The effort to save Buena Vista Mobile Home Park, took another step forward after a nonprofit corporation sent a bid to owner Joe Jisser. As Jisser ponders the offer to purchase the property, residents held a thank-you picnic for supporters and city and county officials at Mitchell Park on Saturday, Aug. 15.
Nonprofit group the Caritas Corporation, which has preserved 20 California mobile-home parks, made the offer about 1 1/2 weeks ago, said Winter Dellenbach, Barron Park resident and founder of the group Friends of Buena Vista. But she stressed it is a very preliminary bid.
"We have submitted a soft offer in writing and now we will see. That's a step forward, and it makes it that much more real," Dellenbach said.
Jisser could have delivered six-month eviction notices in May after the City Council approved the closure of Palo Alto's only mobile-home park and a resident-compensation plan, but he has not, according to residents. Residents also said Jisser comes to the park and walks around, and they pay their monthly rent, but he doesn't talk.
The City Council's decision sparked the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors and the City of Palo Alto to commit $14.5 million each toward the purchase. A total of $39 million has been raised, Dellenbach said. The Caritas Corporation has said it would raise $10 million in bonds.
The Jissers had planned to raze the aging mobile-home park and partner with a developer to build high-end apartments for tech workers. But that deal, with developer Prometheus, fell through during the protracted efforts by residents and supporters to keep the park open.
County Supervisor Joe Simitian, who has met with the Jissers and spearheaded the county and city commitments, thanked supporters on Saturday, who included members of the City Council past and present, members of the Palo Alto Unified School District School Board and the PTA.
He said he would continue to work to save the park "until the day comes when we can go to a ribbon-cutting for 117 units of affordable housing."
Palo Alto Mayor Karen Holman said the fundraising for Buena Vista proved the adage that "ordinary people can do extraordinary things."
"We're the trustees of that kind of thinking, of that kind of model," she said.
Holman also praised the efforts of the Buena Vista residents, who tirelessly showed up at council meetings and rallies and who gave impassioned testimony at a hearing by an administrative-law judge regarding the relocation-compensation plan.
"You are our neighbors. We hope you will always be our neighbors. It is community," she said.
Erika Escalante, president of the Buena Vista Residents Association, said that people are hopeful and a little apprehensive, but they are positive and hope that the fact that eviction notices have not gone out yet might be a good sign.
Dellenbach said that however things turn out, nearly 400 people, including 130 children who live at the mobile-home park, "now know how to stick up for themselves."
As the children swatted at a donkey pinata Saturday, Mayor Holman looked on appreciatively. The paper donkey shattered and candy spilled to the ground.
On Monday, the City Council will be looking at changing the ordinance for community impact funds for use of acquisition and maintenance. That could free up some funding toward infrastructure improvements, the next major hurdle, if the park is finally acquired.
Holman was cautiously optimistic as she recalled the Christmas posada celebrations at Buena Vista, where residents invited the community to share large pots of steaming posole stew, tamales and sweetened bread, and women danced, swirling in colorful costumes.
"I'm hoping this December we have a posada to end all posadas," she said.
The Weekly has compiled an archive of news coverage capturing the many voices of the people involved in the fight over Buena Vista.