Gentrification in San Francisco Neighborhoods In Historical and Biographical Perspective

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Intro: Gentrification is the process of erasing cultural and social history in low-income neighborhoods (mostly people of color) thus resulting in displacement. According to PBS, minorities made up of 75% of people displaced nationwide due to the new urban renewal projects in the 20th century. Although this occurs nationally, San Francisco has the largest displacement in the West due to gentrification.

Gentrification in San Francisco neighborhoods, is in historical and biographical perspective, a continuous process. In 1949, the American Housing Act was signed by President Truman. The legislation federally allocated money to rebuild the nation’s cities (PBS). Under the guise of redevelopment, the act authorized demolition and new construction of blighted areas. In San Francisco, the Fillmore neighborhood, historically a center of Black life and culture, was a primary target in the 1950s urban renewal programs (UC Berkeley’s Urban Displacement Project and the California Housing Partnership). In the 1960s, more than 13,000 Fillmore residents were affected by the project vision to modernize the city (PBS). The mass number of people demonstrates how effective this issue is. The urban renewal programs displaced, destitute, and culturally bereavement thousands of Black San Franciscans. Black San Franciscans were forced to reside in public, disinvested neighborhoods. However, Hannibal Williams, a community organizer, founded WACO (the Western Addition Community Organization) as a counter against displacement in the Fillmore by the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency. Fillmore residents took to the streets to protest in an effort to save their neighborhood and homes. However, unfortunately their efforts did not stop the reconstruction. The effects of the 1950s and 60s gentrification left many Black Americans estranged. Gentrification highlights the underlying issue of racism that prohibits the prosperity of minorities. Their inability to transcend economically, preserves white dominance within the racial hierarchy. Nonetheless, “the destruction of Fillmore is an argument against large-scale planning proposals”; the benefits did not materialize (Thompson). Another example of San Francisco’s historical gentrification is the 1970’s emergence of the Castro. The Castro is well known as a queer commnity; it embodies acceptance and LGBTQ+ pride. It’s history is often percived as progressive and accepting, however; according to Don Romesburg, an LGBTQ+ historian, “the mostly gay white men who moved into the Castro in the 1970s transformed the working-class neigborhood” (Levi). Romesburg describes the beginning of what can be identified as gentrification. Gay white men, urbanized the Castro, building victorian styled homes and opening popular businesses. The Castro became an affluent neighborhood and tourist attraction. During the second wave of gentrification in the 1990s, the Castro, a queer sanctuary, dislocated older queer people, including many older men with HIV and AIDS (Levi). Additionally, the rent prices increased to which young LGBTQ+ people could not afford to residents in a safe, accepting place catalyzed for them. This is important because the repercussions are active in 2019. Rent is continuously increasing, accelerating gentrification, raising the question – who is living in the Castro? It is evident that San Francisico’s gentrification is targeted towards minorities, thus depicting the first issue with gentrification.

San Francisco merits the scrutiny of diversity and progressiveness, however, gentrification challenges its reputation by displacing those who founded the establishment. Chinatown and the Mission District are two specific locations that have recently been targeted by gentrification. Chinatown is one of San Francisco’s oldest ethnic enclaves. Since establishment in 1848, Chinese immigrants and Asian Americans have developed a “cultural, residential, and economic hub” (Montojo).

Similarly, San Francisco’s Mission District is a barrio for Latinos. The first wave of gentrification shifted the neighborhood affordability. Prior to gentrification, the District’s rent represented low-income latinos, however an influx of high income resident s forced an increase in housing. The current wave of gentrification is in effect. The Mission has undergone many years of gentrification. Rather than a focus on new residents, this wave focuses on new retail and public investment. These geographical changes not only make it harder on the long residents but also change the culture. Today there is pressure on remaining affordable units and less of a community to defend them. (I will add more) broken down through displacement.

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However, some might argue that gentrification is inevitable and part of San Francisco’s progressive movement. The idea gentrification is inevitable is due to competitive consumption. This idea was thought of in London during the 1960s. They believed that once the cycle of gentrification occurs the process continues until the upper class have taken over and created a new, unrecognizable neighborhood. This concept is also applicable to nowadays. Real-estate developers use gentrification as a refined strategy. Popular television shows even comment on it, demonstrating the power it holds. Additionally, the longer the idea sits that gentication is a force of nature and inevitable, the more power developers have in manipulating the situation. Thus, we must go beyond the typical reason of gentrification but discuss the other factors involved in gentication such as inadequate housing stock and vacant land play a role in limiting affordable housing. However, Jeanne Haffner rejects the idea that gentrification is inevitable, but in fact constructed. Genetrication is complex, however not a natural phenomenon. There are ways in which politicians can reject urban developing, like Mayor Benire Sanders, or implement local laws in an effort to subdue the effects of gentrification. For instance, rent control or laws requiring developers to include a portion of affordable housing in new buildings are solutions. This also keeps affluent neighborhoods without displacement.

The rise of the technology industry has created numerous problems within San Francisco that have accelerated the gentrification process.

Housing in san francisco, and the tech industry, Displacement and homelessness are effects of gentrification, new continuation of an older pattern, contextualizing today a lot of money and people are coming in that puts a huge demand on limiting housing which then recreated a cycle of gentrification.

Gentrification is a constructed issue, thus there are social and local solutions, that can be proposed in slowing the process. Social solutions can be equated with short term and plausibility. One feasible solution is supporting local businesses. The effects are long lasting even though the solution itself is conditional. It promotes local economy, community, product diversity, and employment. Popularity within local businesses hinders property eviction and forced closing, thus preserving culture and history. Another short term solution is writing to elected officials. If elected officials are can halt urbanization projects, it can conserve energy, resources, and neighborhoods. Remodeling and redevelopment is acceptable, however redevelopment that results in displacement is injust. For example, Bernie Sanders, mayor of Burlington, Vermont, decletreed the development of Lake Champlain waterfront. Sanders rejected an architectural plan to build luxury condominiums. Additionally, Sanders worked to preserve public housing. He created a policy that weakened the role of landlords, making eviction of tenants difficult. He also helped create “community land trust to allow residents to purchase their units” (Haffner). Correspondingly, there are legal solutions that are proposed. The primary legal solution is revoking the Ellis Act. The Ellis Act is a state law.

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