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San Francisco's Black Exodus
August 13, 2009 7:57 AM   Subscribe

San Francisco's Black Exodus. Since the last report in 1990, San Francisco’s Black population has dropped by 40 percent, faster than any other major city in the country. In an effort to reverse the loss, Mayor Gavin Newsom started the African American Out-Migration Task force in 2007.

Last year saw the passage of Proposition G, endorsing plans for a major housing development in Hunter's Point (a historically black neighborhood in San Francisco), which though endorsed by the Mayor, was highly controversial. Also that year, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors Land Use Committee passed "housing reparations to stem African-American displacement" in the form of legislation that gives descendants of people displaced during the redevelopment of San Francisco's Western Addition and Hunters Point first priority for the city's affordable housing. Here's an excellent three part history of Bayview/Hunter's Point.
posted by lunit (27 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Was "emigration" already taken by some other task force?
posted by oddman at 8:08 AM on August 13, 2009 [6 favorites]


Yeah, keep them in Oakland. Or up and down the 2 o'clock hour on Jones Street.
posted by plexi at 8:09 AM on August 13, 2009


Well I can cross San Francisco off the list of places to move to. *sigh*
posted by LilSoulBrother85 at 8:19 AM on August 13, 2009


The genius that is G. Newsom also feels the chaos taking place during health care town hall meetings is "healthy."
posted by uraniumwilly at 8:23 AM on August 13, 2009


I say this as an African-American male who finds gentrification and its outcomes very depressing.
posted by LilSoulBrother85 at 8:23 AM on August 13, 2009


Was "emigration" already taken by some other task force?

"AAOM" is way more San Francisco than "AAE"
posted by Pollomacho at 8:25 AM on August 13, 2009


Bye thanks for coming to San Francisco, come back in April, having a sale on Birkenstocks...
posted by phaedon at 8:43 AM on August 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


I hate when I hear about things like this. I don't know a whole lot about urban planning, so if someone wants to hip me to the facts, I'd appreciate it. But I always get a little clutch in my throat when someone tells me about how they're going to build low cost housing developments in specific, localized areas. It always sounds like they're building a ghetto again. as in, "well, let's stick the poor voters over here and tell them we're giving them a great deal." then, nobody bothers to try to fix the REAL problem, which is future developments forcing those same people out of their homes and businesses for the sake of gentrification... again. again, I'd appreciate it if someone explains to me where I'm misunderstanding the situation, but until I hear someone say "we're passing legislation to prevent the destruction of local homes and businesses by big box corporate entities and increasing public education and service" I'm going to look askance at this type of development.
posted by shmegegge at 8:51 AM on August 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


So, you're saying that when something gets ridiculously expensive, an economically disadvantaged minority group is less able to afford it? Color me shocked.
posted by leotrotsky at 9:14 AM on August 13, 2009


Even faster than Washington, DC?
posted by anniecat at 9:15 AM on August 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't know much about urban planning either, but lots of people in SF who do and who I respect have worked on this for years. I'd rather have people trying to address the problem, imperfectly, in the limited ways that are possible at the local level, than just do nothing.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 9:24 AM on August 13, 2009


They better get on this before wealthy young techno-progressives can't even find a black guy to say they're friends with when arguing about gentrification.
posted by The Straightener at 9:28 AM on August 13, 2009 [14 favorites]


oddman, "emigration" and "immigration" refer only to movement out of and into a country and to/from another country. In Canada we refer to migration from one province to another as "interprovincial migration," so one is never an "immigrant" into Alberta from Saskatchewan, for example. "Out-migration" is one term that refers to movement from one part of a country to another part of the same country; they could have also just used the term "migration" which is ambiguous but in this context would probably be acceptable.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 10:03 AM on August 13, 2009


Even faster than Washington, DC?

Percentage-wise, yes, in that SF had fewer blacks to begin with: according to the first link, "Black residents make up only 6.9 percent of the city’s current population and are projected to make up as little as 4.6 percent in 2050."

DC went from 70% black in 1970 to 55.6% in 2007.
posted by exogenous at 10:12 AM on August 13, 2009


well...there goes the neighborhood...
posted by sexyrobot at 10:27 AM on August 13, 2009


From an urban planning perspective:

In the 1970's gentrification was deliberate policy in many municipalities, falling under the rubric of "urban renewal." Middle-class and lower-middle-class traditionally black neighborhoods were targeted, even in "liberal" communities.

The recent wave of out-migration seems to be based more on economics. Between the dot-com boom and the real-estate boom the major "cool" cities (San Francisco, Manhattan) became playgrounds for the international trust-fund kids.

The irony is that for the most part urban planners now, unlike 30 years ago, value cosmopolitan cities and neighborhoods.

[My personal opinion is that the root of the current problem is that we have an economic system that views land as a commodity. Cities have an incentive to keep property values, and thus incoming taxes, as high as possible. Poor people are always going to be displaced and marginalized under this system].
posted by kanewai at 12:18 PM on August 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


It is very difficult to trust that "redevelopment" projects have good intentions and will benefit the community when the companies and agencies responsible have such a sordid history in the city. There is work to be done in building that trust back, but I don't think that a mere taskforce is enough to do it, especially when policy like Proposition G keep passing. Also, I would love to see some evidence that the San Francisco Board of Supervisors resolution is more than just fluff.
posted by lunit at 12:39 PM on August 13, 2009


Black flight?
posted by Senator at 12:53 PM on August 13, 2009


It is very difficult to trust that "redevelopment" projects have good intentions and will benefit the community when the companies and agencies responsible have such a sordid history in the city.

This is an entirely legitimate fear and why better development planning has community input from start to finish.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:04 PM on August 13, 2009


The links allude to this, but this is nothing new for San Francisco. The predominantly black Fillmore District was taken through a wholesale "urban renewal" project in the 1950s and 1960s, which came after most of the Fillmore's Japanese-American residents were forcibly removed in the 1940s. Lots of SF history is buried under the proudly progressive/defiantly wacko veneer that it likes to present to the rest of the world. A great book about this and other major changes to the SF urban landscape over the past 60 years is Chester Hartman's City for Sale: The Transformation of San Francisco.
posted by blucevalo at 2:02 PM on August 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


ethnomethodologist, it can mean to leave a country, but that's not the only meaning. I'm perfectly comfortable thinking of greater SF as a place of residence or region.

From M-W.com:
* Main Entry: em·i·grate
* Pronunciation: \ˈe-mə-ˌgrāt\
* Function: intransitive verb
* Inflected Form(s): em·i·grat·ed; em·i·grat·ing
* Etymology: Latin emigratus, past participle of emigrare, from e- + migrare to migrate
* Date: 1766
: to leave one's place of residence or country to live elsewhere

From dictionary.com
em·i·grate (ěm'ĭ-grāt')
intr.v. em·i·grat·ed, em·i·grat·ing, em·i·grates
To leave one country or region to settle in another.
posted by oddman at 4:45 PM on August 13, 2009


I don't think it's strictly a gentrification/class thing which is causing this exodus. There are plenty of poor folks---Latino, Filipino, Chinese, Hmong, Vietnamese---in San Francisco. Perhaps such factors as their stable, multi-generational family structures, and their being recent immigrants from countries with no social programs/safety nets permits them to tough it out better than poorer African-Americans during the past 20 years.

Where I live (Treasure Island) this is definitely the case; the section 8 housing is around 50% African-American, and the rest "other". I've also noticed that Asians and Latins, as well as the scattered Russians, Arabs, and native (black) Africans, don't tend to play into the culturally pre-determined roles of oppressed/oppresors as nicely as American white and black folk do. In this I take the Muni 108 bus as my microcosm.

I would move out, too, if I had anywhere to go and a college degree to take with me. Until then, my poor white ass is displacing someone more deserving, I guess.
posted by eegphalanges at 10:28 PM on August 13, 2009


Well I can cross San Francisco off the list of places to move to. *sigh*

I say this as an African-American male who finds gentrification and its outcomes very depressing.


Doesn't this make you part of the problem?
posted by uncanny hengeman at 10:50 PM on August 13, 2009


I'm curious: anyone know where the African-American former residents of cities like Washington, DC, and SF moving? What kinds of demographic shifts are taking place in other communities as a result?
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 3:42 AM on August 14, 2009


In DC most former African-American residents are moving to Prince George's County Maryland (if not to other parts of DC). PG county already had a major demographic shift over the last 50 or so years as it became the destination for upper and middle-class blacks fleeing the inner-city just as whites fled to Montgomery County, MD and Northern Virginia, so in this case the demographic shift is simply continuing. The major demographic shift in PG county is not from the influx of black residents, but rather the major influx of immigrant communities.
posted by Pollomacho at 4:31 AM on August 14, 2009


Is this really a problem, or just a symptom of a problem? While I am not a San Francisco expert, I can say with some confidence that it's an already unaffordable city moving further and further from reasonable housing prices every day. And affordability is the mother of emigration.

The tribal "ownership" model of of the city is, um, sort of lousy, especially when established by fiat. See also the East Coast equivalent here. Keeping ethnic networks together is good for everyone's well-being and mobility, sure, but wouldn't a better tactic here be to find ways to make the whole city more affordable, rather than forming a task force to target a single ethnic group that's a (very) small portion of the population? Tightly linked neighborhoods have a way of reforming after gentrification. (Sorry, another NYC link.)

More to the point, if black residents want to be near their families, relatives, and friends -- as I'm sure they do -- spending a jillion city dollars to house a few families in invariably expensive and isolated public developments is a much worse approach than letting the community come back together somewhere cheaper. Meanwhile, SFO should probably take a stab at, y'know, lowering the rent.
posted by zvs at 1:38 PM on August 14, 2009


I'm curious: anyone know where the African-American former residents of cities like Washington, DC, and SF moving?

I don't know about specific populations like that but the highest growth in AA populations is occuring in the south, with an exodus particularly from the west. Georgia, Texas, Florida are all seeing the fastest growth.

Meanwhile, SFO should probably take a stab at, y'know, lowering the rent.

Yeah, that's doomed to failure and likely to lead to more problems than it solves. Many, many, many people want to live in San Francisco. Therefore it is impossible to make the rents low without nasty arbitrary rules that cause all sorts of problems and disincentives.
posted by Justinian at 6:38 PM on August 14, 2009


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