Meet the forgotten residents of San Mateo's South Coast

Erica Wood
Erica Wood

A community of 3,000 residents, located less than a 30-minute drive from the heart of Silicon Valley, endures daily hardships that are otherwise unheard of in our region: families living in cramped, unsafe dwellings; some schools and homes with no access to clean drinking water; and essential services such as laundromats and emergency rooms over 35 miles away.

This community is the South Coast region in San Mateo County, comprised of four unincorporated towns – Pescadero, La Honda, San Gregorio and Loma Mar. 

A new report released by Silicon Valley Community Foundation – San Mateo County’s Forgotten South Coast Residents – details the complex issues facing South Coast residents through their personal stories and a study of the region’s governmental, business and civic history. 

The report came as a result of the SVCF board of directors’ day long visit to the region in the fall of 2015, where board members saw the challenges confronting the South Coast community. Even though SVCF has been engaged with South Coast residents in multiple ways since our founding in 2007, including supporting work on disaster planning and preparedness and improving access to high-quality early childhood education, the reality of what we saw during the visit was that there is much more work to be done.

We decided to reach out to investigative journalist Julia Scott, who has an extensive background in covering regional and environmental issues in the local area, to produce a report that would tell the stories of the residents whose struggles are not widely known in the region. 

South Coast report

For example, the widespread shortage of affordable housing is told through the story of a husband and wife, pictured above, who work full time in the farming and nursery industry and live in a one-bedroom trailer with their family of five. They own the trailer, but pay $1,100 each month to the landowner whose property it sits on. For a couple who earns only $11 an hour, they are barely able to meet their monthly expenses. 

South Coast report

The report also highlights the lack of essential services available to residents, including medical care. Through the story of Concepcion Escalona, pictured above with her daughters, who credits the newly opened medical clinic for diagnosing and treating a potentially life threatening medical condition, we learn that the town’s only medical clinic operates one evening a week for two hours – not nearly sufficient to provide adequate care for the community. The nearest emergency room is over 30 minutes away.

Our goal in producing this report is to inspire new action to substantially improve the quality of life in the community. To that end, the report includes a number of short- and long-term recommendations that will require collaboration among business, government and nonprofit leaders. We remain committed to working with these entities to improve conditions in the South Coast community.

We are urging community leaders, particularly those with ties and influence in San Mateo County, to read our press release and the full report: