Yee: Who’s Looking After Our Children? 

San Francisco is internationally known as a travel destination and one of the best cities to live in.

It’s no surprise that our population of 852,469 is projected to grow to 1 million by 2032, but what is happening to our children and families? Our children’s population went from 25 percent in 1960 to 13.4 percent today. This gives San Francisco the distinction of having the lowest proportion of children of any metropolitan city in the country. And this has to change.

As a native San Franciscan, I can attest to how precious it was to raise my two daughters in The City, and my biggest hope is that my grandchildren will be raised here, too.

It’s clear our city cares about children and family issues. We have voter-backed support for the Children’s Fund and the Preschool for All program. We also invest locally in our public schools, which are improving as test scores go up. Enrollment in our public schools is also increasing in recent years. One would think that these indicators encourage families to stay in San Francisco, but that isn’t the case. Between 2006 and 2010, 14,320 families left San Francisco for one of the other eight Bay Area counties.

So, what is happening? Let’s be frank: The cost of living in our city is one of the major factors families are leaving. Recent data shows that while families from all backgrounds are leaving The City, the greatest number comes from those with gross incomes between $50,000 and $75,000 per year. And of those who left in that period, 69 percent were families of color.

The shift to fewer families also weakens a shared sense of community and replaces it with a more privatized, individually focused city. This undermines the broader forms of neighborhood identity that makes San Francisco so unique to begin with.

We have a lot to lose if our city doesn’t act now to retain families and to proactively attract more parents to raise children here. In November, voters passed Proposition C. Prop. C renewed the Children and Youth Fund and Public Education Enrichment Fund, but it also asked to create something new: the Our Children, Our Families Council. This body will bring together key department and school district heads, as well as community leaders, to develop a strategy to ensure families in every neighborhood, especially those with the greatest needs, have access to the resources to achieve.

I introduced legislation to formalize this council with Mayor Ed Lee and Superintendent Richard Carranza. The council will coordinate services to make it more efficient for families to navigate our different systems and, most importantly, the council will address systemic issues that impact families including housing and job opportunities that offer economic mobility. Today, we will be voting to pass this ordinance at the full Board of Supervisors.

Let’s reverse the trend and make San Francisco the diverse, quintessential place to raise our families again. Contact your supervisor and the mayor to let them know how critical it is that our city leaders look after our children. Our future depends on it.

Norman Yee represents District 7 on the Board of Supervisors.

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Norman Yee

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