SF, the next generation

If the children are our future, what happens if they can't afford to live here?
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OPINION Do you dream of a city where housing is affordable, where the diversity of our heritage is celebrated, where there are good schools in every neighborhood, where all children are safe, and where the next generation reaps the rewards of their families' hard work?

This dream for San Francisco is possible. But it will require our determination to claim San Francisco as a city of opportunity for all. And it starts with our children — the 100,000 children who call this city their home today. They deserve the opportunity to see this dream come to life.

But the future being built before our eyes threatens these dreams and the values that have made San Francisco great. With 25,000 luxury condos on the way and very little housing planned that low- and middle-income families can afford, San Francisco may become a city only for the wealthy, with all its neighborhoods sold to the highest bidders.

And without affordable family housing or quality education, the children of today will be shut out of the city's prosperity, unable to afford to stay in the city they call home.

We have called on the mayor, the Board of Supervisors, the superintendent of schools, and the San Francisco Unified School District Board of Education to commit to Next Generation SF — a broad and long-term agenda developed by our parent and youth leaders to claim San Francisco as a city of opportunity for all.

The Next Generation SF agenda has three priorities:

More affordable family housing. Double the city's current affordable family housing pipeline of 1,500 units (recently revised to 1,700) to 3,000 units by 2011. This seems modest when two-thirds of the city's families (about 39,000 families) are currently in a housing crisis, according to the city's own data.

Good schools for all. Increase the opportunity for all students to go on to college or living-wage work, with an emphasis on students who are currently being left behind. Make the racial achievement gap in the SFUSD public schools (the most alarming gap in the state) the number one priority for the soon to be hired superintendent of schools. Raise the achievement of all students so that at least 60 percent of students in all racial groups have the opportunity to go to college by 2011.

Safety and security for all. Increase city budget investments in the safety and economic security of SF families, above the legal requirements. After running last year's successful $10 million Budget 4 Families campaign, we are supporting this year's Family Budget Coalition $20 million campaign for high-quality child care, violence prevention and alternatives to incarceration, youth employment, family support services, and health and after-school services.

But in order to create hope and opportunity for all San Franciscans, it will take the whole city to raise the next generation. Join Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth and more than 80 labor and community organizations May 12 at the Rally for the Next Generation at the Civic Center from 11 a.m.–1 p.m. *

NTanya Lee

NTanya Lee is executive director of Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth.