Valencia Gardens

By Tom Erikson

At the close of WWII there were more poor Americans flooding back from the service or concentrated in the cities where wartime jobs had drawn them than there were places to live. Much of the Depression era housing was falling apart and FDR had initiated the Slum Clearance Project as a priority of his sweeping New Deal. Money had been allocated for ambitious new construction all across America to replace dilapidated old neighborhoods with modern new complexes. These progressive ideas didn’t sit well with many wealthier Americans, who were already leery of Roosevelt’s visions for our country, and the Public Works Administration was harshly criticized for the many “unnecessary luxuries” in its plans. Congressional debate led to a compromise of a spending cap of $1,000 per room set for the new construction. Architect William Wurster soon discovered that soaring Bay Area real estate prices, which were factored into the per room cost, had hamstrung his vision for Valencia Gardens.