How can San Francisco keep families from moving away? That was the central question of a panel discussion this afternoon hosted by the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR). The panel included Susan Exline of the San Francisco Planning Department, Daniel Parolek, architect with Opticos Design, and San Francisco’s District Seven Supervisor Norman Yee. The panel was lead by SPUR Board Member Doug Shoemaker.
Supervisor Yee spoke first, pointing out that San Francisco has the lowest child population of any American city–around 13 percent, while most American cities are at 25 percent and some are at 35 percent. Yee, a former SF School Board member who raised two daughters in Westwood Park, said he’s long asked why developers fail to produce more family-oriented housing. He said it’s great that there’s so much focus on affordable housing, but “Why are we losing all these children?” he asked. Yee pointed out that the city is focused on developing dense high rises but doesn’t imagine that families can be accommodated in them.
“Almost all developers said we know how to build family housing, we build it in other cities… city leadership has said we don’t need family housing here. I’m sorry, but we need to change the discussion,” Yee said. He has been pressing developers to include child care centers in their plans. “I started quizzing them: what else do you think families want? Is it just three bedrooms? If I were a parent, I don’t want to be on the 50th floor without a view of a playground [for my kids].
“Yee asked us at Planning to start by writing a white paper about how to make [urban] housing for families,” said Exline. Several panelists described the current situation: generally, young people move into San Francisco, but most–once they have children–move right back out. And that damages the entire city fabric. “Having kids in a city helps the rest of the city thrive as well. There’s a long list of things families need to stay in the city,” said Exline.