A Piece of My Mind: Post Election Reflections (Los Altos Town Crier 11/25/20)
When I first moved here Los Altos was a group of up-scale housing tracts thrown up in the midst of vast apricot orchards, each home a one-story ranch house boasting a gabled roof, two car garage, and a remnant apricot tree or two. The front yards were set off with split-rail fences covered with fence roses or English ivy, and had velvety green lawns suitable for setting up croquet hoops or badminton nets.
The apricot trees have died off, the one-story ranchers are being scraped one by one in favor of two-story mock-Tudors or mock-Mission or mock-modern homes with an extra garage for an RV, and the lawns are being replaced with drought-tolerant landscaping. Things have changed.
When I first moved here, Los Altos Hills was a scattering of older farm houses and former summer cottages, with large lots suitable for corralling a horse. Equestrian trails bordered the two-lane roads or cut between houses on recognized rights-of-way. Children rode school buses across the railroad tracks to schools in the flatlands.
The farm houses are being replaced one by one with mansions which fill the large lots up to the setback requirements. The horse corrals have morphed into vanity vineyards. The equestrian trail I rode on lea has been replaced by an eight-lane freeway, the railroad tracks are overlain by a four-lane expressway, and there are no school buses. Things have changed.
Los Altos and Los Altos Hills were designed as white-collar bedroom communities, designed to provide shelter for families whose bread-winners were working locally (almost all my teachers lived in Los Altos within a short distance of the schools) or in nearby businesses spun off from Stanford (e.g. Varian) or related to the military (e.g. Lockheed).
It was assumed, if anyone thought about it, that our gardeners and gas station attendants would be living in blue-collar communities such as Mountain View or Redwood City or East Palo Alto. In four years of my high school education there was only one black student at Los Altos High School, and she was a senior who graduates the year I entered as a freshman. A quick run-down of last names in my graduating class shows, out of 500, only two Mexican surnames, four Japanese surnames, and zero Chinese surnames. It was understood that El Camino Real, which divided attendance at Los Altos HS from MV HS, was also the dividing line between white-collar and blue-collar families. There was no thought that a city zoned mostly for single family housing with off-street parking was exclusionary or practicing systemic racism. Things have changed.
We can’t turn back the clock. There’s no use in wallowing in nostalgia for a suburbia that no longer exists. Things have changed. Let’s do our best to deal with it.
Gentrification is hard on the folks who have lived in a neighborhood with a charming character, then, since time moves faster as we age, suddenly we look about and there are McMansions rising up all around. Where went the charm? Here in my part of the world called the Montrose area of Houston, TX there are white boxes with pretensions moving in. Yep, we do need to learn to live with it.
The best line: “things have changed. Deal with it.” True for so many things… and people don’t want to deal with.