Some might dismiss it as a Town Crier Police Blotter item, a sad but insignificant story – a young man found dead in his car Dec. 14 outside the McDonald’s restaurant on El Monte Avenue in Mountain View near the Los Altos border.
Local media covered the story and used it to highlight the systemic failure of the area’s jobs-to-housing imbalance. The high cost of living is not only making it difficult to live here, it’s also making it difficult to work here.
The young man, 28-year-old William Opeta, lived in Tracy but commuted to two jobs in the area, one delivering pizza, the other working in the meat department at Safeway on First Street in downtown Los Altos.
Opeta’s cause of death has yet to be released, so we can only speculate. What could have killed such a young man? Friends insist that he was a clean-living, solid citizen with no history of substance abuse. Affordable and workforce housing advocates would like us to believe the narrative that the lack of such housing here led to Opeta’s untimely death. And it could very well be – his long commutes and sleeping in his car may have exposed him to illness that led to his death. But other factors not related to the commute also could have contributed.
One thing’s for sure: Family and friends are mourning a young man who was generally well liked and had a full life ahead of him. For them, Opeta, whose memorial services were held last weekend, will not be forgotten.
And though the reason is far from certain, his death is a reminder of the underlying problems often ignored in the wave of innovation and profit synonymous with Silicon Valley – the huge gap in quality of life between the haves and have-nots, the still-deepening jobs-housing imbalance and the uncertain future of an economy as dependent on low-tech as high-tech workers but with nowhere to house them.