to qualify for affordable housing will have to vacate? If not, what is your rationale for allowing the family to remain when that will result in the exclusion of a family that does qualify?

The legal number of units at Buena Vista is 69. Counting the house and apartments, there are now a total of 117 units. Do you agree that 48 units must be eliminated?

Dividing the initial total cost of $48M by the number of units allowed (69) yields a per unit cost of $700k. A market-rate unit in a nearby city costs on the order of $200k. How can you justify the wide disparity in cost?

Peter Carpenter has stated: "Once people get wind of a public purchase the population of BV could experience a big increase and they would all be eligible for relocation - even people who are squatters." Do you disagree with Mr. Carpenter's statement, and if so, why?

Thank you.


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Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 26, 2015 at 1:22 am

@Gale Johnson wrote:

"I've asked, with no responses yet, for somebody to explain what those required income levels are, based on the mandate."

Is this what you are looking for? Web Link

The categories therein can be correlated with this Regional Housing Need Allocation document. Web Link


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 26, 2015 at 7:26 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Dear Emily writes "Peter Carpenter, who does have the courage to identify himself, actually lives in Atherton and one has to inquire why he is so interested in Palo Alto affairs - long after he moved away from our fair city."

I had the pleasure os literally sitting next to Emily for 4 years when we both served on the Palo Alto Planning Commission and we seldom agreed on anything. However she should remember that I always worked, as she did, in the best interests of the taxpayers as I am continuing to do by participating in these discussions. And as an elected official in another jurisdiction I have had first hand and painful experience with the unpredictable and expensive cost of relocating "residents" who occupy land that has been purchased for public use.

It is much better to deal with facts than to attempt to silence those who disagree with you.


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Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 26, 2015 at 8:21 am

@Kazu
Thank you. That's it.


4 people like this
Posted by Alex Van Riesen
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 26, 2015 at 5:38 pm

Having read many of the posts I became aware that there were a number of questions that others (and I) had about the plan for the Palo Alto City Council to add 6.5 million to the pool of money being collected to buy Buena Vista Mobile Park. Here is some of what I found asking people who were in the know:

1. Is the money being set aside taken from general fund tax payer dollars? - No.
The entire $14.5 million that the county has set aside and the entire $8 million that the city has tentatively set aside are all developer fees specifically paid to provide affordable housing. In fact, not only is that what the money is for, it's the only thing that the money can be used for. None of that $22.5 million is "tax revenue" paid by the general public.

2. Is it more effective to use this money to build or develop new low cost housing than purchase Buena Vista? - No.
It surprised me to find out just how much it costs to provide affordable housing from scratch in Palo Alto these days. The most recent affordable project in Palo Alto is the 801 Alma project, which cost $600,000 per unit to develop. So if we had to replace 117 lost affordable units at $600,000 per unit we would be looking at a total of more than $70 million. That is somewhere between 20 or 30 million more than will be spent on Buena Vista.

3. What is the purpose for Caritas needing to issue a $10 million bond?
The reason Caritas would need to float a $10 million bond is because the property needs at least that much in improvements. The expectation is that it would take $10-$12 million to provide the infrastructure rehabilitation necessary to make this a mobile home community Palo Alto would be proud of and that would be of a caliber appropriate to the needs of these families. No one is proposing to maintain the park in its current condition. Of course, that bond is expected to be repaid with interest.

I am sure there are other questions, but these struck me as the big 3. It seems to me that this is a feasible, and even financially responsible, way to create (or keep) affordable housing in Palo Alto at a time when that is growing more and more difficult to provide.

I believe it makes our community richer and more diverse, not just racially but also in terms of class, to have people living together from all over the economic spectrum. That value is not easily measured by a market economy, nor is it always clear how a community benefits from it until it no longer exists.

I am grateful for Joe Simitian, his staff, and the Palo Alto City Council for all the work they have put in to try an achieve this result for Buena Vista. I hope the City Council agreeing to contribute the 6.5 million will be the next step in helping that result come to pass.

P.S. My name is Alex Van Riesen, and I have lived in Palo Alto for 17 years and in the Midtown neighborhood for the last 7. I am also the Pastor of a local congregation (Palo Alto Vineyard Church).


5 people like this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 26, 2015 at 5:53 pm

@Alex: When you discussed with those "in the know" did you ask them about the property tax loss from non-profit subsidized housing? I assume you did, since it is perhaps one of the most palpable questions. What did they say?


5 people like this
Posted by Gone OnTooLong
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 27, 2015 at 1:18 pm

@Alex Van Riesen
".... The most recent affordable project in Palo Alto is the 801 Alma project, which cost $600,000 per unit to develop. So if we had to replace 117 lost affordable units at $600,000 per unit..... "

Not really.
The purchase of BV is just the cost of the land/asphalt and failing utilities and infrastructure. No low income housing is included in that purchase.

Your development comparison at Alma is for the land and brand new and up to date/code construction of housing with new/modern utilities, appliances, facilities and infrastructure.

You cannot compare the two costs as you have.

Before our limited public funds are committed there should be a development proposal evaluated just like any other development proposal would be. There should be a planning commission review, zoning evaluation, architectural review and business plan evaluation, all conducted in public so the citizens can decide if this is right way to spend public money (as well as committing the City by making this a public project...ref. the excellent questions by Peter Carpenter).

This last minute "Save the park" "emergency" "crisis" mode of operation is not the way to create low income housing for the needy.


2 people like this
Posted by Alex Van Riesen
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 27, 2015 at 2:34 pm

@Craig: That is a good question. I have put out that question and have not yet heard back. I am assuming (for the time being) that Mr. Jisser does not pay too much property tax currently. I am also assuming that Caritas will not pay any property tax (as a non-profit) but I may be wrong in that assumption. So, my guess is there will be a loss of some tax revenue, the question is how much. The additional question, though, is whether or not that tax income is offset by the social gain of being able to have this low income housing right now for current citizens of Palo Alto, versus somewhere down the road.

@GoneOnTooLong: I hear your argument, but would respectfully disagree in that low income housing is what is preserved in buying the land and asphalt. The infrastructure would be managed, and improved, by the Caritas corporation.

We could probably go back and forth on how to estimate the costs, and probably land in different places with regards to which is more expensive. I still maintain that given that the city would still need to buy a property and develop it to code (as you say), the current option of protecting BV is still less expensive. It also has the added advantage of not displacing the current families living in BV (and thus jeopardizing their jobs, their school experience, their involvement in our community) for at least 3 to 5 years or more. I think we all would agree that once those families leave BV and have to go somewhere probably far away to relocate, they will not be coming back 5 years down the road.

In terms of making a proposal, it seems to me (and I may be wrong) that the city performed that role with the Maybell project, but that was rejected by the voters. It seems to me that unless the City officials make some decisions, which is in their powers to do, to create some low income or affordable housing we may spend all our time making proposals but never get any housing built. I believe that would be a real loss for the city. So, I believe this is a good move in the short run. We will still need to make additional proposals and create new housing as this is clearly not going to solve the problem.


3 people like this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 29, 2015 at 9:38 am

@ Alex: I did some public tax records checks on the BV Mobile Home Park. BV currently pays about $41k per year in property taxes. The tax rate is 1.17%. The assessed value is currently about $3.2M. If the property is sold and developed into market rate housing, the assessed value will be approximately $40M...and the new taxes will be about $470k per year. Thus, the difference in taxes would be about $430k per year. Over 50 years, that would be about $22M. I have not calculated the automatic 2% annual increase allowed by prop. 13...thus this is a conservative estimate. In fact this estimate of lost tax revenues would probably be higher, once a non-profit gets involved.

If one calculates the actual lost tax revenue per person (assuming 400 people at BV) that comes to over $1k per person each year. That is very expensive liberal guilt.

For those who claim that the buckets of money are dedicated to subsidized housing anyway, two points should be made:

1. Those monies were extracted at a public cost (developer fees, which are passed through to the market rate new owners). Put another way, they are hidden taxes, pure and simple.

2. If these buckets of money are depleted for this BV deal, they will be filled again by even more extractions.

Instead of being honest about the BV deal, there are several types of prevarication by its various supporters. If Palo Alto was not involved in the subsidized housing business, we could easily have made a serious down payment on a new police station.


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