“New census figures show that despite an intense focus by city and public school officials to curb family flight, San Francisco last year had 5,278 fewer kids than it did in 2000.
The city actually has 3,000 more children under 5 than it did 10 years ago, but has lost more than 8,000 kids older than 5.”
S.F. losing kids as parents seek schools, homes [SFGate]

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by Zig

    the arbitrary school assignment things sucks. My wife and I are dealing with this now in considering where to buy a home.
    Middle schools in SF are particularly scary.

  2. Posted by eddy

    From page 2 of the linked story:
    ‘Manhattanization’
    City Hall policies lately have been geared toward benefiting mostly highly skilled, professional industries, she said, like the payroll tax cuts for biotech companies and for companies moving into Mid-Market including Twitter.
    “Some might call it the Manhattanization of San Francisco, that it isn’t able to support a thriving, working-class community,” she said.
    Hans Johnson, a demographer at the Public Policy Institute of California, said losing children is troublesome for a city because it signifies that middle-class people, including police officers, firefighters and teachers, are being squeezed out.

  3. Posted by Wai Yip Tung

    “The city actually has 3,000 more children under 5 than it did 10 years ago, but has lost more than 8,000 kids older than 5.”
    The way I read these numbers is the city is reversing the trend of losing children population. 5 years later this cohort of new born and toddlers will be above 5, popping up the number of this population group (assuming the attrition rate stay constant in 5 years).
    The number is also consistent with stories I heard from other sources that San Francisco is experiencing a mini baby boom in the last few years.

  4. Posted by ex SF-er

    The way I read these numbers is the city is reversing the trend of losing children population. 5 years later this cohort of new born and toddlers will be above 5, popping up the number of this population group
    another way to read it is that people are having more kids than 10 years ago, but then moving as soon as the kids get old enough to go to school.
    I can think of three possible reasons for this, although there are likely more.
    1) SF schools are in general not very good
    2) families often have an easier time living in small spaces with younger children, and a harder time when the children age.
    3) as you age and as your children age your focus of importance often changes. You start thinking about soccer practice and school and band, and as a parent you go to bed earlier… as opposed to when you were young and chic and going out to cool bars and live entertainment. Thus, one often uses the major city amenities less and less.
    SF “planning” assaults families. They encourage zoning for studios and 1 bedrooms, and discourage zoning for 2,3,4 bedrooms. how hard is it again to merge a duplex into a SFH? How much of a premium does SF RE have because of restrictive zoning/planning, that only raises the cost of living even though SF is only moderately dense by non-American standards?
    easy for a YUP or DINK to live in a studio or 1 BR. somewhat easy for parents and a 1 year old. but parents and a 7 year old?
    start building 2,3,4 BR places which will increase supply of 2,3,4 BR places which will help lower cost of 2,3,4 BR places and you’ll get families to move back to the city.

  5. Posted by Ivan

    Wai,
    I interpret those numbers differently. By the time a kid turn 5, that’s around the time they go to kindergarten. It’s also the time families decide to leave SF. You really think the majority of those additional 3,000 kids are going to stick around? I don’t see your logic of reversing trends when in the same period of time, SF lost 8,000 kids over 5 years old.

  6. Posted by rabbits

    Ultimately I think that the release of numbers like this can only spur positive action. It is completely obvious what is happening, and the causes are equally obvious. People’s belief in social experimenting will reach its limit when their children are being experimented on. The schools need to be user friendly, and that means my kid goes to the school down the block if I want (or, more directly, if I’m paying a premium on housing for that privilege).

  7. Posted by Zig

    exSF-er
    Not to mention rent control
    I have a pregnant wife and am paying 2x as much as neighbors who have more space. Our apartment is just too small for anything but an infant.
    Many of my neighbors are in a situation where it is fair to say they are hoarding space (two bedrooms without a roommate, house outside of SF etc).
    My wife and I are fine and have OK incomes but this is forcing our hand sooner than it would if we had a bigger place.
    Add in the schools and you wonder sometimes why bother?

  8. Posted by Wai Yip Tung

    ex SF-er, we don’t know how many children will stay, the future census report has not been released yet. There will be attrition as always. But we don’t know if the rate is going to be higher or lower in the future. Everything is speculation.
    The way SFGate put the numbers in the same line can be misleading. We should be comparing the same cohort to get a sense of the attrition rate. Right now it implies +3000 can become -5000, but the numbers are actually from different cohort.

  9. Posted by Wai Yip Tung

    Ivan,
    As explained, we need to be aware of the cohort when interpreting this number.

  10. Posted by lyqwyd

    @wai
    You are the one that is projecting into the future. The census information alone says there are less children overall, your argument is that since there are more young children now, there will be more older children in the future, which I (and I believe most others) think is a fairly wild speculation.

  11. Posted by Wai Yip Tung

    @lyqwyd, that’s why I stated the assumption that the attrition rate stays constant.

  12. Posted by dink

    “Hans Johnson, a demographer at the Public Policy Institute of California, said losing children is troublesome for a city because it signifies that middle-class people, including police officers, firefighters and teachers, are being squeezed out.”
    So is it kids we’re worried about losing or the middle-class? I get that there is going to be a lot of overlap with middle-class and folks-with-kids. But what if San Francisco still had plenty of childless middle-class and blue-collar residents (and the housing, jobs for them, etc.), would this still be a big deal?

  13. Posted by invented

    Middle and high schools here have v low standards and you’re risking your kid’s future my rationalizing or willing the schools to be other than what they are. Elementary schools aren’t immune to low standards either don’t be fooled. Even the faves. It’s either private at ~$35K per, or go to a suburban district where education takes place. Make that decision at 4. I tried to believe in the public system — ultimately at my child’s expense. Just say no, don’t do it to your child, find another part of your life to change the world with. I endlessly see parents who have lowered their own standards ‘good enough’, because it’s impossible to keep high standards in SF’s public realm. IMO.

  14. Posted by tc_sf

    “@lyqwyd, that’s why I stated the assumption that the attrition rate stays constant.”
    But do we even know the attrition rate?
    i.e. Are there 8,000 less 5+ year olds because 5 years ago there were 8,000 less younger children or was this due to attrition?
    All the anecdotes in the article (as well as anecdotal evidence I’ve seen) points to attrition. The extra space required plus 2x private school costs for an average family is quite a hit to the average family budget. Hard to believe this wouldn’t cause outward mobility.

  15. Posted by eddy

    The linked article has less to do with sf real estate than it does the make up of the population (think Mix not Median ;.) The very real issues raised have much larger implications than the readers at large here are going to solve. I’m not sure what this has to do with being plugged into SF Real Estate quite frankly. The trend of families leaving the city to get larger homes and cheaper schools is not a new trend. The level of competition for private, parochial and top-public schools at all levels is at fever-pitch.
    One could interpret the data to read into it that wealthier families that put of children off to later years are replacing blue collar families in places like Noe, Bernal, etc.. and will thus have a net-positive impact on SFRE. I’m not saying that is the case, it’s just one skewed and too micro look at the implications. The macro-implications here are far beyond simple real estate impacts.

  16. Posted by tc_sf

    “The linked article has less to do with sf real estate than it does the make up of the population”
    The issue is the value of the free quality public education that comes along with residency in certain locales. Obviously this benefit accrues to both renters and owners, but families with children of a certain age tend to acquire a bias towards owning. I didn’t think it was under much dispute that getting into a good district was a factor in people’s RE decisions.
    Paying $1M for a home that includes free quality schooling is different from paying $1M for a home and having to shell out $70k/year for private school for two kids.
    If I had to conjure a positive take it would be that having below average schools gives you upside potential were the schools to improve. Dropping a $70k/year expense from a HH budget allows more room for a mortgage payment.

  17. Posted by curmudgeon

    Don’t dismiss Wai’s comments out of hand. What we really need to be able to do is look at where the 0-5 and 6-10 cohorts from the last census ended up to make any sense of these numbers.
    There are a lot of factors at play. Including the continuing demographic factors (loss of black residents, increase in young white residents, etc, baby boomlets and busts, etc).
    I, for one, think we will be somewhat better at keeping students of all demographics at least into elementary school this decade than we have been in the past, but people like to live by anectdotes with this particular story.

  18. Posted by resp

    “despite an intense focus by city and public school officials to curb family flight”
    i pretty much stopped reading there. the city’s effort has been quite far from “intense”. it has pretended to make location a greater factor in school assignment but there is no evidence that much has changed. until the city loses it’s socialist approach to education (which it never will) most of those who truly value education will leave.
    between that socialism, our property tax, sales tax, a possible city income tax, city healthcare tax, a backwards planning department and soaring cost of private school more people are saying f you. nothing surpising here folks.

  19. Posted by anon123

    We recently moved to a suburb from Pac Heights. Our home is now in a leafy place with good schools off of 280. After 13 years in SF, why did we move? Bad SF public schools and, resultant, extremely expensive living.
    Most parents suck up expensive SF life for the first 5 years of their kids lives. Then, kindergarten becomes a forcing event. Public schools aren’t an option (Cobb, really?), and the big bill for private school presents itself. $30K/year/kid is the going, all-in rate for elementary. 3 kids + nannies can easily add to >$120K/year post-tax. That’s nearly $200K pretax.
    Even if you can afford private school and a 4 bedroom place (we were), you have to ask yourself if you want to afford it. Especially, when I can get a better education than the SF Privates at a free Public outside of SF. Further, I can park free and easily at most destinations now. I can still enjoy SF by working and eating there. BTW, circumcision and dog-bowls are non-issues in my new neighborhood.
    IMO SF’s best hope for getting out of this lies in the poor asian community in the Avenues. They can’t afford many of the good school suburbs, and they really value education. So, they stay and fight. Without them, do you really think we’d have any of the improvements that we’ve seen lately.

  20. Posted by EBGuy

    From what I’ve read on this topic, the SF schools ‘turned a corner’ about five years ago. Here’s an interesting stat from http://www.ed-data.k12.ca.us which breaks down enrollment by grade level. I’m going to claim it supports a ‘positive’ trend for schools in the City. YMMV.
    Kindergarten enrollment increased from 4429 students (2000-01 SY) to 4841 students (2009-10 SY). Okay, I’ll admit a mini baby boom is part of the trend. Grade 12 enrollment increased from 3568 students (2000-01 SY) to 4347(!) students (2009-10 SY). Construct your own narrative.

  21. Posted by future SF parent

    There are interesting arguments on both sides of this issue. I read the article and wondered why many people moved to Oakland when my friends in Oakland have their kids in private schools. The feedback I get from these friends is that the public schools in Oakland are not good. Sounds familiar?
    I am about to have our first baby and we are watching the school situation carefully. We reside in a “poor performing” census track so our child will have first choice in the lottery. The school we pick will probably be a bit of a commute.
    The lottery changed this year and does give preference to having your kid attend the local school down the block. The chron seemed to downplay this issue in the article and did not interview anyone who got a spot.
    I have looked into the school choices and some of them sound great: montessori, billigual and dual language schools. I had none of these opportunities as a child. Of course we will need to supplement the education (art?) but I see that as a requirement for every parent.
    Middle and high school could be a problem. But the new feeder system will help to improve the middle schools and maybe the high schools. We understand that the baby might need to attend a private for these years.
    The commute to SF is not something we want in our lives so we are committed to living in SF – really east of Van Ness ave so we can walk to work. The hunt to find a big enought space for our growing soon to be family (3 people) started 5 years ago when we bought a second studio apartment. This summer will we combine our two studios apartments to create a 2-bedroom place. It will be a small 900 SF New york style place will the entire city at our door step and great neighbors to hang out with. I know it is not for everyone but it is the perfect for us.
    Our biggest issue is finding child care for the baby which will arrive in the fall. We are already applying for childcare! The chron failled to discuss the waitlists for infant care and how parents need to fill in applications in the first trimester of pregnancy!

  22. Posted by eddy

    Especially, when I can get a better education than the SF Privates at a free Public outside of SF
    In your opinion.
    There are lots of benefits of the private school system over publics and its rare that publics come out on top over private schools. I do think that public schools can offer much better diversity than the private school claim to have. But private institutions typically have a much higher caliber of educator and administration. I’m sure there are exceptions.

  23. Posted by FormerAptBroker

    anon123wrote:
    > We recently moved to a suburb from Pac Heights.
    > Our home is now in a leafy place with good schools
    > off of 280.
    We are in Presidio Heights with a little kid and we will be moving to the Peninsula before he starts school (just like almost everyone we know).
    My wife and I grew up on the Peninsula and both went to undergrad and grad school in the Bay Area so we know quite a few people that got married and had kids in SF.
    We do know some people that live in SF with school age kids and they fall in to two camps the super social and connected that send their kids to Town or Burke or the kids that grew up in the city and send the kids to the same Catholic school they went to.
    > Even if you can afford private school and a 4 bedroom
    > place (we were), you have to ask yourself if you want
    > to afford it. Especially, when I can get a better education
    > than the SF Privates at a free Public outside of SF.
    Hillsborough and Portola Valley have great public schools and you might even get a “better education” but you can’t beat a school like Town in SF if you want to get “better connected”. I can’t think of a single Bay Area grade school with more grads who can easily help you get in to a good college or get a good job (or even sponsor you in to the Bohemian Club, PU Club or SFGC)…

  24. Posted by Anon123

    Eddy,
    Respectfully, I don’t know anyone who moved out of SF for more diversity.
    Agree that quality of educators and administration is typically higher in privates. I believe (this is all opinion, right?) that involved parents and a good kid peerset is extremely important; SF privates certainly haven’t cornered that.
    Btw, as you can see from my final paragraph, I acknowledge that many ‘burbs publics aren’t good. To suggest SF privates are nearly always the best … Really?

  25. Posted by sfrenegade

    “But private institutions typically have a much higher caliber of educator and administration.”
    Private institutions also typically have a higher caliber of student. Yeah, I said it. It’s true — usually the parents care more and the children are higher performers to begin with.
    I do agree that it’s hard to quantify exactly if free public outside of SF with high API is necessarily better than private inside SF. A private high school is much more likely to have a dedicated college guidance staff with people who have direct relationships with admissions officers, vs. the typical public school.
    “BTW, circumcision and dog-bowls are non-issues in my new neighborhood.”
    Awesome. That made me chuckle. Stupid social issues and lots of money wasted on ineffective social programs is a big minus of Ye Olde City.

  26. Posted by sfrenegade

    ^ That should say “For example, a private high school is much more likely to have a dedicated college guidance staff with people who have direct relationships with admissions officers, vs. the typical public school.” [i.e. it’s one factor, not THE factor]
    A typical private school is also smaller than a bigger public school, so usually the public school often has more variety of activities, but you may have the opportunity to do more of those activities at a private school. For example, you could be on the baseball team, the football team, and the science team at a private school, whereas you might not be on all 3 at a public. Of course, if you are raising a potential future NFL player, you are probably more likely to have them be in competition for the NFL from a public school than a private school, because the competition in football is likely more robust and the scouting for college could be better.

  27. Posted by sf parent

    Hi all,
    I raised one son in SF, and went high end private school all the way. His education in SF through 8th grade cost approximately $180,000. Add another $30k per year for private high school, and you’re at $300,000 for one kid to reach high school graduation.
    Now, I’m on wife #2 and family # 2 and we have several small children. We’re leaning towards leaving SF as soon as the oldest is ready for first grade.
    Just one parent’s perspective.

  28. Posted by tc_sf

    “Even if you can afford private school and a 4 bedroom place (we were), you have to ask yourself if you want to afford it.”
    I’d posit that the cost of private school is material to nearly all families on the margin of deciding between public/private school in SF.
    i.e. Families where the cost of private school is so small as to be a non issue are most likely firmly in the private school camp.
    So I’d assume that on the marginal effect of having public schools that parents feel are unacceptable is quite large.

  29. Posted by eddy

    I don’t know anyone who moved out of SF for more diversity.
    Obviously that is not what was intended if that is how it came across. And in general I don’t really think that people care much about, or specifically seek out, diversity over and above factors like student:teacher ratio, quality of staff/administration, environment, historical results, etc… It just so happens that public schools happen to have a greater level of broad diversity than private schools within a specific community and this is a real advantage. I believe that having genuine diversity (both academically and socially) for a child is a real / tangible benefit.
    I’d posit that the cost of private school is material to nearly all families on the margin of deciding between public/private school in SF.
    This is probably true. But the second part of your statement is conflicted with the fact that the having unacceptable public schools is actually, largely, unacceptable.
    Also left out here are the very tangible and real number of families in San Francisco that send their children to Marin for school. Call it Private School Overflow or whatever, but it is real and there are buses filled with K+ children leaving the city every single day. No mention of that stat.
    Anyway, great subject. Seemingly wrong forum.

  30. Posted by Anon123

    Interesting commentary on good publics v privates.
    Completely agree with tc_sf; great point.
    Also, we’re splitting hairs. Reality is that University or Gunn would be a splendid choice. However, none of us would willingly send our kids to some of the bad publics. It would really suck to not be able to buy a better school (fees or school district).

  31. Posted by Stucco-sux

    Oh c’mon people. San Francisco sucks for more and more people every day.
    That’s why last November the voters soundly defeated the utterly abysmal Bay Guardian slate.
    But the city still sucks, and that’s why so many people are leaving.
    They are replaced, of course. In the internet business, we call that “churn.”
    Its what happens when an appealing web service ends up disappointing.

  32. Posted by Jesse

    Stucco-sux: San Francisco has NEVER had as many people as they do now.
    No kids? So what. It’s not like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is flying around and all the kids are in a dungeon under the castle. If someone doens;t want to raise kids in the City, let them go elsewhere. Why should we subsidize someone else’s children? Seems to me less kids should mean less taxes paid for schools. That’s a win-win. Plus, San Francisco’s like their dogs. We need more dog parks and less schools.

  33. Posted by lark

    Late to this thread. We have one child, educated in public schools in SF except for 7th & 8th grade, going to Carnegie Mellon. Very high SAT scores, etc.
    There are excellent options for elementary, and for high school also. Where it can be difficult is middle school. Save your private school pennies for middle school and you will do fine.

  34. Posted by exsfer are u on crack?

    exsfer: I hate planning, but what are u talking about? the planning dept. has demanded of my firm, not just requrired, that we build much larger “family sized units” going so far as to designate % of 2 bedrooms, 3 bedrooms, etc. Where have you been?

  35. Posted by anon

    We have a fifth grade son who goes to private school here in SF. I mean, seriously – Why would we leave…The exposure he is getting is incredible. Seeing the naked guy in the Castro pedestrian plaza at least twice a week while walking home from school – you can’t get that in Marin

  36. Posted by katdip

    as (apparently) one of the middle class commenters, I can speak to why people choose to stay here or not. Schools are probably only a part of it, but I speculate it mostly has to do with cost of housing. Everyone here seems to think the numbers of children are going down because upper crusters move to the Woodside for better schools. But the number of African American families has plummeted – they’re moving to Antioch because they can’t afford a house for $500K or $2500 month rent. My household just squeaks over 6 figures – we own a 2 BR house in the outer mission and have our one kid in a public elementary school we like (not one of the “popular” ones). Most of the parents at the school are in the same boat – 1-3 kids, not wealthy, living in relatively small place. If I had any more than 2 kids I would consider moving because with my income I couldn’t afford a bigger place. Remember that housing is a lagging indicator for families – the bubble burst in 2007, so that means prices were skyrocketing for more than half the decade covered by the census, rentals included. So I would bet many families (including the much maligned immigrants) just could not find affordable housing here. On a side note, the public schools certainly have their challenges, but the fault lies primarily at the state level – just saw in the paper today that K-12 funding from the state has been cut by 1/3 over the past 4 years. SFUSD was on a path to real improvement but is being throttled by these budget cuts.

  37. Posted by curmudgeon

    katydid, thank you for bringing some “diversity” to this forum. I do think if you looked at the numbers (and, unfortunately, as of yesterday they still weren’t posted on the census site), I think you’ll find things like the decline of lower-middle class African American families is much more profound than rich White people moving to Woodside.
    But we’ll see.

  38. Posted by joh

    Three of my friends each have 2 children under 5. Like me, they grew up in SF, went to public school in SF, and went to University in the Bay Area. They all love living in SF, but all are considering moving to the suburbs for their children’s education. Two have household incomes of $250K+, and one has a household income of $120K, but doesn’t have to pay for housing (home is inherited and paid off). None of them want to pay for private schools in SF.
    Another one of my friends owns a home in Burlingame. He ended up having to move due to childcare issues, so he rented out his Burlingame home to a couple with two kids, ages 6 and 8 (they previously lived in SF and were tired of paying for private school). The new tenants got a pretty good deal on their rent, and they loved the house, so they asked my friend if he’d consider a 12 year lease! Which is just long enough for their youngest to finish school.
    So yes, many middle class, even upper middle class families leave SF for their kids’ education.

  39. Posted by empnor

    The fastest way to reverse this trend would be some type of school voucher system. Parents want the best for their kids and must make trade-offs to achieve good schooling. San Francisco has some of the top schools in the country; with one exception (Lowell), they are private. Reducing the economic incentive to leave would, on the margin, keep more kids in San Francisco.

  40. Posted by tipster

    Ha ha, that’s a good one, empnor.
    The only people who get vouchers in SF are the homeless.
    There is only so much money. Either we give it to the homeless and chauffeur them to the hospital each night once they have passed out, for a nice clean bed and a hot meal, or we invest it in the kids.
    The concept of investing it in kids is laughable. Don’t be ridiculous.

  41. Posted by justthefacts

    To further illuminate the school debate, here are the first few paragraphs from SFUSD’s posted job description for a school principal:
    San Francisco Unified School District
    Principal
    DESCRIPTION
    The school principal is the educational leader and administrator of the school. The work of the
    principal is aligned with the district’s strategic plan, Beyond the Talk: Taking Action to
    Educate Every Child Now, keeping our promise by taking responsibility for diminishing the
    predictive power of demographics. The principal is committed to closing the existing
    achievement gap and promoting the achievement of all students through focused attention on
    three core areas: Access and Equity, Achievement, and Accountability.
    The school principal understands that access and equity are at the heart of making social
    justice a reality. The importance of every child graduating from high school prepared for
    college, careers, and the 21st Century. The principal is thoroughly familiar with principles of
    child, early adolescent, and educational psychology; the California Standards for the Teaching
    Profession (CSTPs); California Content Standards; equity-centered professional learning
    communities; 21st Century curriculum; cultural and linguistic responsive pedagogy;
    restorative justice; and assets/strength-based models of education.

  42. Posted by Zig

    Are there studies that conclusively show that the test scores of peers and resources are what makes the difference? This is more correlation and not causation. It is more based on parenting, genetics and the connections of the parents (big one) dictating what a child achieves.
    I don’t need or expect Palo Alto level schools in the city like many posting here seem to be expecting. If they don’t get into the “10” school then they leave which is fine but unrealistic.
    I just expect a solid educational curriculum, some arts instruction, some science, some sports and most importantly discipline and dismissal of disruptive kids. And I want the schools (at least middle and elementary) to be near to my house so many of the other students are my neighbors. Busing ruined the schools in SF.
    San Francisco should not worry about pleasing the upper class types. If they care they should worry about just pleasing people like my wife and me and we would stay.
    FIX THE MIDDLE SCHOOLS!

  43. Posted by katdip

    joh
    I wasn’t saying people don’t move because of schools, just that affordability may be more important. In your examples, both families are wealthy – either $250K income or $750+K equity in a paid off house, so they have lots of options. For lower and middle income people, they can’t even afford to live in the city.
    But I would definitely agree that for the upper middle and above, living in the City necessitates a conscious choice. The perception of poor schools will drive lots of people out. But there are great parochial schools in SF that would cost less than the “premium” you pay to live in the nicer parts of the Peninsula. And other factors play in, especially around jobs and commutes.

  44. Posted by Zig

    Katdip
    What you say might be true for this group but not for us solid middle income people
    I am not sure what you consider the nicer parts of the Peninsula but at least from my middle class perspective my wife and I can afford:
    modest 700-800K home 3/2
    SF this might be Inner Parkside, Sunnyside, Miraloma Park
    San Mateo this would now be west of El Camino in a good (not PA) school district.
    I would out a place like Albany in this too.
    So there the premium is really to live in SF AND you have to deal with the schools.
    Also, as someone who went to parochial school at least at the K-8 level the lack of resources leaves a lot to be desired. Weak arts and science instruction. Too much religion and Jesus talk

  45. Posted by lark

    Comment on the middle schools, from a parent who went public in SF except for middle schools.
    My son was in the gifted track at Hoover, which is a decent middle school. It would have worked for some kids. There were some terrific teachers and the curriculum was for the most part very good. But it was a huge school and teemed like a bus station at rush hour. He just was not ready for it. So we put him into a small private for 2 years and that was the perfect, necessary thing. His friends however thrived at Hoover.
    As always, with kids, YMMV.
    The big problem with middle schools in SF in my opinion is that you go from small elementary to huge middle (based on some defunct theory) and it is not a good approach.

  46. Posted by kim

    i have to say, as a longtime SF resident, SFUSD parent and condo owner, i’m amazed by this conversation. it’s like one of us is living on a different planet, i’m just not sure which. what shocks me the most is that people who have barely (or never) set foot in an SF public school feel free to judge them. it’s ludicrous. i wouldn’t think of grousing about a school or school system my child had not attended.
    here are some facts from the ground:
    – there are many more good SFUSD schools than there were 10 years ago, and more each year. (by good, i mean acceptable to reasonable, educated, middle-class parents, based on test scores, staff quality and other factors.)
    – the quality of instruction and educators is generally high (we have experienced three schools firsthand). if an instructor is wanting and the parents are engaged, action is taken (not always as quickly as one would hope, but it happens).
    – for many, the enrollment process is challenging (took us two years to get a school of our choice). enrollment has nothing to do with the experience you have once you’re in. like the pain of childbirth, it is quickly forgotten once you have real issues to focus on.
    – many prospective parents are still operating on rumor and innuendo. if someone’s kid hasn’t attended a public school, or the one in question, i encourage you to visit the school or attend a school event or two and make up your mind yourself, as they will likely be talking bullshit.
    – you can be a test score chaser if you want to, but it won’t give you the full picture of a school’s merit. SFUSD has an extremely large high-need, hard-to-teach population. that presents both challenges and benefits for the district’s high-SES students. thankfully, SFUSD has a lot of specialists trained to deal with high-need students. one of the benefits for high-SES children in SFUSD that hinges from this is the speed with which learning differences are identified and staff is made available to do pull-outs or take other interventive action.
    – going to school with low-SES students does not negatively impact the academic performance or experience of high-SES students unless the school is grossly overwhelmed with low-SES kids (over 65+% or more, depending on the school’s resources). the research is very clear on this. and here’s where publics really shine relative to privates: in delivering the confidence and socialization that can only come from learning in a milieu where everyone is viewed as equal and worthy — where people different from oneself are not a distant, fearsome reality, but the norm. this is something money can’t buy, and i have witnessed it in public graduates every day. it is the single biggest factor in our determination to educate our kids in SF. (calling it “diversity” is grossly undervaluing and underselling what this experience really offers. it is much more comprehensive and amorphous than that. it’s a world view thing, a comfortable-in-your-skin thing, a paradigm thing.)
    it is true that SF could be more family-friendly generally (muni stroller policies, bike on BART policies, etc.). but things are changing. however you choose to interpret the statistics, there is clearly a renaissance among middle-class, educated parents; engaged people are staying. the funding crisis sucks shit. lots of stuff sucks…it’s a wild ride, for sure. that said, even the sucky parts seem to deliver valuable experiences for our children (budget cut protests, case in point). i see our kids getting an education in the academe and in life that my suburban upbringing could not come close to matching.
    for these reasons, we are quite happy living as a family of four in SF, struggling to pay our mortgage on our apartment on the salaries/earnings of a UX designer and freelance writer and attending public schools from ES to HS. best of luck to you all.

  47. Posted by lol

    It’s the same thing in any big city I have lived. People move in for the vibrant lifestyle, start to get steady, get kids, have to re-balance priorities when confronted with lack of space, private garden, etc…
    This is not your old SF where you could have it all in one place on a lower middle class salary. Times have changed.
    In general big world class cities are like giant heart pumps that pull in talent, mixes them with opportunities and transforms them into families that will settle in its surroundings. Start in SF, nest in Daly, Pacifica or Alameda.

  48. Posted by tc_sf

    “i have to say, as a longtime SF resident, SFUSD parent and condo owner, i’m amazed by this conversation. it’s like one of us is living on a different planet, ”
    I’d posit that some of what is driving this is that growing income disparity is creating the perception, and perhaps reality, of two different planets.
    The income curve is steep even around the upper middle class region and parents have a natural desire for their kids to have a better life. If people see their family shelling out $100k+ year for a housing expenses plus ~$100k schooling there can be a self fulfilling prophecy that they feel they can’t “target” their kids to be middle class because a middle class income couldn’t even match their current standard of living.
    Not that I think that these perceptions are entirely rational, but if the middle class is perceived to be dying the conclusion for many is that their kids will either end up above or below the middle and the obvious choice once at that point is above.
    While I’m a big fan of facts, there’s always a large component of perception and emotion when kids are involved. Additionally there’s the factor that schools change and that study data can be quite stale by the time the results are published and popularized.

  49. Posted by sfrenegade

    “(calling it “diversity” is grossly undervaluing and underselling what this experience really offers. it is much more comprehensive and amorphous than that. it’s a world view thing, a comfortable-in-your-skin thing, a paradigm thing.)”
    How do you get more amorphous than “diversity”?
    Maybe you should start writing the job descriptions for principals in SFUSD (see the post above by justthefacts). It seems like you’re better at using buzzwords than them.

  50. Posted by kim

    sfrenegage: buzzwords…you mean like bullshit?
    i don’t understand your point…diversity’s meaning pretty clear (ethnic, socioeconomic mix, what have you…). and i’m hardly an administration apologist (you’ll note i did not include SFUSD administrators in my list of those who impressed, because, well, they haven’t).
    merely offering our experience as a counterpoint. options abound and all that.

  51. Posted by sfrenegade

    “i don’t understand your point…”
    Well, I’m not sure that I made one other than a snarky comment about how SFUSD’s principals are supposed to care more about diversity than education, according to the job description above. Maybe that’s the problem.
    As to your substantive points, what you’ve mentioned seems to be similar to what engaged parents do in similar city school districts. Good work on doing your part to improve the system, rather than just making random complaints. However, it appears the bureaucracy you’ve faced would likely deter many parents, in addition to the funding issues that you have mentioned. I’ve heard of engaged parents banding together to raise money to save programs in SF and similar city school districts, and unfortunately more and more of that may become necessary due to budget cuts.

  52. Posted by hangemhi

    diversity to some means they are about to be mugged. to others it is Kim’s definition. to most it is somewhere in between and that “most” are the vast majority of people moving out of SF for their children’s education – i don’t mean to say that is why, or the only reason why – so don’t jump down my throat (yet). it’s just that i’m more in Kim’s camp…. and because i value diversity so much i’m planning to tough it out with the public schools. i’m a product of public schools and was shocked by the ignorance of my vastly suburban educated new friends when i got to college. i didn’t think any of them were any better educated – some were smarter, some weren’t. but they were universally ignorant to race and cultural issues and i considered them racists – even the ones who proudly proclaimed they had a black friend in HS.
    To those pointing to the principal’s job description…. you have completely missed the point…. that is saying that those who are disadvantaged need to be paid attention to and not left behind. but if you’re looking through ignorant colored glasses it means reverse racism. for you…. yeah, go to the suburbs…. SF is better offer without you

  53. Posted by sfrenegade

    because i value diversity so much i’m planning to tough it out with the public schools.
    You act like the suburban districts don’t have diversity in their public schools. If anything, staying in the city means that upper income people don’t encounter diversity in schools because their kids go to private schools. In contrast, going to the suburbs means that upper income people do encounter diversity. Look at the composition of many school districts in the East Bay, South Bay, and the Peninsula. I think this composition will surprise you if you’re going to make an ignorant comment about suburbs vs. SF with respect to diversity. The obvious exception is Marin, which I’ve mentioned on SocketSite before, but that place is its own boring NIMBY paradise, and they want to keep it that way.
    but they were universally ignorant to race and cultural issues
    The irony is that I’ve found many SFers to be far more ignorant of these things than people in other cities. It probably has something to do with the fact that a large part of the non-native population came from some podunk town and tries to maintain the stereotypical SF liberalness, but just isn’t as cosmopolitan as the people in other cities. Even many quite educated people seem to be flummoxed by certain ethnic customs and cuisine.
    yeah, go to the suburbs…. SF is better offer without you
    Yeah, I’m not sure why this is a smug stereotypical SF-style “go live in Walnut Creek if you disagree with me” situation, but that’s usually what people say when they concede the argument.
    The “black friend” comment is also a weird one given the black population in SF, but I’ll let that go since it was probably a throwaway.

  54. Posted by molly

    Zig
    Your poor logic is amazing. Getting rid of rent control will not make the city suddenly and permanently more affordable for you.
    There is no way of knowing exactly what would happen to the supply-demand effect on rents immediately after the elimination of rent control. But it’s safe to say that the new supply from the eviction of long-term tenants would be matched to some degree by demand from the very same people.
    Please remember that, despite what your seething envy says, your current rent was determined primarily by your actions, and not by your co-tenants’ lower rates. You are paying that rate because you were willing to do so and because the landlord believed that others would be willing if you weren’t.
    Newly vacated properties (in the event of abolished rent control) may lower the market price temporarily; they may not lower them at all. It depends on how many people want to live here and what they are willing to pay for that privilege. Judging by the number of people willing to pay the absurd sums being charged now, the downward pressure created by a presumed supply increase would have to be enormous to drop asking rents below levels seen in 2009.
    If you have lived in your unit for more than a year, you have already benefited from rent control yourself, because rents on vacancies have risen dramatically in the last year. In fact, if we abolished rent control tomorrow, you and your wife could end up in real trouble (or in Oakland). Landlords love to gouge expectant parents on renewals, knowing that they do not want to move just as the water is about to break. And landlords in these newly available units you dream of would discriminate against you because of that swollen belly. Count on it.
    But let’s say the asking rents would come down substantially as the market was glutted with vacant unit. What do you think would happen after a year or two, when the vacancy rate reached usual SF levels? Rents for renewals will be unstable and terrifying to anyone on a budget. You and your family, no matter what kind of bargain you initially got through the rousting of longer-term tenants, will pay dearly. This is what happened in Boston when rent control was dropped a decade ago. Asking rents did not go down. Renewal rents became a nightmare.
    If you feel forced out of the city simply because your neighbors have a better rent than you do, so be it. Go. We don’t need people who let envy guide their thinking.
    You can move to Oakland and be mad at the older couple next door who paid off their larger home 10 years ago at a purchase price less than a third of yours. You can raise your children to be just as petty as you are. SF won’t have to endure any of it.

  55. Posted by molly

    ex-SFer.
    If building larger units is so vital to keeping families in the city, then why was the population of children higher in the past, when there were no more 3BR houses than there are now?

  56. Posted by A.T.

    molly, three main reasons. First and foremost, the schools were better — you could stay in SF and send your kids to public school and they’d get a good education; now the schools in the burbs are far, far better with fewer hassles to boot. Second, SF homes were not so expensive before about the late 90s (and were much less expensive until prop 13), so people could move up to the extra bedroom SF unit when kids came along. Third, people everywhere (in the U.S.) simply were satisfied in smaller homes 50 years ago.
    Building more 2/3 BR homes addresses only the second of these factors. It would help but would not dramatically change the situation. The sh**ty SF schools is the main driver of the exodus of children (I know them well — born and raised here, know many teachers, wife volunteers in a first grade class — and I know there are exceptions like Lowell)). People sending their kids to these schools are, of course, going to defend them, or they would have to admit they are really not giving their kids the educations they deserve.

  57. Posted by NoeValleyJim

    My oldest daughter is starting a public Mandarin immersion school in the fall and we couldn’t be happier. There are many great public elementary schools in San Francisco and we got into one of them. To get a Mandarin immersion experience in private school here you have to go Chinese American school, which costs $30k/yr, all in. And they don’t have programs like these in the suburbs.
    Now the process was a bit of a trial and I would have personally preferred the Spanish immersion school a block from our house, but I know dozens of upper middle and middle class parents with kids in San Francisco public schools. The schools here are pretty good, at least by California standards. There are some bad ones but also some very good ones. We have some friends who ended up in one of the bad ones and they are sending their kids to private school.
    Our children are in private day care now and we could afford private school but we just don’t think it is worth it. Maybe if we were rich enough to not care we might feel otherwise.
    I think that the main reason people move out of San Francisco when they have kids is because they just can’t afford housing. They want their 2000 square foot house with 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and a garage and they don’t want to rent and this is just out of their price range.

  58. Posted by FormerAptBroker

    Molly wrote:
    > Your poor logic is amazing. Getting rid of rent control
    > will not make the city suddenly and permanently more
    > affordable for you.
    Getting rid of price controls ALWAYS makes prices come down (but I don’t want to beat up on rent control today)…
    > Landlords love to gouge expectant parents on
    > renewals, knowing that they do not want to move
    > just as the water is about to break.
    I’m sure some landlords have done this, but how many landlords are like Mr. Roper in Three’s Company and have any idea if their tenants are pregnant, I’m guessing it is less than 1%…
    > And landlords in these newly available units you dream
    > of would discriminate against you because of that swollen
    > belly. Count on it.
    It is true that landlords don’t want to rent to anyone that is pregnant (income usually drops and crying babies bother other tenants) but you don’t need to tell a landlord that you are pregnant to rent an apartment.

  59. Posted by SFBuyer

    If you are looking to purchase in SF and have kids going to elementary, look at West Portal. All neighborhood kids that wanted the school got it under the new lottery this year.

  60. Posted by sfrenegade

    To get a Mandarin immersion experience in private school here you have to go Chinese American school, which costs $30k/yr, all in. And they don’t have programs like these in the suburbs.
    Wrong, NVJ:
    http://miparentscouncil.org/schools/
    If you look at the list, there are public schools in Cupertino, Palo Alto, San Mateo, Hayward, Fremont, and a charter school in Oakland Chinatown that have Mandarin immersion. You don’t even have to be in the so-called “fortress” areas.

  61. Posted by Zig

    Hi Molly. Thanks for the kind words.
    Regarding rent control:
    It has been very damaging to the blue collar family formation in San Francisco unless you want to live with mom. This is an uncomfortable truth. It also prevents some people from being able to move to San Francisco in the first place.
    It is not envy in my case as my wife and I are financially able buy a house in or near San Francisco. I was just making the point that rent control favors a certain class of people over another and I have always been a loser in this as has most of my cousins and brother who are natives because we have families. It’s a market distortion. I don’t think there is a mainstream economist would would dispute this.
    My rent is barely below market. People with growing families need more space. If I was a single person who never changed I would be able to stay in my place for the next 50 years. Perhaps eventually I would buy a weekend place in Tahoe or Sonoma.
    Instead I decided to have a family. The public policy doesn’t favor me in this regard.

  62. Posted by Zig

    If you are looking to purchase in SF and have kids going to elementary, look at West Portal. All neighborhood kids that wanted the school got it under the new lottery this year.”
    Wish I could afford it but I think West Portal is a stretching my budget. Is there a good map that shows where each elementary pulls from?
    After West Portal is it off to Hoover?

  63. Posted by tc_sf

    Newsweek just released their list of the 500 best public HS’s.
    If I did the search right SF’s top entry was George Washington at 497/500
    http://www.newsweek.com/content/newsweek/feature/2011/americas-best-high-schools.html

  64. Posted by miraloma lurker

    Don’t make any RE purchase decisions based on the school assignment area map. We live a block from Miraloma Elementary and did not get in.

  65. Posted by zig

    Don’t make any RE purchase decisions based on the school assignment area map. We live a block from Miraloma Elementary and did not get in.”
    Outrageously stupid. Was this after the changes to the system? I thought now this is not possible?

  66. Posted by lark

    Odd about Lowell not being on that Newsweek list.
    Lowell was ranked 28th by U.S. News & World Report’s Best High Schools in America for 2010 and 49th by Newsweek’s America’s Best High Schools 2010 list.

  67. Posted by sfrenegade

    Newsweek just released their list of the 500 best public HS’s.
    If I did the search right SF’s top entry was George Washington at 497/500
    http://www.newsweek.com/content/newsweek/feature/2011/americas-best-high-schools.html

    As for the other Bay Area schools on the list, I see Gunn in Palo Alto, Piedmont, Mills in Millbrae, Hillsdale in San Mateo, Mission San Jose in Fremont, Summit Prep in Redwood City, and California in San Ramon. Did I miss any?
    The top 500 list isn’t probably the definitive list, as there are other good schools on the Peninsula (Gunn’s not the only school in PAUSD, and there are good schools in Sequoia, Mountain View-Los Altos, Los Gatos-Saratoga, etc.) and East Bay (Danville, Lamorinda). Nothing in Marin on the list unless I missed something, although I’m sure the Marinites would blame it on Marin City.
    I too was surprised Lowell wasn’t on the list.

  68. Posted by miraloma lurker

    Zig: Yes, this happened under the new system, which is supposed to be more neighborhood-based. However, there is still absolutely no guarantee that you will get your neighborhood school.

  69. Posted by katdip

    So much misinformation on this thread! First, under the new school assignment system, being in a neighborhood catchment area gives you a _preference_ not a guarantee to get in to the neighborhood school. Siblings come first, as do applicants from poorly-performing census tracts. Since the district can’t know how many new kids will be applying in a given year, it is perfectly possible that there will be more applicants from a neighborhood than there are spots.
    The economic literature about rent control is very mixed, especially around “2nd generation” rent control like we have in SF (in which prices go to market rate on vacancy, and properties built after the 1980s are not subject to rent control). Don’t want to argue the ins and outs of this here, but check out this review of the literature: http://www.csun.edu/~economics/2009-01-jenkins-reach_concl.pdf. I agree with Zig that “renting up” for more space is a challenge, but I don’t know how much rent control contributes to the higher prices, since getting into a larger place puts you at the market rate at that moment in time.

  70. Posted by tc_sf

    “The economic literature about rent control is very mixed, especially around “2nd generation” rent control like we have in SF ”
    Rent control is one of the few areas where economists do generally agree so I quickly skimmed the paper in your link and don’t think you got the right conclusion.
    From the summary at the beginning:
    I find that the preponderance of the literature points toward the conclusion that rent control introduces inefficiencies in housing markets. Moreover, the literature on the whole does not sustain any plausible redemption in terms of redistribution. The literature on the whole may be fairly said to show that rent control is bad, yet as of 2001, about 140 jurisdictions persist in some form of the intervention.”
    At the end, the survey data listed shows:
    “To my knowledge, the last time U.S. economists were surveyed on rent control was in 1990, in the survey of Alston, Kearl, and Vaughan (1992). The ques- tion asked for an evaluation of the statement: “A ceiling on rents reduces the quantity and quality of housing available.”
    The results were:
    Generally agree: 76.3%
    Agree with provisions: 16.6%
    Generally disagree: 6.5%”

  71. Posted by lol

    I don’t know how much rent control contributes to the higher prices, since getting into a larger place puts you at the market rate at that moment in time.
    Easy.
    – Family A starts in a 1BR in 1980 for $350/m.
    – Family A moves up in a 3BR in 1983 for $500/m
    – Kids grow up, move out. 2011 shows a rent of $800/m for a 3BR.
    – Parents of Family A who would have scaled down by 2011 if they had paid market rent of $3500/m do not need to and stay in the place which has 2 more bedrooms than they need. They reduce the available supply by 2 bedrooms and make market rent higher.
    – Family B moves into a 2BR in 2005 for $1700/m with 1 newborn.
    – Family B needs to move up in 2011 into a 3BR.
    But they cannot afford the $3500/m for the 3BR that the subsidized empty-nesters are hogging because of a Frankenstein social experiment.
    They move to Daly.

  72. Posted by katdip

    Tc_sf – read the whole article, especially the empirical evidence around rent control. He looked at various findings regarding effects of rent control on housing availability, prices of controlled housing and prices of uncontrolled housing. The findings were decidedly mixed especially when looking at 2nd generation controls (like SF’s). I’m not saying that there were not market distortions, but the empirical evidence varied widely as to how significant those distortions actually were. Look at most of the evidence from Boston, which ended rent control in the early 1990s, so they were able to measure the ACTUAL (rather than theoretical) impact. They found that supply went up (more building permits for renovations and new construction, which is not really relevant here since new construction isn’t covered by rent control), but prices also went UP (not down, as increased supply would indicate).

  73. Posted by tc_sf

    I still don’t really see it.
    Searching for “Boston” I see a point about how rent control leads landlords to perform reduced maintenance and how ending rent control increases the probability of a unit going up for rent.
    “[T]he end of rent control is associated with a 6 percentage point increase in the probability of a unit being a rental. (Sims 2007, 142)”
    Both points are useful when looking at empirical data. If units are better maintained and new units put on the market after then end of rent control an increase in average rent need not be the same as an “apples to apples” increase in rent. (i.e. median prices vs case-shiller sale pair prices).
    Further searches for Boston talk of a spill-over effect of “reduced care” of rent-controled units:
    “[Boston 1985, 1989, 1993, 1998:] Though the underprovision of housing due to rent control might raise rents in the uncontrolled sector, the reduced care given to rent controlled units may make the zones with rent control less desirable for those living in non- controlled housing. This spillover effect due to sub-optimal maintenance may decrease all rents in an area. (Sims 2007, 148)”
    And their lead for the empirical section is:
    “Many empirical studies find rent controls increase rents in the uncontrolled sector:”
    With one dissenting study listed finding:
    “Early and Phelps (1999) conclude that the impact on the uncontrolled rental market is more ambiguous. While they find “the existence of rent control increases rents in the uncontrolled sector by more than 13 percent,” these effects diminish over time ”

  74. Posted by lol

    It’s tough to guess what would happen if rent were to be all market rate overnight.
    What I have seen with my own eyes. In the TH building I used to live, one of the tenants were a couple making do in a 1/1 because of low low rent, the other tenant had been there 10 years and hogging his low rent place as a pied-a-terre.
    Did I mention I was paying almost double what they were paying?
    I am sure average rents would go UP. Currently underpriced places would stop being subsidized. Newer rentals wouldn’t go down as much to compensate for the decrease. Many underpaying tenants would leave and free up their places. Some units would go to the buyer market, others would go back to the rental pool. In both cases, if would absorb the overhang of candidate tenants and therefore decrease market prices. Ownership rate in SF would probably increase slightly. Not by much because landlording would become an attractive proposition again.

  75. Posted by Wai Yip Tung

    If anyone is still reading this thread, I have made my only analysis base on cohort over the census data.
    http://tungwaiyip.info/blog/2011/06/23/sf_children_flee_city_before_entering_school_census_data_shows
    It validate the theory that family are leaving the city. My interpretation is also that there is a single cause, the initial school enrollment drive people away. Housing issue may play a much smaller role in comparison.

  76. Posted by Zig

    “applicants from poorly-performing census tracts”
    I would like to explore this more. Can we benefit by moving into a poor census tract regardless of our family demographics?
    Will it also help that I had a Mexican grandmother? And my grandfather emigrated to Latin American from Europe before moving to the US so he was a pseudo-Latino (how would they know anyway?). My mom grew up in the lower Mission.
    Can my daughter celebrate her 1/4 to 1/8 Hispanic heritage by claiming this plus have us buy a home in a low preforming census tract to get us into our top pick?
    All along I thought we should move out of the Mission to get away from the poor schools but maybe I should have the opposite strategy.

  77. Posted by Wai Yip Tung

    Zig, your Mission address will give you high priority in the school assignment process for any school in the city. Your ethnicity does not matter. in fact I think some voter passed ballot ban using ethnicity in consideration.

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