Although at first blush I find myself strongly supporting SB 50, I appreciate the scope of the questions raised in Greer Stone and Pat Burt's guest opinion in the March 15 issue of the Weekly ("SB 50 undermines single-family neighborhoods and diversity").
In the past, I was part of a group in Palo Alto called Stop The Ban (STB), which fought to overturn/forestall Palo Alto's then-proposed ban on vehicle dwellers.
STB worked tirelessly for several years to convince the City Council and faith groups to support a Safe Parking Program or what Stone and Burt's article refers to as, "managed location for RV dwellers." The resistance to the program was overwhelming.
We organized a panel discussion on the topic at a local church that was attended by about 100 folks, including former City Council member Karen Holman. Our keynote speaker was a counselor from a very successful Safe Parking Program in Santa Barbara. Still, we had no success in getting the powers that be in Palo Alto to consider such a program.
I'm wondering if the answer is not a total refusal to support SB 50's call for more and dense housing, but rather, making certain that the bill includes provisions for a very large percentage of the dense housing, envisioned by SB 50, to be set aside, in perpetuity, for low- and very low-income individuals, including seniors, people of color, the disabled, the formerly unhoused, etc.
In addition, we could begin a discussion of mandating housing for the victims, and their families, of housing segregation going back generations in Palo Alto. Yes, a big-time discussion of providing permanently free or very low rent housing as a form of reparations for the wrongs Palo Alto visited and continues to visit on our African-American brothers and sisters. SB 50 could include language that would require a principled discussion of reparations statewide.
Park Street, Redwood City
SB 50 and the housing crisis
As a native Palo Altoan, Greer Stone's opinion article ("SB 50 undermines single-family neighborhoods and diversity") infuriates me. It frustrates me that Palo Altoans would do anything for their kids, except build more housing so those kids can afford to stay in the Bay Area.
I graduated from Palo Alto High School in the late 1990s. When I was in eighth grade, the best history teacher at Jordan Middle School (now Greene Middle School) moved away because his family could not afford a house. I never dreamed that 25 years later, the kids he was teaching would feel the same pressure to relocate.
My husband and I live in San Francisco, where we pay 35 percent of our monthly income for a non-rent-controlled one-bedroom apartment. We would never, ever be able to afford to live in Palo Alto these days. Even looking for a home in the more remote, gentrifying neighborhoods of San Francisco, we are looking at a mortgage that we will pay off in our 80s, if ever.
To be clear, my husband and I are very lucky. It is an option to stay here. We are career professionals with no student debt, with family resources and with a combined three masters degrees. That said, I don't know if I want to live in an area where you have to have an IPO or family wealth to survive. Every year, friends of ours who don't have family here move away. They love their nonprofit or teaching careers or are starting families and just want a better, more sustainable lifestyle. We miss them a lot, especially because once people leave the Bay Area, it's nearly impossible for them to move back.
Palo Altoans could be part of the solution if they stopped opposing new housing, full stop. SB 50 is a good start to tackling the housing crisis.
Sanchez Street, San Francisco
How would SB 50 impact nature?
No birds. No bees. No butterflies. No single-family homes. If SB 50 is passed, the small contact most of us share with nature (our yards) will be destroyed. Any control of our environment or protection of that environment will now be gone, for SB 50 will strip local government of all zoning authority. Protection of trees — gone; daylight plane protection — gone; setbacks — gone. Instead, SB 50 will pave the way for a golden age of rich developers who, in place of Palo Alto, will erect "Facebook City." We can see trees and flowers online.
Mary Ellen White
Webster Street, Palo Alto
What price college?
As a longtime writing coach and SAT tutor, I was appalled by the bribery scam some wealthy Silicon Valley parents and academic and athletic coaches conducted in collusion with some of the nation's top universities, including Stanford University — my own alma mater.
Palo Alto parents take note: Every slot these cheaters stole might have otherwise gone to your honest, bright and hard-working son or daughter.
If these parents were so concerned about their kids' education, they should have encouraged their academics all along, including providing tutoring when necessary.
Instead of the virtue of honest effort, what kind of behavior and values did these adults — the parents, test proctors and athletic coaches — model for these young people?
Ironically, these Silicon Valley parents are wealthy enough to have helped their offspring jumpstart their careers after college, even if the kids graduated from Podunk U.
And what happens when their kids enter their coveted college? They will have to compete with legitimately qualified students, or will they cheat their way through college too? Once their academic weakness is exposed, consider the awkwardness for them and the impact on these top universities' reputations for sending the best and brightest out into the professional world.
But let's ask a more fundamental question: What is the purpose of education?
If it isn't to build character, integrity and responsible citizenship, as well as to pass on knowledge and inspire creativity and independent thinking, our society is in trouble.
Oak Lane, Menlo Park
This story contains 995 words.
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