In the blink of an eye, my son, James (now 17 and challenged with disabling classic autism from birth), will be a developmentally disabled adult with an uncertain and vulnerable future in terms of employment or an independent living situation.
Last Tuesday, my personal and professional (public health/policy advocate) passions intersected, as I spoke on behalf of my first-born child and labor of love, James, at the Sunnyvale City Council meeting in support of an affordable housing project with set asides for developmentally disabled (DD) adults. I was not alone and it was so endearing to me that among those who were vocal and there in silent support, were four of my closest neighbors and two of my closest public health colleagues from Stanford University where I worked before I was a full-time autism mom.
On Feburary 28, the Sunnyvale Mayor and City Council unanimously approved an Exclusive Negotiating Agreement with Related California to develop 96 units of affordable housing at the intersection of Charles, Mathilda, and Iowa (within walking distance of downtown, Sunnyvale), with 23 units set-aside for adults with DD. While this is only the first step in the development process, it is a big step for Sunnyvale and signaled a willingness to endorse below market rate (BMR) housing in general, and specifically, encouraging set asides for DD adults.
The next big step for the developer, Related California, is the community outreach to the adjoining neighborhood and the greater Sunnyvale community. There were 10 parent advocates who spoke in support of the project including my testimony, and two who expressed anxiety and disapproval regarding the project.
While there is still much work to be done, this first successful step feels sweet right now. The video of the City Council meeting can be found below:
Sara Kole serves on the board of Autism Society San Francisco Bay Area. She lives in Sunnyvale with her family.