San Francisco: A Town Without Kiddies?

Filed under: In The News

golden gate bridge

San Francisco, home to the Golden Gate Bridge, is the second priciest city in the country. Credit: Getty Images

San Francisco is practically becoming a city without children.

Census figures show the city has 5,278 fewer children than it did in 2000. That's because San Francisco -- next to New York City -- is the second priciest city in the country in terms of housing and living expenses.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the high cost of living is forcing middle-class families with children to live elsewhere. According to the paper, though, some local hipsters are happy to see them go.

Margaret Brodkin, the former of head of the Department of Children, Youth and Their Families tells the Chronicle that they fail to see the big picture. She calls the census figures "beyond depressing."

"A city is better off when it has families," she tells the Chronicle. "I worry because one of the things that happens is that the family population becomes increasingly polarized. We have very poor families and better-off families, and that isn't good for any community."

San Francisco risks losing more than its children, the Chronicle reports. Middle-class professionals such as police officers, firefighters and teachers may also find the city too expensive to live. In a major crisis, you don't want to wait for extra emergency personnel to commute to work.

But let's not get melodramatic here.

"It's not like there aren't any children in San Francisco," Hans Johnson, a demographer at the Public Policy Institute of California, tells the newspaper. "It's not some sort of Orwellian or 'Blade Runner' future that we're talking about, but it certainly is different than other big cities in the country."

The city actually has 3,000 more children under 5 than it did 10 years ago. The problem is that it lost more than 8,000 kids older than 5.

Only 13.4 percent of the city's 805,235 residents are younger than 18 -- one of the smallest percentages of any city in the country.

California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom tried to make San Francisco family-friendly when he was mayor from 2004 to 2011 with universal preschool, universal after-school programs, universal health care, revitalized parks and libraries and a working family tax credit.

"I don't think there's a city in America that can lay claim to half those initiatives," Newsom tells the Chronicle. "Without them, I think the city would be struggling much more."

Still, he admits, schools are a problem.

"It's not that we don't have outstanding schools. We do. It's just that we don't have enough of them," he tells the Chronicle.

Chelsea Boilard, the family policy coordinator for Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth, tells the Chronicle the numbers are troubling. "Some might call it the Manhattanization of San Francisco, that it isn't able to support a thriving, working-class community," she says.

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