Report Released: Development Without Displacement - Resisting Gentrification in the Bay Area

On April 7, 2014, Causa Justa :: Just Cause released a new report that examines the effects of gentrification and displacement in San Francisco and Oakland neighborhoods, calling for urgent housing policy changes. The culmination of a year-long collaboration between Causa Justa::Just Cause (CJJC), a community-based organization, and the Alameda County Public Health Department, this report is a first of its kind combining neighborhood analysis using a quantifiable “gentrification typology,” with interviews of affected populations and public health research to present a comprehensive definition of gentrification in the Bay Area.

Gentrification is the process of social, cultural, and economic transformation that is taking place in many centrally located urban neighborhoods which have experienced historic disinvestment. It involves significant increases in rental and for-sale housing costs, the in-migration of higher-income, white, and college- educated residents and the out-migration of longtime residents, many of whom may be renters, low-income residents, and people of color.

As tenants in both San Francisco and Oakland reel under the highest rents in the nation, new development and investment is causing tremendous market pressures destabilizing everything from housing to health to political power.

Key Findings:

  • Rental housing costs in gentrifying neighborhoods surpass those of historically affluent neighborhoods in the city. In Oakland, neighborhoods in the latest stages of gentrification had higher median rents in 2011 than historically affluent neighborhoods such as Rockridge and the Oakland Hills.
  • There has been substantial and disproportionate displacement of African Americans in gentrifying neighborhoods, as well as a loss in African American homeownership. Between 1990 and 2011, the proportion of African Americans in all Oakland neighborhoods decreased by nearly 40%. Furthermore, African Americans dropped from being 50% to 25% of all homeowners in Oakland, and within the African American community, homeownership decreased while the share of renting households grew. During this same period of time, the number of white households in North Oakland increased by over 1,000 while the number of African Americans decreased by more than 2,000.
  • Gentrification affects housing quality and health and exacerbates inequities. Oakland neighborhoods in the latest stages of gentrification have the greatest disparity between African American and white mortality rates. San Francisco neighborhoods between early and late stages of gentrification saw rates of housing overcrowding increase in relation to the progression of gentrification.

The report offers concrete and powerful ways we can reverse the tide of displacement sweeping our neighborhoods. It asserts that gentrification is not the inevitable result of economic growth but the result of fundamentally unjust economic development policies and the widespread public disinvestment from historically marginalized communities.

“The impacts of this process then include things like loss of social, cultural and community cohesion, displacement, loss of housing security, environmental degradation, commodification and appropriation of culture and other affects,” said Dawn Phillips of CJJC, one of the report’s lead authors.

Dr. Muntu Davis, director of the Alameda County Public Health Department, said: “Gentrification’s impacts on public health are not often included in the public debate or understood, but it has serious public health consequences for longtime residents who stay, those forced to leave, and our broader society. For public health practitioners, preventing displacement may be the single greatest challenge and the most important task in our efforts to create healthy communities for all.”

Key Recommendations:

  • Community organizing and resident outreach in order for policies to be developed and implemented for maximum positive impact on populations who need them most.
  • Enforcement of existing protections against tenant harassment and habitability standards in rental properties.
  • Protections for vulnerable residents including just compensation and relocation assistance, right to return, and eviction protection.
  • Affordable housing policies and programs that serve the needs of people in the same neighborhood.
  • Policies must be advanced to address the specific stage of gentrification a neighborhood is experiencing.

Calendario Melendez, CJJC member and Mission district resident, wrote in the forward: “This report describes some of the important policies that can help deal with the negative effects of gentrification. It is urgent that we push for as many of these as possible. We need to realize our shared strength and vision. We need to take action together. It’s not easy to go up against rich and powerful people, and I hope our report will inspire communities in the Bay Area and around the country to do that.”

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For more information, contact:

Adam Gold, adam@cjjc.org

Sherri Willis, sherri.willis@acgov.org

For a full copy of the report, visit Causa Justa::Just Cause online.