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With My Rent Increase, I Might Have to Leave San Ramon

by Julie KnightSan Ramon Patch
January 7th, 2012

I received a letter from my apartment today that flattened me like a Wile E. Coyote pancake.

My lease is up in February. Instead of saying, “Thanks. We like that you’ve paid your rent faithfully every month for a year and haven’t set the place on fire,” they said, “Yo. Guess what? We’re jacking your rent up $200 a month.”

$1900 for a small, two-bedroom apartment. Really?

Alternatively, they offered a shorter-term lease — for an extra $400 a month. Nice.

It’s a landlord’s market right now in San Ramon. With so many homeowners becoming renters, there aren’t enough rental properties to hold us all.

The front desk lady explained the situation to me. “The rents are set according to demand. Right now, demand is high. We’re almost all booked up.”

To set their rental rates, apparently they call a voodoo doctor, who comes in, burns incense, does a little dance, looks at the stars, farts and chants word of an increase so ridiculous, they hope their lowly renters will be too numbed with shock to fight it.

Someone asked me recently, “Why do you live in San Ramon? Isn’t it expensive there?”

I’m asking myself that question now. There are three big reasons I live here.

No. 1 — The schools are the best. Both my kids attend California Distinguished Schools, making them among the top elementary and middle schools in the whole state.

No. 2 — We live within walking distance of their schools. When I have to go to work in San Francisco two days a week, my kids can easily walk to and from school by themselves.

No. 3 — Equally important to me as a single mom, is it’s safe here. I can leave my kids, 11 and 13, for an hour in the apartment and not worry.

Before moving into my apartment, I asked how many break-ins they’ve had in the past five years. Zero was the answer.

Not that any place is impervious to crime, but I feel comfortable living here, which means a lot to me.

My kids have grown up here. We’ve lived in Windemere since my son was five and my daughter, three. They have lots of friends. They know their teachers.

There are parks. They can ride their bikes around the neighborhood. We enjoy going to the community library close by.

So many reasons to stay. And yet, I cannot afford to pay $200 more in rent a month. Hard decisions will have to be made.

My kids are surprisingly open to the idea of moving. They are voting for Santa Cruz, close to the ocean, which would be nice, but very far from my work in San Francisco.

We’ve looked at Walnut Creek. I found an apartment there that would be more reasonable, but it’s close to the downtown area and it just didn’t feel as safe as where we are now.

I tried finding a house share situation. But it’s hard to find someone willing to share their house with two kids and a dog. And even if I did, I'd worry about how they would interact with my children.

I’d rather move in June, after the kids get out of school, but I’m told rents go up even more in summer, when more people want to move.

Right now the clock is ticking. We have to find a place soon.

Mr. Roadrunner Rent Increase is chasing us. Our hearts are thumping.

But, like the Wile E. Coyote, we won’t give up easily.

Stay tuned.

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