News


Buena Vista owners receive $36 million-plus offer

Housing Authority seeks to buy the mobile-home park

The Housing Authority of Santa Clara County has made a $36,072,500 offer to purchase the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park, Executive Director Katherine Harasz said on Friday. The offer was made after the housing authority's board of directors unanimously authorized the agency on Dec. 20 to negotiate the sale.

The Jisser family's attorneys received the written offer on behalf of their clients on Wednesday or Thursday, which is based on the property's appraised value, Harasz said. She and the Jissers' eminent domain attorney Norman Matteoni said they did not anticipate a response from the family until perhaps sometime in mid-January. After then, Harasz said she hoped the housing authority and the family and their representatives would have a sit-down meeting to discuss the possible sale.

The Jissers have been trying to sell their property since they filed an application to close the park with the City of Palo Alto in late 2012. A long process that brought out the Buena Vista community and its allies in protest resulted in lawsuits filed by both sides and a pullout by the Jissers from previous negotiations with the city, county and a nonprofit housing group, Caritas.

With the housing authority stepping in as buyer, funding for the purchase would include $29 million from the city and county ($14.5 million each) and additional funding by the housing authority, which, Harasz said, would likely come from federal or state money and other funding that is available.

She has the regulatory authority to negotiate the deal, she said. But a purchase-and-sale agreement, which is likely to have conditions, would go through an approval hearing by the board, she said.

If the family chooses not to sell the property, the housing authority could exercise eminent domain proceedings to acquire the park.

The housing authority's offer tops the estimated $30 million deal that was previously reached in an agreement between the Jissers and developer Prometheus Real Estate Group in 2012. That offer was contingent on the city's approval of a zoning change to allow the developer to build high-end apartments for tech workers, displacing the 400 residents who live in 117 low-income mobile homes, including 12 studio apartments. Prometheus pulled out of the arrangement in 2014.

A subsequent offer by the residents to purchase the park through low-interest state and federal loans and a cooperative membership was rejected by the family in August 2013. The nonprofit Palo Alto Housing Corporation, also considered working with Prometheus to build about 65 low-income apartments on the site.

---

Follow the Palo Alto Weekly/Palo Alto Online on Twitter @PaloAltoWeekly and Facebook for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Comments

4 people like this
Posted by Maria
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 23, 2016 at 4:04 pm

does anyone know what joe Simitian offered them in mid 2015?? Was that ever made public?


31 people like this
Posted by seems low
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 23, 2016 at 4:23 pm

Well, the land's worth at least $44M so they're discounting $8M because it's currently a trailer park.
Isn't that the point of closing the trailer park? So they can do get full value for the land whether to develop or sell?


94 people like this
Posted by Land Grab
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 23, 2016 at 4:30 pm

Hang in there Josser Family!.
Most of Palo Alto is on your side. We rejects the heavy handed City and County government bullies and their blatant attempt to steal your property.


48 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 23, 2016 at 4:34 pm

Does the city and/or the Housing Authority have $50 Million to blow like this? Even if they buy this old trailer park for $36 Million, it will undoubtedly cost an extra $14 Million to bring it up to code and run the thing for the first year.


93 people like this
Posted by Land Grab
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 23, 2016 at 4:47 pm

Lets see...
- City imposes a retroactive closure ordinance on property owner.
- City imposes rent control on property owner.
- City imposes $8M payout if owner sells, refuses to support development by any other buyer who buys property
- City joins government cabal to low ball bid on property
- City threatens immanent domain further poisoning the well

Sounds like an outright crooked government rip-off of a Palo Alto citizen.


41 people like this
Posted by Chris
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 23, 2016 at 4:54 pm

If Palo alto has $14M is a special bucket, to be dedicated to such things, it probably came from so-called 'development fees'. Such fees are just a hidden tax that we all end up paying. For example, a developer will pass through this tax to tenants and then passed through to increased retail prices (or reduced demands for goods, due to less available funds). Or am I wrong, is this money coming directly from our budget, which is currently in the red? Either way, it is a public taking of private land that we taxpayers will be forced to pay for.


64 people like this
Posted by Hahaharold
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 23, 2016 at 6:24 pm

But it is for a good cause!
And it makes the City public servants feel so much better about themselves.
And it is not costing them a single dime.
It is fun spending other people's money!


41 people like this
Posted by Solution!
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 23, 2016 at 6:57 pm

I've got the solution - let the taxpayers putting up the money vote on it first.
Our government is out of order to make this offer to the Jissers - many times previously, reasons why there are REASONABLE objections have been listed on PA Online. Our government ignores these, and moves ahead to spend taxpayer money anyway. And it's a LOT of money!


4 people like this
Posted by Todd
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 23, 2016 at 7:00 pm

Considering Palo Alto taxpayers have the lowest property tax rates in the state I don't see what some people are up in arms over...


39 people like this
Posted by @Todd
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 23, 2016 at 7:15 pm

"Considering Palo Alto taxpayers have the lowest property tax rates in the state..."

Where do you get this nonsense? I pay tens of thousands a year in property tax.


6 people like this
Posted by Todd
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 23, 2016 at 8:11 pm

Not that facts are going to convince anyone who "feels" that it's not true, but...

Web Link


Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Adobe-Meadow

on Dec 23, 2016 at 8:56 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


55 people like this
Posted by Mark M
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 23, 2016 at 8:59 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


26 people like this
Posted by @Todd
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 24, 2016 at 5:35 pm

Talk about cherry picking statistics! Comparing property taxes paid against current home values is inconsistent with Prop 13. Palo Alto home owners pay that same percentage of purchase price as anyone else in Santa Clara County. Your link just shows that people who live in Palo Alto like their neighborhood and choose to stay around.


71 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 25, 2016 at 9:36 am

When did entitlement creep into our society so deeply? The Jisser family owns this land. Presumably, they worked hard to purchase the property and it is theirs. All of a sudden, local politicians provide the false appearance of caring about its residents at the expense of the owner of the property. Tenants rights gone amok. I guess your land is your land until politicans decide it's not when it serves their narrow purpose for re-election. Simitian and the other agencies, including our own city government, should do some soul-searching. There is a solution in here somewhere whereby the residents could be relocated (perhaps even temporarily, while again, presumably housing goes up at this location). Allow the occupants to stay until their youngest child is 18? I don't know the answer, but there does not exist a right to live on someone else's land indefinitely because the school districts are nice and the city is nice. It's unfortunate. I want to live in Manhattan, but I can't afford that, so I have to make the choice to live elsewhere. It's not a perfect comparison, but people make sacrifices all the time about moving. Many friends have moved out of state because they are concerned about cost of living and what that would do for the potential educational and other opportunities, including quality of life, for their children. This response is not acceptable towards the Jisser family. What an incredibly horrendous handling of this situation.


35 people like this
Posted by Need better decision makers
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 25, 2016 at 9:43 am

As much as would like to help everybody in need, I simply cannot understand why these local officials and politicians are pushing for such an inefficient use of funds. Do people go crazy when spending someone else's money?

Can't we spend this money at a different location and get more housing units to help a bigger number of families?

By the time it's all done and said, we are talking about $50+ million to build low-income housing in Palo Alto, when you can get a lot more for your money in other areas. [Portion removed.]

A referendum would be a transparent step to address this.


43 people like this
Posted by Sanctimonious City
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 25, 2016 at 10:25 am

All of the recent news and propaganda put out by the city is misleading. For those of you who have not been here that long, the Jissers have been trying to convert the trailer park for development since the year 2000. That is when the city slapped the rent control restriction on them thereby starving them of the resources to improve the property.

So that's right, this politically charged mess instigated by the city has already lasted 16 years! Further, that is a reasonable fact to include when judging the impact to the residents.


15 people like this
Posted by Let's Evaluate the Word Should
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 25, 2016 at 10:52 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


14 people like this
Posted by Nonsensical Arguments
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 25, 2016 at 11:04 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


17 people like this
Posted by Another Goal
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 25, 2016 at 11:14 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


52 people like this
Posted by Enough!
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 25, 2016 at 3:53 pm

The residents of BV are grasping at whatever they can to stay. I understand that they have been there for a while and created community that they don't want to loose. Many renters with kids in schools have been here for years, created community, contributed enormously to the school and community, many of whom have been forced out of Palo Alto in the last several years because of the huge increase in rent. They cannot afford to remain here so they turn to other options. This has become a city for the very wealthy and the very poor. Look at the representation for the poor. Where is the representation for the lower middle class? None. If you can't afford to live here leave is the message we repeatedly hear. Why are these residents given the impression they are entitled to live here at the expense of the Jissers? Why do the Jisser's have to loose out on what is theirs because of a number of low income people who cannot afford to live elsewhere in Palo Alto don't want to suck it up and move like many other people have had to do?


10 people like this
Posted by Heartless
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 27, 2016 at 10:48 am

Sad to see so little empathy for the existing low income residents of Buena Vista on this thread who will be displaced. I am glad the city and county are moving forward with this as are the numerous folks locally who support this deal.


15 people like this
Posted by XResident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 27, 2016 at 11:16 am

It is amazing how the city and county officials allow themselves to spend tens of millions of dollars to keep the stretch of El Camino Real south of Page Mill in Palo Alto as run-down as it has ever been. If you drove along El Camino from Santa Clara to San Francisco 30 years ago, you could see so many run-down areas along the way. Amazingly nowadays you can vividly see the Palo stretch of the road is the worst with no sign of hope in near future. While in every city developers are tearing down old buildings to replace with modern housing and shops (yes, in some cases the developments are too large), no one is even willing to build on the open lots that have been sitting there idle for the last so many decades in Palo Alto’s royal road.
Wouldn’t be better for the PA Housing Corporation to build some low income housing units in a much smaller land with the nearly $40m budget (like other projects they have done) instead of spending all that money to just keep the run-down status quo and the mobile homes set up? For a city that cannot afford fixing its roads (e.g. it has taken more than 10 years to resurface the key San Antonio Rd, and we are not still done…), how could we continue like this…


9 people like this
Posted by Emily Renzel
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 27, 2016 at 11:59 am

Palo Alto is required by the State to have a General Plan, including a Housing Element. The Housing Element asks Palo Alto to show all of our low-income, moderate-income, and below market housing opportunities. There are currently very few low-income housing units and Buena Vista provides 117 of them that have been identified in our General Plan. I applaud the City Council and Supervisor Joe Simitian for preserving this important housing resource for the community. Palo Alto and the County have stepped up and it is most disheartening to read the resentful remarks above.


16 people like this
Posted by elephant
a resident of Mayfield
on Dec 27, 2016 at 12:06 pm

[Post removed.]


4 people like this
Posted by OnTheOtherHand
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 27, 2016 at 12:12 pm

For just sitting on land this is too much of a windfall. The City's offer is
fair and reasonable. There needs to be some kind of limits and balance.
This was and is a housing resource and so should be sold to the City to
manage since the current owners want to get out. Over time the City
should figure out some way to increase the capacity and treat the
residents right, since the current owner seems to want to shirk that
resonsiblity they took on when they used the property for that purpose.

What we never hear to little of in Palo Alto the loudest seems to always
be the voice of the sharks ... and any marine biologist will tell you that
sharks alone to not make up an ecosystem.


13 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 27, 2016 at 12:14 pm

Thank you to: Anonymous and Sanctimonious City. I wonder how many of the current BV residents lived here in 2000 when this issue started percolating. If that date is accurate, it's hard to imagine a more generous notice period. Kudos to those who had the foresight to leave while area housing wasn't as unaffordable as it is now. Being uprooted would be awful but that risk is inherent in renting and in this instance the blow is being softened with a relocation benefit. A wrong more dangerous is the idea that property owners lose their rights b/c of complicated issues that are not of their making - or their responsibility to solve.


8 people like this
Posted by OnTheOtherHand
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 27, 2016 at 12:25 pm

-- A wrong more dangerous is the idea that property owners lose their rights b/c of
-- complicated issues that are not of their making - or their responsibility to solve.

You have a point of course, but must money-grubbing always the over-riding issue,
especially when no real pain or hardship is at issue?

A wrong, maybe? It is amazing how we have decided the only wrongs that matter
in this country any longer are the wrongs done to extremely rich people. We have
set things up so that massive wrongs done to make a few people super-rich and
powerful are not even visible. It's time for just a smidge of balance, and this offer
seems fair to me for owners who did nothing with this land in terms of investing in
it. They will all be OK.

Nothing is perfect, and the wrong here is not going to really "hurt", as in cause
pain to anyone. $36 dollars ... I could use that kind of pain.

So weary of crocodiles and their tears.


8 people like this
Posted by OnTheOtherHand
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 27, 2016 at 12:27 pm

$36 dollars ... uh $36 million dollars, sorry


14 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 27, 2016 at 12:33 pm

"The residents of BV are grasping at whatever they can to stay."

So would you if you were in their place.


"The elephant in the room I suspect is that many BV residents would likely not qualify for low-income housing due to being undocumented."

Ditch the dog whistle already. The elephant in the room is the ethnicity of many of the BV residents who would receive literally a dollar or two of each objectors' tax money.


19 people like this
Posted by dennis
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 27, 2016 at 12:40 pm

The public in favor of HUD buying the property, even by imminent domain, should think twice because virtually all the dwellings would not meet the requirements by the county, opening a sink hole financially for the monies required to bring the properties up to code. Plus, Hud requires inspections and numerous controls that the tenants may not find to their liking.


31 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 27, 2016 at 5:33 pm

The framing of the issues here is really interesting. People who support an owner's rights (not necessarily a developer), somehow are labelled as unsympathetic towards Hispanics. If you frame the issue that way, sure, your argument seems valid.

What if we frame it as, "there does not exist a right to live in Palo Alto and be the beneficiary of the school systems here at the expense of holding an owner of land hostage"?

The Friends of BV website has such a nonsensical argument about why the residents should be allowed to stay. Chief among them:

"A Palo Alto education is a family’s way out of poverty – a golden door to a better life."

Let's study this and see what the data shows about how many folks do end up out of poverty. I seriously doubt that living in Palo Alto is the only way out of poverty and the golden door to a better life. Actually, it probably hinders folks looking to get out of poverty because they ignore the other cost of living issues in our area. Those who are ardent supporters and have profess to having such a huge heart, why do you have such a huge heart when it comes to someone else's land and property? Why SHOULD the Jissers sell? Miraculously, these supporters are turning into the arbiters of the fate of private land, just like the politicians.

I get the empathy and sympathetic rationales for trying to keep it open. Unfortunately the Jisser family wants to do something else with their land. What happens to the next low-income housing provider who considers housing in Palo Alto? He/she will NOT develop because they cannot have confidence that this land will be theirs for as long as they please.

It is a terrible situation - I think we can all agree on that. However, people in this country face this decision daily and make the tough choices to move. There is no right to live in Palo Alto and there is no guarantee of success if one remains in Palo Alto. I have cousins who went to education systems in poor areas and neighborhood. A better predictor of escaping poverty is grit, determination, and instilling these at home to children. Being in Palo Alto does not guarantee anything and opportunities exist throughout the United States.

Meanwhile, politicians and advocates play ping pong with the Jissers and the land they invested in decades ago. But somehow they are painted as the bad guy. Sorry, everyone who owns land is not a bad guy and everyone who wants to make a buck is also not a bad guy. Maybe the most ardent of supporters can build a granny unit in the back of their large home in Palo Alto and take in a family each. But no, people are generous about their ideas on what to do with OTHER people's land, not their own. Go figure.


14 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 27, 2016 at 5:43 pm

By the way, this notion that the question of whether the park should remain open is even an issue because the residents are Hispanic is such a lazy argument.

There are many low income non Hispanics in Palo Alto too, perhaps even Caucasians. They are not receiving any special treatment at the expense of a landowner.

The idea that if people do not support BV residents at the expense of the Jisser family because they are Hispanic is devoid of any logic. Perhaps supporters of the Jisser family see it differently - land rights should mean something. Supporting Hispanic people and believing in land rights are not mutually exclusive.

If housing ultimately gets built on this location, as I suggested previously, maybe they allow those families already there who have children to go through the education system and get a subsidy or rent controlled units until that time before they must move on. After all, if Palo Alto is the ticket out, Palo Alto's responsibility should end at some point, or more appropriately, the Jisser family's imputed responsibility should end.


4 people like this
Posted by OnTheOtherHand
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 27, 2016 at 6:51 pm

-- There are many low income non Hispanics in Palo Alto too, perhaps even Caucasians.
-- They are not receiving any special treatment at the expense of a landowner.

Can you tell me who is making an argument and what it is that is based on these facts ...
I'm not seeing it?

It seems like you are trying to "racialize" this issue so you can turn around and call your
own straw man racist. Pretty clever, I'll give you that.


6 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 27, 2016 at 6:59 pm

[Post removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by Todd
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 27, 2016 at 7:27 pm

Don't consider this a "break" rather a change in law that could benefit anyone in that situation; kind of like how giving some homeowners a 100% discount on property taxes as a result of prop 13 is potentially beneficial to everyone despite the fact that the difference has to be made up by someone else.


9 people like this
Posted by @Emily Renzel
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 27, 2016 at 8:12 pm

"The Housing Element asks Palo Alto to show all of our low-income, moderate-income, and below market housing opportunities. There are currently very few low-income housing units..."

How do you come to the conclusion that there are very few low-income housing units?

Also, How does Palo Alto compare to Atherton, Woodside, and Portola Valley?




6 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 27, 2016 at 8:39 pm

"Curmudgeon's attempt at racializing, but if you prefer to believe yourself and pat yourself on the back for an invented racialization of the issue or purporting for me to make a straw man argument, perhaps you can read a little closer and exercise simple logic to see Curmudgeon's leap."

Wow. Try to parse that.

For the record, the observer is not the observation. There are many references to the BV resident's ethnicity sprinkled throughout the BV threads, including the specific "undocumented" dog whistle I quoted in my post above. One might wonder why references to a group's ethnicity occur in this context, but not in, say, threads concerned with techies demanding housing priced to their liking. Perhaps you could have a go at resolving this profoundly baffling conundrum?

BV is less an ethnic prejudice than a class dispute--between advocates for well-off landowners who stand to increase their wealth by at least $36M (minus nominal taxes), and others trying to allow a much less fortunate group a moonshot at the American dream.


5 people like this
Posted by Sunshine
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 28, 2016 at 11:44 am

Buena Vista has at least 100 units of below market rate housing. It is here now. The children who live there are in Palo Alto schools. Why do you want to displace residents who have done no harm, are good neighbors and children who art good students?
If PA does not keep these lower cost housing units ABAG will be back at us to build more units of below market rate places. There is no room for them.
Do you or a friend hope to occupy one of the Jisser high rise units on that property? You can be sure he will want top prices for each unit. Are you so anxious to get your children into PA schools that you will pay any price?
Buena Vista is a good place. It provides lower cost housing for families that cannot otherwise pay the cost of living in PA, it allows many students who are already doing good in local schools and never cause any problems to continue attending schools that are familiar to them, and it keeps in place 100 units of affordable housing for local families.
I think Buena Vista should stay where it is with the current residents for as long as they choose to live there.
Mr. Jisser should accept the City offer and continue his life elsewhere.


2 people like this
Posted by better ways to spend them money
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 28, 2016 at 1:39 pm

"Remarkably, slightly more than one-third of students – or 1,147 children – are defined as homeless [in East Palo Alto]" Web Link

So we spend $40 million on a few families in Palo Alto!


6 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 29, 2016 at 10:54 am

"Buena Vista has at least 100 units of below market rate housing. It is here now. The children who live there are in Palo Alto schools. Why do you want to displace residents who have done no harm, are good neighbors and children who art good students?"

Because it should be 500 units.


3 people like this
Posted by Resident2
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 29, 2016 at 11:05 am

@Me in Old Palo Alto,
Thank you for offering to put 500 units on a few acres in Old Palo Alto. We on the South side of town prefer to help existing neighbors rather than focus on units over people. We have also done our share of taking overzoned projects. The number of residents on the BV property already exceeds the zoning for that parcel, which is another reason grandfathering in the park is a good idea.

But a 500-unit building in the middle of Old Palo Alto - great idea, I hope you speak for your neighbors who voted in the allegedly pro-growth Council!

@Anonymous,
No one is getting special treatment in the BV situation. All parties have rights under the law and they are exercising them.


3 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 29, 2016 at 11:09 am

"We on the South side of town prefer to help existing neighbors rather than focus on units over people."

Ah, you prefer to keep "others" out of Palo Alto. Why not just build a wall? Very Trump of you.

"We have also done our share of taking overzoned projects. The number of residents on the BV property already exceeds the zoning for that parcel, which is another reason grandfathering in the park is a good idea."

Then let the Jissers sell the property on the market. Having Palo Alto and Santa Clara county pay 8 figures to just ossify 100 units is a ridiculous waste of money.

"But a 500-unit building in the middle of Old Palo Alto - great idea, I hope you speak for your neighbors who voted in the allegedly pro-growth Council!"

Whatever. There's no 4.6 acre lot on the market here in Old Palo Alto. Let's stick with the story at hand.


Like this comment
Posted by Random
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 29, 2016 at 11:43 am

@Resident2, of course everyone should exercise their rights under the law. Aren't the residents only entitled to a fair compensation to be relocated under the law?

Isn't the notion of local government and housing authority stepping in to make a purchase offer (substantially less than other offers) in and of itself special treatment? The question is why are government agencies doing this? If it's not as special treatment to a particular subset of families, then what is it?

The law says that the residents must be compensated. The amount of compensation is to be determined. Isn't that the only thing the residents can exercise, legally? I am asking because I don't know the specifics of the law on this and welcome the education.

Eminent domain is a stretch, though a legal tool.


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

El Camino: Another scheme to increase congestion?
By Douglas Moran | 24 comments | 2,602 views

Trials of My Grandmother
By Aldis Petriceks | 2 comments | 1,198 views

Lakes and Larders (part 2)
By Laura Stec | 0 comments | 960 views

Salt & Straw Palo Alto to open Nov. 23
By Elena Kadvany | 0 comments | 537 views