News

Repairs begin at Buena Vista Mobile Home Park

Homes are being brought up to code; new services launch for students, families

Leaking pipes, faulty electrical switches and other badly needed repairs are underway this month at more than 100 homes in Buena Vista Mobile Home Park. Caritas Communities, the new park operator, is working to bring the aging Palo Alto dwellings up to code.

On Tuesday afternoon, contractors were busily filling a jumbo dumpster with trash, old furniture and construction materials. At Juan Rodarte's residence, a bright blue ladder leaned against his small motor home as workers repaired his bathroom floor, fixed lights in the living room and kitchen and added a smoke alarm and light bulbs.

"It's more clean around here now," said Rodarte, a 15-year resident who lives with his wife and two children.

Rodarte's eyes shone as he pointed in the direction of a new home. At least one or more mobile homes have been replaced, with gleaming windows and sliding-glass doors, a sturdy porch and flashing that protects pipes, the roof and downspouts.

"I have been over there and seen that home," he said, expressing hopes that Caritas will eventually get rid of all of the old homes and replace them with new ones.

The mobile home park was purchased last year using city and county funds, the culmination of a years-long effort to preserve the city's last bastion of housing for people of very low income. As part of the park's $40 million purchase from the previous owners, the Jisser family, the Santa Clara County Housing Authority contributed $26 million through federal funding from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which also will pay for improvements to the park's aged utilities infrastructure.

Repairs to bring the aged mobile homes up to HUD standards are a requirement of the agency. The park renovations thus far have included removing broken-down cars and trash and debris that could cause fire hazards, eliminating vermin and trimming vegetation. Each unit has been inspected by HUD staff for what repairs the agency requires to bring the units up to code. Now contractors are making repairs noted in the HUD inspectors' reports. Each unit will have a smoke detector at the very least.

Residents said they are excited and pleased about the changes. In some cases, new floors, plumbing fixes and lighting are making their homes feel brighter and safer, residents said.

Maria Reyna, who bought her unit 17 years ago, said the contractors will fix her electricity and water that is leaking, and they have changed a light switch. But progress has also meant some personal sacrifices. She used to have two parking spots, which allowed for her daughter-in-law to park next to her unit. Now she is only allotted one, so her daughter-in-law, who works until late at night, must park on the darkened street along Los Robles Avenue.

"There is no parking now. The street is full," she said.

Reyna's home is also adjacent to the public bathrooms and laundry, which also are being repaired. While convenient, new dumpsters have made her life more unpleasant. By the weekend the garbage piles up.

But she is glad the park is being cleaned up. There used to be much more garbage and many more stored cars, she said.

On Tuesday, Buena Vista Community Manager Cassy Husted, whose office is on site, was helping residents coordinate their repair dates, working from spreadsheets to track the progress. She referred comment to Caritas about the changes and what the future will bring, but Caritas did not respond before the Weekly's press deadline.

Deborah Farrington Padilla, a teacher who runs the new Buena Vista Homework Club, which now has a mobile unit at the park, said she has seen major improvements to the residents' quality of life, not only in terms of safety and sanitation but also services. The park now has a security guard who patrols the grounds, and park rules regarding noise and trash are being enforced.

According to the newsletter, new speed bumps will be added to slow traffic. For security and safety, one of the doors to the laundry room has been closed off to reduce points of access, and the bathrooms will be similarly altered.

A mobile food truck that will provide healthful and nutritious produce, bread and canned food will be available to needy residents through the Community Services Agency of Mountain View and West Valley Community Services, according to the newsletter.

Padilla pointed to the Homework Club as an example of Caritas' commitment to improving the park holistically. The club, which began in September with an outside table, now has a mobile unit purchased by Caritas. Students receive mentoring and tutoring assistance from Stanford University student volunteers. The brainchild of Padilla, a teacher at Sacred Heart Preparatory School in Atherton, the "clubhouse" offers a badly needed gathering place for students twice weekly, she said.

On Tuesday Padilla hauled a juicer out of her car and mounded a pile of oranges on a card table. The children, who are in elementary school, excitedly took turns pressing halved oranges onto the device. On this day they will have access to fresh juice and see where it originated, she said.

Brightly colored student drawings grace the unit's door. Soon, Caritas will add internet service at the clubhouse, and Padilla and the Stanford students plan to coordinate with Palo Alto Unified School District and individual school officials on potential computer programs and other services.

Padilla noted the changes she has seen in some of the students. They have found a sense of community.

"One girl in the beginning just grunted. Now she comes in and gets her coloring pencils and she is drawing pictures," she said.

The girl has opened up to her mentor to talk about her personal life.

"In four months, she is completely different from when she came in September," Padilla added.

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Comments

29 people like this
Posted by Winter Dellenbach
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 16, 2018 at 8:33 am

Caritas is doing a great job at Buena Vista, taking the weight of the management from the shoulders of the residents' Assoc. Board members after the owners pretty much opted out of meaningful management years before the sale. One of the first things done at BV by Caritas was bringing in more dumpsters so that residents could get rid of stuff which has been doing for months, and indeed the place looks more tidy.

One thing to keep in mind is that for some of the homeowners at BV, pride is taken in their homes just like homeowners elsewhere. It may get lost in reading this article that there are some nice homes at BV, and my husband and I have often taken pleasure in being with friends at their homes there to enjoy dinners or short visits.

Some homes will need replacing that cannot be repaired to meet strict federal habitability standards. Others will be repaired, and the rest will need no repairs at all. No City or County taxpayer or affordable housing funds will be used for any of this.

The infrastructure upgrade to BV is still to be done, with the funding coming from the Housing Authority (not City or County). BV Mobile Home Park has not been maintained by the former owners for many years, so much work is needed.

The Homework Club is a wonderful addition giving a needed boost to the confidence and early learning of the elementary kids there. It is such a happy environment that Deborah has created for the kids, and a generous donation of a space for it to meet in.

As to community, it continues to strengthen. We all saw in the last 5 years in effort to save Buena Vista that no community was stronger than the residents there. They united and began to organize to save BV within days of being told they would have to leave in 2012, and they remain a strong community today of nearly 400, whose elected Association Board is now an Advisory Board to Caritas. Residents hold meetings alone and with Caritas to discuss issues that effect them all, and together will abide as our neighbors into a bright future.


29 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 16, 2018 at 9:09 am

Buried in this article is a mention that in one home there used to be 2 parking spaces and now they only have one. This means that the second car has to be parked on Los Robles street parking.

Did they see this?

Low income housing need more than one parking space. BV is on ECR on route 22, but they need cars to get to work. They need more than one parking space.

I will repeat this. Low income BV residents need more than one parking space! Why does CC say otherwise?


25 people like this
Posted by Winter Dellenbach
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 16, 2018 at 9:11 am

One more thing
Security guards at Buena Vista deal with a long term issue of outside people taking advantage of Buena Vista. Some would take over unoccupied mobile homes there, others would live in the laundry and restroom building (all mobile home parks have a communal laundry and restrooms). Residents were so concerned about this before the sale that their Board met with the PA Chief of Police to seek help, as the former owner wasn't dealing with it sufficiently. The now manager, Caritas, hired a security firm that ensures this no longer happens.


3 people like this
Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 16, 2018 at 11:33 am

the_punnisher is a registered user.

Make sure that when bringing units up to code ( an HUD requirement ), that NO contractor does shoddy work or doesn't follow proper standards to do an upgrade. My daughter and son-in-law were burnt out of their HUD home because the fire started inside the kitchen wall after the HUD house was upgraded to meet proper NEC standards. No improper work is worth a life and contractors need to know this. Fortunately, the father-in-law who underwrote the purchase contract insisted on a comprehensive coverage for the loan. The people in BV may not have that " luxury ".

On another note; Can the people living in East Palo Alto on the streets be allowed to live in BV? They also need affordable housing. That would solve two problems related to the need for service level people who are underpaid.


9 people like this
Posted by PA Dad
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 16, 2018 at 3:10 pm

[Post removed.]


8 people like this
Posted by Bill
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 16, 2018 at 3:57 pm

Nice to hear a positive story. Saving nearly a hundred homes for almost 400 city residents says a lot about Palo Alto's commitment to affordable housing.

Buena Vista residents had a compelling story. I hope they can hang on given all of the talk about the "highest best use of land" and a whirlwind of planning and land use changes that are on the horizon.


7 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 16, 2018 at 7:54 pm

[Post removed.]


23 people like this
Posted by jerry99
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 17, 2018 at 8:17 am

So HUD is going to repair and fix up the firetrap trailer park.
ALL PAID FOR BY US TAXPAYERS. We knew either Palo Alto homeowners or US taxpayers would payers would pay to keep this hovel in better condition than it is. Who is going to pay the millions of dollars to install new sewers, electricity, etc. Probably US taxpayers.
Again, the city should have used the 40 million dollars to buy land, built apartments and allocate them based on the housing list, not some group because they have been living in the trailer park. Clearly discrimination, as expected. [Portion removed.]


15 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 17, 2018 at 12:50 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

The article and comments by the strongest supporters put a good success story spin on it. I'd be curious to see what the 'removed' posts had to say. I finally came around and supported it because I could see it was the only way to retain housing for the low income residents in our community. Building anything new would involve high acquisition costs for the property, and the current high construction costs we have in PA. That struggle goes on in a newly featured project at 2079 El Camino Real. I did have reservations and questions about the BV project, however.

How many of those living there at the time would still be eligible? Time has gone by and some of the family incomes might have gone up and beyond the limits for incomes in the park, and for sure, a couple classes of GHS seniors have graduated. And I questioned who would pay for the infrastructure upgrades. The article and posts made it sound like us taxpayers are off the hook. I think we need to wait a little bit on that one, because I don't think anyone knows, or has put forward a number estimate on it.

The article and comments featured people who were so happy to have someone come in and fix a light switch or a plumbing problem. What? Aren't the home owners capable or responsible for fixing things in their own homes? Let me in on some of that action.

"'Rodarte's eyes shone as he pointed in the direction of a new home. At least one or more mobile homes have been replaced, with gleaming windows and sliding-glass doors, a sturdy porch and flashing that protects pipes, the roof and downspouts.

"I have been over there and seen that home," he said, expressing hopes that Caritas will eventually get rid of all of the old homes and replace them with new ones.'"

So, is that the authority that was given to Caritas, to get rid of old homes and buy new ones? Wow! And what share of the cost falls on the homeowners (RV's, motor homes. mobile homes, et, al)?

At least one commenter was able to make a point about restricted parking without being 'bleeped'.

And just one more question...have the rents stayed the same, or gone up, and by how much, after Caritas took charge? I really think that is an important question and anyone who wants to respond shouldn't get 'bleeped' for doing it.


33 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 17, 2018 at 4:35 pm

"Some homes will need replacing that cannot be repaired to meet strict federal habitability standards. Others will be repaired, and the rest will need no repairs at all. No City or County taxpayer or affordable housing funds will be used for any of this."

Then who DOES pay for all this? HUD dollars laundered through Santa Clara County? Those are taxpayer funds.


Like this comment
Posted by @jerry99
a resident of another community
on Feb 17, 2018 at 5:15 pm

My, my, my...how very Christian of you.

I hope you get the same treatment that you are wishing upon the residents of Buena Vista when you fall on hard times.


4 people like this
Posted by Donster
a resident of University South
on Feb 18, 2018 at 12:50 am

"On another note; Can the people living in East Palo Alto on the streets be allowed to live in BV?"

My vote is yes.

"So HUD is going to repair and fix up the firetrap trailer park.
ALL PAID FOR BY US TAXPAYERS"

Since we are footing the bill, us taxpayers should decide who gets to live in Buena Vista.


2 people like this
Posted by Donster
a resident of University South
on Feb 18, 2018 at 12:58 am

"I hope you get the same treatment that you are wishing upon the residents of Buena Vista when you fall on hard times."

Palo Altans don't fall on hard times. That is beneath them. Besides, if a wealthy Palo Altan did fall on hard times, so you think that the government would be there to help them?


7 people like this
Posted by Deborah Farrington, Ed.D.
a resident of Stanford
on Feb 18, 2018 at 8:02 am

Since SEPT 5, 2017 when I gathered with the first group of children for our first Buena Vista Homework Club afternoon session, I have experienced a wonderful community of families who care deeply about their children. Each parent is delighted to have community members - professional educators & Stanford students - come to the Homework Club to assist their children with homework, engage in caring conversations, offer healthy snacks, and enjoy playful times throughout the experience. The children have found the Homework Club to be a time for academic support and building friendships, both with their BV neighbors and Palo Alto community members. With the generosity of Caritas Foundation, the Clubhouse has quickly become the epicenter of safety and security for the youngest BV residents. Every child deserves the very best education, and every child deserves to feel the love and care that will promote a hopeful future. Several professionals & Board Members from PAUSD have visited the Homework Club recently, and all are offering important partnership and support. I have been honored in these last 6 months to call BV my second home. With deep gratitude to the BV community for welcoming me and all the Buena Vista Homework Club volunteers, Deborah


4 people like this
Posted by Inspired
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 21, 2018 at 12:04 am

Deborah, you are a gem for this community! The impact you are making on these children’s lives is incredible. You are an inspiration!! Thank you!!!


2 people like this
Posted by Stephen
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 14, 2018 at 2:50 am

When people cite taxes and housing together in a sentence, we would do well to remember the nature of the Mortgage Interest Deduction operating as an entitlement program (albeit one that has now been altered): Per the Atlantic (and there are plenty of other sources): "Meanwhile, in 2015, the federal government spent $71 billion on the MID, and households earning more than $100,000 receive almost 90 percent of the benefits. Since the value of the deduction rises as the cost of one’s mortgage increases, the policy essentially pays upper-middle-class and rich households to buy larger and more expensive homes." I am reasonably sure that $71 billion is far larger than any spending in 2015 on affordable housing. Just something to keep in mind...


8 people like this
Posted by Not
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Apr 14, 2018 at 7:45 am

@Stephen

There is a big difference between the government
A) Taking somebody’s hard earned money from them (MID) and
B) Giving free money to a small group of people.

Particularly when you note that the free money they give to group B is coming from the people in group A.

Besides, the MID was reduced significantly as was SALT deduction. Why would you cite a tax that has actually increased ?


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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