Monday, October 21, 2013

Raising children in "high density" San Francisco

Percentage of school-age children

From Mike Lanza's blog:

There’s just one big problem with suburb hating. The alternative to suburbs in metropolitan areas, cities, are much worse for children. Sure, adults can have a great time in hip, dense city centers like Manhattan or San Francisco. In fact, if my wife and I never had kids, we’d still be living in San Francisco, going out practically every night.

However, it’s clear that cities are worse for kids than suburbs. Why do I say this?

First, just look at where newly married urbanites choose to live once they have children. They leave cities in droves. The hipper and denser the city the more likely are parents to flee to the suburbs...

...the major reason why families leave big cities: public schools in large cities are, by and large, awful. So, for the most part, families that have the means to move out of cities when their children reach school age flee to the ‘burbs. Most middle and upper-middle class families that do stay send their children to private schools. 30% of San Francisco children go to private schools, and my guess is that the figure for Manhattan and other dense, hip urban centers is close to that.

So, to some extent, when you hear people complain that cities are too expensive for families are calculating private school into the cost of living there.

But private schools not only cost a lot of money. They also destroy neighborhood life for children. In big city neighborhoods where many or most children go to private schools, children who live on the same street hardly know each other because they tend to go to different schools that their parents choose.

Beyond running bad schools that force families with the means to go to private school, some big city school systems put the final dagger into neighborhoods by forcing or enticing children to go to a school outside their neighborhoods.

For example, San Francisco has done this for decades in an effort to forcibly integrate students of different races and backgrounds, but instead what it’s done is destroy neighborhoods and push more families into private schools than any other city in America. In the last year or two, that city has made a small change in its policy in an apparent effort to make it more possible for children to go to school in their own neighborhood, but this change hasn’t gone nearly far enough to pull neighborhoods together.

So, big cities are left with neighborhoods where children spray out to all parts of the city to go to school every day. When school’s over at the end of the day, playing in their neighborhoods isn’t an option because children there don’t know one another...

The other primary problem that families have with cities is space. Yes, while it’s trendy these days for urban planners to advocate for dense development, families with children flee from density. Every large city in the United States that has high density have very low percentages of school-aged children.

To put it simply, play requires space. If all kids have outside their crowded apartment building is a sidewalk, they can’t play a game of soccer, nor can they play even less formal games like hide and seek or tag. Also, sidewalks are a lot less complex, and therefore they’re a lot more boring for kids than yards that have grass and bushes with hiding spaces...

More on the negatives of high-density development by Joel Kotkin.

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At 2:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why are we giving so much space to the automobile then?

At 9:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Judging from who is now using parks and open space areas, pet dogs are the new "children" of San Franciscans. Parks and playgrounds were where children could have their own space, but now it seems it is all about pets with hardly a child in site.

At 10:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous, you're an idiot. We need more space for cars so parents can drive their children to their private schools far from their homes.

At 9:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This story is crap.

People out in the burbs have backyards where their kids play alone. In the city you go to the parks - San Francisco has a lot of awesome, huge parks - where kids play with other kids.

Kids in Palo Alto end up sitting in the mini-van and being shuttled to the Academy of Sciences, Exploratorium, Zoo, Golden Gate Park, Giants games, whatever. So they do it maybe every other month. Kids in SF get to do those things every day. And they walk to these things. Kids in SF have a far lower rate of obesity than suburban kids.

The schools in SF have made a massive turnaround. This is a mixed blessing, it's happening because the city is gentrifying to the point where the rich have taken over the public schools. To the opposite, people with less money have fled to the suburbs and the quality of schools out there are getting worse, especially in lower income areas with high percentages of ESL students. Note that the head of just gave a couple of million dollars to SFUSD - that's not happening for San Mateo.

At 9:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The only reason families are leaving SF is that it's harder to have a 4 person family with one income (or two incomes but pay childcare) and compete financially with 3 high income single people who want to live in that same housing unit.

The only solution to that problem is more high density housing of the type that will appeal to single people so that the families can stay in the SFR's.

At 2:25 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

And then housing prices will go down, and, most implausibly of all, there will be no impact on the traffic and the city's neighborhoods! We're getting into the we-had-to-destroy-the-village-to-save-it territory here.

At 3:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I still feel like my proposal to pave Golden Gate Park and turn it into free parking is not getting a fair hearing. Rob, is there some way I could bring it up? Any tips about who in the city I could talk to?

At 7:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Housing prices going down is good.

Even if it increased traffic, it would be worth it.

At 9:06 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

There's no reason to think that housing prices will go down. We'll just get more traffic.

At 12:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rob Anderson writes...

"And then housing prices will go down"

And then he writes..

"There's no reason to think that housing prices will go down"

At 12:46 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

That was irony, moron.

"People out in the burbs have backyards where their kids play alone. In the city you go to the parks---San Francisco has a lot of awesome, huge parks---where kids play with other kids."

Bullshit. Parents would have to take their children to a park. No sensible parents where I live---near the intersection of McAllister and Scott---allow their children to go unsupervised to Alamo Square a block away.

In the suburbs, kids can simply go out the front door and play in front of their homes, which is what my siblings and I did when we were children.

At 7:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No sensible parents where I live---near the intersection of McAllister and Scott---allow their children to go unsupervised to Alamo Square a block away.


And no sensible parent in a suburb lets there kid walk on the streets in the suburbs which typically have no sidewalks and 40 MPH speed limits. They drive them to the park 4 blocks away.

At 2:12 AM, Blogger claudia said...

I grew up in the suburbs of South Florida and I absolutely hated it. People spent more time in cars and malls than in "open spaces." My friends and I in San Francisco spend a lot more time outdoors in parks than I ever did growing up in a big single family home with a yard. I think it's not obvious at all that it's better for kids to grow up in suburbs, and if I have kids I will definitely raise them in either SF or NY. I think the advantages of culture and diversity far outweigh any advantages of suburban life.


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