The coast, whose heritage is defined by farming rather than tech, has become more expensive by proximity, but the area shares little in Silicon Valley’s wealth. As a recent report from the Mountain View-based nonprofit Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF) described, “The affluence of Silicon Valley—located just ‘over the hill,’ as many residents say—has not touched [people on the South Coast] except by making their lives more expensive: fog rolls over from the coast and cost rolls the other way.”
The report profiles local families, including one couple and their three school-age children who live in a rusted, insect-infested trailer that has a leaky roof and no heat. The parents make less than $11 an hour working for a local flower nursery and pay $1,100 a month for their housing. According to the report, the family’s situation isn’t an exception—it’s the reality for hundreds of South Coast residents, mostly Latino farmworker families. “We have people living in Third World conditions in the heart of the First World, affluent prosperity that comes with Silicon Valley,” says Erica Wood, the chief of community impact for the foundation, which last year had a budget of $22.4 million.
The report also focused on how the coast’s four tiny, unincorporated towns—Pescadero, La Honda, San Gregorio, and Loma Mar—are remarkably isolated considering how close they are to Silicon Valley. These communities have no public transit linking them together and lack basic infrastructure, such as a sewer system, drainage ditches, or internet service. They have no laundromat, emergency room, medical professionals, or licensed daycare centers, and—even though many residents work in the fields—little to no access to affordable food. The water at two of the area’s three schools is too contaminated to drink, although one is hoping to turn its faucets back on soon. Many families drive to Watsonville, over an hour’s drive to the south, to do laundry and shop for food.
The road from Highway 1 to downtown Pescadero passes the Pescadero Marsh, a picturesque 235-acre nature preserve. One recent soggy Monday afternoon, on the town’s main strip, cyclists in spandex with expensive bikes congregated in front of a hip coffee shop and tourists stopped to buy artichoke bread and taste local wine. This small patch of development—which is home to about a dozen businesses and 250 residents—is one of only two small areas that benefit from county water services, and has Pescadero’s lone corner of broadband internet availability.
On the outskirts of town, next to Pescadero Elementary and set against a backdrop of cows grazing on rolling hills, is Puente de la Costa Sur, or simply “Puente,” the community center that has come to provide many of residents’ basic needs. (In English, its name means “South Coast Bridge.”) Puente, founded in 1998 and funded by the county, private foundations, and individual donors, tries to fill in some of the gaps in necessities. For example, the South Coast has no hospitals, doctors, nurses, dentists, pediatricians, or ob-gyns, so Puente hosts a health clinic for two hours once a week.