March 31, 2016 by Staff

WALL STREET JOURNAL: The fight to save a Silicon Valley trailer park

Print this page

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.

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.

Community leaders want to prevent that. Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian is heading a campaign to keep Buena Vista intact and has put together $39 million, mostly city and county money. His group made an informal bid to Mr. Jisser last week, and he says he hopes to find private donations to augment the funds and make the bid competitive.

His plan: Turn Buena Vista over to a nonprofit that operates trailer parks in California.

Mr. Simitian, the county supervisor, says his father bought a Palo Alto home on his schoolteacher’s salary. His best friend, later a Palo Alto mayor, was the son of an air-conditioning mechanic who worked two jobs to buy a house.

One of their classmates was a daughter of a Hewlett-Packard Co. co-founder, says Mr. Simitian, 62. “None of us thought it odd that a mechanic’s, a teacher’s and a custodian’s kid would sit in the same classes with the CEO’s kid.”

The question Buena Vista poses, is “are we still that place?” he says, “Or have we priced ourselves out of the opportunities we could offer to almost anyone?”

Read the article in the Wall Street Journal here