“…when the Jissers had the park appraised, they were given two numbers: Kept as a mobile home park, Buena Vista was worth fourteen-and-a-half million dollars. But if the land were up-zoned to allow higher-density housing—a necessary step if Prometheus planned on building apartments—the land was worth thirty million dollars.”

The Trailer Park at the Center of the Universe – The Awl

Somehow I missed this article from last fall (it might have had something to do with my cross-country road trip and life change) but I found it tonight.

I used to live a block from the mobile homes profiled in this story. I met a few of its residents at my mechanic’s shop and (yes) the Baja Fresh. Like most people, they were kind and (unlike most people) seemed resigned to the sale of their homes. I was also watching my rent go up much faster than my income, but nobody was targeting my complex for redevelopment. It seems sadly clear to me that if my building had been full of primarily low-income Hispanic tenants, we might have been looking for new places to live, too.

Just a few days ago, CityLab posted an update to their story. It looks like a coalition of Stanford, the city government, and a mobile home park manager are trying to buy the park from its owners (no longer with the option to sell to Prometheus, who bailed on the process). But the price of land has been increasing so quickly that the owners have been asked to do a new appraisal just 18 months after the original. So it’s not clear how much cash would have to be raised to buy the place, if they’re even willing to sell.

Palo Alto and California, for all their many flaws, retain a strong hold on my heart. It’s stories like this that help me get over being gone, but I can’t help but feel like Palo Alto is just patient zero for the rest of affluent America. The greed is coming for the rest of us, too.

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