These are the stories we tell about the region we love
Once upon a time, we came to find opportunity and una vida mejor. We brought the railroad west. We built homes, saw them burn and then rebuilt them in San Francisco. We grew our communities to the East, South and North and it became our Bay Area.
Those who came before birthed financial institutions on the West coast, sailed East across the Pacific with science and industry, came North for freedom and West for justice. We struggled against redlining, discriminatory financial practices, and segregation to create some of the most diverse and inclusive zipcodes in the nation.
Our region has changed the world more than once.
We give thanks to the mothers who Saved the Bay and the Rosies who launched Liberty Ships, the Apples that grew in new orchards and the fruit of technology bringing the world closer together while creating new digital divides. We give thanks to the railroads, ports, aqueducts, highways, and the men and women who gave their lives to transportation infrastructure. Thanks to the leaders who led and the innovators who invented more than you could ever have predicted, value expanded exponentially. Vintage communities grafted new growth on to old vines, and catapulted an American industry to the forefront of an ancient craft. World class institutions of higher learning brought new medicine to doctors, and new doctors into underserved communities.
Once upon this time, communities grew around natural resources and great beauty, but not always with planning foresight. In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, innovation, and growth, our region grew. We grew together, and we grew apart. We put technology in the hands of billions, yet left billions behind. In all these changes, one of the world’s most beautiful, dynamic and productive regions struggled with a problem rooted deeply in both success and failure. Success is an economic engine that launched Liberty ships and silicon chips. Failure is our abject inability to house and care for the most vulnerable among us, our grandparents, homecoming veterans, people differently abled, and the hard-working, low-wage-earning families that are the foundation of every industry and every economic success.
Our Bay Area housing history reveals our success and opens opportunities to improve. When too many families are displaced from neighborhoods they helped to build and sustain, commutes lengthen beyond reason and land use planner jobs remain unfilled because the skilled worker can’t afford to live in the community they would plan, now it’s time to act. It’s time to put housing at the forefront of our planning.
The Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California has just released “On Track Together: Housing and Transporting the Bay Area’s Vibrant, Sustainable and Affordable Future.” This report, by our regional policy manager Pedro Galvao, looks at our beloved region’s housing crisis and the jumbled history of how we got here, then challenges us to look to the future. It says we can seize opportunities with a consolidated regional planning organization that puts housing and people in its top priorities along with transportation, job creation, and preserving our environment. It shows success stories and outcomes we can achieve with important and timely adjustments in our approach. It says housing is a critical part of our infrastructure, and we need to plan for an inclusive future where everyone has a place to call home.
Future generations are watching. Our children and grandchildren will look at the inheritance we leave them, and gauge our commitment to be good stewards of the land, the Bay, and their future. The stories we tell can include the courage and innovation to change the rules of the game and set our region on the right track, together.