'What Happens When We Stop Buying Houses in Elk Grove,' Resident Asks at EGUSD Race Relations Forum

January 21, 2018 |   

At last week's forum on race relations and education equality held by the Elk Grove Unified School District, many people took the opportunity to speak during the public comment section of the meeting. Most of the 70-plus people who spoke at the forum at Sheldon High School addressed what they characterized as racism not only in the City of Elk Grove but in district schools, especially Pleasant Grove High School.

One of the speakers, who made his comments about half-way through the session, was Elk Grove resident Carlos Carter. An employee with the University of California-Davis who works to recruit diverse students, much of his comments focused on additional outreach efforts needed by the EGUSD for marginalized students. 

But wrapped in Carter's comments was also a pocketbook issue relevant to many residents and homeowners. (see video below).

When first moving to the area about 20 years ago, Carter was advised not to buy a house in the Bond Road area of Elk Grove. Carter said the reputation of Bond Road, which is where Pleasant Grove High School, the source of many of the negative comments at the forum is located, was negative 20 years ago.

"What happens when we stop buying houses in Elk Grove," Carter rhetorically asked. "That's what you have to ask yourself because I'm talking with colleagues now, colleagues who are professional, who are buying a home and they are asking me 'are you happy that you moved out to Elk Grove?'"

While Carter may have framed his question from an equality perspective as much as an economic point of view, it could be a conundrum for city and school district leadership. What happens when a city or school district's reputation, deserved or not, is that of a racist community?

From an individual's economic point of view, a city, particularly one in a large metropolitan area in blue-state California would become less desirable, and this could make housing stock less valuable. Put another way, if a community in California is perceived as being racist and uncaring to non-whites, it will have adverse effects.
In an effort to address racial problems, the City of Elk Grove has
placed this advertisement on an Elk Grove Boulevard billboard. 

Among those effects could be lower housing values, or maybe slower rate increases compared to other communities; greater difficulty recruiting high-end retailers; more trouble recruiting employers with high-wage jobs who value a diverse welcoming community; and most importantly to the Elk Grove City Council, pressure from home builders.

That pressure from the home developers on the City Council Members and EGUSD Trustees for that matter is they want to extract the highest values from future developments as possible. Simply put, if  Elk Grove does not address these concerns of racism, as Mr. Carter said the "reputation" of the community could diminish, it could become be less desirable, and as desirability falls, so could new housing prices.

It should not be noted that almost every Elk Grove City Council member elected, as well as many EGUSD Trustees, have relied on the generosity of these same home builders, and other various real estate development interests, to fund their campaigns.  

These elected officials likewise need to recognize these events are not happening in a vacuum. Not only is there good old word-of-mouth referrals mentioned by Mr. Carter, there is now a mountain of information on the internet and social media about these and other problems in Elk Grove that could discourage not only perspective home buyers but future employers.

Of course, Elk Grove city council members and EGUSD trustees have many opportunities to address this situation. It will not be easy, and they may have to take steps otherwise unthinkable just six months ago.

For instance, the City of Elk Grove may need to form a police commission like the one suggested in a letter sent by a group of political activists to the city last week. The EGUSD may need to conduct a top-to-bottom audit of administrative practices or form a race and diversity complaint hearing process.

These may unsavory choices for either body of elected officials given the natural institutional resistance to oversight from an independent board with real teeth, but do they want to run the risk? Do they want risk going down the rabbit hole from which there is no return that says Elk Grove is a racist community?

Chances are neither body will make any substantial changes unless instructed to do so by the real estate developers who fund their campaign. Until that time the electeds will probably do nothing of substance and just hope the next time a trigger is pulled in the game of Russian roulette they are playing the chamber is empty.

As Mr. Carter noted when he concluded his comments last week, "If we stop buying homes, and stop bringing our children here, will you listen then?"

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1 comment

D.J. Blutarsky said...

The BIA and Region Builders have a lot riding on 'The Grove'. They've greased the skids and made plenty of deposits to ensure that this scenario never plays out.

But, if The Grove were to stop growing and no more homes were built, well...the great Ponzi scheme fails big-time. You see, future home construction is needed to finance/repay loans for things like the SEPA infrastructure and The Grove Aquatic Center!

EGN posted a recent article with a photo of a beaming "Friend of Housing" awardee Hume with 'Mayor-to-be' Suen at a BIA award dinner. I can almost hear 'for he's a jolly good fellow' and dancing and whooping going on in the photo!

No, Mr. Carter's rhetorical question of what happens if homes stop selling, is like asking if the earth is flat. The people in the know will stop talking for a split second, chuckle to themselves, then carry on with what they were doing!

Anchors away, rig that mast, I wanna hear hammers!

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