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East Palo Alto: Life on the other side of Silicon Valley's tracks

Stashed in: Silicon Valley!, Awesome, Palo Alto, Homeless, Silicon Valley, Poverty, @kimmaicutler, Bay Area Housing

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Sympathetic account of a visit to East Palo Alto, with a smidgen of local history thrown in. Doesn't mention much about the fact that it's one of the first places in Silicon Valley that will be impacted by sea level rise, or that it had so many murders a while back that they installed a technology that listens for gunshots, or that the current Latino population rather recently displaced a long-established African-American population that once tried to change the name of the town to "Nairobi".

This resonates with me:

This strategically attractive location poses a dilemma for its residents. While the average price for an East Palo Alto home is lower than the average for the rest of Silicon Valley -- at around $574,600, according to real estate site  Zillow -- it's still far beyond the means of most of the city's population. Eighteen percent of East Palo Alto residents live below the poverty line and the average yearly income per person is $18,385, according to the US Census. For comparison, the average yearly income for all Californians is $29,527.

"Many of our residents are a paycheck away from missing rent," Martinez said. If they have to spend extra money for a broken-down car or sick child, "that's enough for them to be evicted."

As home prices and rents rise in other parts of Silicon Valley, more people are moving to East Palo Alto or buying houses there as investments. The main reason for this is the city's proximity to tech companies and Stanford University, which is just four miles away.

"If you can't afford a million-dollar home, you're going to move to where you can afford, so that you can be closer to work," said Mayor Yarbrough-Gauthier.

I'm sure there's a YC team trying to disrupt the poverty industry in Silicon Valley.

Oh wait, that's not a rich people problem.

Yeah, I haven't heard of a single YC company working on anything for people in poverty.

Point well taken. 

Reminds me of the article Kim Mai Cutler write:

East Palo Alto serves as a stark illustration of the growing divide caused by the tech boom. The Palo Alto side of the creek is flush with tech money -- and it's not unusual for people to throw down millions for a single-family home -- while nearly a fifth of East Palo Alto residents live below the poverty line. With the tech industry raising the cost of living and pushing folks out of other cities, East Palo Alto is one of the latest communities to attempt the balance between gentrification and preserving its roots.

Those roots are, admittedly, short. East Palo Alto is one of the youngest cities in California. Incorporated in 1983, the town was established with high hopes that its own local government could bring the area's residents the same things that its prosperous neighbor Palo Alto already had: jobs, homes, health care and safety. And it's been working ever since to achieve those goals.

The town has seen some progress. It's gone from being the per capita murder capital of the US in 1992, with 42 homicides, to having just 5 murders last year. It's erected sprawling shopping centers to bring in revenue and jobs, cleaned up toxic waste sites, built dozens of new homes and converted the old county dump into a shoreline park on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. Now East Palo Alto is dealing with another problem: the expanding reach of the world's top tech companies and the influx of their employees.

"Residents are worried about being displaced from the community that they've grown up in," said East Palo Alto Mayor Lisa Yarbrough-Gauthier, who was raised in the town. "How do we preserve our community and stay relevant?"

Here's Kim Mai's article:

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