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Editorial: Buena Vista's finish line

Original post made on Aug 11, 2017

In less than a month, Palo Alto's most well-known and debated housing for low-income families will be officially saved from closure and redevelopment.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, August 11, 2017, 6:53 AM

Comments (16)

Posted by Bll
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 11, 2017 at 7:51 am

Here's our positive take on the Buena Vista saga:

1. Nearly one hundred units of affordable housing in Palo Alto were saved.

2. Public support for the purchase was strengthened by the resident's message of preserving a neighborhood.

3. Park owners received fair compensation for the site and the sale respected the owner's property rights.

4. Both the City and County found the necessary funds when it because clear a purchase was the only workable solution to save the park.

Let's hope the City Council takes this message to heart. Homeowners everywhere in Palo Alto don't want to see massive over-development that's designed to tower over their homes, remove local retail and destroy the character of their neighborhood where they lived for decades. Preserving neighborhoods is important, not just for the residents of Buena Vista, but for everyone in Palo Alto.

Now that local government has demonstrated the ability to creatively find funding for affordable housing projects, both the City and County can certainly help PAC and other organizations appropriately scale their developments for the neighborhoods where they hope to build them. Affordable housing on Maybell would now be a reality if the crazy scheme of building townhouses for private sale on half of the site could have been avoided. The PAC project on Wilton seems destined for a similar mistake. Everyone needs to work together to make these projects successful and beneficial not just to individuals lucky enough to receive support, but also to the neighborhoods where they will be placed.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 11, 2017 at 9:41 am

Too bad that the opportunity to close the RV Parking lot was lost.

Posted by Shame on them
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 11, 2017 at 9:57 am

Looks like the weekly could not resist taking one last shot at the Jisser family. Their comment about not feeling sorry for them Is a typical cheap shot. The jisser family was continuously belittled by the supported of BV and especially by the weekly, who in editorial after editorial and article after article, attacked the jisser family. The weekly coverage, as usual was one sided and biased.

Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 11, 2017 at 10:15 am

I agree with you on all points. But in terms of this great outcome for Buena Vista, it is better that things happened as they did at Maybell. The BV owner was not deterred by litigation while in partnership with a big developer who thought they could upzone BV as part of the deal. The big developer pulled out just after the Maybell referendum results and no others were interested because of the circumstances, the neighborhood being fed up with overdevelopment and willing to fight (and win). Without deep pockets to continue litigating, that made accepting an offer far more attractive. Also, I believe the money available to purchase BV, both from the City and County, included the very large amounts that had previously been committed at Maybell and would not have been available if the referendum had passed. If the referendum had passed, I very much doubt it would have been possible to achieve this outcome at BV, because of developers and City Hall not thinking residents could stop the overdevelopment, the deep pockets to pursue litigation, and because of the funding. Many Maybell residents realized this was in the balance even as they were being attacked, and I was told by a friend at BV that many BV residents realized it, too.

I think there could have been an even better outcome if the City had been willing to allow a working group at Maybell, as they allowed at Terman when it looked like the school was going to be turned into a development. I know just how creative and hardworking those neighbors are and the discussions of what might have been. That would have sent a message to the developer at BV then, too, but, just being realistic, I'm not sure it would have been enough compared to the referendum, and of course far less earmarked affordable housing money would have been available.

I think it remains to be seen whether the effects will go beyond that. That part of Palo Alto is gradually being turned into a mon-culture of giant hotels sprouting everywhere, without a healthy enough infrastructure to support the overdevelopment. Things will probably continue to get worse unless affected residents in those areas step up, too.

In the meantime, this is at least a victory for residents who care about each other and quality of life here, I am glad the hard work paid off.

Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 11, 2017 at 11:55 am

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

I disagree that defeat of the affordable housing project for low-income seniors at Maybell was essential to the positive outcome at Buena Vista. With the collapse of the Lytton Gateway project, the tide had already turned against PC zoning abuse and dismissal of residential opinion in vetting developments.

The Maybell campaign became the vehicle for complaints about all manner of change in Palo Alto. The strength of the campaign against the Maybell project and the political organizing that it prompted gave a clear signal that projects like the massive Jay Paul project proposed for the AOL site were doomed.

Following a disastrously received public presentation at the site by Jay Paul's Executive Vice President Ray Paul, the Jay Paul project was pulled. This did follow public rejection, via referendum and the Measure D vote, of the Maybell project, but I believe, given the changing political environment, that the Jay Paul project would have died of its inherent defects even if the Maybell project had not been scuttled.

Buena Vista succeeded because of consistent and organized support from across the city for maintaining this small but important pocket of affordable housing. This is a success for the city and for the residents of the mobile home park who persevered.

As for Barron Park, we went one for two in standing up for affordable housing--could have been better, could have been worse. For now, let's savor what's been accomplished against great odds in saving the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park.

Posted by Well read
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 11, 2017 at 3:17 pm

There is little to no tie in between Maybell and Buena Vista. No need to try to put a false shine on Maybell as there are many mistakes of fact in Greenacres comment.
There was no stanford development funds for Maybell as there is for Buena Vista via the County. The City money was paid out years after Maybell from not one but 2 related but separate funds constantly replenished. 2 lawsuits involved Buena Vista - both won by residents lawyers last year I think it was and the paper made the point that one ensured residents wouldn't be kicked out till the place was bought.
Jerry - it was 27 University not the Gateway project that set off the firestorm of controversy and wasn't built.

Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 11, 2017 at 3:58 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@Well read

Thanks for the correction. I had "Arrilla project" in my initial draft and changed it--bad editing.

Thanks, too, for emphasizing the tenuous connection between funds committed as a loan to PAHC to purchase the Maybell property and funds available to save Buena Vista. It seems to me, given the depth of support for Burma Vista, that a way could have been found to do both.

Posted by Money
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 11, 2017 at 6:31 pm

"They ended up with more money than they can dream of" since when did the Palo Alto weekly become financial advisers? 4.5 a acreas at rm15 equals about 45 homes using the same setbacks as maybell. 45 homes would sell for nearly $120M in Palo Alto. Cost of construction $40 million. Profit equals $72million if
You remove the relocation the weekly refers too!

I think the weekly needs to report the news and leave their advise out of the reporting. Please don't tell us who to feel sorry for or. It.

Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 11, 2017 at 11:30 pm

The conclusion of the editorial pretty much says it all:

"But far more people looked at Buena Vista as an opportunity to preserve a small neighborhood of families that brings valued diversity to a city that is rapidly losing it.

The residents of Buena Vista are valued employees in our restaurants, retail stores and schools and provide needed services to Palo Alto families. In a community that has lost so much of its diversity in the last 40 years, we should celebrate the collaboration that has resulted in saving this unique housing community and its residents."

In other words - let's subsidize businesses so they don't have to pay proper wages to live in Palo Alto.

And notice that the "diversity" is all concentrated in one location, one elementary school? how does that help the folks in the Old Palo Alto benefit from the "diversity"? unless of course they need the "services provided to Palo Alto families".

Jeez, talk about the Masters of Universe mentality from the editoral staff.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 12, 2017 at 9:51 am

Maybe once the track where the city/county has the apartments is cleared they can provide space for most of the RV's parked on El Camino by Stanford and create even more subsidized "diversity" in one location.

Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 13, 2017 at 8:24 pm

@Jerry Underdal,
"I disagree that defeat of the affordable housing project for low-income seniors at Maybell was essential to the positive outcome at Buena Vista."

[Portion removed.] There is no "shine" here - the better outcome would have been a working group, as residents tried to get, and the majority of residents (including advocates) and the City working together. Then, as Bill stated, the affordable housing might have been saved at Maybell or close by - but the for-profit majority of the development would not. You continue to be deliberately ignorant of the fact that the referendum was never about defeating affordable housing there [portion removed.] If money can always be found, as someone else above stated, then Maybell could have gone forward as just affordable housing within zoning, as 801 Alma did after neighbors objected to overzoning. Maybell was not about fighting affordable housing, it was about fighting the overzoning - the affordable housing could have been decoupled from that battle.

During the referendum, the director of PAHC pointed out in a ad in the paper that there was no more money in the affordable housing fund (to presumably do things differently). It had all been committed to purchasing the Maybell parcel. The $15 or $16 million used to purchase Maybell came out of the City and County affordable housing funds, and this money was returned to those funds after the referendum when the property was sold, and made up a large chunk of what was available to offer for BV for this deal.

Realistically, this outcome would not have happened if the major developer thought that residents couldn't win a land use referendum, as many thought after High Street, and as this one clearly did until the Maybell vote. Maybell residents' concerns had to do with overdevelopment and safety, and can only be twisted into being generally against affordable housing if you believe there was no other way at all to do affordable housing here, which is clearly not the case, including that many residents asked for a working group, some of the same responsible for saving Terman School while ensuring anaffordable housing part of the develpment at issue got built (just not on the Terman School site). It's too bad you and others - well meaning, I agree - could not learn how to work with rather than against your neighbors. I know the outcome would have been different, because I was there and the people involved bear no resemblance to your constant misportrayal of them. And I am also being more realistic about power balance. Had the Maybell referendum gone the other way, there is no way the developer would have pulled out at BV, and I think the residents would at best still be litigating now, if that. Palo Alto would look very different now in other ways, too.

The mistake of advocates is somehow thinking that overdevelopment is good for affordable housing, when it is the very reason for the incentives to displace people. Consistent support for BV came from all over town, including most of the Maybell neighbors, including PASZ who made a public statement in support of doing whatever was necessary.

What are you getting from continuing you misplaced condemnation, Jerry? At the very least, it has to make people who live in the many existing affordable housing units in that area feel unwelcome. Studies show that's one of the most important reason not to concentrate affordable housing, because it pigeonholes people. [Portion removed.] I hope the people at BV understand that this putcome is and has always been welcomed by most of their neighbors.

Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 13, 2017 at 8:42 pm

The people, groups and activists that strong-armed the Jisser family for nearly a
decade should be ashamed of themselves. It is shocking that this ugly debacle can happen in this country.

Posted by PAHC Neighbor
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 13, 2017 at 8:58 pm

PAHC Neighbor is a registered user.

Hey Nayeli,

They [portion removed] attempted to turn the park into a blighted property in hopes of redevelopment dreams.

New management has already created positive changes with many more to come. Jisser rented only to immigrants b/c he knew they wouldn't complain about his illegal and nefarious "management." But guess what, Karma intervened and when he tried to take the park down, the tenants organized and he lost. I know if the original tenants were the majority population of the park, it probably would have been bulldozed immediately. But the immigrants were able to engender the caring community for their cause.

I'm one of the few non-latino's left at Buena Vista after 22 years. I have reams of paper work I submitted to state and local authorities and letters of complaint I wrote to the Jissers about their neglect and failure to provide management to no avail. Time to fire up the shredder!

You sound as nice as he is, maybe you're his relative, so I hope he gives you a cut of his windfall! Since you feel so badly for him, why not let him put up another cell tower on your property, he'll give you a cut, I'm sure, its a huge profit center, he's raking in anywhere from 10-12K per MONTH on the one he has on Los Robles.

[Portion removed.]

Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 13, 2017 at 9:25 pm

[Portion removed.]

Of course, I believe that it is equally ridiculous for a group of tenants and activists to bottleneck the legal process in order to prevent a landlord from doing what was well within his rights to do.

[Portion removed.] You even claim to have "reams of paper work I submitted to state and local authorities and letters of complaint." So, what ever came of all of that paper work? Oh...let me guess: Nothing.

I suppose that I am one of the Latina people living in Palo Alto that believes that the Jisser family were mistreated by the very tenants that financially benefited from living on their property for many years.

Let me say one last thing: I know some people who live in some of the PAHC apartments. Do you think that they love their "landlords" simply because rent is offered at a cheaper rate than elsewhere in Palo Alto?

Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 13, 2017 at 10:36 pm

"Let me say one last thing: I know some people who live in some of the PAHC apartments. Do you think that they love their "landlords" simply because rent is offered at a cheaper rate than elsewhere in Palo Alto?"

Paying the rent is required. Loving the landlord is optional.

Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 13, 2017 at 11:30 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

"Had the Maybell referendum gone the other way, there is no way the developer would have pulled out at BV,"

So you don't think the revulsion in Barron Park and elsewhere in the city against perceived zoning abuse that allowed commercial developers to get away with large-scale overdevelopment would have tied up Prometheus's plans for Buena Vista at the end of the day, even if the affordable housing project approved by all council members, including residentialists Greg Schmid and Karen Holman, had gone through.

I do. We disagree. Time to celebrate the good work done by those who worked to save Buena Vista, whatever their position on Maybell, where demolition and site prep for 16 multimillion dollar homes will soon begin.

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