Brainstorming the Bay Area housing crisis: thousands sign up for community-wide conversation


What can we speak about once we speak about housing?

Properly, we speak about inhumane lease spikes and the tight house provide and the wildly aggressive bidding and that nondescript home in Sunnyvale that bought for $782,000 above the asking worth and —

So far about 700 individuals and organizations have signed up to host brainstorming sessions over cups of coffee or home-cooked meals. At each session, between six and ten people will sit down and talk about the region’s housing and transportation problems.

“Ultimately, it’s about inviting people to share their stories,” Mauricio Palma, the Community Federation’s director of initiatives and special projects, told about 35 hosts-to-be during an orientation session Monday at the nonprofit’s Mountain View headquarters.

He sees “On the Table” happening at a couple of levels. One, he said, it can create a wave of engaged citizens, drawing in people who typically defer to “activists” and “experts.” And two, there is the hope that this kind of community-wide bull session –- in the best sense — will generate out-of-the-box thinking and “solutions that we haven’t been able to talk about, for whatever reason,” Palma said.

And yes, there will be a report – two reports, actually, both to be diffused through the community, including among policymakers.

Funded by the Knight Foundation, the event’s tentacles are spreading.

Most of the sessions will take place in homes and offices in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. But there’s already plenty of spillover; hosts are cropping up in Oakland, San Francisco and beyond. (Most of the conversations will take place on Nov. 15, though the Community Federation is giving hosts some leeway in scheduling the sessions, which can happen as late as the day before Thanksgiving.)

The Community Foundation predicts this is not going to be aimless talk. During a yearlong buildup to the event, Palma has talked with farmworkers in Pescadero and math teachers in Hayward. He expects the conversations to bridge political and cultural divides, and he hopes “On the Table” will bring some traction to what heretofore has seemed intractable.

To read about “On the Table,” go to www.siliconvalleycf.org/onthetable. There you can also sign up to be a host or to take part in one of the conversations.



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