Hearing on Buena Vista closure plan begins May 12 | May 9, 2014 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - May 9, 2014

Hearing on Buena Vista closure plan begins May 12

Decision would determine if evictions of mobile-home park residents could proceed

by Sue Dremann

The fate of Buena Vista Mobile Home Park will get a public airing next week in a hearing to determine if the terms for compensating the park's residents are acceptable.

Property owner Toufic Jisser has applied to close the 60-plus-year-old residential park located at 3980 El Camino Real. Nearly 400 low-income individuals would be evicted to make way for a 184-unit apartment complex.

The report outlines how much money each tenant would receive for their mobile homes and to cover relocation costs. The city found Jisser's Relocation Impact Report, which outlines the terms, to be "complete" on Feb. 20.

The Jisser family would buy the mobile homes for their appraised value and pay for first- and last-month's rent, a security deposit and 12 months in rent subsidies for the difference between the rent at Buena Vista and the rent at residents' new locations. Persons moving into one-bedroom apartments would receive between $12,000 to $16,300 for relocation; those moving into three-bedroom apartments would receive $20,000 to $30,600, according to the report.

The hearing is scheduled for May 12 through 14, when attorneys for the 400 residents and the Jissers will square off before independent Administrative Law Judge Craig Labadie. The hearing will be held at Avenidas Senior Center, 450 Bryant St., Palo Alto, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.

Labadie is expected to make a tentative ruling at the hearing, with a final decision in writing. The public will have a chance to speak at the hearing after legal arguments are made.

Buena Vista residents can appeal Labadie's ruling to the Palo Alto City Council if he accepts the report. The council cannot stop Buena Vista's closure; an appeal would be limited to the compensation terms, city officials have said.

The residents are being represented by attorneys from The Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, Western Center on Law and Poverty, and Sidley Austin LLP.

"The closure of Buena Vista means the loss of over 100 units of affordable housing. ... Buena Vista's families, predominantly Latino and low income, will lose invaluable educational and job opportunities if forced to move outside of the city," the law firms said in a statement.

Having residents purchase the mobile-home park is a viable alternative to its closure, they added.

Nadia Aziz, senior attorney for the Law Foundation's Fair Housing Project, called the relocation plan "grossly inadequate" and said it does not comply with Palo Alto's Mobile Home Conversion Ordinance.

Residents said they are determined to fight the eviction so that their children will be able to finish their educations in the Palo Alto Unified School District. They have twice offered the Jissers $14.5 million to purchase the park, which would be funded through government grants and loans, said Erika Escalante, president of the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park Residents Association.

The residents have spent the last two weeks voicing their feelings at City Council meetings, and they have demonstrated nearly every afternoon at the corner of Los Robles Avenue and El Camino Real near Buena Vista.

The residents and advocates from the Barron Park neighborhood, known as Friends of Buena Vista, also plan a rally at Elinor Cogswell Plaza, located next to Avenidas, on May 12 starting at 5:45 p.m. just prior to the hearing, Escalante said.

The Jissers have only commented that they are tied to an agreement with San Mateo developer Prometheus to sell the land for the apartments. But the city must also allow a zoning change for the new development to proceed, city officials have said.

State law does not allow the City Council to stop the closure of a mobile home park. But Palo Alto can make funding available as an incentive for its preservation or for the creation of affordable housing in the city, City Manager James Keene has said.

"While we may want to comment on the personal, human aspect of the Buena Vista situation, we also do not want to jeopardize the outcome of what is essentially a legal hearing to determine if the relocation benefits for residents are adequate, which is the purpose of the hearing. The hearing officer's decision can be appealed to the City Council, and we don't want to make any statements that could be interpreted to influence the results," he said in a statement.

"Also, we anticipate that whatever decision the council makes will likely be adjudicated in Superior Court, and out of an abundance of caution, want to be careful not to comment on aspects that could impact the outcome of the judicial process.

"We all know that affordable housing is needed in Palo Alto, and the city has been and will continue to be proactive in its efforts to identify funding and opportunities to provide for more affordable housing," Keene stated.

Staff Writer Sue Dremann can be emailed at sdremann@paweekly.com.


Posted by Anon , a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 9, 2014 at 10:21 am

the city council should not approve a zone change for this property.
If there do they will surely reveal that they do not really believe in low income housing in the city. Rather they will prove that as a body they only approve of extremely costly new BMR rate housing.

According to the article in the weekly regarding the fire at former city manager Benest house last weekend:

"Since his retirement, he has been allowed to stay in the house he co-owns with the city until his two children have graduated from high school, according to the city."

The commitment from the city to let Mr. Benest and his daughters stay in the house till graduation is fine and good; but the same commitment to all the children of Buena Vista and their families, if they are evicted ,should be guaranteed.

Posted by home owner, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on May 9, 2014 at 10:31 am

Gee would the bank allow me to stay in my home instead of foreclosing so that my kids could stay in school here? These requests and bequests are outrageous - city manager's included. The Buena Vista residents are playing our liberal community. Precedents will be set and eventually property ownership will mean nothing in Palo Alto.

Posted by Winter, a resident of Barron Park
on May 9, 2014 at 12:39 pm

Come join Palo Altans from all town, community groups and churches, and Buena Vista residents, at the pre-Hearing Rally on May 12, 5:45 - 6:15PM at Lytton and Bryant.

We must insist a solution be found rather than watch as hundreds of Palo Altans lose everything, becoming the collateral damage of redevelopment.

Posted by Dell, a resident of Barron Park
on May 9, 2014 at 12:49 pm

Winter-- there is a clear solution. People like yourself and others that are concerned about this matter should sell their expensive homes and use the money to buy the property. Or are you suggesting that mr jisser not be allowed to sell his,property. The city should not buy the property.

Posted by jerry99, a resident of Barron Park
on May 9, 2014 at 1:05 pm

Mr. Jisser has already performed his"community service" by keeping the trailer park open for the 1.5 years since this submission of documents to sell the park started. It is his land, he should be allowed to sell it. He is offering compensation to the residents in accordance with the City law. With so many apartments, condos, hotels, and businesses building new structures in Palo Alto I see no reason that that land cannot be used to build apartments instead of the eyesore fire trap park that exists there now. There are the usual left wing contingency in Palo Alto lobbying against it that do not live in Barron Park. Barron Park is the City Council dumping ground for low income housing, with 3-4 low income housing structures already within 2 miles of the trailer park. If people like low income housing so much, build low income housing in their neighborhoods.

Posted by jerry99, a resident of Barron Park
on May 9, 2014 at 1:09 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by Ann Kelly, a resident of Ventura
on May 9, 2014 at 2:11 pm

Here's an idea: why don't some of the hyper-rich neighbors (Mark Zuckerberg for example or Marissa Meyer) who benefit so much from the pool of cheap labor provided by our not-so rich neighbors, pool resources, buy the park at whatever inflated market price is going, and donate it to the residents as a gesture of good will to those less fortunate than the rest of us.

Posted by jane, a resident of Barron Park
on May 9, 2014 at 2:41 pm

The jisser's have not keeped the park open for 1.5 years. I was around around 1999 when the jissers made a deal to keep the park open for 10 years. Now in 2014 they are having to go through all of this. I dont believe the issue is the park owners or the tenants. I think our city has had 14 to 15 years to deal with affordable housing and failed miserably.

If you read the article carefully, the city is not wanting to talk about this ..

"""Also, we anticipate that whatever decision the council makes will likely be adjudicated in Superior Court, and out of an abundance of caution, want to be careful not to comment on aspects that could impact the outcome of the judicial process."""

It sounds like either the tenants or the land owner (or both) are going to sue regardless of the outcome.

Posted by jerry99, a resident of Barron Park
on May 9, 2014 at 3:16 pm

[Portion removed.] It is worn out and needs to be replaced to provide housing for Taxpayers coming to Palo Alto to work at the new companies. Time for this to come to an end. Barron Park already has 4 other low income housing apartments.

Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on May 9, 2014 at 3:27 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by john, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 9, 2014 at 3:53 pm

How much low income housing does Los Altos Hills have? Woodside, Los Altos, Saratoga, Los Gatos? [Portion removed.]

Posted by Stick a sock in it, a resident of College Terrace
on May 9, 2014 at 3:55 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by Crescent Park Amon, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 9, 2014 at 4:45 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by Bill, a resident of Barron Park
on May 9, 2014 at 5:06 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on May 9, 2014 at 5:38 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by Josef Stalin, a resident of another community
on May 9, 2014 at 5:54 pm


You want to insist that a solution be found. Others want to insist that there be no zone change. Which side are you on?

Posted by Nancy, a resident of Barron Park
on May 9, 2014 at 8:17 pm

No one is trying to stop MrJisser from selling his property. The Buena Vista residents offered - twice now - to purchase the property for its full assessed value.

Mr Jisser could sell his property today for the property's full assessed value by accepting the Buena Vista residents' purchase offer.

As a Barron Park resident, let me address one more point: the Buena Vista residents are not "dumped" in our community. They are our friends, they are our neighbors. Our children go to school together. Buena Vista families model for our community what all neighborhoods desire- kind, caring, warm, welcoming neighbors.

If you wish to participate in this conversation, please keep your comments civil as there is no need for personal attacks against people with whom you disagree. Please just share your views in a respectful manner.

Posted by Rupert of henzau, a resident of Midtown
on May 9, 2014 at 8:28 pm

Nancy-- I believe the offer from the residents falls far below the money that he will get from the sale to Prometheus. Will you offer such a nice " discount" when you sell your home to raise money to buy the trailer park???
[Portion removed.]

Posted by Greenacres, a resident of Green Acres
on May 9, 2014 at 10:39 pm

@ Craig,
The housing at Buena Vista is not welfare housing, the residents there pay market-rates for what is less auspicious surroundings. In fact, as mobile home owners, they are both property owners (who pay taxes) and renters. The recent Stanford study shows that the residents value being here and their children are an integral part of the local schools.

Unfortunately, the City's allowing upzoning at the drop of the hat -- despite Maybell, they seem poised to double the zoning of the lot on El Camino at Maybell near there -- which encouraged the sale of the property.

It's true the offer the residents have made has fallen below the money Prometheus offered. However, the City made $7.2 million in loans at Maybell, which will now be available because Maybell as sold. That money is earmarked for affordable housing, and is in the City's affordable housing fund -- would you rather the City made an investment in a property it retains that helps existing, taxpaying, long-term Palo Alto residents remain here, or seeing that money used in another subsidized housing project like at Maybell?

The $22 million is still short of $30 million, but the residents have a non-profit. If they could get some help to get closer the $30million — and there are ways without using public funds — they could get a write off on the remainder because of the residents' nonprofit.

The trouble is that since the Maybell sale, either party probably has good reason to assume the market price is higher now.

For those who think the trailer park is an eyesore: that's nothing $15,000 in hardscape and landscape at the entrance wouldn't completely fix. 99.9% of Palo Alto residents never see any other part of the park than that. If the residents group are able to get some ownership of the park, they will be able to apply for grants to improve it.

In my opinion, the park is infinitely better to look at than that monstrous sky-blocking 4-story hotel going up a few blocks away right up against the street across from Arbor Real. It's a 22,000 sq ft 4-story building replacing a 3500 sq ft single-story building. The trailer park retains the diverse, low-key rural feel of the neighborhood. Monstrous in-your-face structures like that hotel are out of scale with the neighborhood and changing the whole character of the area for the worse.

I am not in any way suggesting the owner doesn't have the right to sell the property or make the market rate for it. I do think the City Council should walk the walk and pre-emptively make a public announcement that they will not be upzoning BV. I do think they could make an appeal to the seller and even Prometheus to consider allowing others to help make an offer to save the park. Prometheus will have other opportunities to make money, but those residents live in the last truly affordable patch of Palo Alto. There are ways to save it if the residents are given the chance. This is a situation where it is also pragmatic to have a heart.

Posted by Carlos, a resident of Green Acres
on May 9, 2014 at 11:33 pm

I see a pattern among those opposing the sale of the park expecting 'someone else' (rich neighbors, city of Palo Alto, etc) to step in w/ some $ and help preserve it.

Not sure how they developed these expectations. As some of you have pointed out, nobody will come help me the day I can no longer afford to live in this town. I'll just move to another area that I can afford. That's life, and we'd better set these rules straight so that we don't turn into a welfare society or one where the rule-of-law can be ignored every time people go out to the streets and protest some results that don't benefit them. This is exactly the type of 'third-world backwardness' many of us left by immigrating to the US, working hard and playing by the rules to move to a nice place like Palo Alto. Please don't ruin it with your misguided sense of social justice. Living and going to school in Palo Alto is not an entitlement.

And if you really want to help some of these families at the park, why don't you open your own homes and wallets to them without imposing your views on those who don't agree with you?

Posted by Greenacres, a resident of Green Acres
on May 10, 2014 at 1:07 pm

Greenacres is a registered user.

Hi Carlos,

I can understand your perspective. I'm the same as you, no one is going to help me when I can't afford to live here, which now involves significant sacrifice, and like you, I will probably move, too.

But the situation with Buena Vista is unique and more complex than that, it's not all just welfare-state thinking.. There are good reasons to save the park that don't involve any "welfare state" actions and align with the interests of residents who want to save the park for reasons that run the political spectrum.

(I'm sorry for the length of this post, but this needs to be said, and once the comments are locked anyway, hardly anyone posts.)

First of all, zoning.
Our City Council has been giving away zoning violations on this side of town left and right. The expectation that the purchaser would easily get zoning violations had everything to do with why the property was purchased and for that amount of money in the first place. Both that developer and the potential developer of the lot next to the Zen Hotel have put in applications for developments that substantially exceed zoning laws. So City actions already had everything to do with the situation as it is in the first place.

If City Council simply makes a public statement that it heard the will of the people this year and will no longer be granting zoning violations on this side of town — or anywhere in town unless there was a compelling reason in each case and the public shows strong support for it — that would make a difference. Prometheus could no longer expect to build a large complex there that the zoning laws already don't allow (something that amounted to developer giveaways/welfare), and they shouldn't by rights have been able to expect anyway.

Do you realize the Buena Vista property is zoned RM-15, the same zoning as at the Maybell Orchard?

Our infrastructure, that the public pays for, is not a black box. Some developers have made enormous sums by getting their zoning violations at the expense of our infrastructure and quality of life, and as they don't even come close to offsetting that impact, this amounts to developer welfare. The cumulative impacts of every added development will only be greater and greater as we haven't even seen all of them already in the pipeline.

The owner's own appraisal apparently already says that the value of the property would be the same if the development were made under existing zoning, so by the seller's own admission, telling future developer that they can't violate the zoning laws isn't going to hurt the value of the property.

Our City proactively telling developers that they have to follow the existing laws and won't be allowed to violate zoning laws (how about we say, by more than 10%?) in the future is long overdue anyway.

Secondly, property rights
Mobile homes occupy a unique place in the law because the people living in them are property owners AND renters, and the law already recognizes that the homes, once in place, are effectively not mobile anymore.

Mobile home parks are not the only situation where this is the case. Look at Stanford University. Their neighborhoods have large, expensive homes on them that would cost many millions if put on the open market. But Stanford benefits from being able to attract talent here by making better housing available for less money. Stanford owns the land, and Stanford homebuyers own the homes. The homeowners are protected both by the contract, the needs of Stanford, and laws that apply to the unique situation.

Unfortunately, mobile home owners are viewed with a more negative prejudice than Stanford faculty, and thus there need to be and are laws to help protect their property rights. A poor person may sacrifice as much or more to live in a mobile home than a doctor at Stanford does to live in giant house, and arguably needs the asset they accumulate even more.

What if Stanford suddenly said they wanted to make money selling all those lands to developers? The people who own homes on those properties have rights. We can all see that when it comes to wealthier people. Mobile Home owners have equivalent rights, even though their properties are not as illustrious.

The hearings are not about giving them welfare or unreasonable expectations under the law. The unique situation is that they actually are entitled to certain compensation, such as the ability to move into equivalent housing here, because someone wants to sell the homes they own out from under them. Mobile home park owners take on that legal responsibility when they decide to buy the land, for which they have been handsomely compensated both in rent over the years and appreciation of the property.

But the cost of this area — that the owner is benefiting from in the sale — means everyone is balking at the sticker price of what the mobile home owners are really entitled to under the law.

If the wealthy developer knows they cannot get special zoning violations, and the owner finds it too expensive or odious to discharge their actual legal duty to the property owners at BV, market forces would make a potential sale to a buyer without such entanglements or expenses more attractive (i.e., the current residents). I am not suggesting that it makes a $14million dollar offer enough, I just want you to realize that selling the park to the residents could be reasonable, advantageous to the seller, neighborhood, and the City, and market-based, without any "welfare-state" involvement.

A well-functioning and fair market-place doesn't just only ever favor the wealthy, especially not through special privileges only they get.

Thirdly, city funds
This is where it's hard for me to stay off a soap-box about the folly of the erstwhile Maybell development. The City Council is who told PAHC to go after that property, aided the sale, and then committed all the City funds and more dedicated to affordable housing to help purchase that property, even while they knew what was coming up with Buena Vista.

If the money had instead been made available at BV - AT THAT TIME , the residents would actually have had a pretty competitive offer: nearly $23 million (their existing funds plus the $7.2 committed at Maybell). If the owner took the $23million and wrote off $7 million as a donation to the residents' nonprofit, that's effectively a $25-26 million amount to the seller, and the difference to $30 million is more than made up by not having to go through the eviction process, which takes time and costs millions in legal fees and legally due compensation. It is a legitimate market-based factor to weigh in a decision.

Unfortunately, the people trying to help at BV for ideological reasons were totally co-opted at Maybell, even to the point that they never said a peep about 100 established trees getting bulldozed when that's the perfect place to make into a park (which, by the way, we are overdue for on this side of town as our code promises us compensating public open space along with new development), and didn't realize it.

I want you to realize that there is money that is earmarked for affordable housing at the City level, and that money was used to purchase the property at Maybell, even though that development never even had a market-study to back up the need versus the sacrifices being asked of the neighborhood. Our City has inclusionary housing rules, and some of the money from developer impact fees goes into the affordable housing fund.

At BV, we have existing long-time Palo Alto residents who live in affordable housing. Applying those funds there makes far more sense, as we would actually be saving far more known, existing residents in low-income housing rather than building an expensive gilded cage for a few people who would just as likely move in from elsewhere, at maximum impact to the area. The BV residents are already there and we already know the impact of the residents living here.

If the City even just purchased and HELD the property, it would be an investment that would make the City money down the line, and is in no way welfare. The City co-owns multi-million-dollar properties in ritzy parts of town with people like our former city manager, who isn't even a current city employee anymore. I'm guessing it has more invested that way than would save the whole park at BV.

The hundreds of people living at BV work in our local businesses and the children are an integral part of our local schools. There are major advantages to retaining the park as viable low-income property into the future TO OUR CITY and the rest of the residents who live in our City. I'm guessing the City could even arrange for volunteer hours or barter work from the residents' nonprofit that would hugely benefit our City and more than pay for the purchase (which would pay back handsomely in the future anyway if the City decided to invest/co-own as they do with some of our more highly-paid City employees).

BV can be saved without ANY welfare action, in a way that is advantageous to the City, and this would have far fewer development impacts than a giant new high-density high-rise. I hope you realize that bonus density rules (ostensibly to encourage building of affordable housing) will be used to put up a densified high-rise there anyway even if the zoning is enforced. The developer will take advantage of laws that are supposed to encourage affordable housing to evict those hundreds of low-income residents, and put in a development that strains our City services and infrastructure in exchange for a handful of BMR units that none of the previous residents could afford anyway.

That's just wrong. But i want you to realize, doing the right thing here can be done in a way that doesn't involve any "welfare-state" actions, and also makes the most sense.

Posted by Greenacres, a resident of Green Acres
on May 10, 2014 at 1:27 pm

Greenacres is a registered user.

jerry99 was not talking about Buena Vista in his valid point about the City Council making our side of town their "dumping ground" for low income housing projects. Jerry99 was referring to subsidized, government-run housing projects, of which there are more in greenacres and barron park already than most neighborhoods of Palo Alto, and the fact that City Council proactively is trying to put more here even if its in a way that imposes major changes to the character of the neighborhoods or negatively impacts even safety, which is what Measure D was all about.

While I disagree with most of the negative sentiments expressed in his message, it's important for people to understand that the Buena Vista residents are NOT in welfare housing, they are not in government-run subsidized housing projects, they are property owners who have low-income housing by virtue of the fact that they chose to live in lesser surroundings in order to live in a more expensive area. Their housing is not a welfare project, nor does saving it have to involve making it so.

Please don't accidentally feed any prejudices that encourage people to think of the residents of BV as somehow less deserving of their property rights than anyone else.

Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on May 10, 2014 at 1:27 pm

Craig Laughton is a registered user.

My comments about welfare housing are related to our city manager's statement that PA needs more "affordable housing". Since there is so such thing, in the terms he is talking about, this means welfare housing, which I completely oppose for PA.

The BV issue is a private deal, and I don't want CPA to do any more than a simple completion of the rules that are required for trailer parks. I don't consider BV as part of the welfare housing issues that I am talking about. Above all, I don't want to see CPA involved in any subsidies or lawsuits around the BV issue.

Posted by Greenacres, a resident of Green Acres
on May 10, 2014 at 1:33 pm

Greenacres is a registered user.

@ Craig,
I have maybe a little different perspective in that I think proactively supporting the retention or even development of some affordable housing is a reasonable goal of government, but I am with you that I think this then gets carried to an extreme of government fiats that create gilded fishbowls that essentially work out as a lottery, perhaps not even for the most deserving, paid for by many people who may even deserve it more. "Affordable housing" should not be an oxymoron overall. The most affordable housing is older housing stock - not in the creation of expensive new projects (which research shows aren't even the best sociologically for the low-income).

As for the BV issue being a private deal -- well, yes but the City meddling in favor of developers has had everything to do with the mess the residents face. Please read what I wrote above.

Posted by mom of teenagers, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 11, 2014 at 10:56 am

mom of teenagers is a registered user.

A few key points from the article:

"The council cannot stop Buena Vista's closure; an appeal would be limited to the compensation terms"
"State law does not allow the City Council to stop the closure of a mobile home park."
The owners "are tied to an agreement with San Mateo developer Prometheus to sell the land for the apartments"
and residents offered "$14.5 million to purchase the park"

One other key point - The park was appraised at $30 million and is now probably worth closer to $40 million based on the recent sale of the land at Maybell. This is at the current R-15 zoning.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 12, 2014 at 6:11 am

Crescent Park Dad is a registered user.

No trailer park is worth $30mil. Unrealistic to expect anyone to come up with that kind of money (donated, invested or otherwise) to keep the property as is.

Posted by mom of teenagers, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 12, 2014 at 8:30 am

mom of teenagers is a registered user.

@crescent park dad - I should have said the land that the Park is on was appraised at $30 million. The appraisal was for the vacant land, with the Park still in place, it's appraised at $14 million.

Posted by True Blue, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 13, 2014 at 12:23 am

True Blue is a registered user.

It's sad that so many posters on this forum don't understand the facts and issues before opining.

Please ignore every post that refers to Buena Vista as a "trailer park" - those people don't understand what a "mobile home" park is where people have purchased homes. Unfortunately, these homes are not really mobile without ridiculous expense - even with newer mobile homes a move is not worth the expense. This fact is known by mobile home park owners much more than by mobile home purchasers.

Most people do not understand that mobile home owners are afforded more protection than standard renters or "trailer" owners because it is extremely expensive and difficult to move a mobile home, usually the expense exceeds the value of the mobile home. That is why mobile home property ownership has more restrictions and responsibilities - people who buy a mobile home in their park have purchased a home, not a easily-movable "trailer."

Mobile homes are very much like single-family residences - e.g.: 2000 sq ft, three bedrooms/two baths/ living room/family room/dining room/carport. They sit on a piece of ground that is not shared with others, but they rent that piece of ground.

I think the best analogy is a condo: people buy condos but pay HOA fees to maintain the common grounds and rent "ground space." Say these condo owners have owned their condos for 20 years, have paid their HOA fees and paid to maintain the inside of their condos for all of those years, and want to continue living in their condos because that is what they can afford - and they PURCHASED their homes with the belief that their OWNERSHIP somehow protected them more than a renter, and their on-going investment in repairs and maintenance to their home was just that - an investment. Not like a rental where the landlord was responsible for maintenance and repairs.

During this 20 year period the condo property owner has done little or nothing to maintain the shared property or ensure the condo owners' investment is maintained, even though some of the condo building's neighbors deem the building an eyesore due to the lack of upkeep. If the owner of the condo complex decides they want to sell so the condo complex can be bulldozed and turned into something else, and simply picks "fair market value" as the price he will pay each condo owner, it forces the condo owners out of their homes at a rate they cannot afford to buy a comparable home in the same city, even though the condo building owner is in large part responsible for the condition of the building that neighbors deem an eyesore.

How much is a mobile home really worth when the ground it sits on has not been maintained and is slated to be bulldozed anyway? NOT MUCH! No wonder the Buena Vista HOMEOWNERS are upset and cannot find comparable homes!

Again, Please ignore all of these people who have no clue what it means to buy, own, and maintain a mobile home. Anyone who compares the BV residents' plight to an apartment renter or a homeowner whose house is being foreclosed on simply has absolutely no clue what the Buena Vista issue is about when it comes to equity and fairness.

I agree that private property owners should be free to sell their property. I do not agree that "slum lords" should be allowed to collect rent while ignoring their home owner/tenants rights and their own responsibility for maintaining their property. The people at Buena Vista are not apartment renters who should be expected to just go find another apartment, nor are they home owners who should accept "foreclosure." These people deserve to be compensated for all that they are losing with the Jisser family's management of (or lack there of) the mobile home park where their purchased homes sit and where they have paid rent for the space.

This issue will be top of mind when I vote in the next City council race. As will the incumbents/candidates record on high-density growth and Comprehensive Plan exceptions.

I live in Palo Alto because I was born here and love what this city has always stood for, and the Comprehensive Plan reflects those ideals. Every time the Planning Department, the City Council, or the ARB approves something that does not match our Comprehensive Plan (e.g. variances, exceptions, etc) it hurts our city and every resident that bought a home here because they wanted the lifestyle that Palo Alto advertised.

If new residents want a San Francisco experience, they should move to San Francisco, not try to make Palo Alto a wannabe San Francisco.

Posted by mom of teenagers, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 13, 2014 at 9:06 am

mom of teenagers is a registered user.

@true blue - you are correct that "mobile home owners are afforded more protection than standard renters or tenants" that is why there is a State law that specifically deals with the closure of mobile home parks. The Jisser's and the City have done everything that the State law requires and at this time:

"The council cannot stop Buena Vista's closure; an appeal would be limited to the compensation terms"
"State law does not allow the City Council to stop the closure of a mobile home park."

Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on May 13, 2014 at 10:00 am

Fred is a registered user.

"If new residents want a San Francisco experience, they should move to San Francisco, not try to make Palo Alto a wannabe San Francisco."

Both new and old residents are entitled to want whatever they want. Some older residents sometimes think they can tell those who don't share their wants to leave. There was one gentleman who even said that if others didn't share his tastes in local eateries, then they clearly didn't appreciate what made Palo Alto special and perhaps should move elsewhere. This is unfortunate, and I think un-neighborly.

As Adam said to Eve as they left the Garden, "My dear, we live in a state of transition." 'Twas always thus. Most of our houses (and us!) wouldn't be here if earlier generations of farmers and their neighbors hadn't signed off on suburban development that fundamentally changed their community forever.

So while it is fine to argue for what we believe, let's be respectful to our neighbors who may in fact want things quite different from we do.

Posted by True Blue, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 13, 2014 at 10:53 pm

True Blue is a registered user.

@mom: Yes, I read the article too. Seems this issue is in court in order to DETERMINE if the Jissers and the City have done everything that the state law requires - it is not already decided. For the record (again) I am not opposed to the Jisser's right to sell their private property, but I am also not convinced the deal they are proposing is fair given their maintenance (and lack there of) of a shared (with the residents) asset.

@Fred: your post is funny - I love the "Adam" quote - AS IF! LOL! I don't think I have been disrespectful to anyone (well, except maybe someone who claims to quote Adam - sorry!) People are attracted to a community because of it's culture and values - those values are reflected in the city's Comprehensive Plan. When new people move to a very established community, and then seek to ignore that city's Comprehensive Plan (and the City Council allows it!), the long-term/stable residents have every right to object vehemently.

Please understand the City of Palo Alto's Comprehensive Plan before telling us, "Both new and old residents are entitled to want whatever they want." No, they are not.

This city has a Comprehensive Plan, which reflects the culture and values of this community. If someone does not like the mandates in this city's Comprehensive Plan, they should not settle in this City. (i.e. move to SF!)


Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on May 13, 2014 at 11:52 pm

Fred is a registered user.

@True Blue - glad you like that quote, I heard it at my college graduation (Adam and Eve were still around at the time, I think) and it has rung true ever since.

I respectfully disagree - people are entitled to want what they want and advocate and ask for it. The CompPlan isn't the Ten Commandments, and as you note, the City Council interprets and grants exceptions. And of course, people can vote for new representatives and change the plan, if that's what they want. They (or you) may not always GET what they want, but they are certainly entitled to want it and advocate for it. And sometimes they may even get it. Things change.

I tend to agree that there are more zoning exceptions made than seems prudent and I'm not in love with high-density development. But I don't think people who are in favor of those things should pack up and move. They are my neighbors, and I hope and expect we'll work things out.

Posted by mom of teenagers, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 14, 2014 at 8:24 am

mom of teenagers is a registered user.

@true blue - The hearing is actually supposed to be about how much compensation the residents receive, the City has determined that "Jisser's Relocation Impact Report" is complete in all other ways.

Posted by True Blue, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 14, 2014 at 10:42 am

True Blue is a registered user.


It's ironic you are using biblical references - in fact, in planning department circles, a city's Comprehensive Plan is considered the "land use bible." Seriously - I'm not making that up. Amending/changing the CP is a really big deal. Perhaps calling it the Constitution would make more sense, but alas, it is known as "the bible..."

Posted by Greenacres, a resident of Green Acres
on May 14, 2014 at 11:23 am

Greenacres is a registered user.

I would note further that in most cities, following the Comprehensive Plan is legally enforceable. Only in a small fraction of Charter cities, I believe, is it treated as so much toilet tissue as here. Well, toilet tissue when residents want its protections, legally enforceable when the City wants to use it.

So, which residents are making sure the City isn't boobytrapping the CP in this revision? I'm guessing this will be a major showdown at some point.

Posted by Greenacres, a resident of Green Acres
on May 14, 2014 at 11:24 am

Greenacres is a registered user.

Is the City the final arbiter of whether the closure application is complete, or are there more legal or administrative remedies?

Posted by Greenacres, a resident of Green Acres
on May 14, 2014 at 11:33 am

Greenacres is a registered user.

@True Blue,
Saying all this New Uglyism will make us into a SF wannabe is actually in itself misleading. We are not on the water, we don't have the views — we will never be San Francisco no matter what we do. But bringing it up makes it seems like we would be trading what we have for something else nice, which is not happening.

We cannot build ourselves to affordability unless we make this place less desirable, in fact this new building only creates significantly higher average rents and higher expectations among all landlords, plus greater strains on our infrastructure and services that the new densified residents will not be paying for.

This place has (had) sunlight and sky, open space to the hills and suburbs, yards and small university town feel those cities can't ever have. The recent wholesale changes are really making us more San Jose wannabe.

Can someone get their camera out and go document what it's like to newly stand under those giant ugly edifices going up? Because it's like that grunge in your coffee cup, pretty soon you'll get used to it and you'll forget that the surroundings weren't gross and ugly.

I would infinitely rather keep the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park and residents than anything a developer and our Council wants to put there. Is it really true that our former mayor Scharff was head of acquisitions for Prometheus who wants to buy it? Is there any aspect of that which affects these proceedings?

Posted by mom of teenagers, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 14, 2014 at 11:36 am

mom of teenagers is a registered user.

@greenacres per the article "State law does not allow the City Council to stop the closure of a mobile home park." I think the only legal recourse the City has is for the relocation $$ amounts.

Posted by Greenacres, a resident of Green Acres
on May 14, 2014 at 1:22 pm

Greenacres is a registered user.

@ mom,
The quote seems to only deal with whether the Council has the legal ability to adopt an ordinance to prohibit the closure, which of course would be impossible. However, the buyer does have to comply with the law to apply for a closure, and our City did say the application was complete - but are they the final arbiter on that, or is it possible for the residents to ask a higher authority to review whether the closure application was even complete?

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