News


Buena Vista sale is final

Santa Clara County Housing Authority completes purchase of Palo Alto park, paving the way for new operator, Caritas Corporation

The Buena Visa Mobile Home Park is home to hundreds of residents. File photo/Veronica Weber.

The long-awaited sale of Buena Vista Mobile Home Park is final. The Santa Clara County Housing Authority (SCCHA) announced today that it has finalized the purchase of the Palo Alto park, paving the way for the Housing Authority and the park's new operator, Caritas Corporation, to begin making needed improvements at 3980 El Camino Real.

The sale brings to completion the more than four-year effort to preserve the park as affordable housing, enabling 400 low-income residents to remain in their homes.

"We are pleased to have this acquisition completed," said Katherine Harasz, executive director for the housing authority, which helped negotiate the $40.4 million deal to purchase the park from longtime owners, the Jisser family.

"All of this happened because so many good folks had the grit, the determination, and the decency to make it happen," said Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, who has championed the county's efforts to preserve the mobile home park since January 2015. "At one level this was a test of whether or not our region remains a place of inclusivity and opportunity. In this instance, at least, I'm gratified to say we passed the test."

Funding for the park's purchase and redevelopment comes from a three-way partnership between Santa Clara County, city of Palo Alto and the Housing Authority. The city and county each committed $14.5 million in dedicated affordable housing funds, and the Housing Authority contributed an additional $26 million in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. A tri-party regulatory agreement restricts the use of the property for affordable housing for 75 years.

The day-to-day park operations will be managed by Caritas Corporation, a nonprofit that specializes in preserving affordable mobile home communities.

"Saving and renovating the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park was an important effort to reinforce our commitment to affordable housing and to preserve a part of our history," Palo Alto Mayor Greg Scharff said.

Related content:

Behind the Headlines: saving Buena Vista

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Comments

31 people like this
Posted by Good!
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 30, 2017 at 7:27 am

Good, now that we have spent $40+ million of public funds on this property lets invite all the RVs littered around town to come stay here and clean up our streets. Seems it would be an appropriate usage. This way more unhoused people can benefit from the extremely large expenditure on affordable housing. Does anyone know if BV has the facilities for waste dumping from RVs?


10 people like this
Posted by 40 reasons
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 30, 2017 at 8:15 am

Well it's been a long road to get to this point. The owner was given 40 million reasons to leave and the state, county and city purchased a four acre land to house 100 families. Assuming 15 to 20 million more is needed to build and house these people in real homes (either mobile home or apartments or a combination of the two) that is a total cost of $550K to $600K per affordable home. All in All IF the Jisser family is happy with the sell price then in a strange way this is a win win scenario.

For the people who think this is a bad investment, you should know that Palo Alto spent more than $650K per affordable home a few years back. This is the reason Palo Alto felt it was a "good deal"

For the people who wanted to save the park, the end of the story should make you happy, but remember you should only be happy if the Jisser Family is happy with the deal. If they are not, then Buena Vista will be a story where our government literally used tactics that are unconstitutional and fundamentally contradict our capitalistic society against a single family / business owner




49 people like this
Posted by Poor in PA
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 30, 2017 at 9:05 am

My landlord is raising the rent. I don't want to relocate to an area that I can afford. Can the city, county and housing authority buy the the house so I can continue live here?

I'll even let two RVs park on the drive way and on in front of the house...


14 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 30, 2017 at 9:31 am

Whether or not one agrees with the sale from a public policy perspective, the actions are entirely permitted under both the US and California constitutions. Claims otherwise are a bunch of hot air by those who don't bother to read the constitutions and know the history of court decisions and instead invent false claims about what is constitutional. If you want to be a constitutionalist, read the documents and know the law.


25 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 30, 2017 at 3:18 pm

My goodness - what are you talking about? The jisser family is very happy with the huge profit they made on this property that they wanted to sell. It is more than what Prometheus's offer was to them.
There is no public money ($29 million) spent on BV from City or County - that money is from private developers.
There is no plan to build apartments.
There is currently no empty space - we need more below-market rate housing.
It's a happy day for our City.


2 people like this
Posted by Barron Park Dad
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 30, 2017 at 4:30 pm

Once again, no mention of parking. Los Robles in front of the park is already a mess. I have personally witnessed two near misses of kids on bikes by speeding drivers navigating that stretch of road.

Soon I bet Mr. Jisser will enforce parking regulations in the front strip mall, forcing another 10 or 15 cars onto Los Robles and nearby streets. My goodness! I hope someone is watching out for our kids.


6 people like this
Posted by almunday
a resident of another community
on Oct 2, 2017 at 7:59 am

what was done was the right thing to do..its about humanity. seems a few folks are not very happy with the money spent...but for once the underdog won.
I hope the BV folks are very appreciative and will not complain about any
cost increases in the future


20 people like this
Posted by commonsense
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 2, 2017 at 10:55 am

commonsense is a registered user.

Terrible investment. $400,000 each for 100 very old/falling apart mobile homes. That's a crazy number. This same $40m spent wisely could have helped so many more families.


31 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Oct 2, 2017 at 10:58 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Terrible investment. $400,000 each for 100 very old/falling apart mobile homes."

Actually it is even worse - the $400,000 is just for the space the trailer sits on. The trailers themselves are privately owned and were not include in the purchase.


Like this comment
Posted by NeilsonBuchanan
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 2, 2017 at 11:26 am

NeilsonBuchanan is a registered user.

to shed light and less heat... it would be helpful to know about the future possibilities. What type of housing can evolve beyond the current housing. What are 3 proven scenarios for modern low-cost housing on that site? Land costs seem to be low or at least frozen. What are the alternatives for density, parking, etc? Local contractors can easily estimate construction costs for today or 4-6 years in the future. This information would create environment for rational discussion and analysis for a preferred future. Cost per improved housing unit would be fairly obvious despite the 75 year clause and confusion about land cost.

Exactly what is the 75 year clause? Does property revert back to unrestricted rights of whowever owns the property?

Decisions have finally been made. What is next? Less confusion, I hope. Onward!


6 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Oct 2, 2017 at 12:05 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

And conversion to standard permanent housing would require huge relocation payments to the existing tenants and the rules for relocation costs for public entities are much more expensive than they are for a private landowner.


2 people like this
Posted by jerry99
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 2, 2017 at 12:46 pm

[Post removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 2, 2017 at 12:53 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

Yes, I too am happy we've come this far but the curtain hasn't dropped. The last scene in the play isn't over. A lot needs to be done in the park to bring the infrastructure elements up to code. And there needs to be new vetting of the current residents to see who can stay and who can't, based on income levels, as one example. There are many others on a wait list that should be considered as new residents. And, yes, the land has been acquired and secured, but what about the many old RV's that might be unsafe to live in. Which governing body/agency will do the inspection and enforcement?

Most of the current residents will be winners, I hope. The biggest winners are the kids who can continue their education in PAUSD schools. The benefit? They will have college opportunities...community, junior, or 4 year schools. They can learn skills, trades, professions, that will lift them up and out of the situation they lived in while growing up in Buena Vista. Now that is a success story that can, and should be told.

@40 reasons: Your cost comparisons aren't exactly 'apples to apples'. The Alma complex was a brand spanking new project. No, they didn't have their own private chunk of land under them but everything inside their units was new, modern, and up to code. And they had the benefit of the proximity to whatever downtown offers, within walking distance...and easy access to public transportation as well.

@Anon: Yes, you are correct. The $29 million wasn't taxpayer money, but it was money that the governments, city and county, had at their disposal and discretion to spend, however they felt appropriate and for the maximum benefit. They chose Buena Vista. There were other possibilities. The Housing Authority's portion, $26 million, was taxpayers' money, however, thanks to our federal government. I wish there was a way to thank every taxpayer in the US for their share/contribution of helping out on the Buena Vista project.


1 person likes this
Posted by Marlene Dietrich
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 2, 2017 at 1:44 pm

“The Bank and Investors NEVER loose a penny “

I can see in the future that everyone will be relocated one by one with the amount of $100,000 dollars to buy somewhere else more affordable.
The investors will build a humongous upscale apartments, lets see...like 400 mini-unity with a cost of $500 K? What they already paid it will generated a lot of earnings!

This history looks similar to one somewhere in Redwood City couple years ago with the people who use to live in boathouse...


3 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 2, 2017 at 1:58 pm

> The $29 million wasn't taxpayer money, but it was money that the governments,
> city and county, had at their disposal and discretion to spend, however they felt
> appropriate and for the maximum benefit

Say what? Where does "government" get this money at their disposal? If we took the time to look at the budgets for any government agency--taxpayer dollars generally comprise their revenue streams. Some agencies own property which they rent/lease and derive revenue from those sources. But the properties which they own were orignially purchased from cash on hand or from bonds issued to purchase the properties. The bonds were then retired by generally by taxes paid by "taxpayers".

It is difficult to believe that people as educated as Palo Altans claim to be are so unaware that they do not know where the revenue for government expenditures comes from.


1 person likes this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 2, 2017 at 3:31 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@Nielson Buchanan

"it would be helpful to know about the future possibilities. What type of housing can evolve beyond the current housing"

This is right on target. For now, the rescued mobile home park will remain just that, a mobile home park. The primary beneficiaries are the predominantly latino families who currently live there. But who is to say who or how many will cycle through that space in the 75 year period during which it is locked into providing affordable housing? What is certain is that it will provide another small break in the economic homogeneity of this city over the decades. As the hundreds of units of affordable housing already overseen by Palo Alto Housing, MidPeninsula Housing and other non-profit agencies do now.

How that housing evolves is a story that few of us will learn. We'll be long gone. What is certain is that the assortment of mobile home dwellings we see now will have been replaced. With luck, all of the families there now will long since have moved away to better housing, better jobs and less precarious lives. Further, that some way will be found over those decades to build affordable housing on the land that meets more of the criteria that Peter Carpenter has raised. For the time being, this is as good as we can do. Thanks to all who stood up for equality and diversity.


5 people like this
Posted by Barron Parker
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 2, 2017 at 5:57 pm

Note that the Jissers received $40.4, but the money already committed to this boondoggle is $55M (14.5M each from the city and county, plus $26M from the feds).

So the cost so far is about $550,000 for each trailer unit (presumably with upgrades?) No trailer owner will pay the $140,000 for their home improvement, but will this be yet another gift. Who gets the money when they sell it?

This is what happens when an entire region decides to wear "diversity and inclusion" on their sleeve -- unbelievably large gifts targeted to ethnic minorities. Ask yourself: would the city and county and the feds have set aside $550,000 for each trailer if the park had been inhabited by poor whites from Alabama? If your answer is "perhaps not", do we have a problem?


Like this comment
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 2, 2017 at 7:34 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@Barron Parker

"Ask yourself: would the city and county and the feds have set aside $550,000 for each trailer if the park had been inhabited by poor whites from Alabama?"

My answer: "Perhaps yes."
Give me more details to flesh out your counterexample.

I've been concerned that some might construe the campaign to save Buena Vista as an exercise in benevolent segregation because of the details of this attempted mobile home park closure and the people most affected. In fact, it would be illegal to limit access to Buena Vista on the basis of race, ethnicity or language. For all I know, there may be poor whites from Alabama who stand to benefit from the outcome at Buena Vista. If we widen the category to "poor whites" period, the probability goes up, of course.

There may come a time when low-income Euro-Americans make up the majority of residents in the affordable housing at Buena Vista. What's important is that there be a possibility for economic diversity in housing. There are so many variables at play. Who can say for sure what the demographics of this region will be long term. Seventy-five years is a long time.


5 people like this
Posted by Jissers
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 2, 2017 at 8:49 pm

Thanks to the jissers for all the years of affordable housing.


12 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Oct 2, 2017 at 9:06 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

What if a current resident of BV wants to sell their trailer and their ground lease?

Can they only sell to a low income buyer?

Can they less their ground lease at all?


12 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 3, 2017 at 9:16 am

What a waste!!!

Nearly $60 million of taxpayer/public funds spent to perpetuate a parking area for rusty RV campers/trailers [portion removed.]

Even much more considering the loss of future tax revenues.




Like this comment
Posted by MP Resident
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 3, 2017 at 4:08 pm

[Post removed.]


5 people like this
Posted by Sanctimonious City
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 3, 2017 at 8:55 pm

Sanctimonious City is a registered user.

Just think of the Buena Vista purchase as our own little version of Cash for Clunkers. If we could somehow figure out a way to trade the RVs on ECR for mobile homes we could call it Refunds for Recreational Vehicles.

The majority of the funding for the Santa Clara County Housing Authority (SCCHA) actually comes from the federal Housing and Urban Development Agency (HUD). Where do you think they get such deep pockets?

The majority of the funding for Buena Vista came from SCCHA. Palo Alto was a minority investor. So after these initial mobile home residents move on, who is to say the occupants even need to be from Palo Alto?

[Portion removed.]


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