I haven’t been in Los Altos very long, but I’ve been here long enough to love it.
When I came here, I was reminded of Savannah in “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” a village full of peculiar characters, long-standing feuds and understated bombast (but without the tragic murder).
I was not in Los Altos long before I realized that I would have to leave. Of all the cities up and down Silicon Valley, Los Altos seemed the most homey and tight-knit. But that doesn’t mean it’s the most welcoming.
I see myself in most of the residents here. They’re folks who came from Southern California, Wisconsin or China to work hard and make a home. But I’m not sure they see themselves in me. They treat me and others who work in this town not as members of their community, but as a service economy – an amenity that comes with the median $2.8 million home.
As a worker here, let me say: We want to be a part of this town, we want to raise kids in the schools in which we teach and have celebrations in the restaurants in which we work. I want a garden that will be featured in the Town Crier’s Your Home section. Let us be your neighbors.
How to make a home
I am leaving the Town Crier at the end of the month, moving off to Chicago. I can earnestly say that I learned a lot from my colleagues at the paper and all of you who read us every week and make this newspaper part of your life here. Thank you for that.
But if you want people like me – young professionals who spend their time and money here – to stay in Los Altos, all I can say is: Build more housing. Lots of it.
I know the usual response here – that Los Altos is full up and that people who want housing are in the developers’ pockets. But it’s not, and we’re not. We simply want to build equity in the place we are beautifying, one latte or newspaper at a time. But we need your help.
We need the commissions and city council to think about the entire city. We need the homeowners to have compassion for the people working for them, and I don’t just mean a few quarters in the tip jar.
The people here should share the wealth we’ve built together with those of us who work here. The way to do that is not only to build affordable apartments along El Camino Real, but also to make serious commitments. Precisely 80 percent of the land area in Los Altos is set aside for single-family housing. If we can up-zone just a small portion of that and allow multifamily homes, we could have the true vibrancy that so many desire and give workers here a stake in the city they want to see thrive.
So many people I have spoken to as a journalist here mention how much they love Los Altos and how sorry they are to leave. So many more have been interested in one of the several open positions at city hall or in the downtown restaurants, but they know that they will have only a year or two before their rent goes up and they’ll have to flee like me.
Los Altos is an epicenter of wealth and beauty, but it is also a community happy to pull the ladder up after themselves. Don’t force people like me to the exit – let us be your neighbors. Give us the space and the zoning to raise our kids here.
Asher Kohn is a Town Crier staff writer. To contact him after he leaves the newspaper, visit asherjkohn.com.