Massive layoffs, pricey homes and "nothing to do" are causing more and more disgruntled members of Generation X to bail out of the Conejo Valley as they come of age, says a new study released Monday.
The life of a "Baby-Buster" age 18 to 30 who stays in the Conejo Valley often means social stagnation, low-grade jobs and life at home with Mom and Dad, says the report by a subcommittee of the Conejo Future Foundation.
The foundation convened a panel 18 months ago to study the quality of life for that 18% of the population, explained foundation trustee Pat Manning, because their needs were not being met.
"I think some of the obstacles they've had are the increase of one-parent homes, the cost of housing," Manning said. "And I know that one of the (task force members) said they felt like they were competing with their own parents for jobs."
The report makes regional recommendations on improving life for those struggling with young adulthood in the upscale bedroom communities from Calabasas to Newbury Park. City councils are expected to review the reports in the coming month.
Among the report's recommendations for the Conejo Valley:
* Improve the social scene by developing guides and meeting places for young adults, and by extending hours at shops and restaurants to cut down on the common "nothing to do" complaints.
* Encourage schools and parents to emphasize internships, networking and volunteerism as early-start skills for job-hunting. Hold job fairs, form a human resources council to teach job-hunting techniques and establish a business mentorship program for professionals to show high school graduates the ropes.
* For the thorny problem of buying a first home in a region where houses usually top $200,000, the report recommends only two options for the young: Move in with friends. Or live at home with parents. Owning a home in the Conejo Valley, the task force admits, "is becoming increasingly remote" for young adults.
While the city of Thousand Oaks offers a program through which qualified applicants can buy a home for as little as 5% down, such opportunities often carry higher mortgage and insurance payments, the report says. Cities in the Conejo Valley should do what they can to promote construction of affordable housing, the report recommends.
* Give young adults who are growing cynical about politics a greater voice in government. Form young-adult advisory committees or appoint young-adult representatives to speak for them in city council meetings.
Publish and distribute lists of legislators' phone numbers and addresses for young adults to use. And encourage them to take more active roles in the political process by scanning news reports on politics, writing letters to newspaper editors to publish their views and meet personally with elected officials.
Some of the task force members admitted that older adults may scoff at a report targeted at the difficulty of becoming an adult, and claim that they made it through young adulthood without large-scale institutional help.
But the task force members also pointed out that not every town has the Conejo Valley's upscale, quiet, roll-up-the-sidewalks-at-dark atmosphere, which discourages many young people from trying to settle and raise families near home.
"I don't know that we're crying and we want somebody to do something," said member Amy K. Jones, 26, a recreation director for the city of Calabasas.
"This is sort of our way of turning around and trying to get more young people involved in this issue," she said. "We want to stay here, but it's almost like we can't because the housing market is not within our reach . . . and finding jobs locally is very difficult."
The study outlines the issues facing the 18- to 30-year-old crowd in the region, but it also has served as a journey of growth for its twenty-something members.
"Nothing prepared us for so-called adulthood," said Mara Antos, 28, of Thousand Oaks, who led the task force of young adults who spent 18 months studying the issues.
"I was not knowing where I was going to live, not knowing if I was going to own a house," said Antos. "This report was something that at least gave us a sense of community."
During the months he spent working on the report, David Oeffling said he went through a series of changes, finally landing a decent job. But he still must live with his parents, he said.
"In the last year or two, I've been laid off. And then I got a job, but it wasn't a good job so I had to look for work," said Oeffling, 27, of Thousand Oaks. "I joined the task force, I had to change the place where I lived, then I got a very good job. It seems odd that we've gone through so much."
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The Conejo Future Foundation's report, titled "Meeting Young Adult Needs in the Conejo/Las Virgenes Region," is available for $2. For copies, call 818-597-9129 or 805-495-8711.