Having succeeded in preventing the closure of Palo Alto's sole mobile-home park, the City Council is preparing to take the next step on Monday to ensure its continued operations.
The council is scheduled to approve on Monday night a new parcel map for Buena Vista Mobile Home Park, a key step in the effort by the Santa Clara County Housing Authority to purchase the park from the Jisser family. The county agency is in the process of buying the mobile-home park, with escrow set to close on Sept. 1.
For the roughly 400 residents who live at Buena Vista, the county's purchase of the mobile home park at 3980 El Camino Real is a long-awaited victory after nearly five years of anxiety. The Jisser family has been trying to close the park since at least November 2012, with the idea of redeveloping the 6-acre site in the Barron Park neighborhood. The process was mired by litigation and arguments over whether the relocation assistance being offered to the residents is adequate.
The conversation changed last year, when the Housing Authority entered the fray, bringing with it its power of eminent domain. After both the council and the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors each agreed to contribute $14.5 million in affordable-housing funds to buy the mobile-home park, the Housing Authority negotiated the purchase of the mobile-home park for $40.4 million.
The Housing Authority plans to use funds from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to complete the purchase to renovate the park.
The new parcel map is a key step in the process. It would reduce the number of parcels on the 6.19-acre site from five to three, with the Housing Authority controlling the largest parcel: 4.5 acres that includes most of the mobile homes. The Jisser family will still own the 1-acre parcel that includes two commercial buildings and the 0.75 acre that includes a gas station and a few housing units.
Under the terms of the deal, the Jissers will lease back to the county the residential portion of the 0.75 acre site for three years, giving the agency time to relocate the residents to the main parcel.
The Planning and Transportation Commission reviewed and swiftly approved the new parcel map on July 12. The council is expected to do the same on Aug. 14, the first meeting after its summer recess.
Once escrow closes, the county will proceed with the next step: bringing the park up to code. Flaherty Ward, assistant director of housing at the Housing Authority, told the commission last month that she expects there to be some "upfront investment on the infrastructure that needs to happen." After that, the agency hopes to use rent payments to help fund site improvements.
During the July 12 meeting, Planning Director Hillary Gitelman called the decision to change the parcel map a "simple one." It would result in preserving an existing condition that "we all treasure in Palo Alto."
"The city and the County have put a great deal of money into preserving the mobile home park and this is one of the prerequisites to closing escrow and letting the Authority actually follow through with the purchase," Gitelman said.