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Paradise Lost: A Recipe for Gentrification in Chicago, San Francisco, and Beyond
by Peter Feng‚ May. 24‚ 2006

The San Francisco Redevelopment Agency’s plan to take over more than 1,300 acres in the Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood is the opening salvo in the final struggle for the soul of San Francisco. Combined with the 500 acres of the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard that are currently undergoing redevelopment by the Florida-based Lennar Corporation, close to three-quarters of the Bayview Hunters Point area may soon come under the control of the City’s Redevelopment Agency. Although there has been much talk about making the process of urban renewal as inclusive as possible in order to benefit local residents, the fact is that more rather than fewer Bayview residents will likely be lost to the forces of economic dislocation and gentrification. This has significant repercussions for the political and economic future of San Francisco, for, aside from being one of the City’s poorest communities, the Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood represents the last significant concentration of African Americans west of the Bay Bridge.

Equally significant is the fact that the impending displacement of Bayview residents from San Francisco seems to be occurring in concert with similar events in other states and against the backdrop of record high foreclosure rates among African American homeowners nationwide. In New Orleans, demolition crews are tearing down 120 homes in three low-income districts including the Ninth Ward. In Southern California, urban farmers from South Central Los Angeles’s African American community are fighting eviction from land that City Hall has designated for commercial real estate development. Seen within the context of housing and lending policies that have historically discriminated against non-white households, these developments indicate that a methodical movement is underway to inaugurate a new era of segregation in the United States, one in which differences in economic class and income function as a stand-in for race.

The Seduction of Gavin Newsom

In the summer of 2005 San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom attended the 73rd annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Chicago. After returning from the convention, Newsom said that he was so impressed by the cleanliness and design of Chicago’s downtown area that he was inspired to improve San Francisco’s own livability quotient by applying some of the same strategies used in the Windy City. To that end, Newsom declared in his 2005 State of the City address at San Francisco State University his intention to place increased emphasis on architecture and urban design, tree planting, public art installations, and street sweeping and maintenance. He also announced plans to green the urban canopy of San Francisco by planting 100,000 trees over the next two decades, and he singled out Bayview Hunters Point for the placement of surveillance cameras that would help police monitor high crime areas, linking economic development and job creation with safe streets.

Admittedly, Chicago’s impressive architectural achievements, open lakefront, and modern downtown belie the city’s enduring image as a large, dilapidated, industrial center. Indeed, on display at the annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors was not only information related to best practices for green building and policing in the Windy City and beyond but also Chicago’s glistening downtown district. From the string of upscale shops along the Magnificent Mile to the greenswards of Millennium Park and the tourist friendly confines of Navy Pier, visitors to downtown Chicago were treated to wide, tree-lined boulevards, an abundance of landscaped parks, interesting architectural designs, numerous public art installations, magnificent lakefront vistas, and an area generally scrubbed clean of dirt and homeless people.

Newsom is not the first public official to be seduced by this appealing picture. After visiting downtown Chicago in 1996, Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy decided to use the power of eminent domain to demolish 60 buildings and condemn 125 mostly locally owned businesses occupying several blocks along the Fifth and Forbes corridor in downtown Pittsburgh in order to build a multi-level retail mall containing many of the same upscale shops as the Magnificent Mile. Murphy even pegged Chicago-based Urban Retail Properties to manage the area’s redevelopment.

Through local organizing efforts, a coalition of small business owners, historical preservationists, and supporters of immigrant and African American rights eventually forced Murphy to abandon this project. Their concerns were buttressed by research compiled by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance which showed that roughly two-thirds of the revenue generated by chain stores and franchise operations like McDonald’s routinely leaves the local economy and the metropolitan area altogether. In fact, a 2004 report entitled The Andersonville Study of Retail Economics demonstrated that, contrary to conventional wisdom, locally owned, independent businesses generate 70 percent more revenue for the local economy per square foot than national chains.

While Tom Murphy decided to forego a fourth mayoral run in 2004 in favor of employment with a real estate and development think tank called the Urban Land Institute, plans for the redevelopment of the Fifth and Forbes corridor continue to abound. Most recently, PNC Financial Services Group offered to sink $170 million into a new project to revitalize the area. The investment, however, is contingent upon the receipt of $30 million in public subsidies from the Pennsylvania state government and $18 million in tax breaks from the city of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, and the Pittsburgh public school district.

Meanwhile, Murphy’s new job has taken him around the country to various sites designated for urban renewal. In New Orleans, for example, he advocated a “tough love” approach for rebuilding the city, and in a strange echo of the Fifth and Forbes episode business groups in Tampa, Florida, asked Murphy to instruct them on ways to bring upscale shops and condominiums to their downtown area. Murphy’s travels have even brought him into the orbit of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. At a March 30, 2005, conference at New York’s New School for Management and Urban Policy, Murphy appeared alongside Newsom, Kansas City Mayor Kay Barnes, and Richmond, Virginia, Mayor L. Douglas Wilder to speak about “the characteristics of successful leadership needed to implement creative urban policies.”

Intelligent Design

Newsom’s current enthusiasm for redeveloping the Bayview is unlikely to have sprung from his meeting of Murphy, but it is clear that both men were inspired by their experiences in Chicago. Logically, then, if Newsom intends to inaugurate a renaissance of green building design and economic development in San Francisco by following Chicago’s example, he would do well to acquaint himself with both the triumphs and the tragedies of urban renewal in the Windy City.

The triumphs include the planting of 500,000 trees in the last 15 years and the implementation of public programs to clean, beautify, and rehabilitate city streets through landscaping and gardening. These efforts have considerably enhanced Chicago’s urban landscape, and Newsom is correct to believe that San Francisco can take a cue from the Windy City in this area.

Equally important as tree planting in Chicago, though, is the presence of several municipal ordinances that mandate the existence of public walkways along the Chicago River and Lake Michigan. These regulations have successfully reserved a significant amount of open space for public use and offset the deleterious effects of a downtown area dominated by skyscrapers.

San Francisco would likely derive comparable benefits from similar protections, especially in areas that abut San Francisco Bay. The lack of an ordinance promoting bayside access in such places as Mission Bay, for example, has resulted in a claustrophobic cluster of construction projects that extend right up to the edge of the water. It appears that citizens intent on drinking in bay vistas here will only be able to do so by (1) buying a condo, (2) purchasing a ticket to a Giants’ game, or (3) finding employment in an appropriately situated China Basin office building.

Any discussion of planning and development in Chicago, however, must necessarily include a conversation about the systematic institution of virulently discriminatory housing policies and development practices that were purposely designed to displace Chicago’s urban poor, schemes that Newsom should scrupulously avoid if he is truly intent on creating an environmentally sustainable San Francisco for all.
 

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Very interesting read.
 

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globill said:
Any discussion of planning and development in Chicago, however, must necessarily include a conversation about the systematic institution of virulently discriminatory housing policies and development practices that were purposely designed to displace Chicago’s urban poor, schemes that Newsom should scrupulously avoid if he is truly intent on creating an environmentally sustainable San Francisco for all.
Both Chicago and San Francisco have much to offer in terms of ideas and models for urban revitalization and repopulation of older cities, as well as more than a few lessons on “how not to do”.

Agree, this intriguing article raises valid concerns, but reverses the city roles. SF’s 1960s Western Addition urban renewal project began a several decade’s long process of African American displacement from that city that continues today. SF has lost nearly half of its black population that once peaked at nearly 100,000. Clearly, the concerns of many current Bayview-Hunters Point's residents that their SF neighborhoods represent next & final step in the process of African American displacement from SF city represent more than mere conspiracy theories.

So in terms of over gentrification leading to potential displacement of African Americans, I’d be much less concerned about SF following Chicago’s example. And much more concerned with Chicago following SF’s example!
 

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bayviews said:
Agree, this intriguing article raises valid concerns, but reverses the city roles. SF’s 1960s Western Addition urban renewal project began a several decade’s long process of African American displacement from that city that continues today. SF has lost nearly half of its black population that once peaked at nearly 100,000. Clearly, the concerns of many current Bayview-Hunters Point's residents that their SF neighborhoods represent next & final step in the process of African American displacement from SF city represent more than mere conspiracy theories.

So in terms of over gentrification leading to potential displacement of African Americans, I’d be much less concerned about SF following Chicago’s example. And much more concerned with Chicago following SF’s example!
You know what intrigues me? I don't think I've ever heard of any people from Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, and other African nations settling in SF. I thought that a good number of these immigrants were quite wealthy, so if money is no object, then I wonder what's preventing them from flourishing in that city.
 

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Interesting question.

The San Francisco Bay Area has one of the largest Ethiopian & Eritrean communities in the US, after Washington DC, & along with LA. And as you mentioned fair number of Nigerians, Ghanaians, Kenyans as well as Liberians, Sudanese, & other Africans. But a very large majority have settled in Oakland, San Jose, & the East & South Bay suburbs. Increasingly visible Ethipian-Eritean commercial cluster along Telegraph in the North Oakland-Berkeley area.

My sense is that African immigrants, including relatively affluent ones, find that the housing prices in these areas to less outrageous, and the housing supply less tight than in SF. And also, to a significant degree, the employment opportunities better, than in SF. While a significant number of African immigrants in the Bay Area are professionals and administrators, including in public sector, and others run restaurants & shops, many are also college students or lower-wage taxi-drivers, security guards, parking lot attendants, service workers, and other typical African "niches".

Most Africans have arrived over the past couple of decades, during the period when SF's black population has declined owing to the factors discussed. Also African immigrants often tell me that they are more comfortable with the more relaxed pace of life, say in Oakland, as compared with hectic SF. Also no big surprise, the weather!

So may explain some of the settlement patterns.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
here is part 2

Paradise Lost: A Recipe for Gentrification in Chicago, San Francisco, and Beyond
by Peter Feng‚ May. 25‚ 2006

(Part 2) The Enemy Within

The story of institutionalized racial discrimination and economic segregation in Chicago begins in 1931. In that year, Chicago Real Estate Board member James Downs formed an organization known as the Real Estate Research Corporation (RERC) to conduct block by block surveys of the level of racial change in Chicago neighborhoods. Spurred on by the arrival of federally funded construction projects made possible by New Deal legislation, the purpose of this type of analysis was to help wealthy, white property owners hold the line against encroachment into their neighborhoods by low-income people and people of color.

In his capacity as a member of the Chicago Real Estate Board, Downs, who would go on to become the Windy City’s housing and redevelopment coordinator under Democratic mayors Martin H. Kennelly (1947-1955) and Richard J. Daley (1955–1976), advised real estate agents to only sell or rent housing to African Americans located in areas adjacent to where a majority of black people already lived. This effectively led to the creation of enormous ghettoes across Chicago that persist to this day. So useful was the data compiled by Downs’s organization that it may have served as the basis for the institution of redlining at a national level.


This supposition is given weight by the fact that by 1955, state and federal agencies were routinely calling upon RERC to advise them on issues of public housing and urban renewal across the country. What is also certain is that RERC had developed the capacity to generate policies and plans related to public housing and urban renewal and redevelopment that would go on to influence national legislation and be held up as national models.

The Housing Act of 1954, for example, expanded the definition of urban renewal to include commercial redevelopment in addition to neighborhood conservation. This was prompted by a 1953 RERC plan for urban renewal that involved the Englewood shopping district on Chicago’s South Side.

Of all the legacies attributable to James Downs and RERC, though, perhaps the most odious belongs to his son Anthony Downs, a University of Chicago economist who first outlined the policy of spatial deconcentration in a 1968 report by the Kerner Commission.

According to journalist Frank Morales, the Kerner Commission was created by President Lyndon Johnson to investigate the causes of the urban riots that took place in American cities during the 1960s. In Chapters 16 and 17 of the Kerner report, Anthony Downs identifies the concentration of poor people in city centers as an important factor in the civil disorder of that time and recommends a strategy of “spatial deconcentration” to reduce the potential for future disturbances.

As spelled out by Downs, this policy involves the dispersal of the urban poor from the inner cities and the resettlement of their neighborhoods with middle class residents through a process of disinvestment and redlining on one hand and predatory lending on the other. The combination of alternatively denying conventional bank loans and insurance to property owners in low-income neighborhoods while making available high risk, predatory-type loans typically results in mass evictions, foreclosures, and abandonment of property in the inner cities. The resulting ghettos are then declared blighted areas and designated for redevelopment or urban renewal (i.e., gentrification).

Despite a 1969 federal ruling in the case of Gautreaux et al v. Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) which found that the CHA was guilty of deliberately planning and executing racially discriminatory public housing policies that effectively segregated African Americans in low-income neighborhoods, the strategy of spatial deconcentration was enshrined as federal policy in the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974. Section 5301 states that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) supports “spatial deconcentration of housing opportunities for persons of lower income and the revitalization of deteriorating or deteriorated neighborhoods to attract persons of higher income.”

Predictably, the adoption of spatial deconcentration and gentrification as a model for public housing policy and community development nationally has resulted in increased homelessness in the U.S., a fact borne out by the upsurge in federal spending on homeless shelters ($300 million in 1984 compared to $1.6 billion in 1988), and the de facto resegregation of U.S. society along economic and racial lines.

In Chicago, the plight of the Cabrini-Green public housing tenement ably illustrates how spatial deconcentration and gentrification can successfully remove large swaths of the urban poor from the inner city, making the area safe for yuppies and other middle income earners. At its height, Cabrini-Green housed 15,000 of Chicago’s poorest residents in mid- and high-rise apartment buildings constructed during the tenure of Chicago Housing and Redevelopment Coordinator James Downs. The racially discriminatory public housing policies promulgated by Downs, the Office of the Housing and Redevelopment Coordinator, the Department of City Planning, and other governmental agencies helped to ensure that endemic poverty, crime, and economic segregation would be the lot of Cabrini-Green residents, a majority of whom were African Americans.

After a suitable period of decay, private developers, architects, and the Chicago Departments of Planning and Housing, the CHA, the Illinois Housing Development Authority, and the Federal Home Loan Bank moved to transform Cabrini-Green into a lower density, mixed-income neighborhood consisting of mid-rise buildings, duplexes, and row houses in the 1990s. Their argument for seizing and demolishing large sections of the public housing tenement was that Cabrini-Green had become an eyesore; it was too rundown and crime-ridden, and it s existence was representative of the failure of public housing and public housing policy in general.

Today, only about 5,000 of the original Cabrini-Green residents remain. The other 10,000 public housing tenants have been effectively driven out of Chicago to the outer suburbs and other cities and states, because they cannot afford to return to the new Cabrini-Green. This, despite the existence of a consent decree which stipulates that:

“All new developments on Chicago Housing Authority (CHA)—owned or city-owned land within the Near North Redevelopment Initiative (NNRI) area are required to include 50 percent market-rate units, 20 percent affordable housing units (i.e., those set aside for households earning less than 120 percent of the area median income [AMI] for for-sale units; below 80 percent AMI for rental units), and 30 percent CHA/public housing units (i.e., those reserved for households making below 80 percent of AMI).”
(Urban Land Institute, 2006: 84)

The Cabrini-Green Consent Decree is the result of a 1996 lawsuit filed against the CHA and the city of Chicago by Cabrini-Green residents who were unhappy at the prospect of being displaced from their homes without adequate recompense, and who also felt that they had been excluded from the planning process for redeveloping Cabrini-Green.

On the Front Lines

In San Francisco, where the cost of living is among the highest in the U.S., the political economic retrenchment that has taken place over the past 30 years has not only devastated individuals and families at the lower end of the income scale, it has also begun squeezing out middle-income earners. In a 2004 report, United Way of the Bay Area (UWBA) calculated county by county the Self-Sufficiency Standard for 2003 for 70 family types in California. That is, the amount of income needed to pay for the basic necessities of housing, food, child care, healthcare, transportation, taxes, and miscellaneous services in 2003. For a two-parent household in San Francisco with one preschooler and one school-aged child, each parent would have to earn a minimum of $14.27 an hour to be self-sufficient (Pearce, 2003: 18). That’s a combined income of about $4,566 a month or $54,796 a year. In the Bayview, where average household incomes are at least eight percent lower than the rest of the City, residents often find themselves engaged in a daily struggle to maintain food, clothing, and shelter.

Interestingly, proponents of urban renewal in San Francisco and elsewhere have used this very fact to justify the gentrification of low-income neighborhoods like the Bayview. Nobody would disagree that San Francisco should invest in renewable energy sources and create open space, recycle water, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and create jobs to eliminate crime and poverty. However, it is telling that the wave of dot-com-driven economic development that swept through the South of Market area between 1994 and 2004 resulted in a decline in the number of low- and moderate-income households living in the City over the last 15 years, while the proportion of households earning $100,000 or more has increased over the same time period.

In real terms, this means that San Francisco’s population has become less culturally and ethnically diverse at the same time that it has become less economically diverse. This conclusion is supported by a 2005 report from the Public Research Institute at San Francisco State University which found, among other things, that African Americans in all age groups under 40 are disappearing from the city at an astonishing rate (Blash, Shaffer, Nakagawa, and Jarrett, 2005: 5). This fact effectively negates the argument that community development and/or redevelopment is designed to bring prosperity to all income groups alike. In truth, what is happening in San Francisco and across the U.S. is that major cities are being ethnically cleansed of their poorest residents.
 

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bayviews said:
Interesting question.

The San Francisco Bay Area has one of the largest Ethiopian & Eritrean communities in the US, after Washington DC, & along with LA. And as you mentioned fair number of Nigerians, Ghanaians, Kenyans as well as Liberians, Sudanese, & other Africans. But a very large majority have settled in Oakland, San Jose, & the East & South Bay suburbs. Increasingly visible Ethipian-Eritean commercial cluster along Telegraph in the North Oakland-Berkeley area.

My sense is that African immigrants, including relatively affluent ones, find that the housing prices in these areas to less outrageous, and the housing supply less tight than in SF. And also, to a significant degree, the employment opportunities better, than in SF. While a significant number of African immigrants in the Bay Area are professionals and administrators, including in public sector, and others run restaurants & shops, many are also college students or lower-wage taxi-drivers, security guards, parking lot attendants, service workers, and other typical African "niches".

Most Africans have arrived over the past couple of decades, during the period when SF's black population has declined owing to the factors discussed. Also African immigrants often tell me that they are more comfortable with the more relaxed pace of life, say in Oakland, as compared with hectic SF. Also no big surprise, the weather!

So may explain some of the settlement patterns.
Cool, thanks.

Yeah, if the descendants of Abyssinia continue to settle in and around San Fran, then, like dim sum before it, the injera will become a local trademark!
 

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bayviews said:
Both Chicago and San Francisco have much to offer in terms of ideas and models for urban revitalization and repopulation of older cities, as well as more than a few lessons on “how not to do”.

Agree, this intriguing article raises valid concerns, but reverses the city roles. SF’s 1960s Western Addition urban renewal project began a several decade’s long process of African American displacement from that city that continues today. SF has lost nearly half of its black population that once peaked at nearly 100,000. Clearly, the concerns of many current Bayview-Hunters Point's residents that their SF neighborhoods represent next & final step in the process of African American displacement from SF city represent more than mere conspiracy theories.

So in terms of over gentrification leading to potential displacement of African Americans, I’d be much less concerned about SF following Chicago’s example. And much more concerned with Chicago following SF’s example!
Very good point. Unfortunately Chicago gentrification has also featured the removal of African Americans (although not to extent of San Francisco's). SF definitely lost a vibrant black community when Japan Center and urban renewal hit the Filmore area, as you noted. Hunters Point would be another loss.

bayviews, i'm wondering about other parts of SF that had traditonally had a good size black community? what has been the status of the community there? i'm thinking of areas in Ingeside along Ocean Ave or around Buena Vista Pk.? I also remember that there was a good size black community on Divisidero south of Market...still there?

Also, what is the overall status of the black community throughout the Bay Area? I've heard that high housing prices have sent many people into the communities east in the valley? Is Oakland still the huge center for African Americans as it traditonally been? How about other older, more industrial areas of East Bay up through Berkeley and Richmond? And down the peninsula in E Palo Alto? Generally where does one find significant numbers of blacks throughout the Bay Area?
 

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edsg25 said:
bayviews, i'm wondering about other parts of SF that had traditonally had a good size black community? what has been the status of the community there? i'm thinking of areas in Ingeside along Ocean Ave or around Buena Vista Pk.? I also remember that there was a good size black community on Divisidero south of Market...still there?

Also, what is the overall status of the black community throughout the Bay Area? I've heard that high housing prices have sent many people into the communities east in the valley? Is Oakland still the huge center for African Americans as it traditonally been? How about other older, more industrial areas of East Bay up through Berkeley and Richmond? And down the peninsula in E Palo Alto? Generally where does one find significant numbers of blacks throughout the Bay Area?
Interesting questions.

Well, as you know & it’s been discussed on this forum, the SF Bay Area has never had any single epicenter & so that pattern of decentralization is reflected in the residential patterns of all most of region’s ethno-racial groups, including African Americans. Slightly over a half million blacks live around the Bay Area, with a slight majority now living in the suburbs outside the three central cities.

San Francisco’s never been the hub of the Bay Area’s African American community. Before WW II, SF was less than 1% black. During the 1940s, SF’s black population jumped more than ten-fold. Even within SF, the black population was never highly concentrated. The Western Addition was the center of the tiny prewar black community. That grew during WW II, when African Americans moved into the JapanTown that was vacated when Japanese Americans were interned during WW II. So the Western Addition has seen two significant displacements. The remaining black population, mostly in the southern portion of the Western Addition, between Fillmore & Divisidero streets is just a fraction of its former size. African Americans were recruited by the Hunters Point shipyards during WW II, & so during the 1940s, they settled into the housing projects there, spreading across Third Street into the adjacent Bayview neighborhood. Ingleside, in south-central SF, became a residence for SF’s black middle class during the 1950s. Since 1970, blacks have declined from a peak of 15% to less than 8% of SF’s population, and that decline is reflected citywide.

Relatively few African Americans live directly north or south of SF along the West Bay. Marin City, originally a settlement for WW II shipyard workers, is the only sizeable cluster in Marin County, which is only 3% black. Sonoma and Napa counties are each less than 2% black. A modest number of African Americans moved down the Peninsula into San Mateo County, 3% black. East Palo Alto just across the freeway from the more affluent and famous college town, became a mostly black suburb by the 1960s. Since being incorporated in the 1980s, EPA has undergone a dramatic transformation from mostly African American to mostly Latino. Blacks comprise less than a quarter of EPA’s population at present, with adjacent Menlo Park being 7% black.

Oakland has always had the largest African American population in the Bay Area. That reflects the fact that African Americans came to work in railroads, port, & heavy industries, the peak migrations occurring during the two world wars & during the postwar decades. African Americans expanded from the traditional ghetto in West Oakland to North Oakland and East Oakland & most recently to the Oakland Hills, where the neighborhoods tend to be upscale and integrated. Oakland’s black population has been gradually declining since 1980, when the city was nearly half black, to the present 35% black.

Berkeley just north of Oakland also has a long-established but also shrinking black community (15% at present) centered in the city’s southwest quadrant. Richmond, further northwest, attracted many African Americans who came to work in the huge shipyards during WW II. Although most of the shipyards closed after the war, Richmond’s black population continued to grew, even as whites left for nearby suburbs. Richmond too has seen a decline in its African American population. Still, proportionately, Richmond (38% black) is the Bay Area’s most African American city.

With Alameda County (14 % black) significant numbers of African Americans have moved south from Oakland into adjacent San Leandro, just a few decades ago notorious for excluding blacks, but now 11% black, and further south into Hayward, 12% black.

But generally, African Americans have been moving to the northeast parts of the Bay Area. In Contra Costa County (10% black) African Americans have a significant presence in Pittsburg (21% black) and are moving to Antioch (11% black). Solano County centered along I-80, 30-60 miles northeast of SF, has become the Bay Area’s most heavily African American county, with blacks comprising 16% of its residents. African Americans were attracted to the Vallejo (26% black) by the Mare Island naval shipyards and to Fairfield (17% black) by the air force base & these suburbs continue to attract African Americans moving from Oakland, Richmond, San Francisco and other inner Bay Area cities.

At the other extreme is the South Bay. With no shipyards or heavy industries, largely rural & agricultural thru the 1950s, the South Bay attracted few African Americans. And the electronics & defense industries that by the 1970s morphed into high tech employed few African Americans. Later, more blacks, including Ethiopians, Eritrean, and other African immigrants, gained employment as Silicon Valley firms expanded. So from a tiny base, the black population in the South Bay grew rapidly, with San Jose being 4% black & Santa Clara county being 3% black. Skyrocketing housing costs during the 1990s curbed that increase. There are no black neighborhoods in the South Bay.

In analyzing this, there appear to be a number of factors at work.

Within SF, the displacement of blacks through urban renewal & gentrification has been the most blatant. In Berkeley, too there has been a significant amount of gentrification. In West Oakland, many African Americans, but also other groups, were displaced by urban renewal & freeways earlier, during the 1950s & ‘60s. There is considerable gentrification in North Oakland.

But most of the decrease in the black population in Oakland and also Richmond is a function of African Americans gaining political, occupational, and economic inclusion and moving to the suburbs.

Particularly in East Oakland, East Palo Alto & parts of Richmond, there has been a transformation from mostly African American to largely Latino immigrant. Within SF, particularly in Ingleside and Bayview, there has been a movement of Asian immigrants into traditionally African American areas.

It’s one thing for neighborhoods or housing projects to be torn down and residents displaced. It’s quite another for homeowners of modest incomes to find a new market for their houses as new immigrants or yuppies move in.

There has been a general out-migration of African Americans from the Bay Area. Some is to Sacramento, Stockton, Modesto, & other Central Valley areas. Or to Nevada, Arizona, Oregon, Washington, & other western states. Other out migration to the South, states like Texas where many have family roots, or Atlanta and other New South Metros.

Last but not least, there is relatively high rate of interracial coupling & marriage. So many blacks, like other groups, are simply blending into the mix.

So, while never conforming to the chocolate cities/vanilla suburbs stereotypes of US metropolitan area, the evolution of African American residential settlement in the Bay Area is quite unique. But perhaps it’s more what will be occurring in the future as blacks are moving to the edges in LA, Washington, Atlanta, NYC, Miami & many other major metros, where’s there’s a significant degree of globalization, immigration, & gentrification.
 

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Yeah I always wondered why the Bay Area cities like San Jose (900k strong) had such a low Black population (lower than Hartford, which is 38% Black) now I guess that's my answer above.

Didn't know that the Bay Area had large Ethiopian and Eritrean communities, I thought they only liked DC and Dallas, j/k. It seems that Somalis are more attracted to San Diego, but there is a community in the Bay Area, very small, but there is one.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
bay views...

thanks for the post, great info there. I think what some seem to forget is that African-Americans, like all other groups in America, move about independent of government planners.

If black residents leave a city, it's most likely because they want to....and not that they are being pushed out.

In Chicago, there are many black citiznes who own homes that 15 years ago, were worth 30,000 dollars and today are worth more than 200,000. It's not surprising that many choose to sell and head to the burbs or to less expensive cities in the south.

I don't think these things always revolve simply around race. Historically, black Americans were a very rural and small town population, which moved to cities for opportunity, not necessarily for the excitement or culture. The fact that many are moving again out of cities is not in my opinion a sign of racial engineering, it's a sign of black empowerment.
 
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