Ahi: Living and working in the same city is harder than it seems
Graphic courtesy of Mehruss Jon Ahi.

    Many cities aspire to create a thriving community in which residents will not only choose to live, but to work within as well.

    However, current statistics may reveal how and why some cities are thriving in this aspect, while others face a steeper challenge. The current national average of individuals residing and working within the same city is 42 percent. California’s average is 37 percent and most cities within Silicon Valley fall somewhere below those averages, according to the 2018 American Community Survey.

    Interestingly, the city of San Jose, which has long been called a “bedroom community,” measures above the national average at 49 percent.

    Less than 20 miles away, Los Altos comes in at 17 percent.

    As a longtime resident of Los Altos, an architectural designer and a planning commissioner, I have the unique opportunity to view the city from three different perspectives. These viewpoints are unique and equally significant and have allowed me to interpret the community through multiple lenses. I’m intrigued by the large discrepancy between the percentages of individuals working and living in San Jose and Los Altos and the reasoning behind it.

    San Jose has about 338,000 housing units for its population of more than 1 million residents: 64 percent are comprised of single unit homes, 33 percent are comprised of multi-unit homes and 3 percent are mobile homes.

    Whereas, Los Altos has roughly 11,000 housing units for its population of 30,500. The housing stock is comprised of 87 percent single unit homes and 13 percent multi-unit homes. More multi-unit development projects have been proposed in the Los Altos and that number should increase in the next 5 to 10 years.

    It is important to note that the types of housing options can affect whether or not an individual decides to take up residence. San Jose has not shied away from proposing new multi-unit developments, which includes affordable and low-income housing.

    Graphic courtesy of
    Mehruss Jon Ahi.

    From an employment standpoint, San Jose has roughly 528,000 employees and Los Altos has about 13,000.

    But when we delve into the types of jobs and industries that are available, it becomes apparent that San Jose has a much higher percentage of sales, office, food and service jobs. Business and management jobs still dominate both cities, but having more options incentivizes individuals to want to work in their city.

    It’s not always clear-cut when directly comparing two very different cities.

    In this instance, the geographical size of San Jose and Los Altos are not comparable. San Jose is 30 times larger in size and population than Los Altos. However, looking at certain statistics and analyzing their value may lead to neighboring cities following these examples and ultimately, making strides toward creating an ideal community for people to live and work.

    Mehruss Jon Ahi is an architectural designer and planning commissioner in Los Altos. Contact him by visiting www.MBIHDGroups.com and www.mehruss.com.

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