Commentary: What it feels like to be priced out of my own hometown


A neighbor recently asked if I would be attending an upcoming Walnut Creek city council meeting. She wanted to join other residents in expressing anger about all the construction of apartment buildings downtown.

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“I’m so sick about all the overdevelopment in Walnut Creek,” she explained.

I replied that I had something else to do that night. But I wanted to say much more, and not just as someone who agrees with planning experts that the Bay Area’s serious housing shortage poses a dire threat to our region’s economy, socio-economic diversity and long-term quality of life.

I wanted to tell her that I’m not all that angry about the construction — not if it helps alleviate this city’s housing shortage and, in turn, provides more places to live that are affordable to people like me and my husband, who aren’t rich or near rich.

I’m a reporter, and my husband works for a nonprofit that serves homeless people in West Oakland — not the most lucrative professions. Our combined income puts us in the “moderate” income category for Walnut Creek. Others in this category include include elementary school teachers, mental health counselors, social workers, plumbers, transportation workers and legal secretaries. It could also include the children of long-time residents who are starting their careers or families and want to continue to make this city home.

But guess what? There aren’t many apartment or single-family home options available to us moderate types in Walnut Creek, according to a presentation at that city council meeting I didn’t attend, but later watched on video.

Right now, my husband and I are not looking because we’re fortunate enough to live in my late parents’ home in an old neighborhood near downtown. But who knows? Perhaps we’ll decide that we can’t handle the upkeep for this 65-year-old structure and its quarter-acre yard. Maybe my siblings and I will decide it’s best to sell.

Then what? The prospect leaves me feeling sad and anxious. I never imagined I would be at a point in my life where I wouldn’t be able to afford to live in Walnut Creek, my hometown.

The Walnut Creek home when Martha Ross’ parents purchased it in 1952 (Martha Ross).

And when I say “home,” I mean it. I was born here, at the Kaiser medical center in downtown. A few days later, I was carried into my parent’s house a half-mile away. I went to local schools and hung out with friends at the old Festival movie theater,

Source:: The Mercury News – Lifestyle

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