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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Redevelopment in the Bayview

I'm clearing out this week's SFGate e-mails right now, and read this article about the Bayview:

Some in Bayview fear the 'r' word / Redevelopment proposal spurs painful memories
Patricia Wright's girlhood home in San Francisco's Western Addition and most of the houses on her block were bulldozed in the 1960s by the Redevelopment Agency.

In the name of urban renewal, longtime residents -- mostly poor and African American -- were sent packing, and many never came back.

For Wright, who is now 52 and lives in the Bayview home to which she relocated as a child, the resentment still runs deep.

"I have no trust in them whatsoever," she said. "When I hear the words 'redevelopment' and 'urban renewal,' I think it really means urban removal."

Those painful memories have Wright and some others who live in the Bayview-Hunters Point area, a predominately black community situated on the city's southeastern edge, fearful that history could repeat itself.

They've come out in force against a Redevelopment Agency proposal to place about 1,300 acres -- more than half of the Bayview -- under its jurisdiction. The plan would create the largest redevelopment district in San Francisco history, and the agency promises to clean up blight, build affordable housing and stimulate business with the help of property tax dollars.

But while people like Wright are reluctant to trust an agency that they say betrayed them in the past, others look to the Redevelopment Agency to be the catalyst for improvements the Bayview desperately needs.

The area is plagued by crime and poverty, and abandoned buildings, crumbling facades and vacant lots are commonplace. But the neighborhood's main drag, Third Street, soon will be home to a new light-rail system linking the struggling community to the city's downtown, making the Bayview attractive to real estate investors and developers who have long ignored it.
The urban renewal projects, alluded to above, that targeted the Western Addition and the Fillmore in the 50s and 60s seem to be regarded now as failures (just like other similar projects elsewhere in the country, such as the UofC-directed cleanup of 55th St in Hyde Park, which replaced a stretch of jazz clubs and bars with monoxide towers...)

The Western Addition and the Fillmore are still African-American neighborhoods, though from what I can gather, they're diminished in that regard. It's interesting--though perhaps not that surprising, really--that some refugees of those urban renewal migrated southeast to the Bayview.
The Bayview has been an African-American community since at least the 40s, I would guess, when thousands of blacks migrated from the South--primarily from Texas, Lousiana, and Arkansas--to California to work in the factories and shipyards that sprung up during WWII, in both the Bay Area and LA. (I've gathered this from a few sources: a biography of Huey P. Newton, whose family came to Oakland from Louisiana; Walter Mosley's Easy Rawlins novels, which chronicle the post-war history of LA's African American community, many of them, like Easy himself, with roots in Houston and East Texas; and finally, a book titled Prophets of Rage; The Black Freedom Struggle in San Francisco, 1945-1969, which I read the first chapter of when I finally made it up in January to visit the SF History Center (on the 6th floor of the SF Main Public Libary; which reminds me that ever since, I've been meaning to blog about their collection of SF historical photographs...)

Whereas those neighborhoods are in the geographic hear of the city, the Bayview is geographically remote. The 3rd Street Light Rail is supposed to address that. (If you're at all interested in urban planning and public transit issues, specifically in the Bay Area, get yourself to SFCityScape right away.)

But as the article above communicates, such development can be a double-edged sword for communities. The SFBG had a cover story last October about the 3rd St Rail and its implications for the Bayview a while back. While I'm no longer convinced by their hard-left anti-development stances ("Attack of the million-dollar condos") , they did have an interesting piece in there about how "Longtime Bayview homeowners are cashing out and leaving town":
Now, 30 years after she and her late husband bought the place, Johnson's careful attention is finally paying off. Her three-bedroom house on Shafter Street in the Bayview sold for $660,000 after only two weeks on the market. Johnson is headed for a better life in Houston, where she's having a house twice the size built in a gated community by a lake – for a quarter of the price.

(Though of course longtime African-Americans in the Bayview aren't the only Bay Area residents thinking about moving out b/c of real estate prices in these parts; also in Monday's SFChron was this article.)

I was just thinking again earlier this week that I should get down to the Bayview in that last couple weeks of flexibility that I have left. Maybe I'll get down and visit the Bayview branch of the SFPL. Unfortunately the 3rd Street Rail still isn't finished, so I'll have to take the 15...

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