California

Even the dead face a housing crisis in this California city

Nila Negri sits in front of her dog Rusty's grave site at Pet's Rest cemetery in Colma, Calif., Wednesday, June 14, 2006.  The city, also home to 1.5 million deceased humans, is running out of room for new graves.
Nila Negri sits in front of her dog Rusty's grave site at Pet's Rest cemetery in Colma, Calif., Wednesday, June 14, 2006. The city, also home to 1.5 million deceased humans, is running out of room for new graves. The Associated Press file

A Bay Area city has 100 times more dead residents than living ones, but it’s the deceased who face a potential housing problem.

Known for its extensive cemeteries, which serve most of the Bay Area, the city of Colma south of San Francisco will start running out of room for new plots in the next decade or so, according to KPIX. It's not an immediate crisis, but officials are worried about the future.

“It should concern a lot of us because where are we going to go?” San Mateo County Commissioner David Canepa told the station. “It’s about dignity and respect and taking care of those people and making sure we honor their memories.”

Cemeteries make up 75 percent of the two-square-mile city, which became the resting place for many of the Bay Area’s dead as San Francisco and other crowded cities with limited real estate ran out of room to inter their deceased, according to the city’s website.

Known as the “City of Souls,” Colma has a population of 1,600 but contains more than 1.5 million graves.

Now Colma’s largest cemeteries say they, too, are running out of room. The Hills of Eternity family of cemeteries has 5,000 plots left. Woodlawn has 1,000 and Cypress Lawn another 7,500, according to KPIX.

Prime plots in historic graveyards are mostly full, leaving new arrivals to choose among less prestigious plots in other parts of Colma, reported The San Francisco Chronicle.

The city’s cemeteries estimate they have enough room for anywhere from 10 to 40 years to come, although that depends partly on the extravagance of future burials, according to the publication.

“It depends on what product goes in there,” said Hector Gonzalez, general manager of Woodlawn Cemetery, which has about 5 acres left.

Nonetheless, Colma officials are worried about the future.

“We just don’t have the land so we just have to find those spaces which make sense and are convenient,” Canepa told KPIX. “If we don’t have spaces, then people don’t have a choice and that can be problematic.”

One solution might be converting a former 9-hole golf course in Colma to a cemetery, but the city’s living residents also are lobbying for affordable housing on the links, according to the station.

Six out of the seven least affordable metropolitan areas across the U.S. are in California. They are Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, San Diego, Riverside and Sacramento.

  Comments