Last week in East Contra Costa County, we came together with residents from across the region — from Pittsburg to Pleasant Hill — to talk about the issues of the day in the county, and their respective cities and neighborhoods.
We think it’s important to share more broadly what we are hearing in the VOICE sessions throughout the region. I want to outline core themes that resonated for our team in what was shared.
Throughout the day, participants lifted up the tremendous assets in the eastern part of Contra Costa County —the civic activity, the sense of community, the strong connections to political infrastructure and the rich system of non-profits. There was a strong theme that there is a lot to be proud of, and build upon, in the County.
There were also consistent themes identifying where there are opportunities to work together to come up with equitable solutions. Themes that included how there is a significant jobs and housing imbalance, leading to a heavy reliance on commuting that creates a whole set of challenges and opportunities.
There is also a complex housing situation occurring in East Contra Costa, and competing realities. On the one hand, it is one of the more affordable areas in the Bay Area. At the same time, there’s an affordability issue for families and people who grew up and want to stay in the County. Lastly, there’s concern of further displacement of residents who moved to the area during the recession because of affordable rental opportunities, finding themselves once again under the stresses of a shifting housing market.
In areas ranging from transit and housing to education, there was a strong focus on families, children, and creating the right strategies and systems of support for young people to succeed.
Participants also shared many bold opportunities to strengthen the region, including moving to a healthier energy grid, focusing on collaborative efforts, reinvesting in redevelopment money, and establishing a major four year collegiate institution in the County with a strong workforce component.
Collectively, these listening sessions are an important part of setting the course for our work at The San Francisco Foundation in the short and long term. For our work to be effective, it must be grounded in community, in the voices and lived experiences of the residents.
Each of the VOICE: Bay Area sessions are a critical part of setting our course as we define strategies and tactics to reach our north star: expanding opportunity in the region.
In addition to asking people to share stories in person, we’re also doing so virtually at bayareavoices.org where you can read and submit a story about your experiences of living, working, and playing in the Bay Area.