PALO ALTO (KPIX) – A Palo Alto woman is determined to hold on to her home and her neighborhood’s history.
The area known as Ventura was once one of the few place African American families could buy property in the city. Now, there’s pressure to redevelop the area near Page Mill Road and El Camino Real.
Those forces may have met their match. Lakiba Pittman could sell her home for a lot of money, but she doesn’t want the cash, she wants to keep her home.
“I grew up most of my life on this street,” she says.
Pittman has called Olive Avenue her home since the 1950s.
“My parents rented this house,” she said.
It took years, but her parents saved enough money to eventually buy the home she now lives in. Now she sees many of the homes around here getting rased.
Now she fears what city leaders will do to Olive Avenue as they make plans to revitalize the area.
“I guess the worst thing that it could mean is tearing down all of the houses,” she says.
Pitmann says she’s not only concerned about the city, she also questions the motives behind two people who have been buying up her neighbors’ homes, slowly but surely.
“I have been approached by both at various times over the last decade,” she said. “As soon as that house sold they came knocking on my door to see if I would sell – ‘we’ll give you a million dollars’ but I said well it’s my home,” she recalled.
Some may wonder why Pittman wouldn’t want to cash in on all that money. Her answer: the home doesn’t just hold memories of her family, but it also represents a part of Palo Alto’s history.
“I believe the whole area still means something to the African-American community.”
According to Pittman, Olive Avenue was one of a few streets in Palo Alto where blacks were allowed to buy homes several decades ago. Now she is the last African-American homeowner left on the street.
That’s something she says money can’t buy.
“I mean it’s my house and it’s my home and it’s my legacy and it’s what I want to leave for my son and my grandchildren.”
The city says they do not know what will become of the Olive Avenue Project. The planning process begins in 2018.