Buena Vista Residents Sue
Palo Alto

Lawsuit seeks to prevent evictions, requires more relocation assistance

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It is clear that the residents are not asking for monetary damages from the city and that the legal action was required to meet a deadline to protect the rights of the residents to appeal in the event that the negotiations to purchase the property did not work out. A number of readers commenting on the story understood this reasoning. One of them wrote:

All this talk about legal fees — the City’s attorneys are already being paid by us and the lawyers representing the residents are working pro bono. That’s a very strong charge to make and may have no basis in fact.

As near as I can tell, it’s just a necessary thing the residents had to do or they would lose any bargaining power they had. Now that there is real money available to help buy the park, it would be a silly thing to do not to retain their rights before the deadline expires. It sounds like there are good faith things happening behind the scenes that none of us knows about, and nothing may ever come of this.

It’s not the greatest for PR, but I can’t see any reason for all the exaggeration.

But if you are in a business negotiation, the talk softly and carry a big stick holds. If you no longer have a stick, even if you would never wield it except in the most extreme circumstances, you lose. The talking is over.

And another added:

Residents of Buena Vista, like residents of all mobile home parks in California, are protected from arbitrary eviction by state statute and local ordinance. I have come to know many Buena Vista residents over the years and have found them to be people who work hard (often at more than one job), who have strong family values, and who don’t have the education or skills to qualify for high income jobs. More than anything, they want their children to have a chance to get the education that the parents missed out on, so they’ll have a chance at better jobs and higher incomes.

I’ve lived in Palo Alto for 30 years. My children graduated from Palo Alto schools and went on to college. If someone had attempted to throw me out of Palo Alto and I had any legal way to prevent them from doing so, you can bet I’d have pursued my legal options to the fullest. If I did so, I would not have considered myself greedy (though apparently some others might have considered me to be greedy).

I think our city is a better place for having a mixture of low, middke and high income residents. Others may disagree. But must we call the residents of Buena Vista “greedy” because they pursue every legal recourse to hold onto what the rest of us want (and, by the grace of God, HAVE)?

The Fight to Save a Silicon Valley Trailer Park

Palo Alto, Calif., has a dilemma: what to do with its only mobile-home park

By CHRISTINA PASSARIELLO, Wall Street Journal

PALO ALTO, Calif.—Here in the center of Silicon Valley’s tech boom, one of America’s wealthiest enclaves is wrestling with an uncomfortable dilemma: whether it can afford to lose the city’s only trailer park.

A block from multimillion-dollar homes and a few miles from the headquarters of GoogleInc. and Facebook Inc. sits Buena Vista Mobile Home Park, with 117 units that are home to about 400 residents, many of them Hispanic laborers.

Erika Escalante, 29 years old, has lived in the park much of her life. The mobile home she owns with her husband is watermelon red with white trim. The yellow trailer three doors down, where she lived during high school, is still home to her parents and youngest brother. Her sister’s family has a green unit in the park, where some rusty trailers still sport Christmas decorations in summer.

Soon, they may be forced out. With property values soaring, the park’s longtime owners, 44-year-old Joe Jisser and his parents, are fielding inquiries from developers eager for a rare large slice of Palo Alto. The value of the park’s 4.5 acres could be as much as $55 million, local real-estate agents say.

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$29 million effort to save Palo Alto’s last mobile home park

“I was a peddler, a con artist, a vinegar man,” he says, recalling years of relentless travel as a seed salesman. “If you didn’t get ’em with your BS, you got ’em with your fancy footwork.”
Now, Cope is just trying to stay put. He and 400 of his neighbors in the mobile home park await the outcome of a frantic effort by one of America’s richest cities to preserve what is, by far, its poorest neighborhood. For the past several months, city and county officials have conducted public hearings on the park’s possible closure that had more feel-good endings than a Frank Capra movie.

Thank You – Palo Alto City Council

Palo Alto approves funding to bolster chances of preserving mobile-home park

Santa Clara County Pledges More Funds

Supervisors allocate another $6.5 million,
contingent on match from Palo Alto

Santa Clara County supervisors on Tuesday upped the ante in a bid to preserve the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park when they unanimously voted to allocate an additional $6.5 million toward the cause, contingent on a similar match from Palo Alto.

With little discussion, the Board of Supervisors voted to contribute $6.5 million from its affordable-housing fund for the purchase of Buena Vista. The new allocation raises the county’s potential contribution toward preserving Palo Alto’s sole mobile-home park to $14.5 million.

On June 29, the City Council will discuss Buena Vista and consider its next steps. If the council chooses to match the county’s contribution, the total set aside by the city and the county would go up to $29 million. All of the contributions pledged by the city and the county thus far would come from funds designated for affordable housing.

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Supervisors to Vote on Added Funds for Buena Vista

On Tuesday morning, June 23, 2015 the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors will meet to consider a proposal by Supervisors Joseph Simitian and Dave Cortese to set aside an additional $6.5 million from the County’s Stanford GUP Affordable Housing Fund to be used to provide a portion of the necessary funding to secure deed-restricted affordable housing units at the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park.

The meeting will begin at 9:15 AM in the Board of Supervisor’s Chambers in the County Government Building at 70 West Hedding Street in San Jose. [Directions]

If the proposal is passed by the Board of Supervisors, the total set-aside from the Stanford GUP Affordable Housing Fund would be $14.5 million, subject to further authorization by the Board of Supervisors. County funds will be set aside contingent on a 1:1 match with funds set aside by the City of Palo Alto… Requiring a 1:1 match with City funds would ensure the local commitment necessary for this project to be successful. This is an opportunity for the County to leverage its limited funding, and to act effectively on our oft-stated commitment to affordable housing.

The full text of the proposal is available here.

Faces of Buena Vista

In February the Palo Alto High School Verde Magazine presented an article on the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park. Photographer/Photo Editor, Ana Sofia Amieva-Wang, provided us with a glimpse into the soul of this community.

Simitian Proposes $8M County Funding for Buena Vista

SAN JOSE – County Supervisor Joe Simitian today proposed that the County use $8 million from its affordable housing fund to help prevent the closure of the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park in Palo Alto.  “If the park closes,” said Simitian, “that’s 400 low-income folks who are out on the street. And God only knows if and when, and at what cost, we’ll ever be able to replace that supply of affordable housing.”

Supervisor Dave Cortese, President of the Board of Supervisors and Chair of the Board’s Housing, Land Use, Environment and Transportation Committee (HLUET), joined Simitian in making the referral to the full Board, which will hear the proposal on Tuesday, January 27.

Simitian’s proposal, if approved by the Board, would direct County staff to:

  • Enter into discussions with the City of Palo Alto, local housing organizations, the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park Residents Association, and other interested parties for the purpose of securing the long-term viability of the mobile home park as deed-restricted affordable housing.
  • Set aside up to $8 million from the County’s Stanford GUP Affordable Housing Fund (established to create and preserve affordable housing within six miles of the University) to provide a portion of the necessary funding.

“The conversation about Buena Vista to date has been almost exclusively about compensation for tenants upon closure,” said Simitian. “I’m hoping to start a new conversation about what it would take to keep the park open for the foreseeable future.”

Buena Vista, located on El Camino Real at Los Robles Avenue, is the last mobile home park in Palo Alto. It provides an affordable home to about 100 mostly low-income Latino families, about 400 people in total. The property is privately owned, and the owner is currently trying to sell the property for market-rate development, which would displace these 400 residents and permanently remove a rare source of affordable housing in an extremely expensive part of Santa Clara County.

“Mobile home parks are an important part of our affordable housing stock in this County,” said Board President Dave Cortese. “We need to take a stand for those dependent on these homes by pulling existing resources together.”

“I know it’s a big lift. I know it’s a complicated issue,” said Simitian. “I know that mobile home park law is a quagmire. But my hope is that some significant County funding – and I think $8 million is significant – might prompt others to step up and ask how they can be part of the solution.”

“I doubt that any single agency or entity can pull this off alone; but maybe if everybody takes a piece of the problem, we might find a solution,” added Simitian.

Local advocates already working to find a way to keep Buena Vista residents in place welcomed the potential County support.

“A pledge of this kind of funding from the County could make a huge difference in preserving the Buena Vista residents’ affordable housing,” said Kyra Kazantzis, directing attorney at the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, which represents the park’s residents. “We hope this pledge will leverage other funding sources to help get us closer to a viable solution.”

Simitian emphasized in his referral to the Board that he is not proposing that the County either own or operate Buena Vista. “My hope is that the commitment of County funds will spark other agencies or organizations to step up and put together a deal with partial but significant funding from the County.” He said has an “open mind” as to what a successful outcome might look like.

“But,” he added, “the clock’s ticking.”

Read Letter to Board of Supervisors

Buena Vista Residents

Who Lives at Buena Vista and Why We Care?

bvresidents02Seldom has a Palo Alto land use issue had the power to move nearly 400 people out of Palo Alto, redefining our neighborhood and city in the process. Yet this may happen to Barron Park. The 86-year old Buena Vista Mobile Home Park (BV) is in the early stage of closure, to be sold by the owner. Continue reading

Palo Alto to appeal court order

City Council votes to challenge December ruling from Santa Clara County Superior Court

by Gennady Sheyner / Palo Alto Weekly

Palo Alto will appeal a recent court ruling in which a judge overturned the city’s decision to allow the closure of Buena Vista Mobile Home Park.

The City Council voted unanimously in a closed session on Jan. 9 to file the appeal. City Attorney Molly Stump said the appeal would be filed early Friday.

The city is challenging a Dec. 21 ruling from Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Brian Walsh, who reversed the council’s 2015 decision to approve the closure application from the Jisser family, which owns the mobile-home park off El Camino Real. The council’s 2015 vote came several months after Administrative Officer Craig Labadie reached his own decision on the closure application and deemed it to be complete.

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Buena Vista Owners Get $36M Offer

Housing Authority seeks to buy the mobile-home park

The Housing Authority of Santa Clara County has made a $36,072,500 offer to purchase the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park, Executive Director Katherine Harasz said on Friday. The offer was made after the housing authority’s board of directors unanimously authorized the agency on Dec. 20 to negotiate the sale.
The Jisser family’s attorneys received the written offer on behalf of their clients on Wednesday or Thursday, which is based on the property’s appraised value, Harasz said. She and the Jissers’ eminent domain attorney Norman Matteoni said they did not anticipate a response from the family until perhaps sometime in mid-January. After then, Harasz said she hoped the housing authority and the family and their representatives would have a sit-down meeting to discuss the possible sale.

Court Rejects Approval of Buena Vista Closure

Judge rules Palo Alto mobile home park’s relocation package based on inadequate information.

The Palo Alto City Council abdicated its duty when it approved relocation payments for Buena Vista Mobile Home Park residents, a Santa Clara County Superior Court judge ruled on Wednesday.
The decision by Judge Brian Walsh found the city did not have sufficient evidence to support its finding that the relocation assistance offered by the park’s owners is adequate to prevent adverse effects on the park’s 400 residents.

County Seeks to Acquire Buena Vista

HOUSING AUTHORITY OF THE COUNTY OF SANTA CLARA
BEGINS STEPS TO ACQUIRE BUENA VISTA MOBILE HOME PARK

Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian today praised the Housing Authority of the County of Santa Clara’s Board of Commissioners for authorizing the potential acquisition and improvement of the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park in Palo Alto.

In a meeting held earlier today, the Housing Authority Board considered an appraisal of the value of the mobile home park, and voted unanimously to allow their Executive Director Katherine Harasz to send an offer letter to the park owner and begin negotiations.

The Housing Authority’s action is the most recent step forward in implementing a three-way collaboration (approved earlier this year in June) that includes funding from the County of Santa Clara and the City of Palo Alto.

“This is an important step forward,” said Simitian. “With everyone pulling together we’re well positioned to preserve 117 units of affordable housing, prevent the eviction of 400 low income residents, and ensure that the current property owner receives full and fair market value for the property.”

“We have a mission and challenge to preserve affordable housing for the people of our community,” said Harasz. “With this effort, we hope to secure this park for today’s residents and future generations.”