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.      


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