Most of us find change difficult, especially when it feels sudden, and we focus on what we might lose rather than what we might gain. A lot of residents passionately desire to preserve the town. But Woodside is not a relic to be preserved. It is a cluster of life in a much larger web. Woodside, like everywhere else, is always changing. It's just that some changes are welcomed and some are not, and this calculus may be different for each one of us.
My parents bought the property on which my own family now lives in 1974. Contrary to what many residents are saying about the supposedly timeless nature of Woodside, the town has changed quite a bit in my lifetime. One of the changes I struggle with most is the reduction in economic diversity.
Sure, there were wealthy families who lived in town when I was growing up, but there were also middle- and working-class families as well. And not a day goes by when I don't miss the economic diversity we once had. Focusing on that change, I can wholeheartedly say yes, I welcome the state mandate to build affordable housing! I don't want to be among the small number of families who are only here because we have parents who were able to purchase homes long ago and hold on to them. I want people who work locally to be able to live locally, no matter the kind of work they do or income they make.
Fear is also distorting how we think about community. When we talk about the Woodside community, who is included? Only those who own homes here? Some homeowners spend less time here than those who work here do. Are the hardworking people employed inside many Woodside homes not part of our community? Teachers and school staff? Frontline workers? Aren't they part of our community? Why should they have to commute long distances — sometimes over 100 miles — to find an affordable place to live?
Fear of change is also distorting our notion of community by fueling a narrow insularity and privileged exceptionalism. The fact is that California, and the Bay Area in particular, has a massive housing shortage. This problem is our problem. It is not someone else's problem or some other municipality's problem. It is a problem shared by every one of us because we all depend on the labor, health and wellbeing of people desperately in need of affordable housing.
So can we expand our sense of community so we understand ourselves as part of the entire Peninsula or the whole Bay Area? Can we shift our attention away from the idea of an unwanted state mandate and toward the truth that there is a real problem that impacts us all and that we must solve together?
The problem before us is not the state mandate; it's the lack of affordable housing for people in our community. As we grapple with how best to meet our share of new housing provisions, I hope we will choose to focus not only on what we fear we're going to lose, but on all that we have to gain in creating a more inclusive, compassionate, diverse and connected community. Isn't that change worth embracing?
Dr. Tovis Page grew up in Woodside, moving back to her childhood home in 2016 with her spouse and two children who currently attend Woodside Elementary School.
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