Pleasanton Weekly

News - January 26, 2007

Advocates discuss affordable housing needs in Pleasanton, Tri-Valley

Solutions such as getting people involved in effort and holding officials accountable among suggestions

by Janet Pelletier

Pleasanton resident Sandra DeGregorio doesn't imagine herself here for much longer. The single mother who rents an apartment in town said if home prices stay the way they are and cities such as Pleasanton continue to stall on efforts to provide affordable homes, she'll have to leave the area in search of a better quality of life.

"I told my son who's lived in Pleasanton for the past five years that eventually, if things don't change, we're going to have to move," she said. "It makes me so sad because he has made so many friends here."

DeGregorio, an affordable housing advocate, told her story at a forum on the subject held last Tuesday night at Lynnewood Community Church.

Representatives from the Tri-Valley Interfaith Poverty Forum, Citizens for a Caring Community, Greenbelt Alliance, Urban Habitat, Public Advocates and East Bay Housing Organizations offered their opinions and suggestions during a panel discussion.

In a PowerPoint presentation by the Poverty Forum, John McIntyre and Maurine Behrend shared statistics showing high home prices' effects on traffic, the environment, jobs, businesses and families.

McIntyre, who owns a small business in Pleasanton, said he has a hard time hiring and retaining employees because many can't afford to live here.

"Software engineers make good money--$80,000--but why aren't they taking jobs here?" McIntyre said. "They have to have a second income to even think about getting into the housing market."

Behrend said she was alarmed to notice people with jobs starting to show up at local soup kitchens for free meals.

Pleasanton has neglected the need to provide affordable housing, said Becky Dennis, a former Pleasanton City Councilwoman and member of local group Citizens for a Caring Community.

"We've had a bit of a dry spell--affordable housing really hasn't been built since 1997," she said, adding that the city isn't in touch with the residents who rent the approximately 3,700 apartments here.

Advocates at the forum also brought up legal action that has been taken against the city.

Public Advocates and Urban Habitat, with DeGregorio listed as a plaintiff, filed a lawsuit against the city a few months ago. The city responded by asking a judge to dismiss the case saying it has no legal standing, among other reasons. The motion to dismiss it was heard Jan. 19, however the judge in the case has not yet made a decision.

Richard Marcantonio, managing attorney for Public Advocates, said the city isn't doing enough to help low-income families.

"The city has been good about affordable housing for seniors....but they donít provide it for families--the people who are driving in and out of Interstate 580 every day," he said.

During the panel discussion, advocates offered their suggestions for how Pleasanton and the Tri-Valley area can help alleviate the problem.

"It's very hard to change people's minds," said Amie Fishman of East Bay Housing Organizations. "Who wins if this fight gets delayed and delayed and delayed? We need to mobilize, get people registered to vote, get them engaged in debates, mentoring and to learn from cities that are providing housing such as Dublin."

"Continue to educate people. Get your friends together and change minds here in Pleasanton," DeGregorio said.

Behrend said it's important that people be present at meetings such as City Council, when decisions affecting affordable housing are made, so their voices can be heard.

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