Palo Alto to appeal court order that halted Buena Vista closure | News | Palo Alto Online |


Palo Alto to appeal court order that halted Buena Vista closure

City Council votes to challenge December ruling from Santa Clara County Superior Court

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Palo Alto will appeal a recent court ruling in which a judge overturned the city's decision to allow the closure of Buena Vista Mobile Home Park.

The City Council voted unanimously in a closed session on Jan. 9 to file the appeal. City Attorney Molly Stump said the appeal would be filed early February.

The city is challenging a Dec. 21 ruling from Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Brian Walsh, who reversed the council's 2015 decision to approve the closure application from the Jisser family, which owns the mobile-home park off El Camino Real. The council's 2015 vote came several months after Administrative Officer Craig Labadie reached his own decision on the closure application and deemed it to be complete.

In overturning the council's decision, Walsh argued that the city based its approval on insufficient and incomplete data. He specifically took issue with the relocation assistance that the Jissers had offered to the roughly 400 residents who would be evicted from the mobile home park. The relocation-assistance package includes moving costs, start-up costs for new housing and rent subsidies for a year, totaling the difference between their Buena Vista rents and their new ones.

During numerous public hearings in 2014 and 2015, Buena Vista residents and their attorneys maintained that the relocation assistance falls far short of what would be needed for the residents to relocate anywhere in the area. The council largely agreed and conditioned its approval of the closure application on new property appraisals.

The decision prompted lawsuits from both the Jisser family and the residents. The Jissers argued that the conditions are "unconstitutional" and estimated that the relocation costs would add up to about $8 million. Meanwhile, the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park Residents Association argued in its own suit that the city didn't follow due process in approving the application; that the decision to allow Buena Vista's closure violates the city's Housing Element; and that the findings that the council relied on during its May 2015 vote were unsupported by evidence.

Walsh sided with the residents on the lattermost point and reversed the council's decision.

"Because the City Council based its Final Decision on evidence that does not yet exist and the City Council lacked evidence regarding the actual amount of relocation assistance that will eventually be provided to the residents, the Court finds that the Final Decision was not supported by the evidence," Walsh wrote.


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139 people like this
Posted by Marrol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 13, 2017 at 5:27 pm

It's an absolute travesty when a property owner cannot sell or develop their own holdings without interference and obstruction from local government.

5 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Jan 13, 2017 at 7:35 pm


I know right? Next thing you know they won't let you tear down your house to build condos... or even add a second story.

5 people like this
Posted by Novel idea
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 14, 2017 at 7:45 am

My middle schooler asked - wouldn't GoFundMe remove the controversy associated with this issue? That way, folks who feel strongly can proceed forward with supporting, and not mire down with all the other bureaucratic and legal issues associated with going about it this way?

2 people like this
Posted by Doesn't want to sell
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jan 14, 2017 at 8:26 am

Doesn't want to sell is a registered user.

@novel idea, while it's wonderful that your middle school child wants to help, from what I understand the Owners want to close their business and redevelop the land thems lives. They don't want to sell.

5 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 14, 2017 at 8:40 am

If the whole cost of moving the current residents is re-evaluated, then the city and county many have to cough up more of our public funds in order balance out the buyout offer to the owners while the land increases in value.

2 people like this
Posted by Novel idea
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 14, 2017 at 8:42 am

@he_doesnt_want_to_sell: I thought he did, at least at an earlier point, just that he got blocked, and now lately he is being dictated what price he is supposed to let go at? If true, then perhaps folks should let him name what is is willing-to-sell price and go-fund-me method can see if enough funders want to come up with that price. Free market transaction, no messy legal entanglements for City stepping in when it possibly shouldn't.... Let the city deal with the rezoning request as a separate issue. That one seems easier to match up with processes on zoning codes/ordinances, etc than messing with market transaction process.

24 people like this
Posted by Supply & Demand
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 14, 2017 at 8:47 am

Now, looks like the fight is almost over.

We hope the City will use the precious land wisely.

Build a condo/apartment complex instead of keeping the run down mobile home park.

Mobile home is thing of the past. Condo/Apartment makes sense. It can accommodate more affordable units for teacher/fireman/police/nurses/doctors.

Eliminate traffic congestion and keep emergency and education personnel pool are top priorities.

34 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 14, 2017 at 9:50 am

[Portion removed.]

39 people like this
Posted by Common sense
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 14, 2017 at 10:29 am

Is it just me or does anyone else think this story is strange. The jisser family wants to stop renting to these people and sell/develop their land. Five years later the city is still in court because of the residents whom they have been protecting for five years.

4 people like this
Posted by Uncommon sense
a resident of Triple El
on Jan 14, 2017 at 11:07 am

There are special laws protecting or regarding trailer parks or mobile home parks. (Those laws, or their interpretations, are challenged on a regular basis)

Generally mobile home buyers lose a lot of money, just as time share purchasers do. They don't own the land, and their homes cannot be sold at a price anywhere near the purchase price because of the rent; the cost to just stay there. I'm not saying taxpayers should award them lottery winnings, but you have to feel for someone who buys one.

This judge seems to not understand the concept of a formula. It's like saying the IRS can't tax because they didn't know what the exact tax was for everyone at the time they made the income tax law. (1906?)

Relocation payments are to be made based on a calculation, and the settlement is thrown out because the payments aren't known?

12 people like this
Posted by C. Dissonance
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 14, 2017 at 12:55 pm

Does this represent a change of direction because of the new City Council makeup (the ones that say anything to get votes but really just represent big development interests)? Voters who believed the crocodile tears of Fine/Kniss/Tanaka/Scharff - is this their legacy? How does trying to evict residents square with putting together an offer to buy the park?

1 person likes this
Posted by Doesn't want to sell
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jan 14, 2017 at 5:37 pm

Doesn't want to sell is a registered user.

@novel idea, the Jissers originally had a contract to sell to Prometheus who was planning to build an apartment complex. That fell through and now they just want to close their business.

31 people like this
Posted by Imagine
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 15, 2017 at 9:47 am

Imagine wanting to get out of the rental business and five years later because of the government you are still forced to work. This is private property and the renters have had five years to find a place to live yet the place is full. Wonder what they are waiting for?

I didn't vote for trump but his election is not a surprise.

1 person likes this
Posted by Novel idea
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 15, 2017 at 10:10 am

@doesnt-want-to-sell: thanks for the recap. It seems the City should have taken issue with Prometheus when that comes up, if there is disagreement on a plan for rezone. There's a whole process surrounding that, and City should have the ability to make the call that makes most sense for the City, I think? From what I have read, Jisser has more than followed the agreed process, even put more than needed into it trying to enable closure on it. I wonder if our City attorney is watching carefully that the City's actions are legally defensible. One more question maybe you can help me with....Understanding this news story - So it sounds like (1) Jisser wanted to close it; a relocation $ was attached to it; City ok'd it. Then (2) Santa Clara County court says don't close it yet - halt the closure - Jisser might need to pay even more relocation? Now, the latest headline: (3) City Council appeals #2 decision, and says they think the original agreed relocation $ + closure was good?

9 people like this
Posted by Doesn't want to sell
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jan 15, 2017 at 1:48 pm

Doesn't want to sell is a registered user.

@novel idea, you have the time line right and I think the City is currently trying to cover itself legally. I think the current County plan is to drag this out and make the owners feel bad in an effort to pressure them to sell.

@imagne, what the residents are waiting for is a financial windfall if the Park closes.

29 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 15, 2017 at 4:29 pm

Normally I don't support the pro-development agenda nor any zoning that may increase density and traffic, but this is one place that I may do so. Building a new structure with some increased density would seem an improvement over the mess of RV Parking that is there now.

If the bailout of the current RV residents is evaluated at a true, realistic cost of the vehicles it should be much less than the current inflated price for most of the pieces. Unfortunately that will probably not happen.

44 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 16, 2017 at 9:48 am

Why did someone remove my post?

The residents of Buena Vista have had a half-decade to prepare for moving out of the park. At this point, they shouldn't receive a dime to assist them (outside of those who actually own a trailer and will need to sell it).

20 people like this
Posted by What_Is_Fair?
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jan 16, 2017 at 11:57 am

Am I correct in interpreting what is going on here? The Jisser family would like to sell their property, they have both residents that own their trailer and rent the land as well as those who rent both. The family has agreed to give X amount of dollars to both. If I am correct, then we are setting a very dangerous precedence. If you rent and your landlord would like to sell the property they must pay to have you leave. I know this is the case if they have it in a lease/rental agreement that states a certain amount of warning and they want you to leave sooner. However, in this case, they have been given plenty of warning yet they are still entitled to funds. My landlord sold the house that I have been renting for 13 years, I am paying below market value. In order to stay in the area, I now must come up with at least $1500 MORE a month for comparable housing. Guess what, that's life. I might not get comparable housing, I might have to go to a 1 bedroom apartment if I want to stay in my hometown. I am truly sorry for these families, but this reality is hitting more than just these residents and a lot of time it's the "working poor" who are already living paycheck to paycheck or that family where one of the bread winners was laid off. What about all of them?

23 people like this
Posted by barron parker
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 16, 2017 at 12:02 pm

We're being sued by both the spoiled residents of BV and the property owners. Given the delays and the lawsuit by the BV residents, the owners really had no choice except to sue Palo Alto. This latest unanimous vote by the Palo Alto City Council, to overturn an over-reaching judge and let the owners sell their property, is one of the few pieces of common sense I've seen exhibited by them.

The settlement that has taken over 4 years is the best path out of the quagmire -- it needs to go through as quickly as possible.

1 person likes this
Posted by Plane Speaker
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 16, 2017 at 12:08 pm

== It's an absolute travesty when a property owner cannot sell
== or develop their own holdings without interference and
== obstruction from local government.

Not in all cases, this is NOT an absolute and that is obvious.
Trying to trivialize and distort this issue seems to be the only
way the anti-social can mobilize the of the thoughtless as if
it threatens them.

A good example of an issue that I fall the other way on is the
1-story limit for new houses in the Eichler neighborhoods, but
I would never try to generalize that to every property issue.

4 people like this
Posted by Plane Speaker
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 16, 2017 at 12:19 pm

What_Is_Fair? ... that's life?
$1500 more because you happened to have a nice landlord that
allowed you to live with below market rent so you may have the
resources to say. "that's life" while many are stuck out in the street.

When do we admit there is a problem ... by the time the extent is
so massive that there is either no solution or the solution is useless?

So many people have their's and don't give a damn about other
people ... that's life, and what civilization is, and what morals and
charity is, is the recognition that it is very easy for people to fall to
the lower common denominator, and lower in situations driven by
these kinds of economic discontinuities.

More and more people who are insulated from the average American's
situation drive everyone out from where they live, take all their money,
don't see them, don't know about them, don't care about them, and
drive out their abililty to even seek representation in government or
even be heard in the media.

That's wrong, and turning it around may seem like a huge crime to
those who have learned to whine loud and exclude other people, but
the bigger crime that needs to be acted against in the inch by inch
crime of predating people who just happen to be poor or weak because
the larger system they inhabit can make and distribute more wealth
and power to their elite.

Americans owe something to each other ( and even non-Americans ),
and however that needs to be worked out it is going to happen. Better
then do it constantly in real time than foment a situation that might
appear unfair when isolated and just looked at one way.

Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 16, 2017 at 12:32 pm

Does anyone have the name of an experienced attorney in this field who can ably represent a mobile home owner in Sunnyvale facing relocation because a mobile home park there will be converted to a development? The potential client is a local worker in Palo Alto with 2 kids in the Sunnyvale schools and would like to get whatever relocation funds might be possible. Not asking for pro bono.

19 people like this
Posted by Confused
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 16, 2017 at 2:12 pm

Wait five more years and I bet nothing will be settled.
Be careful all home owners...soon you will not be able to sell your own home.
And then when another five years go by...who will care anyway?
This is one of the things Palo Alto is known for...nothing ever gets done.
We have lived in Palo Alto for over fifty years and WAY BACK THEN things did get done.
What a mess.

6 people like this
Posted by Plane Speaker
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 16, 2017 at 3:37 pm

-- Be careful all home owners...soon you will not be able to sell your own home.


Yeah, that is typical of the selfish logic of the people who are making tens of millions
for doing nothing? Just exaggerate a problem to the ridiculous and try to make it
seem like a threat to everyone else. What really is everyone else's problems is the
loss of our country, community and culture that happens when everyone gets so
dang selfish.

This family has made tons of money off doing nothing with this property, and that is OK,
it's their land, but selling it affects Palo Alto, and they didn't do a thing for all these
years ... decades ... that is a huge windfall ... they should show some civic responsibility,
and further there should be some kind of legally recognized responsibility, and there is,
it's just not well defined and fancy expensive lawyers can side-talk their way out of it
most of the time. Like they do with Mitt Romney and Donald Trump paying less in taxes
than all of us regular people. Boy, do they have us conned.

This is not the case with everyone else, or even very many others. They can afford to
make slightly less of a killing to benefit the city where they have owned property for
so long.

19 people like this
Posted by Doesn't want to sell
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jan 16, 2017 at 5:10 pm

Doesn't want to sell is a registered user.

@plane speaker, if the jisser family either sells or redevelops the property, the City will benefit from an increase in property tax revenue. If the property becomes a non-profit, we loose that revenue.

32 people like this
Posted by Land Grab
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 16, 2017 at 5:32 pm

@planeSpeaker is wrong.
The Jisser family was subjected to a retroactive closure ordinace and rent control in 2001.
The Jissers have never noticed the residents with a rent increase that approached the rent control limit.
In 20012 the rent shortfall between the amount allowed under rent control and what they actually collected was over $1M per year. That is a $1M voluntary subsidy from the Jissers to the renters every year.
The Jissers have done more for low income renters than anyone in Palo Alto and have been vilified by the likes of Plane Speaker and the FOBV in spite of all the facts to the contrary.
The Low Income housing shortage is a Palo Alto problem to solve. People need to stop putting this problem on the backs of the Jissers.
That there is no alternative housing in Palo Alto should speak for itself. Palo Alto needs to get its act together and provide some alternative housing options.

14 people like this
Posted by Jackie M
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 16, 2017 at 11:10 pm

This is one big delay tactic to give the housing authority the time they need to file suit against the jisser family and take their land. Welcome to the new California screw one family to save the poor because our government has no clue how to fix the failed policies that they created!

Go Trump.

6 people like this
Posted by WilliamR
a resident of another community
on Jan 17, 2017 at 10:02 am

WilliamR is a registered user.

@ Jackie M--

There's an idea! Let Trump buy Buena Vista, and Ben Carson can practice running it.

1 person likes this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 17, 2017 at 11:33 am

Annette is a registered user.

It is quite concerning that CONFUSION appears to be emerging as a tactic. Kudos to anyone who can keep straight all the critical data points in this saga. Hopefully, those who adjudicate this can b/c both the Jissers and the residents deserve for this to end based on sound, legally defensible decisions.

2 people like this
Posted by Golden Rule
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jan 17, 2017 at 6:00 pm

Hi! I learned a lot reading the comments. I know that there are really nice people who presently do care, reach out and are neighborly to the BV neighbors, but I really wonder if its enough. Anyone have any ideas about how we can be better neighbors to our neighbors? I hope that the families feel cared about . I also send hope out to the Jisser family in their struggles.

3 people like this
Posted by Lazlo
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 17, 2017 at 7:56 pm

Why would anyone believe that a dysfunctional organization such as the City of Palo Alto has your best interests in mind?

3 people like this
Posted by David
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jan 18, 2017 at 8:12 am

Question for those who feel Jissers should be forced to sell at a price to the renters:

Would you be fine with the city you live in to make you sell your property to your renter at well below the market rate?

I doubt any of the rabid supporters of forcing the Jissers to sell for less will answer this question. And please just answer the question, do not deviate. -thanks

4 people like this
Posted by David
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jan 18, 2017 at 8:17 am

This issue is a cause celeb for the city of Palo Alto. How about taking all the money used to help a few families and use it to up the minimum wage to $20/hr. In that manner many more would benefit. Personally I would like to see minimum wage at $20/hr all across the Bay Area. I am willing to pay more so people can have a slightly better life(Hmm, $40,000/yr that is chump change but better than $20,000/yr)

2 people like this
Posted by Jackie M
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 18, 2017 at 8:28 am


Not a good question. No one will honestly answer it. All you will get is the the renters own their trailer and their are special laws that handle that. :-)

Sad day when a family in the rental business wants out and five years later they are still litigating the issue and now facing a forced sale at below market rate. Shouldn't the tenants have found a place on tbejrown by now?

Do us all a favor, since the city and attorneys can't figure this out. Why don't the tenants their accept the five year notice and leave on their own.

9 people like this
Posted by Patrick Burt
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 18, 2017 at 9:02 am

Patrick Burt is a registered user.

Under our federal and state constitutions, private property owners must be compensated fair market value if property is taken under eminent domain. If the property owner does not agree with the appraisal, he can challenge it in court. Our laws and legal system have long established requirements for these processes. No owner can be required to sell below market rate.

15 people like this
Posted by Land Grab
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 18, 2017 at 10:50 am


To establish the fair market for the BV property, the owner needs a fair market in which he can entertain realistic offers from potential buyers who could develop the property for appropriate uses and under existing zoning and laws. The city would then need to match those bids.

Unfortunately, the city and county have created a hostile environment and made it clear to any potential buyer that they could not purchase the property and expect to receive fair consideration for their development plans.

Your offer is being made in the absence of alternative buyers and also subtracts the cost of the RIR compensation of $8M (an amount that you and the city itself set).

In essence, you have "poisoned the well" to eliminate potential buyers, and then lowered the already low-ball purchase price further by setting an $8M penalty if the owner simply closes.

The City is applying the same tactics as the old Robber Barons.
1. lowered the value of the land by imposing the Closure Ordinance and imposing rent control forcing the owner to remain in an untenable and unprofitable business.
2. You provided no corresponding tax breaks after limiting the income potential of the property, inducing further financial hardship on the owner.
3. You eliminated all other potential buyers by making known that you did not want the park closed and sit in the way of any development proposal a new buyer might pursue.
4. You blocked the owner from closing by delaying approval of the RIR and imposing an $8M payout.
5. Having boxed the owner in, limiting their income, imposing an outrageous financial penalty if they close, eliminating other buyers, you are now free to taking the owners land at a huge discount.

I am ashamed of my city.

2 people like this
Posted by Patrick Burt
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 18, 2017 at 1:56 pm

Patrick Burt is a registered user.

The process for determining "Fair Market Value" is well established. An independent, certified appraiser is engaged to determine fair market value. The appraisal is independent of any actual offers that might have been made or not made. Consequently, the various closure hearings or other actions by the city have no bearing on the appraised value. If the property owner disagrees with the appraised value or does not agree to the purchase offer by the government agency, the owner has a right to object to the appraisal in court.
This legal procedures are well established and are not based on any city ordinances. They are founded on our federal and state constitutions which specifically enable eminent domain for public purposes. Individuals are free to disagree with the constitutions if they wish to do so.

5 people like this
Posted by Land Grab
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 18, 2017 at 2:27 pm

As we saw with the city councils hearings on the appraisal for the residences at Buena Vista, the City did not agree with the well established industry standards for appraising a property. The city tried, and to some extent succeeded, in influencing the appraiser to change their initial objective appraisal of the existing units.

The standard appraisal process requires s survey of comparable sales in the area and market trends in the immediate area to establish the FMV. The uniqueness of BV and absence of a fair market buying community will most certainly limit the Market valuation data available to the appraiser from which to establish the Market Value of BV. I quote from Web Link

"The market value is commonly defined as the price that reasonably could have resulted from negotiations between an owner who was willing to sell it and a purchaser who wanted to buy it. The value of real property is assessed based on the uses to which it reasonably can be put. Elements for consideration include the history and general character of the area, the adaptability of the land for future buildings, and the use intended for the property after its taking." "The amount of compensation should be measured by the owner's loss rather than by the condemnor's gain, and the owner should be placed in as good a financial position as he or she would have been in had the property not been taken. "

Given the City's corruption of the free market for this property, the assessors exposure to the higher valuations that a developer would have offered will be very limited if not eliminated.

My previous post lists well how you and the city have manipulated the Market environment and the financial conditions and options of the owner. Hiding behind a "well established appraisal process" does not make the city's past actions nor a possible ED action right or ethical.

10 people like this
Posted by Bill
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 18, 2017 at 4:08 pm

Here's what we know about the Housing Authority of Santa Clara's offer and appraisal of the Jisser property. The Housing Authority hired Valbridge Property Advisors to appraise the entire site. This includes the almost five acres that's currently the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park along with the retail strip with four retail businesses and service station along El Camino at Los Robles.

The Housing Authority says that they are only interested in the Buena Vista site and not the retail area along El Camino. Valbridge said that if the Beuna Vista site were residential development at 15 units per acre, the Buena Vista site would be worth about $41.9 million. Valbridge also claims that the cost of removing the existing mobile homes, including compensation for the current Buena Vista residents, is about $6.5 million. This is essentially how the Housing Authority arrived at the $35.4 million dollar offer to Jisser for Buena Vista. The remaining area along El Camino was valued at $15.25 million. Thus the total appraised value of Jisser's property, assuming RM-15 zoning, is a little over $57 million.

When Jisser originally proposed closing Buena Vista and was working with Prometheus, their concept plan had a density of about 30 to 40 units per acre. The surrounding multi-unit properties are already zoned and built out at 30 units per acre. Being located along the El Camino transit corridor and adjacent to one of the few east-west routes in Palo Alto across the Caltrain tracks at Meadow, an appraisal at RM-15 is obviously unfair.

During last summer's legal proceedings, one Jisser's attorney's floated a value of $60 million for the Buena Vista site. Even subtracting the $6 to $8 million of compensation to Beuna Vista residents, the Housing Authority and Jisser are still about $15 million apart. Under California law, an eminent domain proceeding that didn't involve the purchase of the retail portion along El Camino would likely entitle the owner to compensation for his remaining property. This could be several million additional dollars.

Realistically, Palo Alto's mobile home closure ordinance and the process of implementing it has created an impossible situation. Buena Vista residents can't be relocated in the area at a reasonable cost. At one point purchasing Buena Vista seemed like a good option. But now, even a purchase is out of reach. So, now we're left with taking Buena Vista from the owner by eminent domain and wishful accounting.

That's just wrong.

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