Nonprofit joins effort to preserve Buena Vista

The Caritas Corporation is putting together plan to buy Palo Alto’s sole mobile-home park

by Gennady Sheyner / Palo Alto Weekly Thu, May 6, 2015

The Caritas corporation, a nonprofit organization that manages 20 mobile-home parks throughout California, has joined the last-ditch effort by Santa Clara county and Palo Alto officials to avert the closure of Buena Vista Mobile Home Park.

Caritas, a company based in Irvine, has entered into a contract with Santa Clara County that, in its first phase, requires the company to put together a purchase and sale agreement with the Jisser family, which owns the 4.5-acre mobile park.

The Jissers have been moving ahead with a closure application for Buena Vista since the fall of 2012, a process that could conclude on May 26, when the City Council is expected to formally approve the application. After the vote, the Jisser family will be able to launch the six-month process of evicting the park’s roughly 400 residents.

While the future of Buena Vista remains uncertain, the entry of Caritas into the preservation process has offered another shred of hope to the residents of the predominantly Hispanic and low-income community in Barron Park.

[Read full story…]

 

Buena Vista evictions could start next month

Pressure heightened to save Palo Alto’s only mobile-home park

Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian listens on April 13 as supporters and residents of the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park talk about the impact of the park’s potential closure. The county Board of Supervisors has set $8 million towards the possible purchase of the park. Photo by Veronica Weber.

 

As local officials continue to scour for ways to save Buena Vista Mobile Home Park from imminent closure, the attorney for the park owner warned Tuesday night that eviction notices could legally be sent to the Palo Alto park’s 400 residents as early as next month, when the closure application is set to be formally approved by the City Council.

The council unanimously voted Tuesday to uphold a September decision by Hearing Officer Craig Labadie to approve the property owner’s Relocation Impact Report, which details the financial compensation owed to each resident, but ordered several revisions. These include a revised appraisal that takes into account the monetary worth of local schools and the safety of the Buena Vista community to its residents.

[Read full story here…]

The Buena Vista Imperative

by Palo Alto Weekly editorial board, Fri, Apr 17, 2015

Constrained by advice from the city attorney aimed at keeping council members narrowly focused on their legal responsibilities, an emotional two evenings of public testimony and council discussion came to an anti-climactic end Tuesday night as the council unanimously gave permission to the owner of Buena Vista Mobile Home Park to close it down.

There was never really any suspense over this outcome, as the City Council’s options were limited to determining the adequacy of the relocation benefits being offered current residents and ensuring compliance with state law and Palo Alto’s mobile-home park closure ordinance. Blocking the park’s closure was never an option, and all agreed that the Jisser family had the right to finally move forward with plans that are more than a decade old.

[Read full editorial here…]

State, federal funds sought to save Buena Vista

Anna Eshoo, Jerry Hill and Rich Gordon join effort to obtain funds for mobile-home park’s preservation

The effort to prevent the closure of Buena Vista Mobile Home Park has spread well beyond the city’s borders in recent weeks, with state Sen. Jerry Hill, state Assemblyman Rich Gordon and U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo all joining the drive to raise money for the park’s preservation.
 
Hill and Gordon co-signed a letter earlier this month to the California Department of Housing and Community Development asking the agency for assistance in identifying potential sources of funding for preserving what they call “vital affordable housing.” This came weeks after Eshoo submitted a similar request to Julian Castro, secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

[Read the full story…]

Feds Pressed for Buena Vista Funds

by Breena Kerr / Daily Post Staff Writer

Local government officials have asked state and federal housing agencies for money to help save Palo Alto’s  last mobile home park.

Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, D-Palo  Alto, State Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, and Assemblyman Rich Gordon have all contacted the secretary of the U.S. Housing and Urban Development to ask for money to keep the 100 units of affordable housing from being closed and likely razed for redevelopment. HUD is a federal agency that
gives housing funds to states.

Seeking solution

“I’m confident we can create a solution that will benefit the families of the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park and allow them to remain in the community that is their home,” Eshoo wrote in her letter to the Secretary of Housing.

The owner of the mobile home park has vowed to close it as soon as the City Council decides whether he has complied with a Palo Alto law that requires him to pay residents to leave.

While both Santa Clara County and the City of Palo Alto have each set $8 million aside to help buy the park, no nonprofits have come forward publicly to pledge money or help.

Local effort

Last week, Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian said he planned to “work the phones” to see if local nonprofits would join in the effort to save Buena Vista.

On Feb. 20, Palo Alto City Manager Jim Keene said that the city would set aside $8 million that the City Council could elect to use to preserve the park.

The decision by Keene came as a surprise to many since council members had not yet made the decision about whether to allow the owner to close the park. A decision is expected in April.

PTA Joins Fight to Save Buena Vista

How affluent Palo Alto PTA members are trying to save a working-class enclave

by Scott Herhold / Mercury News
POSTED: 03/11/2015 12:04:12 PM PDT

The rules were strict on Monday. Each of the three speakers could talk for only three minutes. The idea was a quick presentation to the Palo Alto City Council and just as quick an exit. Hit them with your point and move on into the gentle evening.

But no one criticized Nancy Krop, the legislative director of the Sixth District PTA, for talking just a little longer. She is a tall, dark-haired woman with an eloquent way of speaking. And she was addressing a topic that touches the heart, the fate of the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park, a largely Hispanic working class enclave off El Camino Real.

Noting that 100 children attend eight Palo Alto schools from the mobile home park, Krop urged the council to approve $8 million set aside by City Manager Jim Keene to save the park. “What’s behind those numbers is a child, a child who believes that adults can fix things,” she said. As you heard her say that, it made you want to go fix things yourself. [Read full Mercury News article…]

Nancy Krop speaks to the Palo Alto City Council

 

City Hall Rally for Buena Vista

On March 9th Santa Clara County Supervisor, Joe Simitian, hosted a rally at City Hall to encourage the Palo Alto City Council to set aside funds to preserve the Park.

Buena Vista rally brings hundreds to City Hall

Residents and supporters urge Palo Alto officials to help preserve the mobile-home park

by Gennady Sheyner / Palo Alto Weekly

With a cloud of uncertainty looming over their homes, residents of the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park and hundreds of their supporters rallied at City Hall on Monday to express support for the park’s preservation and to thank Palo Alto officials for recent contributions to that cause.

Holding signs and wearing yellow stickers of support, more than 400 people attended the rally at Kings Plaza on late Monday afternoon. After about 30 minutes of pizza, photos and camaraderie, the tidal wave of Buena Vista supporters then spilled into the Council Chambers, filling every seat and spreading out against the Chamber walls and vestibules for the first few minutes of the meeting. The crowd included children, seniors and every age group in between; neighborhood leaders and school volunteers; staunch slow-growth “residentialists” like Bob Moss and Lydia Kou and board members of Palo Alto Forward, a citizens group which favors more housing and a “vibrant” downtown. [Read full Palo Alto Weekly article…]

Winter Dellenbach, founder of the group Friends of Buena Vista and one of the event’s organizers, voiced a similar sentiment. “One of the purposes was to show the breadth of support,” Dellenbach said. “There can never be, fron this point on, any doubt that this town supports Buena Vista.”

“In 30 years of participating in all manner of petitioning our local government for redress, last night’s crowd of Buena Vista supporters and residents was by far the largest. Just under 550 support stickers were handed out, 1 to a person – a good indicator of attendance on the Plaza.

It was a stunning outpouring of support for a solution that keeps residents here, the children in our schools, affordable housing preserved, and pays the owner for his land. We have much work yet to do, but the momentum is going in the right direction.

Thanks to everyone who participated. It was critical that Council members know we support them in setting aside $8 million of affordable housing funds for Buena Vista.”

Volunteers from the Media Center”s Zoom In Collaborative covered the Rally at Palo Alto City Hall March 9, 2015 where supporters rallied on behalf of the residents of the Buena Vista Mobile Park, home to fifty families and 300 people, one of the last bastions of affordable housing in Palo Alto.

Keene allots $8M toward Buena Vista

Palo Alto city manager sets aside funds for possible purchase of mobile home park, but first council must hear appeal

by Jason Green
Daily News Staff Writer

Palo Alto City Manager James Keene is setting aside $8 million in affordable housing funds to possibly help preserve Buena Vista Mobile Home Park as a source of affordable housing. In a Feb. 19 memo to Mayor Karen Holman and the City Council, Keene said the move was spurred by community members’ concerns about the impacts of the facility’s pending closure on 400 mostly low-income Latino residents.
The council is slated in April to take up an appeal of a hearing officer’s recent ruling that the Jisser family put together an adequate relocation assistance package. Keene said any decision regarding the $8 million would have to be made after the council hears the appeal.
“As you are aware, the council has a responsibility to impartially evaluate all of the issues and refrain from advocating – or appearing to advocate – on any side of this matter,· he wrote in the memo released Friday.
“In light of these constraints on the council,” he continued, “I am directing staff to set aside $8 million in affordable housing funds specifically for use in conjunction with the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park if the council should so direct after the pending appeal has been resolved. [Read full Daily News story…]

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

Developer Drops Plan to Buy Buena Vista

Prometheus Real Estate Group has backed away from its plan to build high-end apartments on the Palo Alto site of Buena Vista Mobile Home Park, adding a fresh layer of uncertainty to the park’s future.

The San Mateo-based real estate company last month submitted a quitclaim deed with the Santa Clara County Clerk-Recorder, effectively nullifying its 2012 agreement with the Jisser family, which owns the mobile-home park at 3980 El Camino Real. The proposal has been heavily criticized by residents of Buena Vista, a low-income community of about 400 people in Palo Alto’s Barron Park neighborhood.

Despite the decision by Prometheus to back out of the deal, the Jisser family is proceeding with the closure process, their attorney, Margaret Nanda, said Monday. “The application is not withdrawn,” Nanda told the Weekly, referring to the plan to close Buena Vista. “We have not withdrawn it.”

Winter Dellenbach, founder of community-support group Friends of the Buena Vista, said “Prometheus dropping its option to buy Buena Vista opens the door for a different plan for the property that allows BV residents continuing to live there on all or part of the 4 acres. The residents, a non-profit housing provider, or a consortium of public and private entities and funding sources, with city participation, needs to fill the vacuum.” On May 13, 2014 at the Administrative Law Hearing on the closure of Buena Vista, Winter suggested to the owners that there could be alternative paths for the disposition of the property.

[Read full story]

A Closer Look at Buena Vista

by Donald Barr and Amado Padilla

As social scientists who are part of the Palo Alto community, the proposal to close the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park raised a series of questions for us. Who are the people who live in Buena Vista? How would the park closure impact their lives? How do we balance the rights of the property owner with the human impacts of closure? Finally, what do other residents of Palo Alto, in particular the neighbors who live close to Buena Vista, think about the prospect of park closure? Continue reading