By Kathleen Maclay, UC Berkeley News
The San Francisco Bay Area’s transformation into a sprawling, exclusive and high-income community with less and less room for its low-income residents is just beginning, according to UC Berkeley researchers who literally have it all mapped out.
The interactive Urban Displacement Project map, released this week by a Berkeley team, indicates the displacement crisis is not yet half over, as rising housing prices and pressure on low-income residents to relocate to the outer suburbs accelerate.
San Rafael’s Canal area comes under examination as gentrification and displacement pressures affect the neighborhood.
The project, headed by UC Berkeley researcher Miriam Zuk and city and regional planning professor Karen Chapple, is the product of nearly two years of community-engaged research looking at gentrification and displacement, and involving dozens of local nonprofit organizations and regional agencies.
The project is funded by the Bay Area’s Metropolitan Transportation Commission and California’s Air Resources Board to determine the effect of transit and other public investment on displacement, and to search for ways to ensure future housing affordability.
Key research findings, which Zuk and Chapple say offers lessons for other regions across the country where housing prices are skyrocketing, include:
In 2013, more than 53 percent of low-income households lived in neighborhoods at risk of or already experiencing displacement and gentrification pressures, comprising 48 percent of the Bay Area’s census tracts; and
Neighborhoods with rail stations, historic housing stock, an abundance of market-rate developments and rising housing prices are especially in danger of losing low-income households.
Despite continued pressures and much anxiety, many neighborhoods that expected to be at risk of displacement — such as East Palo Alto, Marin City and San Francisco’s Chinatown — have been surprisingly stable, at least until 2013, the most recent year with available data.
This is likely due to a combination of subsidized housing production, tenant protections, rent control and strong community organizing.
“Using our online map allows residents, neighborhood groups and governments to assess where their neighborhoods — or those next door — are in terms of the risk and actual occurrence of gentrification and displacement,” says Zuk.
The Urban Displacement Project zeroes in nine neighborhoods in six Bay Area counties that were selected to represent the region’s diverse geographies and neighborhoods in different stages of displacement and gentrification:
San Francisco’s Chinatown, which has survived decades of housing pressures, managing to preserve affordable housing through strong community organizing and planning;
The Mission District (San Francisco), known locally as the epicenter of gentrification and displacement because much of its industrial land is turning high-end residential San Jose’s Diridon transit hub (Santa Clara County), with its stops for Caltrain, Amtrak, VTA light rail and bus lines, as well as a planned stop for a BART extension and high-speed rail is a hotbed for pricey development;
Oakland’s MacArthur BART (Alameda County), a scene of rapid demographic and physical change linked to a revitalized Temescal commercial district, proximity to affluent neighborhoods and transit access;
Redwood City (San Mateo County), where active redevelopment is paying little attention to affordable housing for its low-income workforce;
San Rafael’s Canal neighborhood (Marin), an “immigrant gateway” for families first from Vietnam and now from Latin America;
Marin City (Marin), protected by a large public and subsidized housing stock but the focus of fear of gentrification due to proximity to high-income neighborhoods and limited land that can be developed;
East Palo Alto (San Mateo) risks losing its reputation as “an island of affordability in a sea of wealth”;
“Our research shows some new strategies that can help stabilize communities and keep them affordable,” Zuk says, noting that the tools involve ways to produce and preserve subsidized units, and to promote community organizing.
In addition to working with a range of community organizations, the researchers also based their findings on data from the U.S. Census, county tax assessors and real-estate transactions, as well as interviews and field observations.
The researchers conducted their neighborhood case studies in collaboration with seven community-based organizations to ground the technical analysis in real-life experiences. Two technical advisory committees comprised of local and statewide stakeholders provided oversight.
Maps and reports are available at www.urbandisplacement.org/