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Redevelopment Worries Palo Alto Mobile Home Residents

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Palo Alto's Buena Vista Mobile Home Park began as a camp for travelers in 1926 but may close for redevelopment soon.

It's business as usual at Palo Alto's Buena Vista Mobile Home Park, other than the nervous whispers among residents. The winds of redevelopment blowing throughout the Peninsula are getting closer to their trailer doors.

Last month, the Palo Alto Weekly first reported that the property owners were exploring redevelopment. The Peninsula Press has confirmed that Prometheus Real Estate Group contacted the owners of the mobile home park on El Camino Real about building a 187-unit housing complex that would be marketed to wealthy, young tech workers.

In response to the news, 10 Buena Vista residents addressed the Palo Alto City Council at its Oct. 1 meeting, expressing fears of losing their homes. Below is audio of the remarks that one elderly resident made at the meeting.

Prometheus has filed a pre-screening application for the project, which would require the land to be rezoned, according to Jon Moss, the firm’s executive vice president and partner. The City Council has scheduled a public discussion of the issues at a December meeting, Moss said.

An influx of money from the most recent technology boom has driven up demand for high-end housing in Palo Alto and throughout Silicon Valley. This puts pressure on land dedicated to affordable housing projects.

The scenario is not new. In 1970, the City Council helped establish the nonprofit Palo Alto Housing Corporation in response to concerns over a lack of affordable housing. Currently, the corporation maintains 20 properties with a combined 652 units, ranging from single-occupancy studios to four-bedroom family homes.

Alma Place, the largest of these properties, has 106 studio units. Assistant Property Manager Omajel Serrano said the demand for such homes is much higher than the supply. The wait for an available unit at Alma Place can be “one to two years,” she said.

It’s a similar story for Leticia Jimenez, property manager at Webster Wood and Arastradero Park apartments, with 68 and 66 units respectively. The waiting list there “is closed at this time,” but in the past new residents have waited “one to five years,” she said.

Buena Vista, which is not operated by the Palo Alto Housing Corporation, is a community comprised of mostly low-income families, senior citizens, single mothers and people with disabilities. The tenants pay between $800 and $1,300 per month in rent, which is consistent with the rent range of the corporation’s affordable housing units. Estimates suggest the mobile home park’s utilities will need revamping in the next three to five years.

Buena Vista residents are appealing to the Palo Alto City Council at a time when there is momentum to redevelop El Camino Real properties. Over the past few years, public and private parties — including elected officials from 19 cities along El Camino Real — have joined together on what’s known as the Grand Boulevard Initiative. The initiative’s task force is working to “rethink the corridor’s potential for housing and urban development. Palo Alto City Council Karen Holman is a task force member.

Due to the scale of the Prometheus proposal and the necessity of a rezoning vote by the council, Moss predicts there will be no final resolution for about a year.

Source: Peninsula Press [http://peninsulapress.com/2012/10/29/redevelopment-worries-seep-into-daily-life-at-palo-alto-mobile-home-park/]

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