Even A Silicon Valley Housing Official Can't Afford To Live There

A lawyer who worked for the Palo Alto planning commission resigned and wrote a letter condemning the city for its lack of affordable housing.

The colossal housing costs in the Silicon Valley only continue to rise as longtime residents continue to exit; attorney Kate Downing’s resignation letter that recently went viral encompasses exactly why.

Downing worked as a lawyer for Palo Alto’s Planning and Transportation Commission and her husband works a software engineer, yet the two were forced to share their home with another couple, paying $6,200 per month as rent.

“It’s clear that if professionals like me cannot raise a family here, then all of our teachers, first responders, and service workers are in dire straits,” Downing wrote.

She and her husband have decided to move to Santa Cruz, unable to deal with the absurd cost of living in the Silicon Valley. Downing detailed how she had fought to instate affordable housing in Palo Alto, citing the support of thousands of other residents, yet all pleas fell on deaf ears in the City Council.

“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. A once thriving city will turn into a hollowed out museum,” she warned.

According to Slate, “Less than 10 percent of city employees live in Palo Alto.” This has made it difficult to fill crucial positions in schools, police departments, and fire departments.

Similar housing crises are occurring in cities such as San Francisco and Berkeley, where astronomical rents are displacing middle-income residents and forcing longer commutes.

Unfortunately, if the city is not willing to cooperate (as Palo Alto seems unlikely to) there is little the public can do—although Downing’s letter will hopefully put some pressure on the Council to make some changes in affordable housing.   

Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Rick Wilking

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