Stephen Ellison

Judge Reverses City's Decision to Close Palo Alto Mobile Home Park

A judge on Wednesday reversed a Palo Alto City Council decision to close the Buena Vista mobile home park, effectively preventing hundreds of low-income residents from being evicted from their homes.

The property owner, Jisser Family Trust, has been trying to close the park since November 2012, but residents have fought back, urging city and county officials not to kick them out of one of the few remaining affordable housing options in the area.

Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Brian Walsh issued the ruling, granting a writ of mandate petition filed last year by the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park Residents Association that claimed the City Council incorrectly interpreted the city's ordinance on mobile home park closures.

"Because the City Council based its final decision on evidence that does not yet exist and the City Council lacked evidence regarding the actual amount of relocation assistance that will eventually be provided to the residents, the Court finds that the final decision was not supported by the evidence," Walsh wrote in his 19-page ruling.

Meanwhile, just hours earlier on Tuesday night, the Santa Clara County Housing Authority held a special session and voted 6-0 to make a purchasing offer on Buena Vista.

The judge's decision gives time for the Housing Authority of the County of Santa Clara to start acquiring the Buena Vista property under eminent domain, according to Nadia Aziz, a senior attorney at the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley that represented the residents association.

During the court proceedings, Madeline Howard, another attorney for the residents association, had argued the city did not have an adequate relocation plan for Buena Vista residents. That relocation issue proved to be the tipping point for the Judge Walsh.

The Palo Alto city manager's office released a statement Wednesday in response to the ruling:

"The court’s ruling is a narrow one. The court was concerned that the actual specific dollar amounts for relocation costs were not calculated for each resident when the City Council approved the process. As is typical in this type of closure approval, the City Council approved mitigations that provide for actual costs within ranges, minimum floors and updates that give the residents the benefit of cost increases due to the passage of time. The court concluded that this is not sufficiently specific and actual dollar amounts need to be calculated."

Bay City News contributed to this report.

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