20,000 gone: Stop the exodus

root - Posted on 10 June 2001

Black population in SF drops 23% since 1990

by Kaponda

San Francisco - It seems like a century has passed since then-President George Bush Sr. watched the Oakland Athletics and San Francisco Giants play in the World Series. It seems even longer since the term “people friendly” was used in connection with the housing and job market. But it’s been only a decade since that 1990 World Series, and in those 10 years, according to newly released census figures, San Francisco has suffered a net loss of nearly 20,000 African Americans.

While U.S. Census 2000 data suggest that America is a wealthy nation with a robust economy, reporting that the total population of every state in America has increased since 1990, the Black population in San Francisco has declined by 23 percent.

From a high of 88,343 in 1970, San Francisco’s Black population dropped 4 percent to 84,857 in 1980, another 10 percent to 76,343 in 1990, and now 23 percent to 58,791 in 2000. Census experts had projected that the number of African Americans in San Francisco would rise to 79,095 over the past decade, assuming normal rates of births and deaths and migration in and out of the City.

This disappearance of one-fourth of San Francisco’s Black citizens in a single decade is no doubt a result of persistent economic discrimination and unaffordable housing. Blacks are locked out of jobs and business opportunities in both boom times and bust, while housing prices were pushed sky high by the once hot high-tech industry. More statistics on how and why the exodus is occurring, however, won’t be available for about six months, until census housing and income statistics are released in the fall.

The epicenter of this earthshaking phenomenon is Silicon Valley. The impact of unbridled development that began there has radiated throughout nearby counties and communities, leaving in its wake displaced working-class families and cultural devastation.
In 1990, the African American population in San Mateo County was 34,018, before the drastic impact of the out-of-control housing market. According to the data from Census 2000, however, 23,778 Blacks reside in San Mateo County today, a decrease of one third.
In Santa Clara County, home to 52,860 African Americans in 1990, the Black population has dropped to only 44,475, a decrease of 16 percent.

Over 600 Blacks disappeared from Marin County, as the population dropped from 7,552 in 1990 to 6,946, a decline of 6 percent.

Even in heavily Black Alameda County, the African American population decreased 6 percent, from 223,994 in 1990 to 211,124 in 2000, a loss of 12,870 people.

U.S. Census 2000 will be used to realign congressional, state legislative and City supervisorial districts, taking into account population shifts since the last census in 1990, to assure equal representation in compliance with the “one person, one vote” principle of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Because of the legislative significance of the data, I asked Supervisor Sophie Maxwell, who represents District 10, the heart of Black San Francisco, what could be causing the flight of African Americans from this and other counties bordering the high-tech hub?

“I think it’s twofold: the lack of affordable housing and the lack of the kinds of jobs that allow you to afford the housing that is available. So, economically, we (African Americans) are not getting into the types of jobs that will allow us to make the money to afford the homes,” she said.

“They are not building affordable homes that relate to the same jobs that we have. We are in the service industries: bus drivers, cab drivers, hospital workers, social workers, and teachers. Historically, those industries do not make a lot of money. I think this is the reason why we are no longer here,” stated Supervisor Maxwell.

At the Board of Supervisors meeting Monday, April 3, Supervisor Chris Daly called for a hearing into the reasons for the decline in San Francisco’s African American population. Supervisor Maxwell said she would bring to the hearing “some solutions and answers and things that we can do and work on so we can eliminate this problem, forever. I think that marketing, showing people that you want them to be there by providing the kind of jobs that will allow them to be able to live where they can work, is a solution.” The Bay View will announce the date and time of the hearing as soon as it is set.

This may be the year that the Giants or the Oakland Athletics return to the World Series. And with the help of proposals Supervisor Maxwell and others bring to the hearing, it also may be the year that African Americans begin to return to San Francisco.


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