News

Editorial: Rising hopes for Buena Vista

Palo Alto should approve funding to bolster chances of preserving mobile-home park

With the Palo Alto City Council's final vote a month ago confirming that the Jisser family had met all the legal prerequisites to close the mobile-home park they own in the Barron Park neighborhood, efforts to raise public and private funds to buy and preserve the property have now kicked into high gear.

Thanks to the initiative and hard work by Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian over the last six months, during which time the City Council was carrying out its quasi-judicial role in assessing the adequacy of the closure plan, there is significant progress and real optimism that saving Buena Vista may actually be within reach.

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to allocate another $6.5 million in county housing funds to the potential acquisition of the park, contingent on it being matched by the City of Palo Alto, bringing the total county commitment to $14.5 million.

Next Monday night, before adjourning for its summer break, the City Council will hopefully follow the county's lead and agree to provide equivalent dollars, which would establish a $29 million fund, enough to demonstrate both serious interest and financial capability to the Jisser family.

While the Jissers have publicly remained closed-lipped about both their willingness to sell the park to a qualified nonprofit and the price they believe it is worth, there is little reason to believe that they would not entertain a fair, market-rate deal that could avert the complex and expensive eviction and relocation process, expected to cost well in excess of $5 milllion.

Under the most likely scenario, should the Jisser's entertain a deal, the park would be purchased by the Caritas Corporation, a southern California nonprofit that specializes in owning and operating mobile-home parks for the purpose of preserving affordable housing.

Caritas would buy the park and make needed improvements using a combination of public funds, additional contributions from foundations and other philanthropic sources, and money from revenue bonds that would be secured by the cash flow from future space rentals.

An unprecedentedly diverse group of political, community and school leaders have come together to throw their support behind the efforts to preserve Buena Vista, with not a single past or current public official opposing the goal of purchasing the park.

With 117 units of affordable housing units at stake, and with the cost of replacing those units far greater than the expected cost of acquiring Buena Vista, only those who do not place a value on maintaining diversity in Palo Alto are arguing against this initiative, and virtually all of them are doing so anonymously online.

As Palo Alto's market-rate housing becomes increasingly unaffordable to all but the wealthy, any semblance of diversity is rapidly drifting away and increasingly only exists through publicly supported or subsidized housing programs. Unlike neighboring communities like Los Altos Hills, Portola Valley, Atherton and Woodside, which were never affordable to working class families, Palo Alto has a long history of both economic and ethnic diversity because of the diversity of its housing supply and the welcoming and progressive values of the community.

This enabled at least some lower-paid service workers to live here and enroll their children in our public schools, creating a community that attracted people who were looking for a more diverse place to raise their families.

Contrary to the belief of some who object to the efforts to save Buena Vista, the primary goal is to protect in perpetuity these low-cost housing units that enable lower-income residents to be part of our community and school system, not to simply help the residents that happen to occupy these units today.

There are many other misconceptions about the efforts to save Buena Vista, including that the city or county would own and operate the park, that the mobile homes would be removed and new affordable housing built, and that current residents would receive financial benefits other than being able to remain in their units.

None of these are true under the plan being pursued. Public funds already committed to the development of affordable housing would be used, but the property would be owned, upgraded and maintained by a nonprofit experienced in the operation of mobile-home parks. Current residents would receive nothing other than the continuing opportunity to live and raise their children there for rent set by the nonprofit owner.

Palo Alto can and should seize this opportunity to collaborate with the county to preserve these units of very-low-income housing and the unique community that has formed around them. While home sales and rental rates skyrocket, we should use any means possible to keep what little diversity we have. With a fair offer, we hope and assume the Jisser family will help to make this a reality.

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

Comments

84 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 26, 2015 at 9:14 am

Very misleading and oversimplified editorial. The devil is in the detail which this article fails to even mention. The tax payers will be left holding the bag.

What a joke of an article!


41 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 26, 2015 at 9:15 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.



" Public funds already committed to the development of affordable housing would be used, but the property would be owned, upgraded and maintained by a nonprofit "

Please explain how such an arrangement would not be covered by Section 7260:
""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."


54 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 26, 2015 at 9:29 am

Nayeli is a registered user.

Palo Alto should NOT approve funding to bolster chances to preserving mobile-home park.

None of the opinions found in this editorial changes the fact that the owner has the right to close this property or that there is any rational reason for any government body to prevent its closure or use funds to purchase it.

The saddest truth about the Caritas Corp scenario is that it should have been a consideration years ago -- before the political quagmire, lost opportunities and legal impasse. Besides, why use public funds to effectively give a rental property to a "non-profit" corporation in the first place that will, in turn, spend enormous amounts of money to bring dilapidated property up-to-code and rent those (potentially more expensive) units to the same renters?


36 people like this
Posted by Roger
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jun 26, 2015 at 11:01 am

They say hope springs eternal, but sometimes giving people hope is just plain wrong.
Buenaventura vista is sub standard housing, why are we even discussing saving this place it's squalor and just because it has a Palo Alto address doesn't change that.
If the city and county want to really help these people, let's find them a decent place to live, not condemn them to continue living in this pathetic excuse for housing.


11 people like this
Posted by Roger
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jun 26, 2015 at 11:03 am

Oops Buena Vista.


23 people like this
Posted by Jonathan Brown
a resident of Ventura
on Jun 26, 2015 at 11:30 am

>>> "only those who do not place a value on maintaining diversity in Palo Alto are arguing against this initiative, and virtually all of them are doing so anonymously online."
First, what is meant by "this initiative"? If it's an initiative to create high-quality affordable housing for hard-working families in our community in a sensible manner, I'm all for taking advantage of that opportunity. If it's an initiative to pen poor people into permanently sub-standard living conditions and throw away the key, I'm against it.
Second, we can maintain diversity and improve our housing situation without depriving owners of their duly held property rights. Some of the opposition to "this initiative" is a reaction to a feeling that property rights are being deprived, well-being of Buena Vista residents is being ignored by people trying to score political points, and other reasons having nothing to do with the value people are placing on maintaining diversity.
Third, I'm using my real name, and I have no idea why so many people on both sides of so many issues hide behind the perception of online anonymity.
Ad hominem attacks with the aim of shutting down real debate is unhealthy. The Weekly can do better.


7 people like this
Posted by Chandler
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 26, 2015 at 11:31 am

The Palo Alto Housing Corp. has lots of vacancies.


15 people like this
Posted by Ellie
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 26, 2015 at 11:39 am

I find it dismaying and even somewhat depressing that a small group of chronic commenters say the same things over and over, somehow refusing to absorb the abundant accurate information offered for months to the public in addressing all issues that can be addressed to date. The only point of most of these comments seems to be to undermine saving Buena Vista, no matter the facts. I have no expectation that these folks will ever be satisfied, no matter how much actual information is offered to them by anyone.


28 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 26, 2015 at 11:39 am

So what kind of oversight will the city and the county have over Caritas, the non-profit?
Just because Caritas is a no-profit it doesn't mean that their management won't misuse funds.
How can we gift a private company with $29 million of public funds and no apparent oversight?

Has anyone researched Caritas? What is their history? What do their other properties look like?
I am sorry but this is a really poorly written unresearched editorial.


11 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 26, 2015 at 11:59 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Third, I'm using my real name, and I have no idea why so many people on both sides of so many issues hide behind the perception of online anonymity.
Ad hominem attacks with the aim of shutting down real debate is unhealthy. The Weekly can do better."

Agreed and thank you Jonathan.


6 people like this
Posted by Patrick Muffler
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 26, 2015 at 12:12 pm

I fully agree with Jonthan Brown and Peter Carpenter. I have long maintained that anonymous posts and pseudonyms should not be allowed on the Town Square.


28 people like this
Posted by jerry99
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 26, 2015 at 12:21 pm

It is lunacy to spend 29 million dollars (or even 1$) of public money to maintain that fire trap eyesore. It is old and broken down and would need millions more to redo the water, electricity, sewers, etc. The millions should be spent to build NEW APARTMENTS or trailer parks in San Mateo or Santa Clara County so people could have decent housing.
I know the politicians are constantly pimping for stealing taxpayer money for this lunacy so they can get more votes, but after all this time sanity has not prevailed. And this Editorial drumbeat gives hope to the crazies trying to keep the trailer park open. Crazy


18 people like this
Posted by More than purchase
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 26, 2015 at 12:36 pm

The conversion of this trailer park to public ownership will cost more than just the purchase price. I have seen several earlier articles that tell us the number of units exceeds the allowed zoning (so how many families will be displaced)? These earlier articles tell us that the utilities and driveways also need significant investment. So just how much will it cost to bring the property up to code once it is purchased?


58 people like this
Posted by Ruff Rider
a resident of Professorville
on Jun 26, 2015 at 1:04 pm

Maybe this says it all:

"With 117 units of affordable housing units [sic] at stake, and with the cost of replacing those units far greater than the expected cost of acquiring Buena Vista, only those who do not place a value on maintaining diversity in Palo Alto are arguing against this initiative, and virtually all of them are doing so anonymously online."

Rather hypocritical, don't you think? Per the terms below: "We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any 'member' name you wish."

Try this alternative interpretation: Anonymity in posting is analogous to the secrecy of the ballot box. For those who may not care to be personally subjected to the spurious charge of "not placing a value on maintaining diversity in Palo Alto," anonymity can encourage free expression. (And by the way, who on the Weekly staff is responsible for this gem of an article? The byline above looks rather anonymous to me.)

Not that it seems to make any difference to the Weekly, but most of us do place a value on maintaining diversity in PA. We just don't believe that the value of that diversity is anywhere near $700k per decrepit trailer, RV, or fifth wheel.

Regarding maintaining the same density (117 units) as at present, please explain why the density won't have to be reduced to the legal limit of 69 units. And who will get to stay and who must go? First out, of course, will be the families whose income exceeds the threshold for affordable housing.

As for the the cost of replacing the units being far greater than the expected cost of acquiring Buena Vista, it is good that you are privy to that analysis. Please share, and while you're at it, you could respond to a few of the astute questions posed in the thread following the previous Buena Vista article:

Web Link

The questions put forward in that thread are typical of those asked during due diligence. In requesting that the city council approve the commitment of $14.5M this Monday night without addressing any of the reasonable concerns of the community, you are essentially asking the council members to fail, as did the Board of Supervisors, to do their due diligence.

Rubber-stamping this boondoggle is sure to result in a petition for referendum. Why not instead ask the city council to put it on the ballot and move directly to a vote of the people? Or would the Weekly prefer that this be resolved in smoke-filled rooms behind closed doors? (Figuratively speaking, of course.)

An aroused citizenry is the best check on politicians run amok, and the Weekly is certainly doing its part to arouse the citizenry. Please keep up the good work.


6 people like this
Posted by Wondering too
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 26, 2015 at 1:38 pm

jerry99 wonders about >stealing taxpayer money for this lunacy

I assume you are referring to $4.5 million to remodel the city hall lobby
or
$3 million to 'fix' the traffic lights
or
$1,060,830 to purchase asphalt concrete
right?


14 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 26, 2015 at 2:05 pm

One powerful constitutional strategy to protect persons from governmental retribution/coercion/pressure is to identify personal freedoms and declare them rights. One of these rights is the right to be "free" and "anonymous" to express oneself freely without any fear of being ostracized by group mob mentality.

Mr.Joe S. keeps returning to propose a failed idea of using County public funds to purchase the park while asking our city to do the "Texas one step" with him is way over the top and obscene to highest level. No matter how this proposal is being spun by its supporters; the strategy taken is nothing less of fraud, waste and abuse on our tax money. Anyone that cares to do a little research on this issue and is willing to sit down and parse the wordings of the proposal, one will see that tax payers will be burden for many years to come if this proposal is allowed to come to fruition.

Please put this on a referendum so the tax payers of this great State can decide for themselves!


16 people like this
Posted by Ruff Rider
a resident of Professorville
on Jun 26, 2015 at 2:16 pm

"a small group of chronic commenters"

...the tip of the iceberg, as the inevitable referendum will prove.

"somehow refusing to absorb the abundant accurate information offered for months"

...OK so we're dense. Please try to help us by addressing some of the specific questions raised in the thread following the last Buena Vista article.

"The only point of most of these comments seems to be to undermine saving Buena Vista, no matter the facts."

...As Joe Friday used to say, all we want are the facts. We don't want to have to wade through reams of unfocused and potentially biased narrative hoping to find answers to our very specific questions.

"I have no expectation that these folks will ever be satisfied, no matter how much actual information is offered to them by anyone."

...I'll bite. Tell me what will happen to the BV families that earn too much to qualify for affordable housing. I'd be satisfied to get any answer on this from the politicians and BV supporters, but so far, dead silence.


8 people like this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 26, 2015 at 3:42 pm

@Ruff Rider wrote:

"Maybe this says it all:

"With 117 units of affordable housing units [sic] at stake, and with the cost of replacing those units far greater than the expected cost of acquiring Buena Vista, ...""

Yep, that says it all: Far greater than the *expected* costs. Expected by whom? So what will the actual costs be? Are any of those in favor of using the taxpayers money also in favor of capping the costs, or is this a cost plus undertaking?


16 people like this
Posted by george drysdale
a resident of Professorville
on Jun 26, 2015 at 3:54 pm

Congratulations citizens of Palo Alto you see through governmental incompetence. Caritas is a racket. Analyze their plan and you'll see what happened in "the great santa cruz land swindle" (internet). "Non profits" as we learn in economics are usually not necessarily so.

George Drysdale a social science teacher


10 people like this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 26, 2015 at 3:54 pm

@An unprecedentedly diverse group of political, community and school leaders have come together to throw their support behind the efforts to preserve Buena Vista, with not a single past or current public official opposing the goal of purchasing the park.

@Bill Johnson: The one group you failed to mention is the Palo Alto taxpayers. Put it to a city-wide vote. Do you support a referendum, Bill?


41 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 26, 2015 at 3:59 pm

Nayeli is a registered user.

After reading this again, I am disgusted by the attitude of individuals who write, "only those who do not place a value on maintaining diversity in Palo Alto are arguing against this initiative."

What kind of strange and preachy stereotype is this?

Diversity? Palo Alto is diverse. This town is just as diverse as the nation itself. About 40% of Palo Alto is non-white. I’m part of that 40%.

I'm Hispanic -- an immigrant -- with a household income far below what is "average" in Palo Alto. There are plenty of diverse racial-ethnic groups living in this city. The least "diverse" community in the Peninsula is probably East Palo Alto -- with just 6.2% Anglos (that are non-Hispanic white people).

Yes, the community is less ECONOMICALLY DIVERSE than most towns in America. As a statistical consequence, the town might lack representation from two racial-ethnic groups that tend to have the lowest average household incomes and, yes, lowest levels of educational attainment. However, the diversity isn't based upon skin color. It is based upon INCOME.

Recently, the San Francisco Chronicle indicated that Palo Alto was the second most expensive town in America. Web Link Yet, there are plenty of Asian Americans and even immigrants living in this city. I am Hispanic and I live here. It can be done without a trailer park.

I don't think that anyone in this city cares purely about the racial-ethnic diversity of Palo Alto. I don't care. I don't think that the Palo Alto Online editors and other vocal supporters of Buena Vista care. After all, do they argue that Palo Alto doesn't reflect similar "diversity" in terms of religion, political ideology, educational attainment, etc...?

It simply costs more to live in Palo Alto because this is a town filled with highly educated residents (and higher educational attainment results in higher income). If I worked at a Subway restaurant in SoHo (New York), would I assume that I should be able to afford an apartment next to the Vesuvio Playground (in SoHo)? Of course not. Such thinking is irrational. Rent in a city is based upon demand...and that demand is influenced by white collar (skilled) job saturation which, in turn, results in higher INCOME.

Palo Alto is the tech capital of the world. The race and ethnicity of our residents isn't a big deal. However, it costs more if you want to live in the city. Saving a dilapidated trailer park won't change this.


14 people like this
Posted by Dan
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 26, 2015 at 4:08 pm

I would hope that they could find a more efficient use of this tax money (yes, it is tax money unless someone has recently been able to grow money trees). The trailer park seems like a potential money pit and it is questionable to earmark affordable housing funds to a specific group of people when there are many others already on waiting lists. The city is running a real risk of losing large damage $$$ in a lawsuit by the owner so I am strongly in favor of the city staying out of this fight. All city residents will have to pay for the lawsuit when it comes. As for posting personal opinions in public online forums using your real name ... in this world only fools or heroes will put their easily traceable personal information online and potentially face retribution and harassment from ideologues and nutcases. Taking away the right to discuss anonymously in this type of public forum would effectively kill it.


3 people like this
Posted by Inconel Jones
a resident of Portola Valley
on Jun 26, 2015 at 4:32 pm

"Please explain how such an arrangement would not be covered by Section 7260:"

Yes, Peter, they do intend to TAX you AND SPEND it on them.

[Portion deleted.]


60 people like this
Posted by Keep as is
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 26, 2015 at 4:34 pm

Ruff Rider: well said! Your comments on both Buena Vista and anonymous posting and the analogy with voting, echo my sentiments exactly.

Regarding anonymous posting: it seems to me the primary issue is that anonymous posting can enable non-civil discourse that may be less likely to occur if people had to use their true identities. I agree that the non-civil discourse has no place in reasonable debate.

But anonymous posting also enables people to state their position on a matter without fear of retribution, online or otherwise, and can give the community a more open and true dialog on issues.

In my opinion the latter's benefits outweighs the former, and non-civil discourse is frequently addressed by the editors anyways (though I agree unevenly and in some cases unreasonably. Perhaps the opponents of anonymous posting should focus there issues on posting with the editors).

Disabling anonymous posting to discourage speech you don't like is throwing out the baby with the bathwater in my opinion, and I think "Palo Alto Online" and "Almanacnews" position on anonymous posting is for the net benefit of our respective communities.


9 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 26, 2015 at 7:13 pm

My name is Gale Johnson, at least that's what my birth certificate shows. I've been away most of the day. So many good posts on this subject, but probably most will not be listened to and just ignored by our elected officials. This got out of hand/control and could have been handled and self containted in our town with no outside...ala...county support or interference. One poster said there are many PAHC units available. If that's true let's fill them up.

And the deal with the non- profit, Caritas. Oh my! What a sweet deal for them! They will own the property with our gifts. And who will oversee them? Non-profits have a special way of bookkeeping to show there's no profit, but where is all the money going? They will have total control. If they are restricted to the 69 units allowed by zoning, how will they decide who goes and who stays? And will they screen residents for their income levels to see if they are qualified as low income by the State's definition? I think there might be other alternatives to explore to keep the deserving BV residents in PA. But we'd better keep our pocketbooks open.


2 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 26, 2015 at 7:17 pm

Spelling error, meant 'contained'.


6 people like this
Posted by Outsider
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 26, 2015 at 9:26 pm

[Post removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 26, 2015 at 10:44 pm

"One poster said there are many PAHC units available. If that's true let's fill them up."

Anybody who'd believe that would also own several deeds to the Brooklyn Bridge.


2 people like this
Posted by Learn Something
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 26, 2015 at 11:22 pm

1. The fact that a property is sold does not automatically and suddenly trigger enforcement of building and zoning codes. If Buena Vista is sold as is, there is no immediate action required.

2. No one is forcing BV residents to remain in "substandard housing," so let's just throw out that argument altogether.

3. Forcing people to use their real names would mean only the wealthy, powerful, and independent-earners would post, and those vulnerable to retaliation would be silenced. IMHO, those demanding everyone use their real names would be the first to bully anyone they could.

4. Regarding the deal with Caritas, I am concerned about Palo Alto and SC County funds being used to purchase this property only to hand it over to a non-profit. If Palo Alto and SC County buy this property with tax payer funds, they must retain ownership and any potential profits as tax payer money. I agree with others that PA and SC County must maintain oversight and ownership.

5. @Nayeli said: "I don't think that anyone in this city cares purely about the racial-ethnic diversity of Palo Alto. I don't care." I think only the second sentence is true. Many of us care a great deal about ethnic diversity and one person has no business trying to speak for the whole city. I also wonder about the incentive behind arguing against people of your own ethnic background - it is not typical. Reaction formation? Here is an interesting bit of information on people who react the opposite of what you would expect. Web Link


29 people like this
Posted by We are diverse!
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 26, 2015 at 11:38 pm

I find this editorial so offensive, especially "...only those who do not place a value on maintaining diversity in Palo Alto are arguing against this initiative...".

With or without Buena Vista Palo Alto will remain the most diverse community I have ever lived in. I can walk down my street in the evening and chat with neighbors who have come from Inida, China, Japan, Russia, Germany, Pakistan, Israel and more.

I value diversity and it is one of the reasons I choose to live hear and pay a lot to do it. I do not support putting the $30M of public funds to Buena Vista since this price is too high. This comes out to over $250K per unit. If you want more diversity in the community couldn't this money somehow be put to better use? How many more Tinsley/VTP students could we support in our schools for $30M?


4 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 27, 2015 at 8:32 am

I just reread the article. So, the rent will be set by the nonprofit owner! Hmm! That should be interesting!


3 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 27, 2015 at 9:49 am

For those interested in the facts about diversity in Palo Alto, see Web Link

Because the US Census is conducted only once per decade, in the "0" year, this data is now five years old. My suspicion is the numbers have not changed dramatically since 2010.

At that time, here's how our population looked:

64.2% White
27.1% Asian
6.2% Hispanic/Latino
1.9% Black/African-American

Clearly, in Palo Alto, people of White and Asian heritage are overrepresented and people of Hispanic/Latino and Black/African-American heritage are underrepresented.

Unfortunately, the Census Bureau "Quick Facts" does not provide a breakdown of population by income level.


4 people like this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 27, 2015 at 10:57 am

@Arbitrarian wrote:

"At that time, here's how our population looked:

64.2% White
27.1% Asian
6.2% Hispanic/Latino
1.9% Black/African-American

Clearly, in Palo Alto, people of White and Asian heritage are overrepresented and people of Hispanic/Latino and Black/African-American heritage are underrepresented."

And that is a problem... how? You are assuming that all the people in each of those categories form a monolithic bloc. The reality is that there are multiple ethnic groups within each racial category, as @We are diverse! notes:

"With or without Buena Vista Palo Alto will remain the most diverse community I have ever lived in. I can walk down my street in the evening and chat with neighbors who have come from Inida, China, Japan, Russia, Germany, Pakistan, Israel and more."

Diversity isn't the issue with Buena Vista, though. It is about affordable housing.

"Unfortunately, the Census Bureau "Quick Facts" does not provide a breakdown of population by income level."

City Data provides an approximation: Web Link


2 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 27, 2015 at 11:31 am

Whoa, Kazu, you are putting your words in my mouth. Some posters brought up the issue of diversity and I was simply trying to add some facts to the discussion.

I did not say if I think the current diversity level is or is not a problem in Palo Alto.

I did not assume the categories are monolithic blocs. Of course, they are composed of a variety of subgroups.

You are way of line in telling me and other readers what I think and what I assume.


2 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 27, 2015 at 12:11 pm

@Patrick Muffler
Well spoken by a former fellow barbershop harmony singer with the Peninsulaires.


37 people like this
Posted by GoneOnTooLong
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 27, 2015 at 1:22 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 Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 27, 2015 at 2:19 pm

@Arbitration wrote:

"Whoa, Kazu, you are putting your words in my mouth."

Not my intent. My apologies if I did so.


10 people like this
Posted by Jeff Keller
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 27, 2015 at 3:23 pm

Jeff Keller is a registered user.

Many of the arguments for saving Buena Vista sound like it should be turned into a zoo, where economically disadvantaged residents can stay.

I like the diversity Palo Alto has and hope it is kept. If low income housing is not going to be a taxpayer supported zoo or a taxpayer supported lottery rewarding a few lucky recipients, the provided housing will be substandard is some respect equalizing demand with supply.

Hopefully plans to save and manage Buena Vista "development" create low income housing that is market rate ... not a zoo, not a lifetime charity for a few lottery winners.


17 people like this
Posted by Bad idea
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 27, 2015 at 3:47 pm

Caritas would own the land not the city? We’re just going to give them $30 million and 4.5 acres of land when we haven’t heard any long term plans for how they’re going to manage it? City pays, city should own. If they don’t want to run it, they can lease it to Caritas for $1. But if they don’t think it’s a good idea to own it at all, they shouldn’t be putting money towards it.
Someone tell the city manager he's supposed to be running a city not a philanthropic organization.


25 people like this
Posted by Weekly reader
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 27, 2015 at 4:04 pm

"only those who do not place a value on maintaining diversity in Palo Alto are arguing against this initiative, and virtually all of them are doing so anonymously online."

What a poor excuse for an editorial and what a disgraceful conclusion. Does the weekly staff presume to know what people are saying about this? or with their bloated egos, do they think that the only discussion about Buena Vista has been going on on this forum???
I have lived in Palo alto for 20+ years. I have never considered the weekly to be much of a newspaper.
However in recent years, the weekly has exhibited such biased and one-sided "reporting", that we can no longer consider them to be an independent source of news. The coverage of Buena vista has been one-sided from day one--stories and editorials pushing a certain agenda, without proper coverage of the other side and a complete disregard for the owners rights and opinions.
In, fact, IMHO, the above editorial was either written by or dictated to the staff by WInter Dellanbach and the FOBV.


4 people like this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 27, 2015 at 4:25 pm

"Caritas would own the land not the city? We're just going to give them $30 million and 4.5 acres of land when we haven't heard any long term plans for how they're going to manage it?"

And what would happen if Caritas came back some time later and said they needed additional funding to keep the mobile home park open? What are the chances of that happening?

And what are the chances of the debate here having any impact on the matter whatsoever? ;-)


19 people like this
Posted by Ruff Rider
a resident of Professorville
on Jun 27, 2015 at 6:27 pm

"IMHO, the above editorial was either written by or dictated to the staff by Winter Dellenbach and the FOBV."

We'll never know, will we? It carries the semi-anonymous byline "Palo Alto Weekly staff."


"And what are the chances of the debate here having any impact on the matter whatsoever?"

Quite good, actually. Comments following the various PAO Buena Vista articles contain excellent questions that will inform the debate during the referendum campaign. And this will go to a referendum - either because the city council has the good sense to put it on the ballot or because an "aroused citizenry" pushes back against this blatant effort to defraud the taxpayer.

If the proposal is not essentially fraudulent, then why are the politicians and Buena Vista supporters so eager to ram it through without performing due diligence? This scheme is so full of holes that one hardly knows where to begin.

And Simitian et al are cruel to mislead the residents of Buena Vista. They will not all be able to stay. Some families earn too much to qualify for affordable housing and in addition the park density must be reduced to 69 units. When do you plan to tell them, Joe? Winter D? When?


17 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 27, 2015 at 7:40 pm

Mr. Joe Simitian and the like will probably laugh everyone off the planet and continues to do what he does best which is to maintain the status quo despite abundant amount of evidence that this is a real bad deal for tax payers. I am sure even common sense will tell him so but Joe S. is thinking that he is entitled to do whatever he wants. This is a disgrace and it brings bad names to all the good honest and hardworking politicians in this country.

Unless I have missed this, for his type to listen, tax payers of Palo Alto need to form an organization similar to the one below

Web Link

Otherwise, please vote this guy out as soon as possible on the next cycle.




9 people like this
Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 28, 2015 at 7:34 am

Placing a value on diversity is not synonymous with over-valuing it. I think that the intention of using diversity in this discussion was to imply that diversity trumps all other concerns, such as financial prudence, private property rights and aesthetics.


4 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 28, 2015 at 8:22 am

@george drysdale

Thanks. I don't know anything about 'the great Santa Cruz land swindle' but I did a little checking on Caritas. It was their own site, however, so I knew it would only be good stuff. I clicked on 'testimonials'. No surprise, they were all favorable. Then I clicked on 'acquisitions'. They listed 20 parks, 4 of which are in Lancaster with a total of 1,160 spaces.

Their purchase preferences:

"we prefer parks of 100 spaces or more". Check! But BV could shrink to 69 if zoning compliance is required. Of their 20 parks, 3 are below 100 spaces.

" "3 1/2 to 5 star" parks with common facilities including Clubhouse, pool, laundry and other improvements." Not a match there. How many stars for BV currently??

Would be interesting...visit some of their parks, there's one in Vacaville, knock on a few doors, and ask residents if they're really happy with the park and if they have any complaints. Any unexpected rent increases, etc.?


14 people like this
Posted by wake up and smell the roses
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 28, 2015 at 9:56 am

"only those who do not place a value on maintaining diversity in Palo Alto are arguing against this initiative"

This is the definition of a straw-man argument.

So, since diversity isn't the reason the Weekly wants to maintain BV, what is? What is so special about this piece of land when we provide far better low income housing at 801 Alma and on Channing. In these projects, we provide a far higher standard of living than we do by maintaining BV.

So, again, why dose the Weekly want this? The only argument for it is to "preserve the culture". This is entirely different to "maintaining diversity". It also gives you an insight into how the Weekly actually views BV residents. The idea that we need a "reservations" to "preserver diversity" is an anathema.


2 people like this
Posted by Roger Overnaut
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jun 28, 2015 at 4:47 pm

"...what are the chances of the debate here having any impact on the matter whatsoever?"

About the same as at Maybelle. Like then, the "fix" is in.


10 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 28, 2015 at 5:16 pm

Some of us just want to vent, and maybe we are not the most well informed or knowledgeable on this issue and of the total impacts, however it goes. But believe me, we are not alone. I think our CC is struggling with it as well. Most of them have never owned their own business or had to deal with a real bottom line, profit and loss statement, or had to answer to their CEO's of their overruns on their department's budget, answering to stockholders, etc. So they don't know about or appreciate hard decisions that have to be made when it isn't taxpayer's money or public funds involved. I'm trying very hard to learn all the facts so I can speak out more intelligently and with some credibility. Some of it, opinions online, are just innocent, but well intentioned, opining. Some are Robin Hoods, others are hard line capitalists, supply and demand folks. But my hat is off to those who are really knowledgeable and contribute to the online discussions. Notably, Peter Carpenter...he's explained his previous position here in PA, and to GoneOnTooLong's last offering. Please, please, please, PACC, listen to these guys.

Some online posts are just pure hateful! Get rid of those...don't even allow them to have a say if they are so impolite and hateful.

A development plan? A must, and we have to do it. We need to know more about what Caritas has in mind for BV. We just can't turn it over to them carte blanche without doing due diligence. And I'm pretty sure we will have to add another high paying position with additional staff at City Hall to keep track of this adventure, maybe misadventure, into unknown territory.


18 people like this
Posted by $$
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 29, 2015 at 12:27 am

Maybe, just maybe this was a plan all along between Joe S. and the owner, to sell the property to the county and the city for a huge sum of $$ since the private purchaser backed out of a deal, otherwise, the owner would have delivered moving notices by now. We have many pockets of empty land in Santa Clara County that can be developed (basically cleaned up) to house these and many additional trailers for much less money. Is Joe S. elected or appointed, I don't like his generosity with someone else's money? I certainly will not vote for any counsel members who will vote to continue this racket.


6 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 29, 2015 at 9:25 am

They are elected representatives. One of the core values call out for fiscal responsibility.

Web Link


5 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 29, 2015 at 11:34 am

On the Agenda for tonight's (June 29th, 6pm, City Hall) City Council meeting:

Buena Vista Mobile Home Park: Update and Possible Direction
Regarding Affordable Housing Funds

While it appears that few city officials read the Palo Alto Online forums, all key decision-makers attend council meetings and all citizens are entitled to speak for three minutes.


12 people like this
Posted by Bill
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 29, 2015 at 11:45 am

This seems like a really bad deal for the City and affordable housing in Palo Alto.

Tonight, Council will likely be ready to pay their half of the $30 million dollars based on the information in a 3 page staff report: Web Link

That's $10 million dollars a page!

To match the County's funds, $6.8 will be taken from the Residential Housing Fund. This is money set aside for acquiring and fixing affordable housing. This will zero out the RHF. $7.7 million will come from Commercial Housing Fund. Since this fund is currently only allowed to be used for new construction, taking money from the CHF will require changing the law governing the use of CHF funds. This will leave the CHF with $1.5 million.

To replenish some of the funds "the City is beginning negotiations with the owner of an existing affordable housing development who may be willing to provide a substantial sum to buy-out the city’s option to purchase that property."

How does this deal solve the affordable housing problem in Palo Alto?


18 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 29, 2015 at 12:06 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The entire effort to have local government attempt to take over BV (it is still not clear that the owner wants to sell) is an effort in feel-good politics.

Local government needs to step back and think clearly what would be its responsibilities, which cannot be evaded by using a non-profit as an intermediary, would be as the ultimate owner.

Is local government prepared to be a [portion removed] landlord and permit the current non-code compliant conditions to exist?

Is local government willing to pay the significantly higher relocation fees required of public entities when they require current tenants to move?

What are the real long term costs and are those costs in any current budget?


19 people like this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 29, 2015 at 12:21 pm

I have seen this thing coming for many months. Our PACC will cave to their liberal guilt and use our taxpayer money to try to purchase this turkey. At least they should defer to a referendum of the people of PA. I wonder if even one CC ember will stand up for the rights of us citizens?


4 people like this
Posted by Homeless John Doe
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 29, 2015 at 7:58 pm

This is presented as a question of social justice vs greedy corporate interest. Liberals are extactic about granting to 100 persons $500,000 each at expense of taxpayers. Libers are very proud of themselves. Minimum pay hike from $8 to to $12? Go for it.


But remember if it was possible to solve problems this way you'd now be ruled from Moscow by comminists. For each 100 persons who get subsidies there will be 10 bureaucrats who distribute these subsidies (these will be real beneficiaries) and 1000 dishwashers who pay eaxtra 10% sales tax and 10,000 who lose jobs.


2 people like this
Posted by Eileen Wright
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 29, 2015 at 9:55 pm

[Post removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 29, 2015 at 11:39 pm

@Ruff Rider wrote:

"Quite good, actually. Comments following the various PAO Buena Vista articles contain excellent questions that will inform the debate during the referendum campaign. And this will go to a referendum - either because the city council has the good sense to put it on the ballot or because an "aroused citizenry" pushes back against this blatant effort to defraud the taxpayer."

Hopefully this will go to a referendum. It is time for this to be settled once and for all. As for the commentary following the Buena Vista articles having an impact and informing the debate, I am afraid I have to disagree. Otherwise we could wind up being ruled from Moscow by Comminists. ;-) Those bad ol' Commies.


Like this comment
Posted by Well.
a resident of another community
on Jun 30, 2015 at 10:16 am

This city-coordinated purchase will probably reduce the risk associated with a Jisser law suit, but may well end up costing much more than that in ongoing expenses.

The city should be required to identify funds for the huge costs outside of the purchase price that arise from the purchase.


2 people like this
Posted by John Galt
a resident of another community
on Jun 30, 2015 at 10:35 am

You have destroyed all that which you held to be evil and achieved all that which you held to be good. Why, then, do you shrink in horror from the sight of the world around you? That world is not the product of your sins, it is the product and the image of your virtues. It is your moral ideal brought into reality in its full and final perfection. You have fought for it, you have dreamed of it, and you have wished it, and I-I am the man who has granted you your wish.


Like this comment
Posted by Man
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 30, 2015 at 10:56 am

"I am the man who has granted you your wish."

Be gone, Satan!


6 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 30, 2015 at 11:01 am

"Is local government prepared...?"

Later, Peter, later. First the party, THEN the hangover.


Like this comment
Posted by John Gallt
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jun 30, 2015 at 11:08 am

I had to include the whole quotation, otherwise it would be vulnerable to lberal vultures. But I do not think that the last sentence is misplaced. Replace "I-I" with "Us-Us" and it will hit the point precicely.


15 people like this
Posted by GoneOnToLong
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 30, 2015 at 3:06 pm

6/30/2015 after the vote...

I would sure love to be in Mr. Jissers shoes right now.
Working in sales, I can easily recognize a buyer that is ripe for the taking. They signs are:
- Puffed up with praise and ego
- Believes they are getting a bargain
- believes everyone will praise their purchase, or that it is a righteous purchase action.
- Believes there is no better/other use for the money so might as well spend it
- Anxious to make a deal (comes to you and keeps coming back)

Mr. Jisser will make out quite well in this deal.
I predict $88M to $100M when the sale is final (117 units x $750k+/unit =$88M). I know there are no actual units for sale, but Mr. Klein apparently doesn't.

Look at the following points supported by quotes taken directly from the post vote story Web Link :

1. The Buyer is puffed up:

>>"about 300 residents of the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park stood up to applaud the City Council"

>> "An even louder ovation greeted Simitian, who approached the podium "

>> "Mayor Karen Holman thanked Simitian,"

>> "Former mayors, council members and school board members have also jumped into the effort to preserve Buena Vista"

>> "....This is a no-brainer," Filseth said to a round of applause."


2. The Buyer believes they are getting a great deal:

>> "Vice Mayor Greg Schmid said preserving Buena Vista would be a "bargain" for the city"

>> "Councilman Tom DuBois wrote, "we should seize this opportunity, match the County's funding and even look for additional affordable housing funds if required to ensure Buena Vista's future.""

>> " Larry Klein noted that the city's last affordable-housing project, 801 Alma St., ended up costing more than $600,000 per unit for construction and land acquisition. By that standard, Buena Vista would be a "bargain.""

>>"Several council members ... argued that buying Buena Vista would be a great bargain when compared with the cost of constructing new affordable-housing facilities"


3. The Buyer thinks they have total support:

>> "In all my years as a Palo Alto elected official, I have never seen this kind of unanimity and support on any issue"

>> "....it has the least political risk of any issue I can remember....(Price)"

>> "With its enthusiastic and unanimous vote, the council agreed to follow the lead of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors"


4. The buyer thinks this is a great use of the money:

>> "Councilman Pat Burt called the allocation "an outstanding use" of the funds."

>> "I can't think of a better use of affordable-housing funds...." Scharff said."


5. The Buyer is desperate to make a deal:

>> "The city's allocation, he said, "makes it very clear to the current owner that there is serious money and that this is a serious situation."


>> "We recognize that this is the beginning of a process to identify the fair-market value for the property..."


So if I was Jisser, I'd tell the City:
If you want my land, then give me $100M. Just think of the applause you'll receive when you close the deal !




14 people like this
Posted by Get with the program
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 30, 2015 at 3:12 pm

Goneontoolong- you realize that according to the voice of Palo Alto and all its citizens you are:
"only those who do not place a value on maintaining diversity in Palo Alto are arguing against this initiative, and virtually all of them are doing so anonymously online."

I think we will need a referendum on this.


2 people like this
Posted by Conservative English Language Vulture
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Jun 30, 2015 at 3:55 pm

"I had to include the whole quotation, otherwise it would be vulnerable to lberal vultures. But I do not think that the last sentence is misplaced. Replace "I-I" with "Us-Us" and it will hit the point precicely."

No, it would be grammatical and syntactical gibberish.


7 people like this
Posted by mom of teenagers
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 30, 2015 at 7:16 pm

None of these comments explain how you can buy a piece of property worth $40-50 million dollars for $29 million.


22 people like this
Posted by ABAG?
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 30, 2015 at 8:19 pm

Would Palo Alto do more to satisfy ABAG's requirement for more (low-income) housing units by 1) preserving a large number of low-income units (RVs and mobile homes) already in BV or 2) allowing the park to be sold and building a larger number of units (market rate ones at the BV site plus low-income ones using the allocated funds at a different site)?


2 people like this
Posted by ABAG?
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 30, 2015 at 8:57 pm

Maybe I wasn't clear. Would the BV mobile homes count towards ABAG's requirement for ~2000 NEW units of housing in Palo Alto? If not, maybe it would be more helpful to replace the BV RVs with new (better, more) housing units.


Like this comment
Posted by palo alto resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 1, 2015 at 11:45 am

@ABAG? - BV is existing housing so it wouldn't count toward the ABAG requirements for new housing. I think there are 117 units there, if/when it closes, less unit would be built based on existing zoning, so I don't know if that means we need to add more to our ABAG quota.


1 person likes this
Posted by Deep Throat
a resident of another community
on Jul 1, 2015 at 11:53 am

"None of these comments explain how you can buy a piece of property worth $40-50 million dollars for $29 million."

There are ways to structure a deal like this so that Jisser gets the benefit of a tax deductible donation that would provide him with the equivalent of $40-50 million dollars while only receiving $29 million cash, but to make sure he gets the best advice he needs to hire a tax lawyer with experience in and connections to local government, for example, Larry Klein.

The $40-50 million is a good estimate of the property's worth, but Jisser may be planning to be the developer of the property and is anticipating reaping the developer's profit on top of the purchase price.


Like this comment
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 2, 2015 at 1:53 pm

What happened to all the posts that were deleted without a trace?


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