East Palo Alto road sign

As part of our “Priced Out” series highlighting the high cost of living in the Bay Area, we spotlight East Palo Alto. With a median family income of about $50,000 per year, East Palo Alto is an island of relative affordability among the vast wealth of Silicon Valley. But with Facebook’s offices next door and sky-high housing and rental prices throughout the peninsula, some residents wonder how long they will be able to afford to stay.

Annie Loya, executive director of Youth United for Community Action and an East Palo Alto youth community organizer
Ruben Abrica, City Council member and former mayor of East Palo Alto
Bob Hoover, director of the David Lewis Community Reentry Center in East Palo Alto and director of the East Palo Alto Jr. Golf Program

  • Susan B.

    I’m interested in learning more about the David Lewis Community Reentry program in East Palo Alto and how this program will help EPA *and* surrounding communities like Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Redwood City, etc. How do we keep this program alive and fund it. How can we who live in EPA *and* surrounding communities volunteer to find financial support for this program?

    • Damiana

      Susan – have you Googled them? They’re right in E. Palo Alto, not hard to find at all. They have garden beds now, so people are often working in the yard.

  • Susan B.

    Please also comment on the fact that houses (some lost by former owners who were under water) are purchased in EPA by investors, foreign and American, who then rent them out. Is there a way to encourage and increase home ownership for FAMILIES as opposed to outsiders purchasing them for their own financial gain? My house in EPA isn’t an investment. It’s my home.

  • Ehkzu

    If you look at the home addresses of street criminals apprehended in East Palo Alto’s neighboring cities, a large portion come from EPA. EPA has improved greatly since 1992, when it had the highest per capita homicide rate of any city in the nation, but it’s still an issue, both within EPA and for its neighbors.

    We should have affordable housing in Silicon Valley. But we should also have less fear for our property and our safety that stems from being near EPA.

    Gentrification will eventually solve that problem–at the expense of affordable housing. EPA’s neighbor cities would be more eager to help with a regional solution if that solution included measures to lower the rate of “commuter crime” coming of out EPA.

    • Damiana

      You can always move if you’re so fearful about local criminals. Of course, criminals come from all over, so it may be hard to find your ideal place.

    • Yung L

      So in other words your solution is to force long residing citizens out of their own community? Sounds like the plot of Pocahontas to me. As a person who lives East Palo Alto, I must say I am surprised at the level of disrespect to which “outsiders” are going about trying to restructure the city without realizing that there is a more humane approach. Of course changing the state of mind of some residents might be more than most are willing to do so but nothing comes easy. That being said, let us instead focus on adjusting the framework of the city if East Palo Alto as a whole and worry less on our losses. We must remember to keep the integrity of a bay area by staying true to our sense of communion by diversity. Affordable housing helps maintain that integrity. I went to Palo Alto schools my whole life and benefitted from the experience but I can’t forget my values and place of origin because without it I would lose my sense of humility. I wish the same were true of all people. Like East Palo Alto, other low income communities are part of what enrich and keep neighboring cities grounded and maintain that Bay Area integrity that we are known for.

  • Rhoda Meade

    Can you please comment on the schools in East Palo Alto?

    Linking the schools to the corporate world – What about trying to organize a social for the middle and high schoolers with the corporate world. Ask Facebook to fund a BBQ?

  • Susan B.

    Hi Ehkzu. Please learn about the re-entry program which guest Bob Hoover runs. This program *is* about reducing crime in EPA and surrounding areas. It’s not going to fix everything but it will help.


    • Ehkzu

      I read the article. Sounds great. It brings up the issue of the inequities–and the iniquities–of our criminal justice system, and the degree to which is has become an end instead of a means.

      And I’m sure the program described in the article reduces the number of news items in the local papers about armed robberies on the streets of Palo Alto and Menlo Park.

      There are still a lot of news items, though, and the bulk of them point to EPA residents.

      My point is still that to get EPA’s middle class neighbors in Palo Alto and Menlo Park enlisted in EPA’s quest for affordable housing and social justice, that quest for social justice needs to include our desire to walk from a restaurant in Palo Alto to our cars without having to worry inordinately about getting beaten and robbed by someone from EPA who’s had trouble finding a job.

      • Damiana

        Where have you been? There is longstanding involvement from surrounding community residents and law enforcement in East Palo Alto.

  • Paul Joseph

    Are people who are asking for rent control and controlling house prices going to put a cieling on the rates of the services that are rendered by folks who live in these communities ? Costs of services such as
    Labor are at an all time high in the bat area compared to other communities .

    • Damiana

      We are not asking for rent control; we have a solid rent stabilization ordinance that is enforced. E. Palo Alto has had rent stabilization for many years, as it’s a community value. You can easily peruse the ordinance at your convenience.

  • LC


    1. the city should prevent such high percentage of rented houses in EPA and should help low income families to buy, instead of renting. Rent stabilization only helps preventing outside builder and owners to invest in the city; rent subsidies only to those who deserve it (low income, no crime history, etc.) can do much more to improve the status of the city and still make it affordable.

    2. Crime problems could be solved by integration instead of isolating “low income” areas as ghettos. Palo Alto would be better including EPA in the school district; school would improve and families would move in EPA and help push out bad guys.

    Building walls doesn’t help.

    • Ehkzu

      We have physical integration in Palo Alto via the BMR (Below Market Rate) program, which requires condo complexes and apartment complexes to reserve, like, 15% of the units for low income people, administered by the city.

      However, the city leaves it up to the communities to work out the details. For example, when we first moved into our condo complex in Palo Alto, we discovered that one of the BMR residents here was running a sort of used car & motorcycle business in the complex, making parking impossible to find because he took up so many spaces. He broke up the first homeowners’ association meeting we attended, threatening to beat down anyone who interfered with his activities. The association complained repeatedly to the city of Palo Alto about him.

      They finally responded–by threatening to take action against the association for harassing this poor innocent BMR owners. Finally his garage–which he used to fix up the vehicles he was reselling–burst into flames and damaged both units above it. Then the city finally showed up.

      Now most BMR homeowners are good neighbors. But when they aren’t, the city does nothing.

      That’s the problem with social engineering–lack of follow-through, and lack of responsiveness to issues that come up.

      In the case of your suggestion, crime rates would only do down if ex-felons could be reintegrated into society. That requires far more expensive programs than anyone is admitting to needing, or to the tax dollars required.

      Starting with work. If you won’t hire them–and I bet you wouldn’t–then the State needs to, but to do so in a way that isn’t a sinecure. But even before they can be hired they need to be taught how to work. Many don’t know the things you and I take for granted.

      Building walls may not help, but just knocking them down won’t either.

    • Damiana

      LC – Palo Alto and E. Palo Alt are in different counties. The E. Palo Alto students are in a school district with Belle Haven kids, until high school.

      In many ways, Palo Alto is NOT E. Palo Alto’s friend – history clearly demonstrates that.

      These comments really show a lack of basic knowledge about the overall area! And just notice – commenters refer to E. Palo Alto as EPA, but they spell Palo Alto out completely. That’s how deep the lack of respect goes.

  • Mark Dinan

    I live in East Palo Alto. We bought a house in 2009. Our mortgage for a 4 bedroom/3 bath is around $1800 a month. We couldn’t rent a studio apartment in Palo Alto or Mountain View for that price. I find the fears of living here overblown, and the convenience of living close to everything superb. I had meetings with various clients (Reputation, Symantec, Bill.com in Redwood City, Mountain View, and Palo Alto) on Tuesday and it literally took no more than 15 minutes to get to each meeting. We are literally down the road from Google, and I often see packs of cyclists riding the Bay Trail to work in the morning when I am walking my dog in the morning. It is natural that high tech professionals will want to move in, and can only benefit the community. Safety may be an issue, but I know more friends who have had issues with break-ins in Palo Alto and Redwood City than here in EPA. I fully expect that more professionals will move here, especially as traffic gets grotesque on the 101 – it simply is a no brainer to move to EPA instead of having three hours of commute each day from SF to Google or Apple. My newest neighbors are Chinese music teachers, an Indian Nurse, and a Russian system administrator. None of us are rich, but we all love living in a place that is affordable, close to our work, and quite safe.

  • Damiana

    Here is a great comment from Forum’s Facebook page – I concur: “As
    an East Palo Alto resident, it’s clear to me that balancing continued
    affordable housing with what people call “progress” is crucial. I’m
    tired of non-residents who aggressively try to impose their values on
    our unique city. We have a thoughtfully crafted
    rent stabilization ordinance for landlords and tenants, and comparably
    lower home prices. We *have* to be vigilant against resident and
    non-resident exploiters and city staff who may not truly put residents’
    interests first. While some of these interests may be at odd sometimes,
    we have spoken loudly for affordable housing since city incorporation.
    It is one of our most important values here.”

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