Newsom touts family programs 

Mayor Gavin Newsom said he believed San Francisco was "turning a corner" in its efforts to support and retain families, who in recent years have fled The City for more affordable housing and better public education.

"We’re making progress," Newsom said in an address given at a children’s summit for youth, parents and family service providers on Thursday.

The mayor told the audience that he had firsthand experience with "family flight" since his mother, a single parent, moved him and his sister out of San Francisco to Corte Madera when he was a teenager so he could go to a better public high school and the family could live in a more spacious house with a yard.

Newsom said his administration was focused on efforts to make San Francisco more family-friendly.

"This year, we’ve invested $30 million in new money for family-friendly housing," he said. "And we have 1,700 family-friendly affordable-housing units in the pipeline."

He noted that for the last budget year, The City’s budget included an infusion of $44 million in new funding for resources for families and children.

The mayor praised the progress of the San Francisco Unified School District, which is the top-rated urban school district in California, while also noting that the bar on standardized test scores was still unacceptably low.

He highlighted a recent partnership agreement between The City and the school district that commits "every single department" in city government to get involved in some way in supporting public schools.

Newsom promised that every child in San Francisco would have access to preschool and after-school programs by 2009 and highlighted such city-supported initiatives as a new affordable health care plan for all residents and an existing universal health insurance plan for children and youth up to age 24.

Ntanya Lee, executive director of Coleman Advocates, a San Francisco nonprofit focused on supporting families, said that families are still "leaving every day," mostly due to the cost of living, but that The City’s efforts are helping to create some optimism.

"We’re glad more attention is being paid to affordable family housing, but the level of need is so great, we need to take more dramatic steps," Lee said.

City struggles to retain families

» San Francisco's child population — at 14.5 percent — is the lowest of major cities nationwide.

» Detroit has the highest proportion of children at 31 percent.

» Oakland's under-18 population is 25 percent.

» San Jose's child population is 26 percent.*

» According to a 2005 city survey, respondents said The City is a better place for families if The City has:

» 20 percent said better schools

» 20 percent said affordable housing/cost of living

» 12 percent said safer streets

» 9 percent more activities for children

» In 2005, 45 percent of parents with children 0-5 said they were very likely or somewhat likely to leave San Francisco.

» In 2007, fewer families, 36 percent, said they are considering leaving.

- * Source: "Kid Friendly Cities Report Card" by Population Connection

beslinger@examiner.com

Each day until voters go to the polls Nov. 6, The Examiner lays odds on local figures beating Mayor Gavin Newsom. Check out our exclusive blog: San Francisco's Next Mayor?

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