Economy

Silicon Valley Housing Official Who Can No Longer Afford Her Own Rent, Quits, Pens Scathing Letter

What happens when city workers can't afford to live in their city?

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

A Palo Alto housing official resigned from her post on the Planning and Transportation Commission Wednesday, penning a scathing resignation letter lamenting the astronomical housing costs in the affluent Bay Area city.

“After many years of trying to make it work in Palo Alto, my husband and I cannot see a way to stay in Palo Alto and raise a family here,” Kate Vershov Downing, lead council for the IT cloud company ServiceNow, wrote in an essay on NewCo Shift.

The housing crisis in Silicon Valley is only getting worse, exacerbated by high-paying tech jobs in and around the region. In June, San Jose took the remarkable step of opposing a major economic development plan in neighboring Santa Clara because it “would add far too many jobs, exacerbating the region’s housing shortage.”

“Time and again, I’ve seen dozens of people come to both Commission meetings and [City] Council meetings asking the Council to make housing its top priority,” Downing wrote, accusing the governmental body of ignoring the city’s residents and charting “a course for the next 15 years of this city’s development which substantially continues the same job-housing imbalance this community has been suffering from for some time now.”

Downing noted that if she and her husband—a software engineer—are unable to afford raising a family in Palo Alto, “then all of our teachers, first responders, and service workers are in dire straits.”

Earlier this year, Palo Alto City Council voted unanimously to raise wages for 600 city workers, including police and firefighters, in an effort to mitigate the cost of housing.

“People want to have the American dream, they want to own homes, they want to provide for their family,” Palo Alto Fire Department Capt. Ryan Stoddard told CBS affiliate KPIX 5. “In order to do so, you can’t live within 10, 20 miles of the city. You have to live further, and further out.” The Palo Alto Fire Department said it lost about 7 percent of its workforce due to housing costs.

“If things keep going as they are, yes, Palo Alto’s streets will look just as they did decades ago, but its inhabitants, spirit, and sense of community will be unrecognizable,” Downing wrote, warning it will “turn into a hollowed out museum.”

“We should take care to remember that Palo Alto is famous the world over for its residents’ accomplishments, but none of those people would be able to live in Palo Alto were they starting out today,” she concluded.

Elizabeth Preza is a staff writer for Raw Story. Follow her on Twitter @lizacisms.

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