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Mobile-home residents pack school board meeting

Original post made on May 8, 2013

About 375 Palo Alto residents -- including more than 100 children in local public schools -- would be displaced by the closure of Buena Vista Mobile Home Park on El Camino Real in Barron Park, the Board of Education was told Tuesday.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, May 8, 2013, 9:52 AM

Comments (31)

Posted by Michael Morganstern
a resident of Professorville
on May 8, 2013 at 10:45 am

I have an idea, that might offer a better solution. It is akin to trading of carbon tax credits and could be called affordable housing credits. Here is how it might work:

1) The city buys the Buena Vista property from the developer at the price he paid the seller. The property stays a mobile home park. The seller is not affected. The developer will be the only unhappy one. I will come back to this later.

2) While I do not know the price at which Buena Vista was sold, lets assume as an example that it might have sold for 27 million dollars. There are 108 units so that works out to a cost to the city of $200,000 per affordable housing unit.

3) Developers are often required to build affordable housing. They could be given a choice to purchase one or more of the 108 affordable housing credits from the city in lieu of building one or more affordable housing units as part of the development. The city would eventually get its money back.

4) The benefit here is that Buena Vista is preserved, its community is preserved, all the Buena Vista residents can remain undisturbed, and the affordable housing count is not reduced even temporarily. This is also a very humane way to go.

What must occur. First, we need to make sure that there is no demolishment or other change that would not allow Buena Vista residents to live there until development plans are fully approved by the city. This is critical. Should demolishment be done, its game over. Second we need to get the developer to sell. Perhaps the 87 year old property can be declared an historical site. Perhaps the developer should be informed that the city is in no mood to approve of any of his development plans, and thus the approval process might take many years - if approved at all.

Posted by Move it
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 8, 2013 at 11:09 am


What it the city found a nice location in Professorville to move the trailer park? That would be a humane solution to the problem and would also accomplish the objective of providing affordable housing.

Of course, such a proposal is far-fetched to the point of being absolutely ridiculous. Folks in Professorville would consider the introduction of a trailer park into their neighborhood as extremely undesirable, and they would never ever stand for it.

If people in Professorville would have this reaction, can you fault people in Barron Park for having mixed feelings about having the trailer park in their neighborhood?

Our family couldn't afford to live in Palo Alto when we bought our first house, so like many people in the same situation, we lived in another town on the Peninsula, saved our money, and moved here after several years. Why should the government mandate affordable housing in Palo Alto in the first place? Is it right to reward "low income" families with a house here while penalizing families who don't meet the "low income" threshold but can't afford to pay market prices?

I'm socially liberal and all for providing help to those who need it. But mandating affordable housing in this way just seems unfair to those non-low-income families who are saving their money the way we did.

Posted by Caryn Huberman
a resident of Professorville
on May 8, 2013 at 11:10 am

I think Michael Morganstern's idea could be a viable plan. It certainly is creative and offers a solution to the problem rather than just opposing the demolition of a neighborhood and the construction of up-scale pet grooming, spa and condos.

I attended the PAUSD meeting last evening and was heartened to see over 100 people and hear from children as well as adults.

I lived in the Foothill Green area for many years and my children's classmates included kids from Buena Vista. Those families want what every family wants: good schools and safe neighborhoods for their children.

Palo Alto simply cannot allow these people to be displaced! This is an entire community--a neighborhood.

I urge EVERYONE in Palo Alto to attend up-coming meetings and rallies and to get on Winter Dellenbach's e-mail list. She is the leader of this movement to ensure a just and compassionate solution. Our neighbors at Buena Vista deserve support from each and every one of us!

Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 8, 2013 at 11:33 am

Move It - the thing is, the trailer park has been there for quite some time, much longer than a high number of the locals.

"I'm socially liberal and all for providing help to those who need it. But mandating affordable housing in this way just seems unfair to those non-low-income families who are saving their money the way we did." Are you working to change the law then? There are so many people in my town who get all sorts of "freebies" that I don't & some of them are even home owners. I can't imagine going through life resenting the extras that they get in order to make it, extras that I don't get. Didn't anyone ever tell you that life is unfair?

Posted by Steve C
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 8, 2013 at 11:33 am

Interesting proposal Michael. A good one I think. But I doubt if the developer/owners would want anything to do with it. Unfortunately, money talks, everyone else walks.
Sadly, I think the message at the meeting, in spite of the sympathies of the council members, was: Start packing and looking for new places to live.
One more escalation in the unaffordable housing market in the valley.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 8, 2013 at 11:34 am

The city is not in the business of buying or mortgaging residential lots and becoming a landlord. I'm pretty sure the city charter would rule against that. Further, I do not want my tax dollars spent that way. We can't even afford to fix our streets and sidewalks --- where is this money coming from?

Problem with proposal #1. The developer will not sell for what he paid. He is expecting to make a profit on the property. The developer will expect to paid the full amount of the investment and the forecasted profit. Further - the developer did not buy the trailers, just the property. The trailers are either owned by the residents or rented from someone else.

The other issue conveniently forgotten here is that the original owner of the property decided to sell because he could not afford all of the mandated infrastructure/code upgrades that the city required him to do. So the cost would go even higher to bring the property up to current requirements.

I'm sure PAUSD can set up exceptions for the kids who are currently juniors at Gunn (they have to do paperwork with the kids' new school district); so they can finish senior year at Gunn. But PAUSD cannot financially sponsor and/or provide scholarships to all those kids. I would bet that they could find some sort of exception if any of the kids move to EPA - grandfather them in via Tinsley. But otherwise (and unfortunately) the other kids will have to go to a new school district.

Posted by palo alto parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 8, 2013 at 11:38 am

Have the residents been encouraged to apply to the new low-income housing on Alma? It will be completed soon and preference is given to PA residents.

This is not simply a question of letting Buena Vista remain as it is. From what I understand, Buena Vista would need to be upgraded to remain a mobile home park, some of the trailers would need to be removed due to new laws, utilities need to be replaced, etc. It sounds like even if it were to remain as a mobile home park, some people would have to leave and there would be a disruption as things were replaced and upgraded.

Perhaps we could focus on creative ways to allow the families with children to remain in Palo Alto.

Posted by palo alto parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 8, 2013 at 11:40 am

Crescent Park Dad - PAUSD already allows seniors to stay and graduate even if their families move.

Posted by Midtown Mom
a resident of Midtown
on May 8, 2013 at 11:54 am

Perhaps philanthropist and developer John Arrillaga could purchase Buena Vista with commitment to maintain the current status and then Palo Alto citizens would accept the large, many story buildings he wants on El Camino/downtown Palo Alto.

Posted by resident
a resident of Green Acres
on May 8, 2013 at 11:57 am

The trailer park and its residents are a part of this community, alongside with $2million homes. No one is protesting for the city to move the park, the neighbors would like it to stay. In fact, the city is trying to foist a high-density project just blocks away at a very unsuitable and unsafe place at Maybell, which the neighbors are against because of safety concerns. The City gave PAHC millions to do that, even though the location is zoned for low density. Imagine buying a $16milliion part of Professorville and rezoning it for high density despite serious safety issues and protests from the neighborhood!

It would be far better for the city to find a way to support the existing affordable housing units of our neighbors in the mobile home park than to force them out of existing affordable housing, and endanger the safety of thousands of school children every day by building a new high density project at an inappropriate location, but problem solving and common sense take a back seat in City Hall to upping those ABAG numbers. Achieving the ABAG numbers has become such an end in itself, that the City will go to all kinds of lengths that INCREASE emissions and turn out people already in affordable, local housing in order to achieve them.

I think the City should consider buying the trailer park with some of that Stanford money, and coming up with some interim solution where they can renovate it and put up an affordable senior housing complex (in lieu of putting one on Maybell) on a portion of the property just by reshuffling things over a few years with attrition or through the renovation. That way, the neighbors at Buena Vista can remain in their homes, PAHC can have its senior complex in the neighborhood, neighbors in greenacres can turn the orchard into a park, and everyone is happy. It wouldn't be logistically simple, but it would make the most sense.

But even if it could be worked out logistically, it wouldn't make the ABAG counters happy, and as we know, satisfying ABAG numbers even if it means increasing emissions, endangering thousands of biking and walking school children on their routes to school, and ejecting existing low-income residents integrated in the community, is the only thing that matters...

Posted by vise
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 8, 2013 at 12:09 pm

@Move It. I'm sure the neighbors would prefer the trailer park to the multi-story high-density housing that is likely to replace it. It's not going to be replace with nice neighborly friendly single family lots.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 8, 2013 at 12:26 pm

Yes - I know about the senior arrangement. But it takes two to tango - the other school district has to agree to they will lose the state money that the student would have brought into the school.

Posted by Root problem
a resident of Barron Park
on May 8, 2013 at 3:45 pm

The root problem of the owner of Buena Vista selling the property is that they would need to update the infrastructure as the current utilities are very old. Just doing this would increase the rents and be a losing proposition for both the current owner and the residents. Even if the residents could afford rent increases they would be displaced for a some time as the renovations occur.

These facts are from a previous article by PA Online which everyone seems to forget in coming up with solutions for City of PA, developer, friends of Buena Vista, etc. to save the trailer park. There doesn't seem to be a feasible way to save the park in the current location.

Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on May 8, 2013 at 4:33 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

Since no one says it at a level above a whisper, I'll shout it out:

The one poster made it clear: "I" scrimped and saved to get a piece of Palo Alto AND EVERYONE ELSE MUST DO THE SAME!!

That is a classic NIMBY statement!

A city or township government is STILL supposed to be a reflection of the people who live in it..

Along with the other events I have noticed and commented on, that reflection is starting to turn into a nasty, Mammon worshiping ogre.

This kind of rebuke might also be why the OCR is making itself felt.

Your move, Palo Alto. The rest of the nation is watching. Palo Alto behavior has been more entertaining than any TV " reality "( I've been behind the scenes and the word reality takes on a whole new meaning in Hollyweird ) show. Think of it as the " Dallas " show for the new Millenium...

I now return you to your regular programming ( pun definitely intended )....

Posted by Bob
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 8, 2013 at 6:12 pm

I rent and my landlord is selling the house. Instead of moving can the city intervene so that I can continue to have the advantage of the school districts? Hate to have to move to somewhere affordable?.

Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 8, 2013 at 7:33 pm

Gosh, Bob, how many people live in your house? Does the sale of the rental house impact hundreds of people? I learned to make the distinction between what impacted me in my place & what impacted hundreds of residents, not because I'm any less important but because the city will often get involved when hundreds of people will be displaced, screwed over, mistreated, etc., by landlords. Have you not reviewed your tenant-landlord law in Palo Alto, the county & the state?

Posted by Hmmm fan
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 8, 2013 at 7:42 pm

[Portion removed.]

BV residents and Winter Dellenbach, great work.

Posted by martt
a resident of Barron Park
on May 8, 2013 at 9:14 pm

I'd rather have the mobile home park than high density housing. Mobile home parks provide less expensive housing for people who don't like living in a cramped apartment. What's with this snobby attitude that only people with money should live in Palo Alto? Not everyone has had a university education, but that doesn't warrant the attitude that it's their fault they don't have a high income. Perhaps if some of the employers around here paid a decent wage, more people could afford Palo Alto prices.

Please get your noses out of the air and show some understanding and compassion. Telling people to move to EPA is just arrogance. Would you like to move there from Palo Alto?

Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 8, 2013 at 9:53 pm

martt - I moved here from PA & I'd rather live in my place than that dump of a mobile home park! The EPA mobile home park on the east side is very nice - way better than Buena Vista, but the one on the west side is just blah. And how many of the BV community could afford to rent a house in EPA? They'd likely have to move into an apartment, which might actually be nicer but the schools aren't so good & they're not as close to as many amenities. However, we have rent control & an excellent rent control organization. EPA renters aren't treated as 2nd class citizens here as they are everywhere on the peninsula.

The thing is, finding affordable rental housing on the peninsula is currently a HUGE problem. Relocating these folks is an unenviable sticky wicket all around.

Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 9, 2013 at 12:18 am

@the_punnisher - You don't know what NIMBY means.

Why is this any different than when it happens on a small scale every day to renters across the city? That's the deal with renting, you don't own it so the owner gets to kick you out when he wants to. Deal with it. If PA wants to do something for the mobile homers that they might as well just pass a law saying renters all now permanent residents for life.

Posted by Joe
a resident of Barron Park
on May 9, 2013 at 2:53 am

> ... the city will often get involved when hundreds of people will be displaced, screwed over, mistreated, etc., by landlords. Have you not reviewed your tenant-landlord law in Palo Alto, the county & the state?

That's a terrible answer, especially in this case. If the City were to take this position against the owner of the trailer park, they would be discriminating against one owner in favor of the tenants. The City would be sued by the owner under equal protection laws and lose. That's why cities pass blanket laws like rent control - they apply to everyone. Also, with Buena Vista, Palo Alto worked for over 10 years with the owner on a plan for the trailer park. The City is already elbows deep with this owner. Any legal action the City might take is heavily tainted and would certainly fail. Bob's point is valid. Suppose I'm a 40 year old living at Buena Vista for the past 5 years. Does the law entitle me to the same low rent for the next 40 years? Not in any law book I ever read.

I too originally believed that the City purchasing Buena Vista was viable. But, I no longer think that's possible. The City already has one big dog at the bowl, PAHC, and you don't have to look very deeply into the the Maybell Avenue deal, or the next one coming along El Camino, to figure out who's wagging their tail. People can call residents of Barron Park NIMBY's, but the reality is that our community has little control one way or another over the outcome for Buena Vista.

It's comforting to think that the law is going to protect the Buena Vista residents. But, if you want to see what's recently happened in similar situations, search for: "Village Trailer Park, Santa Monica". Almost 4 acres of land, 99 trailers, 90% of the residents elderly, infirm or both. BAM! 377 apartments, 38 affordable units, 10 trailer spaces. No equivalent mobile home housing available nearby, so most of the residents are out of luck.

A good chunk of Buena Vista residents will likely be headed to EPA and Menlo Park. If PAUSD makes good on letting the children stay in the district, we'll see how well the Duveneck and Walter Hayes parents handle the influx of Buena Vista kids. My guess is that they won't be as welcoming when their kids get overflowed to elementary schools to the south. I'm sure the board is thinking the same thing.

Posted by resident
a resident of Green Acres
on May 9, 2013 at 8:33 am

@Mr. Recycle,
I can't speak for anyone else, but all those experiences where my life and my family's lives were interrupted over and over again by having to move unexpectedly from rentals, and I couldn't save any money because I was at the mercy of skyrocketing rents or landlords selling the property, having to find whatever was available at horrendous prices, living in unsafe areas, etc., those have all made me want to help the neighbors at the Buena Vista Park. Where is everyone's compassion?

I applaud the school board, but I hope they are willing to put their money where their mouths are, so to speak.

Posted by jerky
a resident of Ventura
on May 9, 2013 at 9:56 am

There's no saving the park. It's a dump. Everyone knows it. If it were an apartment complex it would have been condemned years ago. I do hope that the city, and possibly other third parties, can help provide some decent relocation assistance to help out kicking an entire community to the curb. It's the decent thing to do. I'm tired of the whining from the self absorb and the filthy rich.

The kids who are currently enrolled in PAUSD should be allowed to state in the district until they finish high school. Not because the district is obligated or pressured to, but because it has so much money. I believe there an article recently talking about all the extra money the district has, how they have so much extra money they don't know what to do with it. That would seem to be the most decent thing to do with some of that extra money.

The great thing about the bay area is the amount of public transportation. So if you move out of Palo Alto (I'm sure there are other mobile home parks in the bay area) there are plenty of public transportation options that can take you to your school or work, or at least take to within walking distance. Sure you might have to get out of bed earlier, but if you can keep your current job and/or keep your current enrollment in the PAUSD then I would say it's worth it.

Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on May 9, 2013 at 2:19 pm

[Portion removed.]

A married couple just back from the Korean (un)War was looking into affordable housing in the Post (un)War boom in the SFBA. A new subdivision was being opened up on the East Side of Highway 101 and was called East Palo Alto...EVERYONE including underpaid vets were allowed to live there...
Now comes the dirty little SHAME that the City of Palo Alto is still hiding...RED-LINING, or in this case BLACK-LINING encouraged by the community residing in Palo Alto. The " across the tracks " people got referred to " you will like it better with " Your People " over in East Palo Alto "...this was before Civil Rights and the KKK back east was still burning crosses...and the citizens of Palo Alto were practicing an upscale version of the same thing....( The ultimate irony is that some of your now-elderly residents are being kicked out of the trailer court..
Our family was one of the last WHITE families forced out of EPA by militant blacks who are often far more racist than any white person. It was hard for my parents to explain why I was always getting beat up in the Ravenswood elementary school I attended. Later, I found out that blacks and other races discriminated against the AMARIND, ( diseased blanket were given out by the Great White Father to cause genocide ) and I have enough Amarind blood in my background to have Tribal Recognition ( and all the handouts from the Great White Father ( or BLACK, RACIST FATHER in today's situation )that I DO NOT TAKE

Again, it looks like KARMA has come full circle and the people who were involved in the original discrimination are the Palo Alto " Trailer Trash " of this group of Mammon Worshipers...Yes, it IS all about the money!

So can it, Mr Recycle and other NIMBY-ites....

Your time will come to be the victim...

I tried to keep things in perspective, but now a dose of personal history to back up my statement ( being called a LIAR tends to make it put-up or shut-up time ) is warranted.

It's kinda hard to see the mud you are tracking in when your nose is up in the air like that.....

And the $$$ winners are still the Developers...

Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 9, 2013 at 10:25 pm

I'm pretty sure that PAUSD cannot just do a blanket approval for 70 non- resident students. The other school districts have to agree to it for one. And like it or not, I'm guessing that there would be significant opposition by the resident taxpayers.

Don't shoot the messenger.

And the comment a about Duveneck and Hays is ignorant at best. Tinsley kids are spread equally to all elementary schools. And if by some miracle the 70 kids stay in PAUSD, wouldn't it make more sense to allow the kids to continue at their current schools with the teachers and friends that they already know?

Posted by jerky
a resident of Ventura
on May 10, 2013 at 10:23 am

- Crescent Park Dad,

My understanding was that all or at least the majority of Tinsley kids, the ones that attend Palo Alto schools (not menlo/woodside/) attend Barron Park due to it's relatively low student enrollment. What gave you the impression they are spread out evenly? Am I mistaken?

Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on May 10, 2013 at 12:39 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

You censor my post, the same should be applied to the OTHER post.

Or is this another shameful P.A. problem, selective editing of the facts?

Posted by palo alto parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 10, 2013 at 1:50 pm

Joe - If the students were allowed to stay in the District, there is no reason for them to change school. The students are currently at Barron Park, Terman and Gunn. When people move within the District, they are not forced to change schools, although they can if there is space available at their neighborhood school.

The best solution is to try to find affordable housing for them in Palo Alto. Eden housing is opening a low-income complex on Alma in Palo Alto with 50 family units. It will be done this summer. Hopefully the Buena Vista families have been encouraged to apply. Web Link

Posted by Parent
a resident of Duveneck School
on May 11, 2013 at 10:50 am

@Jerky: You are mistaken. Tinsley kids are spread out evenly throughout the district in kindergarten. If a Tinsley kid leaves a school, they are not replaced by another Tinsley kid. So perhaps the Tinsley kids at Barron Park don't leave, thus, it seems there are more.

Why does everyone feel entitled to a PAUSD education? There are plenty of surrounding cities which are safer than living in EPA. What are the numbers of Tinsley students who actually attend a high ranking 4-year college? PAUSD is a college prep district - it's already difficult for students with parents with college degrees to compete in the system. How can Tinsley children possibly compete? Affirmative Action from surnames!

Posted by palo alto parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 11, 2013 at 2:17 pm

I looked at the Tinsley numbers a few years ago, a significant number of the kids leave PAUSD between middle and high school, perhaps because they no longer receive transportation in high school.

I agree that PAUSD is a tough district to compete in. Period.

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Santa Rita (Los Altos)

on Jun 6, 2017 at 11:24 am

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

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