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In Richmond Community Survey, few say the city is a good place to raise kids

on December 15, 2023

Andrea Pierce, who has lived in south Richmond for more than 60 years, is contemplating moving to a better environment for her grandchildren.

“It is just not a good place anymore,” Pierce said about Richmond. “Even though I have been here 60-plus years, I have watched it change.”

Many people align with Pierce’s views. According to the National Community Survey released in 2021, only 1 in 4 respondents found Richmond to be a good place to raise children. Though that percentage is low, it has gone up gradually since 2015, when fewer than 1 in 5 found Richmond a good place for kids. Still, it highlights that an overwhelming majority believe the city isn’t ideal for raising children. 

In comparison, 84% of respondents in a 2022 survey rated neighboring El Cerrito a good place to raise children. 

The National Community Survey, which is done every two years, is underway now. Richmond residents have until Dec. 31 to complete the 2023 poll. Those results will be available next year.

Residents generally were down on Richmond in the last survey, with only about a third saying it has a sense of community and two-thirds rating the quality of life there as fair or poor. However, nearly two-thirds also said they would recommend the city to others, and three-quarters said they planned to remain in Richmond for the next five years — an increase in both categories by about 10 percentage points from 2015. 

The survey was taken in 2021, with a representative sample of 453 respondents. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.6 percentage points. 

Screenshot of a trend from 2015-2021 in the Richmond Community Survey, showing an increase from 19-26% in response to Richmond as a place to raise children; a decrease from 28 to 24% in Richmond as a place to retire; and an increase of 22-32% in sense of community.
Results of the Richmond Community Survey 2015 to 2021 (City of Richmond)

For Pierce, the biggest concern is safety. Crime is more rampant, in her view. 

“Richmond didn’t used to be like that,” Pierce said.

However, crime data from the Richmond Police Department shows that the number of crime incidents had decreased by nearly 47 percent from 2014 to 2022.

In the 1970s when Pierce was a child, she said kids could play outside and go anywhere without their parents having to worry about someone hitting or stealing them. Pierce has witnessed shootings, violence and drug use. Nearly two months ago, Pierce said, her cousin and his girlfriend were shot in south Richmond. 

“See my grandbaby right there? She is 3 years old. That is what I look at. That is what I worry about,” Pierce said, pointing to a child with a pink backpack and white lace skirt.

While Pierce encouraged her children to help others in need and do good deeds, she is more cautious with her grandchildren, who might come upon needles or be around people with weapons. To them she says: Don’t pick up the money on the ground, you don’t know what is in it. Don’t play outside. Don’t talk to other people. 

Neno Princess Brown, a mother of four who lives in the Cortez-Stege neighborhood, shares Pierce’s concerns. Brown said three of her relatives have been killed in Richmond. Now, fear is prompting her to leave.

“The kids might not make it to be raised,” Brown said. 

On a city street with cars parked on the left side of the frame and shops on the right, a woman with a blond bun, dark T-shirt and green yoga pants walks away from the camera with a blond-haired child on her left hip. We can only see their backs.
Aiyana D’Arcangelo walks with her daughter (Yichong Qiu)

Besides safety, school is another concern parents have. 

Aiyana D’Arcangelo moved to Richmond in 2021 and now has a 2-year-old daughter who will be school age in a few years.

They live near Michelle Obama Elementary School, which isn’t the setting D’Arcangelo has envisioned for her child’s educational experience.

“I’d like her to be in a school that is smaller, maybe has more access to nature right around it,” D’Arcangelo said. 

The district’s declining enrollment reflects this concern, as many parents have chosen smaller charter or private schools. 

Marlyn Rodriguez, a mother of  two children, visited the public school near her home when it was time for her son to go to school and thought it was congested. She sent her son to a private school, because she wanted him to have more attention.

Still, Rodriguez feels positive about raising children in the Richmond hills, which she considers a safe neighborhood.

“It really does depend on what part of Richmond you live,” she said. “Our neighbors know there is crime always, everywhere, but that area has been great to raise my kids.”

In her spare time, Rodriguez takes the kids to parks or visits craft fairs in Point Richmond. She lived in Richmond for two years in her childhood and moved back after getting married. Comparing now and then, she has noticed a positive change, with people putting much effort into making Richmond a better city.  

“I love Richmond,” Rodriguez said. “It is so central to everything, and it is very convenient to be here. So I really appreciate the city.”

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