News

At Buena Vista, new hope cheers stressed families

Residents welcome county announcement of possible eminent domain takeover of Palo Alto mobile-home park

If Santa Clara County can take possession of Buena Vista Mobile Home Park in Palo Alto, the hopes and dreams of children at the aging tin, wood and asphalt community just might come true, they said.

Maybe, just maybe, they'll finally get that basketball court or a playground they have been dreaming of, instead of using a wooden enclosure in front of a doorway to shoot hoops, they said.

The makeshift basketball court, which is comprised of an unused handicapped parking space, was getting plenty of action on Wednesday afternoon by elementary and middle school children who live in the park of 117 units and 400 people.

The bathrooms and laundry building where they play their games is sometimes a scary place, Omar Cruz, 13, a Terman Middle School eighth grader, said.

"I hear people moaning in there sometimes," he said, adding that the place "is disgusting."

But news on Wednesday that the Housing Authority of Santa Clara County might take over the park through eminent domain, preventing the potential closure of the park and bringing possible property improvements, cheered the children, who said that the park's uncertain future has been stressful for them and their families.

If the Housing Authority takes the park from the Jisser family, who own Buena Vista, the county and city, which have already set aside about $29 million, would give the Jissers market value for the property, officials said at a press conference on Wednesday morning.

By early afternoon, the announcement by Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, Palo Alto Mayor Pat Burt and Housing Authority Executive Director Katherine Haraszs was slowly making its way through Buena Vista, as notices of a formal meeting on Friday evening for the park residents fluttered in the afternoon breeze from fences and doors.

"My mom said we are going to make arrangements to make the house a bit bigger," Cruz said, noting there is no room to play indoors with his friends. Seven people occupy their home, which includes three people who rent space in it from his family to help make ends meet, he said.

Playmates Giovanni Lopez, 10; Kevin Ramirez, 12; Natathaly Livera, 9, and Andre Bracamontes, 10, all attend nearby Barron Park Elementary and Terman Middle schools. They said they would be sad if they had to leave the mobile-home park, their schools and their friends.

"I'm excited," Livera said. If they had to leave, she would be sad.

"We have nowhere else to go."

Bracamontes said he dreams of a small soccer field where the aging bathrooms and laundry now stand; others would like a playground, but perhaps that is dreaming for too much. There might not be enough space, they said.

But they also dream of continuing their education in Palo Alto, where the good schools would mean a better future, they said. Parents who were once youngsters playing on the mobile-home park's streets said the education at Barron Park and Terman their kids will receive is the greatest reason they want to stay.

Jenny Cruz and Dagoberto Garcia are young parents, and Cruz grew up in Buena Vista, having lived there for 14 years. She and Garcia heard the news about the possible county takeover around lunchtime. Cruz, who works at Mollie Stone's market, said the county takeover would be good for schoolchildren and families.

"The neighbors are good here. It's safe," she said.

As Garcia and Cruz wheeled a stroller holding their 2-year-old son, Dylan, through the neighborhood, they said that the past few years have been stressful as they have faced possible eviction by the owners, who want to close the park. If they are forced out, they could not live anywhere in the Bay Area because of high housing prices.

"It's been a nightmare," Cruz said.

Angelica Ruiz and Tomas Tejeta and their three children, ages 12, 10 and 6, have made the park their home for 12 years. Learning about the possible county ownership came as a surprise and welcome news, she said. Staying at Buena Vista, a place they said is safe, also means a better future for their children.

But she is hopeful that the long wait will finally conclude with this recent news. The stress is something that most people just don't understand, and it affects the entire Buena Vista community.

"You have to think about it all of the time. You think about it mostly every single day," 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.

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Comments

41 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 17, 2016 at 1:56 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

Wow, I feel privileged, the first poster on this article. Just guessing, but I don't think the article will serve the BV community very well.

Too much hope from the residents, and too much commenting from the young ones, telling it all as they see it, as kids are prone to do. They want a knew basketball court, and describe scary moments in the bathroom/laundry facility...disgusting, people moaning, et al. And the killer was the one about a family wanting to expand their unit. There are seven people living there now and they are renting space to 3 of them. How will our independent Housing Authority handle that situation? A long and rough road ahead, and I think I'll be long gone, departed from this sphere, before it ever gets resolved.

The Jissers might surprise us all and go for the new appraisal and offer and any tax benefits they offer, as suggested by other posters. But it not, I hope this goes all the way to our supreme US Supreme Court. I'd be anxious to hear their ruling on this case. But again, I might not live long enough. Bummer!


55 people like this
Posted by Where will the $$ come from?
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 18, 2016 at 11:49 am

If the Housing Authority would truly "would give the Jissers market value for the property", where is the $$ going to come from? They have $29 million dollars, the market value is now probably 45-50 million dollars. The Park needs a total upgrade - perhaps another 10-12 million. Not to mention that its not up to current mobile park code and is too dense. Lots of issues!


92 people like this
Posted by peninsula residents
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 18, 2016 at 12:30 pm

"Maybe, just maybe, they'll finally get that basketball court or a playground they have been dreaming of"

Gasp. BV residents want affordable housing money to go to a BASKETBALL COURT instead of housing for lower income Santa Clara County residents.

"My mom said we are going to make arrangements to make the house a bit bigger,"

Who is going to get kicked out of BV to accommodate these bigger homes and a basketball court????

Where do you bleeding hearts weigh in on this issue? Should the FIXED amount of money Santa Clara county has on affordable housing be spent on a basketball court, or HOUSING?

That ... "is disgusting."

Something we agree on.


11 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 18, 2016 at 6:20 pm

"Who is going to get kicked out of BV to accommodate these bigger homes and a basketball court????"

Those are things the KIDS are wishing for, knuckleknut. Try actually reading the story or, better, ask one of those Palo Alto educated BV kids to read it to you.


46 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 18, 2016 at 7:41 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"new hope cheers stressed families"

Do politicians or newspaper editors ever even think about the consequences of creating false hopes?


39 people like this
Posted by Stan
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 19, 2016 at 12:08 pm

So, the county and the city apparently have access to about $30M to buy the property, which isn't for sale, forever remove it from the tax rolls, denying the city and county $750,000/year (probably more depending on a current sale tax valuation), which could pay for the rent for a lot of apartments in town, for example. The market value for the property is what, $50M to $60M, maybe more? No doubt many millions more would be *required* to scrape and replace the trailers with code worth housing. Talk about false hope.


61 people like this
Posted by Unbelievable
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 19, 2016 at 3:27 pm

[Post removed.]


120 people like this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 19, 2016 at 4:17 pm

[Post removed.]


6 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 19, 2016 at 5:52 pm

""where is the $$ going to come from?"

Us."

Yup. Those tax and spend liberals in the goverment will TAX us AND SPEND it on Those People. Don't that just grab ya?


15 people like this
Posted by Jazz
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 20, 2016 at 10:11 am

[Post removed.]


69 people like this
Posted by peninsula resident
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 20, 2016 at 10:41 am

[Post removed.]


42 people like this
Posted by First Thought
a resident of Stanford
on Jun 20, 2016 at 12:17 pm

The first thing I thought of when I saw the above headline was how CRUEL it is to give these people false hope--AGAIN!

They should have been paid off and found new homes by now--and probably would have-- had they not been stopped, time and again, by the hope that someone would rescue them in the end.

Instead, these people have gotten their hopes up just to have them dashed, repeatedly!


27 people like this
Posted by Unbelievable
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 20, 2016 at 1:36 pm

[Post removed.]


15 people like this
Posted by My Take
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 21, 2016 at 11:01 am

If the thirty million were to be spent on creating actual housing for these families elsewhere in Palo Alto, rather than to cement them into a ghetto for good, it would be a win for all concerned. The Jissers would be free to do as they have the right to with their property. These children would be free to live in safe housing that is up to code. The families could pay off a reasonable mortgage and then own a condo or townhome in the long run that has actual value rather than a mobile home that is neither mobile nor a suitable home. This is more money than many of these families will ever have the opportunity to be helped with. I can't believe the well meaning folks who are proponents of saving Buena Vista can't see how cruel and poorly thought out this grand gesture is.


36 people like this
Posted by We're Getting Taken
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 21, 2016 at 12:29 pm

My Take, you obviously don't understand the rush to "save" BV. It has nothing to do with well-being of the families who live there. It's rather a method of self aggrandizement and self congratulations for the politicians who are pushing it. Anyone who viewed the press conference of Simitian and his preening moralizing knows that he's doing this more for his self esteem and less for the people who he wants to remain in what you properly term a ghetto as props for his essential do-gooderness.

As you point out there are many ways that the money Simitian proposes to use to steal the Jissers's land could be used to provide real assistance to the families who live at BV, and the many other low income people in the area. But that wouldn't provide nearly the good optics for Simitian and other politicians that "Save BV" does.


14 people like this
Posted by Be Positive
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jun 21, 2016 at 2:00 pm

Be Positive is a registered user.

Considering this property is worth around $50 million, thats over $400K PER housing unit just to acquire the property. That's more than twice what many actual mobile homes (not converted RV's) sell for. Then there is the $$ needed to upgrade it.


6 people like this
Posted by My Take
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 22, 2016 at 9:23 am

We're Getting Taken, I very much agree that on the part of the politicians involved, and some of the higher profile proponents of this terrible plan, it is a gesture designed to puff up their public image. However I know a lot of the supporters of Buena Vista, and many of them mean well and genuinely care about these families, especially the young people who attend Palo Alto schools. Their good intentions have been put to use by the higher profile proponents, and the whole group has convinced the Buena Vista residents to fight for a cause that will ultimately not help them. They could have had a fresh start at the end of this, and a real estate investment that would accrue genuine value with time and hard work, just like the rest of us. Instead, they have been colonized for use by others for their own gain.


2 people like this
Posted by ndn
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 22, 2016 at 11:18 am

The value of a property relates to ability to develop as a prospective buyer desires. If you can't develop the way a ready willing and able buyer wants then the value of your property goes down precipitously. Therefore the value park is not the inflated the Jissers' claim but a much lesser value that the courts can determine. Every minute in America cities restrict land use and that's perfectly constitutional. Properties's value goes up and/or down accordingly.


2 people like this
Posted by My Take
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 22, 2016 at 3:20 pm

ndn, In this case, the value of the property is subject to the whims of the local authorities. They can choose to zone the property how ever they wish, which has a direct impact on possible sale price. Unfortunately for the current owners, the local authorities are playing games in order to create a false impression that they are doing something good for the residents of Buena Vista. If they genuinely wanted the best for the residents, they would instead combine the relocation offer from the owners with the opportunity to purchase new affordable housing in Palo Alto, built on city land with the thirty million they have at their disposal, and let the Jissers sell their land zoned appropriately to the site. If they were to approach this in a creative way, the thirty million could easily include housing for more of Palo Alto's many people who were in line for affordable housing before the Buena Vista situation emerged as a possible feather in the cap for local politicians and attorneys.


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 22, 2016 at 4:24 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"They can choose to zone the property how ever they wish,"

Wrong - any down zoning while the City has declared its interest in participating in purchasing the property would be an immediate cause for the issuance of a restraint order against the City.


Like this comment
Posted by ndn
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 22, 2016 at 5:31 pm

Peter, generally I agree with you, but not in this case. I think that's equally difficult for the city to prevail entirely as it is for the Jissers. Maybe they will settle. But it is the city's prerogative to zone as it wishes or leave it as it is.


4 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 22, 2016 at 5:49 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"But it is the city's prerogative to zone as it wishes or leave it as it is. "

Not if the City itself has an economic interest in the outcome.

"However, if the downzoning is done in bad faith, the owner may be entitled to compensation. For example, if the change in zoning can be shown as a subterfuge to reduce the acquisition price in a subsequent condemnation action, it constitutes a taking"

Web Link


2 people like this
Posted by winter
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 23, 2016 at 8:01 am

What is mentioned above is that Buena Vista, like any mobile home park, has a community restroom and a laundry room side by side. At BV, now and then given its location, a homeless person sometimes has slept in the restroom next to the laundry. This is not welcome. Residents have been surprised in the morning as anyone would.

The kids are right - there is all kinds of reasonable potential at BV with some time - planting of trees, room for a modest shady green space with benches and a play structure just as many apartment complexes have, repurposing of a building for a community room for meetings and classes, etc. But first will come millions of dollars in infrastructure upgrade. With some time will come upgrading of homes.

I am happy to meet people who have questions about Buena Vista. Maybe several have questions and a group would want to sit down for coffee? Just let me know at winterdell@earthlink.net.


4 people like this
Posted by dennis
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 23, 2016 at 4:28 pm

BV is nothing but a ghetto park being played a pawn in this never ending game with the residents thinking that someday they will have their little dream theme park. It is the owners property, has always been the owners to sell or do as they please, yet through the efforts of do-gooders and liberals long over do for their stent of cognitive therapy have turned this what should have been a very simple legal transaction into a mess that now has a life of its own. Just sickening.


3 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 23, 2016 at 4:49 pm

The better solution is to close the RV.trailer camp, clean up the area and not put start putting public funds into a decaying piece of property.


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

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