Some families don't flee San Francisco


I hate to admit, I take this a little bit personally, all this stuff about how families are fleeing San Francisco and how it might be better to live in Omaha or Louisville. Cuz I have a family and we aren't leaving. And neither are my friends and neighbors. There are plenty of us who think that San Francisco is a great place to raise kids.

Some of the stories in the recent Chron article are laughably unrepresentative:

For Kearsley Higgins, raising a baby in San Francisco was idyllic. She and her husband owned a small two-bedroom house in the Castro, she found plenty of activities for her daughter, Maya, and made friends through an 11-member mothers' group.

Now as the mother of an almost 4-year-old, with a baby boy due in September, Higgins has left. A year ago, she and her husband, a digital artist, bought a four-bedroom home with a large backyard in San Rafael. Maya easily got into a popular preschool and will be enrolled in a good public elementary school when the time comes.

Nice: One-income family buys a four-bedroom home in Marin. I'm afraid that's not the market most of us are in.

The statistics are real:

New census figures show that despite an intense focus by city and public school officials to curb family flight, San Francisco last year had 5,278 fewer kids than it did in 2000.

The city actually has 3,000 more children under 5 than it did 10 years ago, but has lost more than 8,000 kids older than 5.

But the reasons have a lot more to do with the cost of housing than with anything else. The lack of affordable housing for families -- and frankly, none of the new market-rate condos the city is allowing offer much of anything to people with kids -- drives people to the cheaper suburbs. And in this economy, it's not as if they just quit their jobs. No: They commute, long distances -- and when you have kids, it's hard to rely on marginal public transportation. What happens if you're at work in SF and your kid gets really sick at school in Brentwood? Are you going to spend all afternoon trying to get there on BART and buses? No -- you're hopping in the car, by yourself, and driving 80 miles an hour to the school site.

Which means that building dense, expensive, small condos in San Francisco is the opposite of sustainable planning or green building. Sustainable planning means preserving existing affordable family housing and building housing for the San Francisco workforce. San Francisco is doing none of that. Density isn't smart growth if the housing doesn't work for people who work in the city. It's dumb growth.

End of rant.

What I started off to say was that some of us are very happy living in the city. I'm more than happy with our public schools (McKinley and Aptos so far). I really like the idea that my son can get home from school by himself, on Muni -- and can go to his martial arts class on Muni, and can walk to music lessons and bike to the park, and when he's 16 we won't even have to talk about a car. I love the fact that my kids are growing up with people who are very different from them -- and that ethnicity, socioeconomic status, religion, sexual orientation and all the other things that were such a big deal when we were growing up are utterly irrelevant in their circles. They have friends who come from two-dad families, two-mom families, single-parent families, single grandparent families, rich families, poor families, black familes, Asian families, Latino families, families where the parents speak no English ... it's all a big Whatever. It's San Francisco.

The city is full of cool, fun stuff to do. It's full of fascinating people and neighborhoods. My kids experience stuff every day that the suburban folks with their big back yards won't see in a lifetime. It's not all positive -- we see homeless people on the streets, and we give them money and talk about why people are homeless. But it's real and it's life and I'm not taking my family and running away.

So there.      



Agree completely, Tim.

Lotsa WhiteFolks are uncomfortable about sending their kids to school with Colored People and White Trash.

I put my two kids through SF public schools (no, not Rooftop/Clarendon/Lowell, etc., etc.), and they had a great experience. They were well-grounded in the real world and both went to good colleges.

But, let's face it, some of these people actually BELONG in the suburbs. That's what suburbs are for: being with YourOwnKind.

I'm a conservative by your standards (and a fascist by Gregory's standards), but White Flight to Burbia by people afraid of rubbing elbows with pick one or more (immigrants, BlackFolks, Salvadorenos, poor people) is a long-standing tradition.

Posted by Barton on Jun. 21, 2011 @ 3:08 pm

Then those census figures just aren't showing the REAL story - now are they?

Posted by Lucretia "Secretia" Snapples on Jun. 21, 2011 @ 4:06 pm
Posted by Greg on Jun. 21, 2011 @ 10:46 pm

i wouldn't count on MM not wanting a car when he is 16 because of the superior public transportation in SF. 16 year old boys generally are very interested in cars whether they live in a city, suburbs or rural area.

Posted by Traderkitten on Jun. 22, 2011 @ 8:15 am

"Kearsley Higgins" is such a suburban name, isn't it, that really encapsulates it all, no?

San Francisco is unable to provide services to meet the needs of existing residents, not able to make the City streets and sidewalks safe for pedestrians or cyclists, has shown no inclination to funding public rapid reliable transportation, and is lagging in providing basic services to children even as populations dwindle.

San Francisco has fewer homeowners than anywhere else but Manhattan. We have fewer heterosexuals than most everywhere else in the country. Is anyone seriously suggesting that we take steps to conform to the norm as measured by those indicators?

Or is the insistence that a largely child free tax base pony up even more money to incur even more costs down the road, just to satisfy some abstract notion that a City without children is a City not worth living in? Apparently the magic of the marketplace is only good when screwing working folks, and if the market does not manage to screw taxpayers, shrill boosters chime in with their social engineering to rectify that omission.


Posted by marcos on Jun. 22, 2011 @ 8:45 am

Not sure I agree with your logic here, the very definition of progressive politics is to use the tax policy to shape the society we live in (an abstract notion).
A mainly housed tax base ponies up to help house the homeless, a mainly legalized residence tax base uses tax money in this city to protect the rights of the non-legalized residence.
I don’t want to leap to a conclusion; but do you really mean we should not use tax money to help shape an abstract vision of San Francisco, or just use tax money to shape your vision of San Francisco?

Posted by Chris Pratt on Jun. 22, 2011 @ 1:43 pm

I'm saying that San Franciscans should take care of the unmet basic needs of existing San Franciscans before thinking about how to accommodate hypothetical San Franciscans, such as unborn children. This is not South Dakota or Kansas yet, is it?

Progressives are not trying to import and settle progressives in the neighborhoods in order to change the electoral balance, while development interests align with conservative business interests to accommodate, import and settle likely moderate voters.

Likewise, there are tremendous forces working against increasing the number of children. Expecting a largely childless population to expend increasingly scarce resources pushing water up a hill while we're going dry down here doesn't make political sense to me.


Posted by marcos on Jun. 23, 2011 @ 8:10 pm

That sounds reasonable

Posted by Chris Pratt on Jun. 24, 2011 @ 8:27 am

Yes, Marcus be reasonable. Let's not push water up hill for children. Let them push their own water! Darnit! Jack can fall down, and Jill can come tumbling after! For all I care!

Posted by Barton on Jun. 24, 2011 @ 2:48 pm

It is not like if these kids don't live in SF they will be aborted or otherwise not have the opportunity to live somewhere.

There are plenty of places where families with kids thrive, San Francisco is not one of them for a variety of reasons that we're not going to be able to change.

How much money to you suggest we throw at keeping the marginal family with children in San Francisco, how much public money per kid?

Posted by marcos on Jun. 26, 2011 @ 7:04 am

Nobody is talking about "hypothetical kids." The writer is a father of a real kid; the person who fled to suburbia is a parent of real children. I know it's easy to forget, but kids are actually people. Not possessions or abstract ideas - people. People whose needs are just as valid as the face-tattooed lost folks in the Haight or the yuppies or the guppies. (Kids are citizens, even.) The family that fled to the suburbs in the original story paid tons of property and other taxes, until they and their money left. People with kids tend to be very motivated to buy houses, which means they will pay more taxes. Do you think all families are on welfare?

You hate kids. Just admit it. In turn, I'll admit that I hate people who shoot smack into their glutes at 7 in the morning on Folsom Street. We can share the city.

Posted by Karen on Jul. 01, 2011 @ 10:17 am

Tim's self-beatification in the Church of Diversity, which was him being his usual unintentionally comical self, there was nothing in this article that I couldn't flick off my shoulder like lint. Very happy for you that you enjoy raising your family in SF. For a lot of parents, however, your Benetton-ad compulsions are not a high priority when it comes to deciding where and how to raise their kids. It doesn't make them inferior to you.

Posted by Chromefields on Jun. 22, 2011 @ 10:34 am

Tim, I'm in the same boat as you and agree with most of what you say. It saddens me that the Board of Education's new middle school school assignment policy (which gives priority to students who have attended a "feeder" elementary school, that is typically located in the same neighborhood as the middle school) will encourage the generally more conservative Westside families to stay in SF, while providing more impetus for the typically more progressive ones in the southern and eastern neighborhoods to flee it (or go private).

Posted by SFsouthwestener on Jun. 22, 2011 @ 11:24 am

I dont know why they say we have a housing problem in SF, I have a house!

Posted by Guest on Jun. 22, 2011 @ 1:41 pm

drive, energy and commitment to afford a house in SF that complain there's a "housing problem".

Those who complain are those who can't afford to live here but feel that that shouldn't matter.

Posted by Walter on Jun. 26, 2011 @ 8:20 am

Are any of the commentators parents with kids in SF? Seems a lot of opinion and ranting, and not really stating any example for/against policies in SF, in regards to raising children. Affordability seems to be greatest problem I see, not so much availability for programs for kids in the city. (e,g summer programs/camps/activities).

Though, I see everything from a "can we afford to.." point of view, but being a single-income with kids is just the norm it seems, until our husbands/wives can find work. Even then, I have never relied upon SF to raise my kids, I just try to use whats out there in our neighborhood. Growing up in the Richmond, there was far less than there is now and I had a great childhood roaming the avenues.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 27, 2011 @ 1:31 pm

As the mom in one of those families that bailed to the suburbs 18 years ago, the reason we fled was because of the school system. At the time, the public school choices were by lottery and chances were very slim that we would get our child into a "good" school nearby, and we weren't going to go the private school route. We also lived on the southeast side, which was a bit rough for a young child. We owned our home and couldn't afford to buy in another neighborhood (or at least that's what we thought). So we bailed for the schools and the neighborhood.

The burbs were a huge culture shock, an immersion in whitey world and sameness that is jarring and narrow. I have never been in my element here. But my daughter could walk to one of the excellent public schools, and so on.

Now that she is a fine 18 year old college student (who LOVES city life and is very city savvy) she just said to me:mom, you've done your time, I'm in college, and you and dad should get yourselves back up to the city."

Investing in our schools will help support and keep families in SF, and add to the diverseness and richness of the neighborhoods.

Posted by Guest city gal on Jun. 30, 2011 @ 8:38 am

The problem isn't affordable housing. There are plenty of families that *own* homes who are selling them and fleeing the city.

The answers are simple:

1) Bring back neighborhood schools and improve poorly performing schools so that there is no incentive to file silly lawsuits to get your kids sent to Lowell and destroy reasonable access for everyone else. If all schools were equal there would be no reason to attend anything but the local neighborhood school.

2) Improve access to child care for "San Francisco middle class" families. Something is very wrong when the cost of day care is more expensive than my mortgage - that is, if you can get day care *at all*.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 30, 2011 @ 12:53 pm

The problem isn't affordable housing. There are plenty of families that *own* homes who are selling them and fleeing the city.

The answers are simple:

1) Bring back neighborhood schools and improve poorly performing schools so that there is no incentive to file silly lawsuits to get your kids sent to Lowell and destroy reasonable access for everyone else. If all schools were equal there would be no reason to attend anything but the local neighborhood school.

2) Improve access to child care for "San Francisco middle class" families. Something is very wrong when the cost of day care is more expensive than my mortgage - that is, if you can get day care *at all*.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 30, 2011 @ 12:54 pm