Preserving Affordability and Diversity in Silicon Valley
Following their successful advocacy for the East Palo Alto Ravenswood Business District Specific Plan, the Envision-Transform-Build Coalition of Urban Habitat, Peninsula Interfaith Action (PIA) and Youth United for Community Action (YUCA) continues to work in East Palo Alto to preserve the community’s affordability and diversity.
East Palo Alto is a 2.6 square mile economically-struggling municipality wedged between the affluent suburbs of Palo Alto and Menlo Park. East Palo Alto is home to a significant number of the county’s lower-income residents that service the tech industry, but who haven’t benefited from Silicon Valley’s rise. The annual median income of these residents is just over $50,000 — $35,000 less a year than in the surrounding communities. With Facebook located only a few miles away and an unyielding housing crisis, East Palo Alto’s diverse residents — Latinos make up 64.5% East Palo Alto of residents, 16.7% of the city’s residents are African American, and 7.5% are Pacific Islander — face a significant threat of gentrification.
In 2012, 1,800 rental units on the city’s Westside – a neighborhood that houses approximately 6,400 people, or one-fifth of the city’s population – were purchased by Equity Residential Properties (EQR), a national real estate development firm with deep pockets, notorious across the country for replacing low-income housing units with high-end condos. Those 1,800 apartments currently represent 50% of EPA’s total rental housing and 15% of San Mateo County’s housing stock for low-income residents. Eviction notices have already skyrocketed (over 300 in a single month in the summer of 2012) as EQR attempts to move residents out of these rent-controlled apartments and meet the growing housing demand for high-paid, high-tech workers.
In response to these evictions, the East Palo Alto city council placed a moratorium on development for 2 years until the city’s General Plan is completed. The GCC’s campaign partners are using this window as an opportunity to advocate for community benefits so new development will result in affordable housing, community services, and other positive outcomes for East Palo Alto. Advocates are also seeking stronger tenant protections to minimize the displacement of current residents.