EAST PALO ALTO (KPIX 5) — A plan to demolish more than 150 rent-controlled apartments and build a massive new mixed-income development in East Palo Alto is being met with a mix of excitement and unease.
“I do need a better place. For as much as I’m paying for, I think they need to remodel everything,” said tenant Gustavo Mendoza.
The owners of Woodland Park Communities announced plans to tear down 160 rent-controlled units in the city’s Westside neighborhood. The owners say the apartments are aging and largely beyond repair.
They have also made the current residents a unique offer that will allow them to eventually move into the new complex.
“Current tenants will be able to return at the same rent-stabilized rates. We are unequivocally committed to no displacement,” Chief Investment Officer Mike Kramer said in a prepared statement from the company.
The apartment owners have pledged to relocate displaced residents to empty apartments during demolition and construction. And once the new complex is complete, the owners say the displaced residents will have a guaranteed “right to return” to a similar apartment in the new building.
The new apartments would be rent-controlled like the old ones were.
Despite those guarantees, many residents said they remain fearful that they will be pushed out by rising rent prices.
“My family’s concerned that they’re going to kick us out and we’re not going to have a place to be,” said tenant Gerardo Zuita.
A spokesperson for East Palo Alto says the city has yet to receive an official application for the project. The apartment owners estimate that the approval process, demolition and construction could take up to five years.