• Sandra Ericson

Grass Roots

Updated: May 11, 2021

​A Personal Essay

In 2012, when we were living in a small but expensive city in California, I wrote this as current city officials were trying to prevent affordable housing.

Roots. That's us. We are the roots in these grassroots and we have some new leaves on the top.

We're in transition. The degrees of difference among us are greater now; we come from more other places; we have more different lifestyles; we no longer know everyone; we may have a lot or a little income. But these differences cannot surmount a shared daily life and the need to make sure each person has a role in our future. If this is it for us -- right here, right now -- we want to know that we count just because we live here. 

Like Peggy Lee's song, “Is that all there is?", a place can make you wonder, is it enough? We may be safe from physical aggression, but we also need to feel safe from financial aggression. It is no less devastating. When money becomes a weapon, condoned as a market, then like all weapons, it should be put away when at home. Human values are in play at home.

It is my hope that we will work for a just livability, knowing that we are guided by the reality that we 'roots' count because we live here and in turn we'll be there when our City needs us.

Yes, there is ample opportunity for NIMBY urges to come out but think about it. No controversy will change the fact that as time goes on, more numbers and kinds of people will have to live successfully in smaller city footprints -- some of them our relatives!

The key here is DESIGN. Excellent multiple unit designs for living that make people happy in urban environments like ours are out there for the asking. They utilize public transportation, reduce traffic, provide efficient uses of water and energy and support the City and its businesses. They provide first homes for younger people and last homes for older people -- lots of pluses, but in return we must get used to seeing well-designed, multiple units here and there. The future will be different -- it always is but it can be good, even better, if we manage it creatively and prioritize design.

To do this it helps to have a Design Review team with qualified people, listening to local neighborhoods, appointed to serve (p.s. experts already live here). Design cannot be left up to technicians or citizen planners lacking design expertise which causes negative reactions and sacrifices the opportunity for so many to have a place to live.