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Notes on the Valley

By Monith Ilavarasan

E-mail Monith Ilavarasan

About this blog: My parents, brother, and I moved to Pleasanton when I was in the seventh grade. I then graduated from Amador Valley High School, went to college at UC Davis and started out a career in tech. After several years working in large co...  (More)

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Dealing with change

Uploaded: Mar 16, 2022
When Jeremy Walsh and Gina Channell Wilcox from Embarcadero Media approached me about the opportunity to write a weekly blog for the Tri-Valley on a topic of my choosing I was ecstatic.

I’ve always wanted to share my thoughts on the world around me but aside from a few sporadic personal blog posts I had never consistently done so. I never thought I’d have the opportunity to write for a local newspaper, but to be honest the past few years were filled with things I never thought I’d end up doing.

Three years ago I was working comfortably in tech building my career as a product manager. COVID hit, I was laid off, one thing led to another, and I ended up running for mayor of Pleasanton. As an aside, although the experience was great I have no plans to run for office again anytime soon. Afterwards I started working as an organizer in Alameda County, rallying folks to show up to various city and county meetings to advocate for what they believed in.

When the initial surprise of Jeremy’s ask wore off, I was left wondering - what exactly should I start off writing about?

On the day of the Super Bowl my partner and I gathered with a few close friends in a cozy apartment to watch the big game. The front table was crammed with guacamole, tortilla chips, garlic knots, cheddar popcorn, and samosas. The main course of catered tacos were laid out on the kitchen counter and the fridge was packed with beer from four different breweries.

I had known these friends from my years at Amador Valley High School and they were still the closest group of friends that I had. We talked about a lot of things, but inevitably we came around to telling the same jokes and roasts we’ve been telling each other for 15 years.

As I found a spot and settled in on the couch I felt thankful. Thankful that my parents had moved to Pleasanton when I was in the sixth grade. Thankful that I had been able to make it through the tough times in middle school as a small, brown kid who loved rap surrounded by people who were the opposite.

Thankful that I had finally met a group of friends that accepted me and made me feel like I could call Pleasanton a home.

I reflected on the years since I first moved to Pleasanton and the tremendous amount of change this city has gone through. We have not one, but two Ranch 99s where I can grab my favorite miso paste and sake. West of Valley Avenue we have four full-fledged Indian grocery stores, with another one on the way.

In the early 2000s when we first moved my parents rented a single-family home for $2,000 a month. Nowadays you would be lucky to find a one-bedroom apartment to rent for that price. When my parents finally took the plunge and bought a home, the average home price was $479,000 (according to the Pleasanton Weekly), now it is over $1.5 million.

Some things haven’t changed. You can still walk down to Nielsen Park and get your ankles crossed by a seventh grader. New York Pizza is still the best place in downtown to hang out with friends when you have nothing to do.

At the same time, wages for essential workers in our community have been stagnant these past 20 years and have not kept up with the rising costs of living. The town’s prosperity continues to not find a way to trickle down to everybody.

I continue to reflect on what motivated me to become more deeply involved in my community.

There were a few reasons, but I think one of the biggest was a feeling of powerlessness in the wake of earth shattering changes in our society. I wanted to focus on what I could do in the moment to make the world around me better, and that is what led me to think and act locally.

As someone who has grown up in Pleasanton and seen it change through time, I hope to bring a curiosity around what shapes our community and drives its direction. If we can understand how these changes impact the individuals that live and work here, maybe we can reclaim some of that power and create a better future.


Sources:
[1 https://www.apartments.com/pleasanton-ca/min-1-bedrooms/
[2 https://www.pleasantonweekly.com/morgue/2000/2000_12_01.housing1.html
[3 https://www.zillow.com/pleasanton-ca/home-values/
[4 https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/08/07/for-most-us-workers-real-wages-have-barely-budged-for-decades/
Democracy.
What is it worth to you?

Comments

Posted by Jocelyn Combs, a resident of Pleasanton Valley,
on Mar 18, 2022 at 5:12 pm

Jocelyn Combs is a registered user.

How exciting! I look forward to reading your blog.


Posted by Kate Duggan, a resident of Kottinger Ranch,
on Mar 20, 2022 at 5:11 pm

Kate Duggan is a registered user.

Looking forward to these, Monith!


Posted by Praveen, a resident of Birdland,
on Mar 20, 2022 at 7:04 pm

Praveen is a registered user.

Like your writing style Monith. Look forward to your continued contribution to the community through your words and actions. Good luck!


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