NO to EPA OPA
OPA in EPA? Pushed back by the people of EPA in 2021, an even worse idea in 2023
Some people want to pass an Ordinance to slow down the sales of properties - including Single Family Homes - in East Palo Alto, to decrease the prices paid for the properties, and to have more houses pass from the hands of individual homeowners to the hands of nonprofit organizations. They want to limit the value that homeowners can realize when they come to sell a home they have bought, paid for, owned and maintained in East Palo Alto - so that homeowners have less money to use to buy a house somewhere else, to use to support a business, or to pass down to their families. The ordinance they consider will reduce the value of ALL homes in East Palo Alto (no matter whether used as a rental or not, owned locally or by someone afar). And in a falling market (as we have in 2023) this effect will be exacerbated by extra delays in the selling process.
We are a group of homeowners in East Palo Alto who feel that this type of Ordinance will do nothing but harm to East Palo Alto and its people, and we have organized ourselves to bring information to the decision-makers and to the people of EPA so we can avoid making the huge mistake of passing something like this.
This Ordinance was originally proposed in 2021 at the urging of consultants to City staff funded by entities including the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. The Initiative and other Foundations want our City to provide a legislative environment that is friendly to their ability to influence the flow of money and the accumulation of power in our community. And yet they have offered no actual money to be deployed via our elected representatives. They stay in the shadows.
We believe that it is not up to the hardworking people of East Palo Alto to pander to the interests of wealthy foundations, but that people should, as part of the American Dream, be able to buy and sell assets from whom and to whom they choose, at the pace they desire, and at a price agreed between the parties in open market competition and without government interference. We don't think that East Palo Alto should be targeted for ill-conceived experiments in "social good" that are anti-social and do no good.
In 2022 because of the efforts of the No to EPA OPA homeowners, hundreds of homeowners spoke at Town Halls and Council Meetings, wrote to their elected representatives and City staff, met with them individually and in groups, and expressed their fear, anger, and disgust, at what was proposed. The proposal was amended and then withdrawn. (See what Councilmember Antonio Lopez had to say about an approach he deemed "backward" and an Ordinance he wrote was a "high gamble - legally, economically, politically, and otherwise"). But now in 2023, they are at it again! We need once and for all to make it clear that EPA is NO on OPA.
Please engage with this process now. The City of EPA has organized two IN-PERSON events to discuss this (no Zoom option!). Please come to whichever you can, learn about the process, and make your views heard.
Part 1: Community Forum
Tuesday, May 30, 2023, 6:00 - 8:00 PM
Location: the beautiful Cooley Landing Education building (2100 Bay Rd)
Part 2: Policy Discussion
Tuesday, June 13, 2023, 6:00 – 8:00 PM
Location: City Hall (2145 University Ave)
*Interpretation will be available*
If you cannot attend - email email@example.com your comments (150-200 words to fit the typical oral comment length).
While we haven't seen the exact 2023 ordinance language yet (after immense efforts by citizens of EPA back in 2022 the Ordinance proposed then did not pass, and a new Ordinance is to be brought in), we can expect it will have many features in common with the original Proposed Ordinance that you can read on this site.
Even when the promoters of this ordinance say that this type of ordinances have been implemented in other cities in USA such as SF and Washington DC, those ordinances do NOT include Single Family Houses. The case for East Palo Alto is unique in that sense, and the risk of damages to the single family houses' market, is clear. It's basically impossible to say that other cities "have had success" in similar ordinances, since they target different dwellings than this ordinance is trying to cover.
While we all realize the challenge of high house prices and the desire to own property, "Opportunity to Purchase" WON'T WORK to produce the supposed benefits for the city and its residents. It will not help turn long-term, low-income EPA tenants into homeowners (It doesn't include things such as subsidies, for example). Instead it will harm existing residents and homeowners in East Palo Alto, by interfering in the interaction of homeowners with potential buyers, that either plan to move into East Palo Alto or to offer the property for tenants to rent. This ordinance limits the free market, creates an extra layer of bureaucratic non-profits (Which are yet to be defined), reduces the property tax revenue and thus income for the city (Non-profits pay no taxes), and disincentives housing developers to enter East Palo Alto to develop new houses.
This ordinance gives power and control to non-profits (With the assumption that they are incorruptible, and they always "do the right thing"), and in some cases, delays the sales by several months. It also creates lots of different levels of fines and extra costs to the homeowner that needs or wants to sell their property. It is also not clear how the non-profits will get funded to buy the houses that are affected by this ordinance.
OPA was suddenly introduced by (then) Mayor Carlos Romero on November 16th 2021 at a City Council with little publicity and no outreach to EPA homeowners. The city provided the bare minimum of economic analysis of this proposal and did not follow best practices on OPA ordinances in other cities. The city does not even have enough resources to regulate this ordinance, so it also adds a potential bureaucratic problem that will delay even more the normal sales process.
With OPA, the external perception of East Palo Alto as a place to invest will get damaged. We must block this ordinance, so there's no intervention in the free market process, to buy/sell dwellings in EPA.
There's a possibility to start a process to recall Council Members who vote in favor of this ordinance. We need to do more research on this, but it may require less than a thousand signatures. Some homeowner groups separately are considering lawsuits to stop the process.
Organize Homeowners as a political force in EPA, so something like this never, ever happens again. Let's make a positive out of this negative event and activate our community.
Support candidates in the next elections that will strongly advocate for our concerns on city council.
If you are a recently-arrived EPA homeowner living in EPA but you haven't yet registered to vote in EPA, please update your voter registration!
Please do share this page with your neighbors, family, friends or acquaintances that own property in EPA, we must stop this!
We keep regular conversations here, please join if your have Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/groups/EPAHomeowners
Please direct your emails to our group to: firstname.lastname@example.org