This is a story of daily life in two side-by-side communities in California’s Silicon Valley: Palo Alto and East Palo Alto. On one side Palo Alto has benefited from the massive fortunes created by Silicon Valley’s technology industry, while East Palo Alto, most of which is located on the other side of Highway 101, is a community squeezed out of those fortunes. One street, University Avenue, runs through the heart of both communities.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the per capita income of Palo Alto residents is an estimated $82,576. Tech industry millionaires and billionaires call it home. The statistics for East Palo Alto, right next door, are starkly different. East Palo Alto’s per capita income averages $22,068 with 13.7% living under the poverty line.
This income disparity has its history in racial housing discrimination. Racist policies such as redlining, where banks refused to give mortgages in minority communities, kept housing prices depressed in East Palo Alto, which in the mid-century was mostly an African American community. This had a trickle-down effect on the economy. Today, East Palo Alto’s population is an estimated 63.2% Latino while Palo Alto is an estimated 61.2% white.
Today, the city has become the last piece of land that is more affordable than those around it. This is creating anxiety among longtime residents that rising prices will transform the unique community as well as the cultural fabric that has survived and strived over so many years. Meanwhile, Palo Alto longtime residents have seen their city turned from a sleepy suburban community to the epicenter of tech industry wealth.
Instead of focusing solely on contrasts, I have sought to show what both communities have in common - those slices of life and humanity that transcend wealth and poverty, privilege and disadvantage and all of the cultural disparities that stem from these differences as residents go about their daily life in the shadow of the technology giants. This project was produced with the support of the Canon Female Photojournalist Award.