Rita Mancera is executive director of Puente, the South Coast’s only community resource center, which serves the communities of Pescadero, La Honda, Loma Mar and San Gregorio. She originally wrote this post for the spring 2017 issue of SVCF Magazine.
Residents of the South Coast of San Mateo County say that Silicon Valley is “on the other side of the hill.” But in reality they know their lives are far more removed from the affluence of their neighbors.
In this struggling farming community with no affordable housing, much of the area offers squalid living conditions. Most South Coast communities don’t have any child care centers, emergency rooms or sewage systems.
It is tempting to contemplate what life in the South Coast would be like if it were considered part of Silicon Valley. In Silicon Valley, for example, immigrants are valued for the knowledge they offer tech companies. How wonderful it would be if the immigrants working on South Coast farmland were honored for the expertise and drive they bring to the agricultural industry. A fairer guest worker program would acknowledge their critical value to the region.
And what about the technology gap that exists between the two areas? In many South Coast locations, cellphone and Internet services are unavailable. If the area were paired with Silicon Valley, I believe this lack of access would not be accepted.
When it comes to child care, some tech workers can take their children to a company day care center. By comparison, so many South Coast families struggle to find any affordable high-quality child care, let alone at their workplace. It would be amazing to have exceptional child care located right on the farms.
While a lack of affordable housing plagues both locales, for South Coast residents the situation is dire. San Mateo County’s Forgotten South Coast Residents, a recent white paper from Silicon Valley Community Foundation, describes a family of five (pictured below) living in a battered trailer that’s infested with insects and has no heating. Housing security would mean so much to the South Coast.
Lastly, the entrepreneurial spirit of Silicon Valley would bring an environment of innovation to our area. Supporters would jump at the chance to fund pilot programs that promise to bring relief to families.
Are these ideas just wishful thinking? I don’t think so. Recently I have seen increased support from county partners and foundations, particularly SVCF. For South Coast’s residents, many challenges remain, but these initiatives give me hope for a brighter future.