We Work to Build Bridges, Rather Than Burn Them Down

How many of us have kids?  Do you find it somewhat ironic that we are raising kids in a region in which most of them will not be able to afford to live in?

Our housing crisis has been decades in the making.  In fact, it was 1989 that California last consistently met its annual housing goals, just to keep up with the state’s growth in population.  30 years.  1989.

  • George Bush Senior became President.
  • Average rent – $420 a month
  • A gallon of gas – 97 cents
  • And about half of my Silicon Valley Leadership Group staff was yet to be born!

Here’s truth – When it comes to the housing needed for hard-working families at all economic levels, we need to be the Voice for the Voiceless.  In the past 20 years, your Silicon Valley Leadership Group has endorsed, and fought for, more than 300 affordable home developments, resulting in thousands of new homes built.  On the front lines of this effort are my colleagues Kathleen Wortham and Vince Rocha.  I will never forget one of the first times I went out to speak on behalf of a housing proposal, in a city that I will not name . . . San Jose . . . I walked into the Council Chambers and there were 200 people in the audience, with stickers and buttons, all against this particular affordable home proposal.  There were 25 people already in line, speaker cards clutched in hand, all against the proposal.  I was the 26th and lone speaker in support.  As I stood in that incredibly long and increasingly angry line, I kept repeating that old civil rights quote to myself, “One man, armed with the truth, is a majority.  One man, armed with the truth, is a majority.”  But another quote kept coming into my mind – yes, but one of these neighbors, armed with a pitch-fork, and I’m dead.

Not because of anything brilliant I had to say that night, that City Council held firm, and unanimously approved that development, providing affordable homes for 250 families.  Impact.

Three years later, those homes were built, and I was asked to speak at the opening ceremonies.  As I finished my remarks, I saw the two gentleman who had organized all of that opposition to come out three years earlier, standing in the crowd.  They nervously ushered me over to them, and I even more nervously approached them.  And I will never forget their words . . . “Carl, if we had had any idea that these are the types of homes that people call affordable, and that these are the types of families that need them, we would not have been opposing you that night.”

Light Bulb.  Impact.  We need to listen and learn from each other – rather than talk past each other.  We need to build bridges as we build more homes, not attack others and burn bridges down.  We are better together.

– Carl Guardino, President and CEO, Silicon Valley Leadership Group | November 20, 2019

Editor’s Note: This is the second of a three-part series on the guiding principals that drive our work at the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. Read the first one here.