As home prices rise in Silicon Valley, firefighters are moving further away. In Menlo Park, home of Facebook, 15 of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District’s firefighters live at least 100 miles away. In the 1980s, one commuted that far, according to The Wall Street Journal's Georgia Wells. The problem was so bad one recently retired fire captain commuted 250 miles away from Reno, Nev.
While that may be an extreme example, workforce housing is persistent problem throughout Silicon Valley, writes Wells.
Facebook, Google parent Alphabet Inc. and other companies have brought thousands of high-paying jobs to Silicon Valley, but that has driven housing costs sharply higher, pushing firefighters, teachers, nurses and other middle-class workers to live far from their jobs. The trend creates difficulties, including worsening traffic and the risk that emergency workers won’t be able to get there in the case of a natural disaster.
The city is trying to address the issues, but solutions are costly.
As a result, Menlo Park’s fire chief is implementing a plan to get his 110 workers to live closer to work—or provide a backup place to sleep. It would cost the district $440,000 in the next year alone, the fire chief estimates.
“We’re grateful for the thriving economy, but as fire chief, I’m challenged by it,” says fire chief Harold Schapelhouman. “I need to stop my workforce from moving further away.”