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The GI Bill-fueled housing boom is a familiar story; it’s how Montgomery Village grew. Some $8,000 (“No Money Down. Move Right In.” About $50 a month, including taxes and insurance.) bought five rooms and a bath in a line marching out Montgomery Drive and Sonoma Avenue, away from town.

There have been others: the “discovery” of Sonoma County as a retirement idyll in the ‘60s (think Oakmont); the back-to-the-land evacuation of the big cities that grew the population here in the ‘70s, creating year-round housing in summer homes along the River, rolling house trailers into open fields and converting the long, low chicken houses surrounding Petaluma and Cotati to emergency lodging.

Several years ago — 25 to be precise — I wrote a column that asked the question: “What ever happened to the five-room house?”

We can still ask that question. Because nobody builds them these days — and those “tiny houses” that are being proposed aren’t the same thing, not the 1,000-square-foot castle where families raised four kids, added on when they could afford it and stayed to retire.

So what took affordable housing out of the local equation?

There are many reasons. One is the 1990s’ tech boom when Sonoma County led the Bay Area in job growth. Read Don Green’s new memoir “Defining Moments,” about the instant millionaires created in that period. But that also brought us the high-on-the-hill developments — McMansions, if you will.

More rich, fewer middle class and a new standard of “living high on the hog” as my father would say.

Henceforth, homebuyers would demand not just a five-room “starter” home, but a family room, a two-car garage, maybe split-level.

And soon enough, banks wouldn’t make loans on anything less. Because there was no resale value.

And there goes the neighborhood.

Change alters our lifestyle and makes things different. There are always those pesky unintended consequences.

I had a visit last week with Dr. Margaret Purser, who chairs the Anthropology Department at Sonoma State University.

We talked about neighborhoods and change.

Purser’s current project is the creation of a community-generated anthropological “map” of Santa Rosa, tracing such matters as history and ethnicity as well as economic status.

The trick, with all this inevitable change, as she sees it, is for our leaders to be very careful; to protect the sense of identity that neighborhoods, whole towns and counties, have fostered through time.

Purser talks about the “social fabric” of neighborhoods. “The history is in that fabric and every change tears it a little,” she says, “or sometimes a lot. It can take time to mend.”

We know about those rips in the fabric.

Each of our growth periods “tore the fabric” of our towns and our neighborhoods. Sometimes a little bit, sometimes a whole lot.

We are in the throes of another big change in our region. Take a look at San Francisco. The City we knew and loved, Herb Caen’s quirky “Cool, Grey City of Love,” is leaping into the future in pursuit of the Manhattan model, ripping apart old neighborhoods, going high-rise. (Can a Trump Tower West be far behind?)

We like to think we’re smarter here in the hinterlands. But we have not escaped. You may have seen the headline in last Wednesday’s paper about “Food Insecurity.”

That means choosing to pay rent instead of buying groceries. Some choice, huh?

Some might “blame” urban growth boundaries for the rising cost of buildable land. Developers can no longer leapfrog over the expensive town lots to cover cheaper, greener pastures with subdivisions.

But if you want to see what happens without them, take a long, slow rush-hour drive (from hell) on a wayward airport shuttle through Los Angles and environs, as I did last week, and pass through six or seven cities — one loses track — with nothing to separate them but exits and city limits signs.

Here we can drive no more than 20 minutes in a any direction from any town in the county and be in the country. Losing that would be a rip in the fabric that would never, ever mend.

Afterthought: much of this “looking at the past” business of mine is celebrating progress, marveling at how we ever got along without so many things: automobiles, airplanes, the internet, tractors, hay balers, milking machines—and family rooms and two-car garages. We celebrate progress on so many fronts.

Not so with housing. The broad question of shelter. We have so much left to learn.

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