Letter to the Editor | Blair Park is no place for housing

The Piedmont Council has adopted a draft General Plan element that assigns 132 homes, including 60 low-income units, to a new neighborhood envisioned for Moraga Canyon. The specific location of housing within the Canyon will be set by a planning process now underway. While a reasonable approach to the state’s mandate that California cities provide opportunities for developers to build both market rate and low-income housing, this process leaves open the option of assigning 60 low-income, including minority, families to Blair Park — a location which city studies have previously documented as functionally isolated by impassable terrain and a dangerous high speed arterial.

While putting any housing in Blair would seem unsafe and uncivil, assigning low-income families there by city policy smacks of de jure segregation. Such segregation appears, moreover, unnecessary given that the city can meet its stated housing objectives by putting all 132 units on the safe side of Moraga and moving the corporation yard, which the city will have to rebuild under any plan for the Canyon, to Blair.

The Council should stop behaving as if additional technical assessments must be completed before choosing whether or not to house low-income families in Blair. This is a moral, not technical, issue — Piedmont either accepts or rejects segregation. If housing high-income families on the safe side of Moraga would meet technical standards, so would housing low-income families, particularly if the city moves the corporation yard to Blair.

The last Council rejected the recommendations of professional staff, paid consultants, and a Council-appointed citizens committee to allow at least some low-income families to live in central Piedmont near schools and services.  Given this history, I predict that low-income families experiencing stigmatizing and dangerous isolation in Blair Park would inevitably come to a future City Council and correctly characterize their neighborhood as intentionally segregated from the remainder of Piedmont. This scenario will prove particularly troubling if occasioned by the injury or death of a Blair Park resident accessing or crossing Moraga Avenue — an event anticipated by previous city-prepared assessments.

How will that Council respond? Keep in mind that that response will be on your behalf. If that prospect disturbs you, please urge the Council to preclude any scheme to build housing in Blair Park.

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