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City to assess life for families of young children in Palo Alto

Consultant to evaluate impact of socioeconomic, demographic changes

What is it like for families with young children living in Palo Alto today?

The city of Palo Alto is seeking to answer that question comprehensively in a new study that will take a deep dive into issues impacting parents and young children, from financial security to child care availability. The city recently issued a request for proposals (RFP) to find a consultant to conduct the study.

The last time the city did such a study was in 1989, when the city created a master plan to address concerns over child care access, affordability and quality.

As Palo Alto evolved over the next decades — with changing demographics, an "exponential increase" in nontraditional work schedules and modes, technological advances and a higher cost of living, according to the RFP — so did the needs of the families living in the city.

"We have a great history of being a great place for families and young children but we want to see: Is that still the case?" said Human Services Manager Minka van der Zwaag, who will be the city's point person for the consultant.

The city hopes the assessment will guide "potential investment choices to help meet identified gaps and challenges," the RFP states.

The Palo Alto Advisory Commission on Early Care & Education, which reports to the city manager on these issues, will oversee the process. Its membership represents a range of entities that work with families and youth in Palo Alto, including the school district, after-school care nonprofit Palo Alto Community Child Care, youth well-being nonprofit Children's Health Council and Stanford University's WorkLife Office, among others.

The consultant will look at issues like cost, availability and quality of child care; how the city's growth and changing demographics impact current and future children's experiences; and how different groups, such as immigrant families or parents of special-needs children, have been impacted by socioeconomic changes in the city.

The city is also eager to find out how the local economy is impacting recruitment and retention of early childhood educators, van der Zwaag said.

The RFP asks the consultant to produce findings, recommendations and a phased implementation plan "based on most critical and cost effective improvements in the first year."

The RFP is due Dec. 11. The city hopes to have a consultant on board by February and van der Zwaag expects the assessment will take about six to eight months.

The city has budgeted a maximum of $75,000 for the study.

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Comments

13 people like this
Posted by 38 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 30, 2017 at 2:40 pm

38 year resident is a registered user.

Unless you're a young person of wealth it's nearly impossible to live in Palo Alto, buy a home and raise a family. Wealthy young people don't have problems with any of the issues the consultant will be looking at.

Study complete. I'll waive the 75,000 fee.


10 people like this
Posted by Majority of older parents
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 1, 2017 at 8:57 am

@38,
The narrative that things have suddenly gotten expensive in Palo Alto is a developer's self-serving narrative. Things were in some ways worse in the '80s when interest rates were 9-12% and tech jobs were mainly in the defense industry. Starting salary for an engineer were in the $25-35k range, while rents for a one-bedroom apartment in Palo Alto were too high to afford. In Sunnyvale, my efficiency one-room was $1,000/month. We rented in Sunnyvale more recently during renovation of our home and it was really a much better value than when I was young. I am in no way saying it is easy now, far from it, I just hope there will be no self-serving narrative making it seem like this is a new "crisis". Back then young people were crowding into single apartments and houses to afford the rent, same as now.

About 15 years ago, my mothers club did a survey including age of mom when first baby was born. The answer was a bell curve centered around forty. Parents in the area are already older, because many women start careers, it's an educated population, and lastly, it's expensive to live here.

Given that the cost to live here factored into why we coukd only have one child and are such older parents, it will really be a slap if the report is used to further rob our family of the quality of life we sacrificed so much for, and which has degraded so much over our child's growing up.

No, not everyone with a home is wealthy. Many of us made and continue to make unbelievable sacrifices because getting into the market somehow is the only way to stay in the Bay Area versus renting. The term "house poor" especially applies to families. And talking about young children does not necessarily mean young parents, in fact on average it means much older parents. Will we be considered, or will this "study" continue to shaft us the way all the other development-centric narratives of the Council have?


Like this comment
Posted by Overgrowth is the Problem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2017 at 9:25 am

The consultant will look at issues like cost, availability and quality of child care; how the city's growth and changing demographics impact current and future children's experiences; and how different groups, such as immigrant families or parents of special-needs children, have been impacted by socioeconomic changes in the city.

The city is also eager to find out how the local economy is impacting recruitment and retention of early childhood educators, van der Zwaag said."

Will they also look at the impact of development/traffic/pollution on children's health, mental and physical? How do the asthma rates compare between the kids who have to slog through the traffic headed to office overdevelopment versus kids who get to bike down tree-lined avenues? How has the worsening of traffic on main arteries like El Camino Arastradero, Alma, and the tracks, cutting off access to recreation, sports, and other resources while family-friendly retail areas and recreation spots for kids have simultaneously been lost, affected existing youthand families, and their physical and mental health?

Will they look at other glaring issues like: How has the City's nonsensical compartmentalizing of issues affected, say, the efforts to help with the youth mental health crisis, especially on the south side of town? For example, on the one hand they identify an area as needing to be a priority for purchasing spaces to compensate for overdevelopment, and the children in need of walkable places to hang out, yet on the other hand they only ever keep up the drumbeat of overdevelopment in those places. They identify the only place for kids to recreate, the heavily-used local park, to be taken away away and converted into a dog park instead of buying new space to add a needed dog park. The City just keeps piling on development and making traffic worse and worse, and never considering that spots like the Fry's site and the orchard at Maybell (which could have been kept almost free and all that effort spent on fighting overdevelopment put toward creating the affordable housing differently, as the same neighbors had already done in a working group at Terman and asked to do again) as ways to offset the overdevelopment to create walkable amenities.

In looking at the recruitment of educators, will they also look at the commensurate hardships of the families paying for those educators, the majority of whom make less than the average educator? Microapartments are not the answer, as the lesson of Hong Kong demonstrates, but I'll bet good money that's the preloaded conclusion of this "study".

It's hard to envision how this money is going to do anything but result in a disingenuous way for the Overdevelopment faction on the Council to conclude that we need to bust zoning and build build build more to further strain our overburdened infrastructure. The questions already seem geared to support the next overdevelopment phase.

I don't understand why people should be against the Stanford expansion. Stanford cannot move like the companies that have grown and taken over downtown, for example. We should partner with Stanford so they can grow while asking them to help ensure Palo Alto can be a good place, a stellar place, for families and startups again, such as figuring out how to bring the number of large companies and workers to places they can expand appropriately, including by creating new job centers in places that want the growth.


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