News

Palo Alto pledges funds to save Buena Vista

City officials follow Santa Clara County's lead in allocating money for purchase of mobile-home park

They haven't had much to cheer about over the past two years, but on Monday night about 300 residents of the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park stood up to applaud the City Council after it voted to pledge $14.5 million in city funds to preserve the mobile-home park.

With its enthusiastic and unanimous vote, the council agreed to follow the lead of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors and earmark the funds toward a possible purchase of Buena Vista, the city's sole mobile-home park and one whose future has been in jeopardy since fall 2012.

That's when the Jisser family, which owns the park, applied to close the park with the idea of converting it to luxury apartments. The application process for the closure hit a milestone last October, when an administrative judge endorsed the Jisser's proposal and cleared its final hurdle in May, when the council officially approved it, thus enabling the Jissers to begin the eviction process.

But after more than two years of anxiety about displacement and numerous unfavorable votes, the roughly 400 residents of Buena Vista got some good news last week, when Santa Clara County supervisors agreed to add $6.5 million toward the effort to save the park, contingent on a similar contribution from the city. The funds supplement the $8 million that the county pledged in January, an allocation that the city had also matched.

On Monday night, the City Council followed suit, raising the total pledged in public funds to $29 million. Every council member present spoke in favor of approving the allocation. Councilman Tom DuBois, who was absent, submitted a letter pledging his own support for the mobile-home park's preservation.

The vote came in front of about 300 residents who packed into City Hall. Most wore "Keep B.V. Residents in P.A." stickers and many carried laminated posters with photos of Buena Vista children, about 100 of whom attend local schools.

The council's discussion Monday was unlike any of its previous deliberations of the topic. While the Jissers' application was pending, the council was limited to a "quasi-judicial role" – more akin to judges than to legislators. The position prohibited them from making any policy decision that could indicate bias toward either side in the debate.

Now that the decision on the Jissers' application has been reached and council members are no longer gagged from policy discussion, council members sent a strong signal Monday that they would like to see the 4 1/2-acre mobile-home park preserved. Immediately after hearing from several Buena Vista residents and their advocates from the community, Councilmen Cory Wolbach and Marc Berman made the proposal to commit the money toward purchasing Buena Vista from the Jisser family.

Berman said the past two years have been a time of "frustration" for the council because it had its "hands tied" by the quasi-judicial role. Up until now, he said, the council has fulfilled "legal duties that we were required to, but that none of us really wanted to."

"Today we get to be part of the solution," Berman said.

The council's $6.5 million contribution will be added to the $8 million that City Manager James Keene had earmarked in February for the possible preservation effort, an allocation that the council also approved Monday. The idea is to use county and city funds and an estimated $10 million from a tax-exempt revenue bond to purchase Buena Vista, which would then be managed by the nonprofit Caritas Corporation. The county last month entered into an agreement with Caritas, which is in the process of putting together an offer to the Jisser family.

With both allocations of public funds, the city is following the county's lead. Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, a former Palo Alto mayor, kicked off the preservation effort in January when he and Supervisor Dave Cortese proposed allocating $8 million in county funds for Buena Vista's preservation. Keene made his allocation a month later. On June 23, county supervisors raises the stakes by adding another $6.5 million in affordable-housing funds to buy the mobile-home park, contingent on a match from the city.

Palo Alto's new allocation, like the prior one, comes from the two funds that are supported by developer fees and are designated for affordable housing. Keene's February allocation, depleted the Residential Housing Fund and dropped the Commercial Housing Fund to $8 million. The new allocation reduces the latter fund to $1.5 million.

Several council members and speakers emphasized that the funds are being allocated for precisely the type of use for which they were intended. They also argued that buying Buena Vista would be a great bargain when compared with the cost of constructing new affordable-housing facilities.

Councilman Pat Burt called the allocation "an outstanding use" of the funds. Councilman Greg Scharff concurred.

"I can't think of a better use of affordable-housing funds than to protect people who already live and work in our community and send their kids to school here," Scharff said.

Vice Mayor Greg Schmid said preserving Buena Vista would be a "bargain" for the city, where affordable housing is famously in short supply.

"We recognize that this is the beginning of a process to identify the fair-market value for the property, but we move ahead with confidence that there is nowhere else in Palo Alto where we can provide so much affordable housing at a very reasonable price," he said.

Councilman Eric Filseth offered the briefest speech of all.

"These are affordable-housing funds. These folks are residents. This is a no-brainer," Filseth said to a round of applause.

An even louder ovation greeted Simitian, who approached the podium to answer a question about the timeline of negotiations. Simitian called the negotiations with the Jissers an "iterative" process, with plenty of back-and-forth. 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."

The sentiment was widely shared. Councilman Tom DuBois, who was out of town and did not attend the meeting, submitted a letter of support for the allocation. With the limited availability and high cost of land and construction and sensitivity to overdevelopment in the community, he 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."

Former mayors, council members and school board members have also jumped into the effort to preserve Buena Vista and its 117 units of affordable housing. Gail Price, who had served on both the school board and council, cited on Monday night the overwhelming support that the effort to preserve Buena Vista has received in Palo Alto's broader community.

"In all my years as a Palo Alto elected official, I have never seen this kind of unanimity and support on any issue – the protection and preservation of affordable housing and support of Buena Vista residents," Price said. "It is not only the right thing to do, it has the least political risk of any issue I can remember. It demonstrates that Palo Alto cares."

Former Councilman Larry Klein agreed and 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." He also emphasized that the money would be drawn from a pool specifically designated for affordable housing. Lastly, he brought up what he called "the human element."

"I voted, and many of you have voted, over the years for affordable-housing projects," Klein said. "Those are sort of abstract. We didn't know who the people (living there) were going to be. We were building something new.

"But we do know the 400 people living there now and the 100 children in the school district – they are in the community now. I think it would be a very sad day if we didn't do everything we can to keep these people in our community. Don't let them down."

Mary Kear, one of the hundreds of Buena Vista residents who attended the hearing, told the council that the residents of the park are "integrated into the Palo Alto community."

"Our kids attend the schools. We work in the area businesses. Preserving the park for current residents and for affordable housing will forever keep Palo Alto as a place of inclusion, diversity and economic prosperity," said Kear, a member of the Buena Vista Residents Association board of directors.

For Kear and her neighbors, it became clear fairly early in the hearing that the council shares their view. By the end the hearing, the atmosphere was one of jubilation.

While the fate of Buena Vista remains uncertain, the council's vote was a rare victory for Buena Vista residents after years of unfavorable decisions.

Councilwoman Liz Kniss said the allocation of funds for preserving Buena Vista is consistent with Palo Alto's values, including its goals of promoting diversity and preserving affordable housing.

"That really sums up what I think the very core values are for those of us who live in Palo Alto," Kniss said. "You have come here to defend your homes, but on top of this you're supporting each other."

With the discussion concluding, Mayor Karen Holman thanked Simitian, the former mayors who have stepped up to support Buena Vista and the park's hundreds of community advocates and said she hopes to see the effort to preserve the park reach a "happy conclusion."

"My personal goal, my personal hope, is that this December there will be a Posada at Buena Vista to end all Posadas," Holman said, referring to the park's annual holiday party.

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

Comments

22 people like this
Posted by Maria
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 29, 2015 at 10:11 pm

Thank you PA CC!!


104 people like this
Posted by AdamH
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 29, 2015 at 10:19 pm

That is more than $36k per resident (using the higher 400 resident figure) of city funds. Funds that could go to teachers and to our schools. Funds that could go to police officers and fire fighters. Funds that could be used for traffic reduction or more parking. Fund that could feed the homeless or rehabilitate those suffering from diseases. Do I feel bad for the residents if they get evicted? Of course, but why do they have any more right to land they are leasing than any other resident who is renting a house or an apartment and gets priced out of the market?


120 people like this
Posted by Bunyip
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 29, 2015 at 10:26 pm

I had to leave an apartments because the rent skyrocketed a couple of years back. Where was PA CC then? What precedent does this now set. If you are forced out of a rental arrangement, don't worry, the city will throw money at you.

Is this even legal for a city council to provide tax dollars and preferential treatment to a select group of residents?

And it's not the PA CC money supporting residents. It is better described to be, "PA CC decides to take money from tax paying residents and give it to a select group of special residents".

Very concerning.


38 people like this
Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 29, 2015 at 11:42 pm

@AdamH,

Those funds can't be used for anything else because they are already earmarked for affordable housing. In terms of paying for affordable housing, there really is no better use than for existing residents who will otherwise lose their homes and for housing that is far cheaper per unit than any other kind of housing the City could purchase.

If one considers that Jisser wouldn't have to pay the residents, an offer with the funds would be the equivalent of $34million. I'll best some of the Council remember how to structure things for additional tax write offs.

Hopefully an agreement can be made. Good luck to all the residents!


37 people like this
Posted by Steve
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 29, 2015 at 11:46 pm

AdamH and Bunyip,

It's not clear from your comments that you read the article. The funds to purchase Buena Vista are from two affordable housing funds provided by developer fees. These could not be used for teachers and firefighters. They could potentially be used for other affordable housing projects, but doesn't seem likely that there would be any better alternatives. This move by city council is great for the residents of Buena Vista and the community as a whole.


61 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 29, 2015 at 11:58 pm

Nayeli is a registered user.

I know who I will NOT be voting for in any upcoming elections. How does Joe Simitian and Co. manage to get elected anyway? They appear to be a little short in the "rational thinking," "critical thinking" and "logic" areas. Is Joe planning to run for office and hopes that pandering to a "cause" like this would help his vote count?
It makes no sense.


17 people like this
Posted by Howdy2
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 30, 2015 at 12:27 am

We initially moved into BVMHP in 1992, about 23 years-ago because it seemed affordable at $180/mo, plus about $40-60/mo. in utilities.
As someone just starting-in computer-tech, it seemed like a nice place for me to start-off a new life with my new-wife who was a professional Nanny locally.

Anyway hi-tech is seldom what it seems, and after 3 jobs and 3 recessions in 12 years it was always a place to have dinner and sleep-well and look-forward-to even-better-times. Unf. we-all know nothing is certain, and even with a few-good years, with combined-incomes nothing is guaranteed? Hard-Times, Hit-hard, and too-often? Economy, health, circumstances? Every-one did see the 2000 and 2008 bubbles in-progress. Where do people go-to avoid catastrophe?

Now that Rent plus Utilities are about $1000, where-else can people find a dependable stepping-up-place into middle-society?


31 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 30, 2015 at 6:02 am

[Post removed.]


76 people like this
Posted by Joseph
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 30, 2015 at 6:55 am

This is a wealth transfer, simply that.

I do not hold any grudges or ill feelings towards the residents of the park. They are good people. It's just inequitable to transfer money to such a small group.

True, the funds are earmarked for affordable housing, but they could be used to build a large apartment complex for even more residents.

They could also be switched to other uses that will help even more Palo Alto residents. No funds are locked in a way that cannot be redirected.

When our coffers run dry and we ask ourselves what we could do with an extra $20 million, our city leaders will be forced to provide us with answers.


31 people like this
Posted by neighbor
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 30, 2015 at 7:18 am

Robinhood is alive and well!!!


28 people like this
Posted by Unbelievable!
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 30, 2015 at 7:40 am

How short the memories of the critics are! You have already forgotten that, only a couple years ago, the voters soundly rejected an affordable housing project (not far from this area) with a density equivalent to that of the mobile home park. And yet you say that it would be better to use this funding to finance another such project.

You are either being deliberately obtuse or else cynical, and you want these residents evicted.

And to those who decry the use of these "taxpayer funds:" take 2 seconds to understand this. This is money collected from developers for the sole purpose of preserving or constructing affordable housing. The money cannot be used for other purposes, no matter how much you complain about it.

[Portion removed.]


15 people like this
Posted by Paul
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 30, 2015 at 8:18 am

Unbelievable, I would think this actually benefits the Jissers. The city raising money to purchase the park will increase the value of the lot. The Jissers will now have more leverage to sell.


37 people like this
Posted by mom of teenagers
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 30, 2015 at 11:35 am

mom of teenagers is a registered user.

The City and County have $29 million dollars to buy a property that is not for sale but is probably worth $50 million or so. The property requires an additional large investment to upgrade the utilities. How does that math work?

And as has been REPEATEDLY asked by many people, since this is affordable housing, will the people who make too much for affordable housing be required to leave and sell their units to those who qualify?


46 people like this
Posted by KP
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 30, 2015 at 12:11 pm

KP is a registered user.

WHY?!
So tired of this story. No city helps those of us who's rents went above what we could afford! No city helps residents who have been displaced by an apartment fire. No city helps residents who have to move because the owner is selling their house or apartment complex. So sorry for the people who would be displaced...but welcome to the real world!


28 people like this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 30, 2015 at 1:06 pm

Craig Laughton is a registered user.

>"I voted, and many of you have voted, over the years for affordable-housing projects," Klein said. "Those are sort of abstract. We didn't know who the people (living there) were going to be. We were building something new.

"But we do know the 400 people living there now and the 100 children in the school district – they are in the community now. I think it would be a very sad day if we didn't do everything we can to keep these people in our community. Don't let them down."

What Larry Klein doesn't tell us is that he would oppose any stack-and-pack subsidized housing in his own elite neighborhood. As long as such low-rent housing is put where it doesn't affect him, he is fine with it. I was disappointed to hear him say what he did, since he has the capability of going against the current. I thought he might be the one to describe the actual economic reality of this deal for us taxpayers (including the lost tax base). He didn't.


As to the fallacy that $14.5M of Palo Alto money can only be used for subsidized housing, that is a simple PACC decision...it can rewrite the conditions (as they are going to do anyway, on this deal), and free up this (hidden) tax money for other projects (like a new police station). We have huge unfunded obligations in PA, yet the PA liberals continue to play to the political theatre, in order to expiate their liberal guilt. It would be much cheaper, if we PA taxpayers simply sent them to a psychiatrist to overcome their deeply felt anxieties.

This thing ain't over, not by a long shot.


14 people like this
Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 30, 2015 at 5:09 pm

Greenacres is a registered user.

@Joseph,
You could not build a large apartment building for even more residents for that money. There are over 400 residents at BV, 108 units. Larry Klein pointed out that 801 Alma was $600,000/unit. That is around $65 million, even if you could find the property, for the same number of units. This is not only the right thing to do, it is the most cost effective way to do it. And it directly benefits the residents of BV, where considering a non-existing building would not.

@Unbelievable!
Can you let go already? That kind of bile was never correct to begin with and it hurt relationships in the neighborhood that could have been collaborative. Residents did not reject "an affordable housing project", residents rejected a significant upzoning of their neighborhood, which was majority for a for-profit venture. (Go read the transcripts if you don't remember.) It's also completely wrong to go on about density is anywhere nearly equivalent - you can't compare single-story standalone mobile homes with a four-story building of small apartments and tall skinny houses on 2,000 square foot lots. It is you who are being deliberately cynical and nasty to your neighbors, and giving comfort to people whose beliefs you ostensibly seem to decry by hammering open these divides that shouldn't have been opened in the first place.

The referendum was not to approve or not approve affordable housing at all, it was a REZONING vote. The City Attorney inappropriately wrote the ballot that way in what was deemed illegal electioneering by the legal analysis. At the time, many of the residents expressed a desire for the money to be used in better ways for affordable housing even then, including to help out at BV.

Guess what? Most of the money from the County and the City already pledged now at BV is the returned money because of the referendum. PASZ, the group that formed from the referendum, very early on wrote a letter supporting the City helping at BV (they do this as a group only very rarely). The referendum signers from the rezoning have also actively written letters in favor of helping BV, have attended meetings supporting BV residents, etc. I personally think your continuing to live in your bile is driving away other neighbors who might have been more active. And it's not doing anyone at BV any favors.

(I think it is you who are being deliberately cynical or perhaps want to prevent neighbors from collaborating to help.)

@Craig Laughton,
You are right about the hypocrisy of some of the Councilmembers when it comes to their backyards, but BV is in my backyard, and I am happy to support BV staying there. If you want to make changes as a citizen in our democracy, that is your right, but that's not what's on the table today -- right now, today, that money has been dedicated to affordable housing and helping an existing affordable housing community, people who are integral to our social and economic life here, to remain in Palo Alto is the best purpose for that money. I frankly never understood during the Maybell referendum why anyone had considered using those funds up instead of using them at BV, but they were returned because of the referendum and now are available here. The additional monies are from the same pool -- this is absolutely the best use for them.


22 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 30, 2015 at 5:39 pm

Curmudgeon is a registered user.

If the city/county buy BV, then what?

Do they willfully ignore the code and safety violations that exist on their new property? For how long? Until a housing advocacy group sues them?

If they enforce code, how many residents get evicted? How do they select these luckless souls? Must the city/county provide alternative housing for them. Where is the money?

How much will it cost to bring BV up to the living standards of PA's other BMR dwellings? How long will it take? Where do the residents live in the meantime? Where is the money?


2 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 30, 2015 at 5:40 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

The fact it was a unanimous vote by the CC is important. Good to know they're not into political suicide tho. I am happy for the residents although there is a ways to go before they can really feel secure. I have mixed thoughts on it still. Yes, it was the easiest and most expedient choice for CC because time is of the essence. And it makes sense from the standpoint that it is already in place (a captive audience in an enclave) and has been for decades. But, in the process we are using up almost all of the funds set aside for affordable housing (thanks to all for explaining it isn't tax money) and BV got put at the top of the list. Maybe it can be argued that they deserve it based on seniority and their long time residency at BV. I don't know.

Dollars and cents...don’t always make much sense. There have been many posters who like to think of themselves as mathematicians and throw out numbers for our consumption based on their calculations. I’ve been guilty as well. The one comparison that has cropped up several times recently is the cost of the 801 Alma project vs the as yet undefined (TBD) total cost of the BV purchase and infrastructure upgrades. There is so much information lacking that it’s hard to make a comparison. All we know is that 801 Alma is a brand new facility with everything up to date (but not in Kansas City) and code compliant...at $600K per unit. Guesstimates, by some, for the total cost of BV including land and upgrades, have ranged from $35 M to $50 M. I’ll leave the math up to whomever wants to take a crack at it, but again, we don’t know if there will still be 117 units, or if zoning is strictly adhered to, then that number could go down to 69. Here I go again...at $40 M and 69 units it comes out to be $580K per unit, not too far off from the 801 Alma project. And it would still be only mobile homes and RV's of various ages, sizes, and descriptions in the park.

Diversity: A lot has been said about the importance of the park for the diversity it adds to our community. It does not add diversity in our neighborhoods, however. How many of us ever come in contact with the residents? Is there diversity within the park? Very little I'm pretty sure, and for obvious reasons. I go to my little neighborhood park and often hear 3 or 4 different languages spoken and there might only be one or two other English speaking people there. Now that’s real diversity.

Caritas: I’m still concerned about what the arrangement will be, what they have in mind. I know they will be the owners, but what will be our oversight? Will rent control be in place? Will it still be maintained as affordable, and by whose definition? Who will decide who stays and who goes, and what will be the criteria? And how will conflicts be resolved? I hope CC doesn’t just wash their hands of this and walk away from it now that they’ve approved the funding.

The politics of it all: Well sure, of course, some of that was going on in the early stages, but when it came down to a vote, they pulled together, and who among them was going to vote against it and put a black eye on PA for ousting our low income residents from an affordable living park when they had a chance to save it? It is the only immediate available solution to provide affordable housing. And even though I might have made some jabs at Supervisor Simitian, all in all he's done a great job. He went to bat for the homeless before BV. But I might still be a little suspicious of backroom deals, however. He's a pro, a true politician. He might have told the Jissers to cool it, hold off and "don't send out those eviction notices yet because we have a deal sweetener coming up that you might like". Well, the Jissers seem to be waiting for some reason. Hmmm!

And to those posters who say they won’t vote for any of those ‘scoundrels’ next election cycle, well that’s your choice. That’s what free elections are all about. But trust me, any of them who want to run again and can, will probably do so. So, now’s your chance to think of names of qualified people to run against them. You’ve got time. The next election cycle is a ways off. Or, maybe you could just go with your own personal write-in candidates. Or better yet, run for office yourself. Hmmm!

Pay now or pay later: Most of us have never had the fear of losing our homes like BV residents have. I can’t imagine the anxiety the long wait has caused them. Now they at least have a chance. If this can save some of them from homelessness it is money well spent. They live in very simple mobile homes, many showing signs of age, states of wear and tear, and in need of repair, but they love them just the same, just like we love our homes. It’s shelter for them and it gives them comfort and the chance of feeling like a community. When hundreds of them show up at CC meetings you know that is a really strong community.

Back to the dollars and cents. Sure, it really isn't a good deal, but at some point compassion and caring have to come into play as a part of this debate. That was lost by so many of us posters. I hope all of the CC and other supporters are good tithers, either in their churches with the trickle down effect, or giving to charity. If you're not, and just feel free to spend public funds freely, well then shame on you. You could give donations directly to the BV cause I'll bet. So step up. Do it. Put your money where your mouth is.

And yes, maybe the really rich have been holding back to see what would happen in PA at the CC meeting last night. But now that they know, who knows, maybe the Zukkerbergs', the Gates', and more locally, the Packard Foundation will kick in enough to buy brand new mobile homes for the residents of the park. They are the real philanthropists of today and yesterday. We relied on the Jissers to be the sole philanthropists for all those years. That was unfair, but they did it honorably, and now it has finally ended because they made a business decision. Why are they being attacked as mean and evil people. Stop it, you haters of everybody and everything. Oh, and are you tithers also?


22 people like this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 30, 2015 at 5:54 pm

Craig Laughton is a registered user.

@Greenacres: You have been consistent in your advocacy for public funding support for subsidized housing. I am opposed, and I believe I have been consistent on that point. In other words we disagree. We won't convince each other to our own point of view, but I respect you for holding to your viewpoint.

>right now, today, that money has been dedicated to affordable housing and helping an existing affordable housing community, people who are integral to our social and economic life here, to remain in Palo Alto is the best purpose for that money.

The reality is that those pools of money have been inscribed by fiat of the PACC. The PACC can just as easily un-inscribe them. The reality is that any taxes collected by our city are part of the general fund...any attempt of the PACC to create pools is an artificial construct to push various agendas. The PACC could immediately remove all such pools, if they wanted to. The current BV issue is an example where the PACC can pretend to hide behind it own, self-built wall. It doesn't pass the smell test.

This BV turkey will cost huge amounts of PA taxpayer monies...if we are naïve enough to let it proceed.


13 people like this
Posted by Be Kind PA
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jun 30, 2015 at 6:38 pm

Be Kind PA is a registered user.

Why do people keep repeating the same, wrong information when it's been pointed out more than once that it is incorrect? A property changing hands does not suddenly trigger new enforcement of zoning or building codes. Let me say it again: A PROPERTY CHANGING HANDS DOES NOT SUDDENLY TRIGGER NEW ENFORCEMENT OF ZONING OR BUILDING CODES.

-- A building permit would require an upgrade to current code, but a sale of the property does not.

-- The zoning does not become newly enforcible due to a sale of the park. No one needs to be kicked out just because the park changes hands.

-- In terms of qualifying for BMR, the current residents can be grandfathered in and only when they move and sell their unit would the BMR requirement kick in.

Our City Council knows what they are doing on this one - if any votes were politically motivated then you can bet a few of them would be pandering to the "not with my tax money" crowd that is so vocal on this forum. These people have actually educated themselves on the financials, and know what they are doing.

And as many have pointed out, this is the most economical way to keep affordable housing in Palo Alto, where the decision has already been made to make room for it, and the values this City stands for already include some level of socioeconomic diversity.

This is the right financial decision for an affordable housing option, and most of the arguments against it are either uninformed or actually against other decisions this City has already made and continues to use as a guide.


25 people like this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 30, 2015 at 7:57 pm

Craig Laughton is a registered user.

>Why do people keep repeating the same, wrong information when it's been pointed out more than once that it is incorrect? A property changing hands does not suddenly trigger new enforcement of zoning or building codes.

@Kind: You are correct, but you failed to mention that a property changing hands, in a market environment, DOES cause a near immediate change in the tax assessment. Why are you avoiding the tax consequences, which are huge?


4 people like this
Posted by Be Kind PA
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jun 30, 2015 at 11:55 pm

Be Kind PA is a registered user.

>> Why are you avoiding the tax consequences, which are huge?

I'm not avoiding *your topic*, I'm ignoring it. The tax issue is not huge, it's a non issue.

Any BMR housing in Palo Alto would be subject to the same break, so whether it's BV or somewhere else, it's the same (non-issue).

How about you quit spewing falsehoods meant only to distract a reasonable public from discussing FACTS?


18 people like this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 1, 2015 at 10:35 am

Craig Laughton is a registered user.

@ Kind:

I copied the following (by me) from another thread on this blog:

" 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. "

Now, you may not think that tens of millions of $$ matter, but I will bet that many other PA citizens do. This BV deal, as unanimously supported by our PACC, is an endless sink hole for our taxpayer funds.

> Any BMR housing in Palo Alto would be subject to the same break, so whether it's BV or somewhere else, it's the same (non-issue).

You stumbled upon a connected issue: BMR housing. I am completely opposed to it. You can go back and look at the various reasons explaining why I oppose. The lost tax revenues, combined with increased services IS a major issue...but there are many more issues, too.

The major thing that you are pushing is liberal guilt. You have many allies in our city government, but only a city-wide referendum on the BV issue will tell the truth. The secret ballot is a serious thing...ask our PACC members who unanimously supported the subsidized housing project at Maybell...then the referendum crushed them.


4 people like this
Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 1, 2015 at 11:22 am

Greenacres is a registered user.

@Craig,
Yet if you ask Jerry Underdal (per his posts), I must be a teaparty property-rights extremist who only cares here because the people are self-starters, or something like that. LOL To both: I tend to be a pragmatist, not bowing to an ideology to tell me what to do or think. I am big on compassion and reason.

I helped start the Maybell referendums (there were 2, we won one without a vote). IMO the way that whole situation came about stunk to the high heavens, was a dumb place to put that much development, an unsafe proposal for the kids and a major incursion of overdevelopment on a small single-family neighborhood. I also think if the City was going to get involved, it was a short-sighted use for the land, which even in this drought has a living orchard, on a side of town with so many schoolkids and in desperate need of a community space (especially as we are increasingly cut off because of the major arteries seeing so much more traffic). Who wants to regularly send their moderately depressed kid across El Camino, El Camino Way, Alma, and the railroad tracks to reach Mitchell Park, especially in the dark with all the traffic? We have nothing over here. The same circumstances that made it financially interesting for that project made it a steal for community space. And unlike at BV, the City had the right to purchase it.

But I still have emails from that time advocating that it made far more sense for BV to have a priority for those funds and all the affordable housing efforts.

The fact is that all the overdevelopment in the last few years contributed to BV even being desirable for conversion. The original application by Prometheus was even 4X the existing zoning. In many respects, the City bears a lot of responsibility for why BV residents are even in that situation. They have these funds earmarked to affordable housing, if there is ever a place where they make sense to use them, it's here. I would even argue that in the case of BV residents, the City is righting some of the damage it did in approving so much overdevelopment will nilly. Doing the right thing at BV will make a significant difference in the lives of over 400 people and probably their children.

I would personally have been happier to develop a real estate crowdfunding effort targeted to helping create stability for low-income resident communities just like this in rapidly gentrified areas, and starting by helping at BV. Nature conservancy meets Habitat for humanity, crowdfunded. I've written about that many times. It's more flexible a tool and could help others beyond this situation. I couldn't take it on myself, so it's just talk. Friends of BV, Simitian, worked incredibly hard.

I can understand your reasons for your perspective, Craig, but do you have any room for "exceptions" to those rules? Better to invest than to pay for negative consequences down the road.


21 people like this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 1, 2015 at 12:57 pm

Craig Laughton is a registered user.

>I can understand your reasons for your perspective, Craig, but do you have any room for "exceptions" to those rules? Better to invest than to pay for negative consequences down the road.

What negative consequences? People move all the time, when they can no longer afford to live where they are living. In the BV case, the owner wants to shut it down, and he has the right to do so. I don't want public money thrown at this thing (it is a huge hole in itself, but it would also set a very dangerous precedent). If private money wants to step forward AND bring that dump up to city code, I don't object.

Only a city referendum would honestly express the views of PA citizens...the PACC is a captive board of the liberal guilt gang (as long as it doesn't affect them directly).


2 people like this
Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 1, 2015 at 6:15 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

I watched this tale unfold with interest. I posted a similar situation with property being turned into condos that would defeat the purpose of buying a house in a zoned single family residential area ( my house on 1/2 acre was built in 1973 ). The Jefferson County Open Space had been eying that land for a park. After the $$$ were removed from the owner of that land, JCSO made the deal happen ( our tax dollars ) and the park was built. Our tax dollars made a new park that ALL the people can and do use. Even local wildlife use our new park.
Boulder, CO has a similar problem with several mobile home parks. The same low income issues still apply. The same sky-high rentals and house purchase monies apply. Does Boulder want to try to develop these " money wasting " and " ugly looking " places? No, that is where their " laborers " live and are able to use local transit ( or a bicycle ) to work for the " upper class " individuals that are all over Boulder. These enclaves create the diversity that Boulder needs. If some taxpayer complains, Boulder just puts up a 7 foot high privacy fence around the property. Some of the MHPs actually have VACANCIES.
There is no fear of not being able to stay in place. No fear of being " sold out " to a developer.
Every city has a similar problem; the need for low-income laborers. How these people are treated just shows how much compassion the " haves " are to the " have-nots " that keep their city working to serve everyone.


8 people like this
Posted by Emily Renzel
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 1, 2015 at 7:08 pm

Emily Renzel is a registered user.

I ordinarily enjoy and agree with Curmudgeon's comments, but I think Be Kind PA has responded correctly. Change of ownership does not trigger building code issues and the non-profit Caritas, I'm sure, has had experience with upgrading the mobile home parks that it specializes in preserving. This is a huge and very rare opportunity to preserve low income housing in Palo Alto. The Buena Vista Mobile Home park has broad community support and I hope that the "nattering nabobs of negativism", to quote Spiro, will direct that energy elsewhere such as toward over-development, traffic, environmental degradation, and parking.


6 people like this
Posted by rockfish
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 2, 2015 at 6:27 am

rockfish is a registered user.

No offense, but I doubt your opinion that there is "broad community support". Unless you are referring to geography or some sort of broad brush characterization of backgrounds. But I interpret your opinion as implying that it is a majority of all eligible voters who live in PA. Do you have any reasonable/verifiable data to backup your opinion?

The only real way to settle this mess is to put it to a city-wide vote.


4 people like this
Posted by rockfish
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 2, 2015 at 6:36 am

rockfish is a registered user.

@ Unbelievable "You have already forgotten that, only a couple years ago, the voters soundly rejected an affordable housing project (not far from this area) with a density equivalent to that of the mobile home park. "

You are conveniently leaving out the facts that Maybell required several zoning waivers for density and height. Plus the project was severely under parked.


6 people like this
Posted by Emily Renzel
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 2, 2015 at 6:43 am

Emily Renzel is a registered user.

Perhaps Rockfish didn't attend or tune into the Palo Alto City Council meeting Monday, but some of the broad community support came from ALL the PTA's in Palo Alto, Palo Alto Forward, virtually every living former City Councilmember, a large number of church congregations, and circa 200+ people who turned out, about half of whom were not residents of Buena Vista. Not one soul, including Rockfish, spoke against funding Buena Vista. That's about as broad as community support can get.


6 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jul 2, 2015 at 10:23 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Emily knows full well that the speakers before the City Council on any given subject are not a representative cross section of the community but rather heavily biased in favor of those who are directly impacted by the item on the agenda. People concerned with the broader community wide impacts are seldom represented in such an audience.


7 people like this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 2, 2015 at 11:11 am

Craig Laughton is a registered user.

>That's about as broad as community support can get.

@Emily: No it's not. A city-wide referendum is the best gage of community support or non-support. Some of the same groups you mention were squarely behind the Maybell deal...which was voted down by referendum.

Peter Carpenter is correct about the political theatres that fill up the seats at the PACC meetings. It's too bad that we don't have council members with the intestinal fortitude to stand up against the pressure, but we don't.

A city-wide referendum, would allow the opportunity for the real facts to be discussed and debated, among the regular citizens of PA. For example, the real costs, long term (lost tax revenues and increased services costs); the precedence set; the selective favoritism to the current residents of BV; the violation of property rights, the questioning of why such "affordable housing" is dumped in non-elite neighborhoods, instead of places like your own Crescent Park, etc.


1 person likes this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 3, 2015 at 2:50 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

@everybody

My too long post was meant to be my 'wrap' on the subject. I tried to address all the various concerns and sub-issues that had been raised by the 'fors' and 'againsts'. Thank you supporters who gave me a good education on many items, things I didn't know before. I admit, I got some things wrong. I was happy to see the posts from the really knowledgeable people, at least they sound most knowledgeable to me. Now I know there is no automatic rezoning, and the people there are grandfathered in. I know the tax issue is a non-issue. And I know it was a logical choice to provide affordable housing for low income people in PA. I've finally got all that.

But this will still need more time and discussion. I'll be anxious to hear any response from the Jissers. My lingering concern is the Caritas deal. That will require a lot of attention if the Jissers sell.

And the idea of a referendum...well, I don't think it would be successful, unlike the Maybell referendum. In fact a lot of the Maybell project objectors will support the BV project. And of course, not only Klein, but many of us other residents in our own neighborhoods don't want to see a BV project in our part of town. It is all starting to make sense.

But in the future...please, all of you really knowledgeable folks, provide all that information upfront, so we don't have to do research on it, and waste time with these ridiculous debates online. Cite your references, laws, city ordinances, etc. That would be really helpful.


2 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 3, 2015 at 5:25 pm

Curmudgeon is a registered user.

"It's too bad that we don't have council members with the intestinal fortitude to stand up against the pressure, but we don't."

In a democracy, the side that presents its views most effectively wins unless the other side gave more campaign donations. Your gang apparently did neither. Get over it, and get with it next time.

"In fact a lot of the Maybell project objectors will support the BV project."

Yes, because this project will happen in somebody else's neighborhood. We'll see if they are outnumbered by dissenting BV neighbors who voted in favor of Maybell.


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

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