The Opportunity to Purchase Act, “OPA”, comes before East Palo Alto City Council yet again on Tuesday October 3rd, 2023. OPA has been in front of council multiple times, and it is good to remind EPA residents why this is a terrible idea that must be rejected.
· OPA is designed to give Facebook funded non-profits control over more than half of East Palo Alto real estate at the point of sale, including: all apartment buildings, all new construction, all duplex/triplexes, and all single-family home rentals. OPA will enable these non-profits to buy real estate at discounted prices with sales delays, taking the right of first refusal away from property owners, punitive fines of $1000 a day for non-compliant properties, and scaring off perspective buyers with red tape and bureaucracy that does not exist in neighboring communities.
· Facebook money is funding OPA in EPA. Partnership for the Bay’s Future is funded primarily by Facebook and the Chan-Zuckerberg initiative. Their consultants are writing OPA and their salary is paid with Mark Zuckerberg’s money. Non-Profits in our community have taken hundreds of thousands of dollars to push OPA on residents.
· OPA is designed to lower single family home prices to enable non-profits to purchase homes at a discounted price, and this will affect all homeowners in East Palo Alto. There is no way to lower the sales price of a rental property without immediately impacting the appraisal value of the identical owner-occupied house next door. OPA limits the market for home sales in EPA, places sales delays on homes, and imposes red tape on all home sales which do not exist in other communities.
· 70% of East Palo Alto Single-Family Homes are owner occupied. Black, Latino, and Pacific Island homeowners are disproportionately affected by OPA. Anything that lowers home values in EPA directly affects the fortunes of all homeowners, especially families whose generational wealth is tied up in EPA real estate. OPA harms the very community it is supposedly trying to help.
· Tenants will not benefit from OPA. OPA in EPA is designed to create community land trusts, in which tenants would not benefit from the appreciation of land values. Tenants would not own the land, but instead would have all the disadvantages of home ownership (insurance, home maintenance, utilities) with none of the upside in home appreciation. Tenants would literally have all the disadvantages of both renting and homeownership.
· If OPA was a good idea, why are Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and Redwood City not pursuing it? Cities throughout the Bay Area have rejected OPA and looked at other ways to address displacement and a lack of housing: zoning reform, down payment assistance, speeding up the building permitting process, height limits on housing, parking requirements, Floor Area Ration (FAR), setbacks, and other barriers to housing creation.
· There are many ways to help qualified tenants buy homes that will not affect existing homeowners in EPA: government or private funded down payment assistance, government backed loans for first time home buyers, and non-profit consigning on offers. None of these options have been aggressively pursued in EPA and we should do this before considering something as radical as OPA.
· OPA strongly discourages the creation of new housing and many planned housing projects will be delayed or cancelled if OPA passes. One developer put it this way, "If you can't sell a building, you do not build a building." OPA creates strong disincentives for new housing in EPA as OPA takes away the right of first refusal from property owners, imposes significant sales delays, and harsh financial penalties for non-compliance to OPA red tape.