Vote No on Measure V to Roll Back Decades of Segregation
She called it a “life or death” situation – that building housing on the empty lot where Flood School stood in the Suburban Park neighborhood is a life or death situation for her child of 5 years.
I too have a 5 year old. I am a concerned citizen. I am a parent and board member of two children in the Ravenswood City School District. And I agree with the resident of Suburban Park, it’s a life or death situation.
It’s a life or death situation where Suburban Park was given life at the cost of slowly killing communities of color that are part of the Ravenswood City School District.
To understand this death sentence, we must revisit the history of Menlo Park. Over the past few years, Menlo Together has held interactive sessions on Richard Rothstein’s book “The Color of Law”, which clearly describes how the government – including Menlo Park – has created segregated neighborhoods with unequal access to opportunities by through red lines and restrictive act practices. .
This housing segregation led to school segregation, and more deaths followed. In 1975 and 1976, the predominantly white neighborhoods of Suburban Park and Menlo Oaks successfully petitioned to leave the predominantly black Ravenswood District for the Menlo Park City School District (MPCSD), taking with them their tax base while valuing “the character and quality of their single- family neighborhood.”
It was the first phase of Ravenswood’s death sentence fueling the Tinsley lawsuit, which successfully asserted that the change had created racially segregated school districts. The settlement, known as the “Tinsley Scheme”, requires school districts to desegregate, forcing several surrounding (mostly white) school districts to accept students of color from Ravenswood. This program is actually a two-way program, which means surrounding districts can (and should) send students to Ravenswood, but this is never commercialized.
In 1983, the cycle continued when the MPCSD annexed parts of the Willows and Flood neighborhoods, depriving Ravenswood of more students, funding, and diversity.
What is life to me? It provides the best for my children by building a solid foundation for understanding the world around them; acquire communication skills; and find joy, self-confidence and self-esteem. I am happy that I chose to send my children to Ravenswood, where they build and value these principles and experiences every day. Ravenswood provides my children with an excellent education, and by attending schools in our neighborhood, investing our resources, time, energy and advocacy, we strengthen the community.
What else strengthens the community? Diversify our neighborhoods so they can accommodate families, teachers, staff and anyone in need of affordable housing.
Ravenswood is transparent and efficient in how we allocate our funds. Thanks to the generous support of our foundation, we were able to adopt a new talent initiative to attract and retain exceptional teachers, staff and district team members. We go beyond the many death sentences imposed by unjust and broken systems. One way to maintain our budget is to lease our land. And what better way to help our neighborhood have more signs of life than by giving life to well-deserving families: the same access to life in Suburban Park that its residents enjoy thanks to unjust laws, racist practices and selfish causes.
Housing is a human right and building 85-90 affordable homes that prioritize teachers and staff in a district that has provided plenty of minimal resources and a bridge stacked against it is the least Menlo Park can do. Families need affordable housing, teachers need affordable housing, staff need affordable housing, people need affordable housing. Every neighborhood needs affordable housing.
Menlo Park, I implore you to vote No on V and get rid of this story, which you now understand. Vote No on this ill-conceived measure that harms us all. Don’t value the “character” of a neighborhood built in the 1950s atop segregationist policies and practices that strangled Ravenswood’s access to resources. Instead, join Ravenswood in building a future where all are welcomed, loved, valued and can live their lives to the fullest.
Jenny Varghese Bloom is a parent and member of the Ravenswood City School District Board of Trustees.
V measurement is a sledgehammer when a scalpel is needed
I read the cover of Mesure V by L’Almanach with interest and concern. Since we moved to Menlo Park more than two decades ago, I have coached baseball, walked in parades, played in our parks, and served on the environment, transportation, and planning commissions.
Menlo Park has been a wonderful place to raise our family. At an early age, our then young son was inspired by a beloved primary school teacher and was able to take additional after-school lessons at her neighboring home. He could see her in the store and get an encouraging smile.
Living in close community with our teachers strengthens our bonds through shared experience. The same goes for first responders, service workers and tradespeople. Today, these essential threads that have made our community fabric so vibrant are disappearing due to the lack of affordable housing throughout Menlo Park.
Because the housing crisis is statewide, California requires cities to plan to increase the supply of affordable and other housing. The first step is to submit a roadmap for how the city might, over time, approach achieving affordable housing goals. In response to the Menlo Park plan, concern over the inclusion of a single parcel in Flood Park as a potential location to increase affordable housing brought us Measure V, a proposal that would further aggravate the current housing crisis. ‘accessibility.
It is important to remember that the current planning process for Menlo Park works, particularly when affected neighbors are actively involved. It includes four Planning Commission reviews for major developments, each with an opportunity for public input. It has always allowed neighbours, city staff, developers and seven volunteer planning commissioners to work together to find the best solution.
Potential project-wide issues can be resolved through wonderful design, potential traffic issues addressed through parking and alternative mobility policies, and potential impact on the natural environment mitigated through plans to protect the mature trees and planting new ones. We have shown time and time again that this approach can work because it gives interested parties plenty of opportunities to sort through the complex issues raised by individual developments to find the best solution.
The flood park parcel has yet to go through any of our city’s current community engagement processes, and now Measure V would effectively throw it all away, bypassing the ability for residents to participate thoughtfully to address concerns about not just a project at the Flood Park Site but many others across the city.
The V measurement is a sledgehammer when a scalpel is needed. This creates an unfair two-tier process for planning based on a property’s zoning status with uncertainty for property owners, an increased workload for an already stretched urban planning staff and, most importantly, it increases the potential for Menlo Park to be found not to comply with state law.
Non-compliance would incentivize the state to remove local control over our land use decisions, with extremely wide leeway for developers to displace huge projects. Just look at cities like Santa Monica, which were found non-compliant and then had no say in the size and scale of housing development because local zoning rules no longer applied.
To claim that affordable housing will look like big box housing projects found on the internet is simply not true. We’re in an affordability crisis because we’re short on mid-size housing – housing like the four apartments from the previous zoning rules on a corner lot down the street from my house that nestle nicely into our single-family zoned neighborhood. These apartments should be demolished and transformed into a single family home. This would work very well under Measure V. But where will these displaced members of the community now live?
The affordability crisis affects us all and, if left unaddressed, will make our once vibrant community a shell of itself. At a minimum, we shouldn’t put Measure V in place to make the situation worse.
Chris DeCardy is chairman of the Menlo Park Planning Commission.