San Francisco deserts its black population: City Hall report on San Francisco’s Black Counter-Migration

POOR correspondent - Posted on 06 July 2010

Tony Robles/PNN
Tuesday, September 2, 2008;

The Chronicle recently ran an article whose headline read, "Black population deserting SF". To me, a 4th generation San Francisco native, San Francisco has deserted its black population. The city is losing its heart. Its soul cries.

I attended a hearing at the SF Board of Supervisors regarding the black exodus from San Francisco. I arrived while another agenda item was being heard. I walked through the chamber past beautiful Muslim women with their children, black men in suits and ties. They looked as if they'd been waiting…and waiting. Their silence said it all.

The black community is the heart of San Francisco. I recall going to a café for a cup of coffee not long ago. It was in a neighborhood undergoing gentrification. On the walls were pictures of great jazz and blues singers of the past. The voice of Billie Holiday came through the overhead speaker. I looked around—no black people to be seen, just gentrifiers drinking coffee.

The item being discussed was about the SF zoo. The mostly white folks in attendance spoke passionately about whether the zoo should be changed to a zoo strictly for "rescue" animals who have been liberated from roadside zoos and the like. "I was born in a land where animals were free", said a lone man of color speaking on the issue. "I believe in freedom, animals should roam freely". When the agenda item ended, the zoo docents and other advocates left in exodus. The chamber was noticeably less crowded. I looked around at the faces—still black, still waiting.

Our item was item #11: The dwindling African-American population in San Francisco. A representative from the San Francisco Redevelopment agency presented the findings of the "African-American Out-migration task force" put together by the mayor's office last year. The purpose - to find ways to stem the tide of out-migration of the black community.

I listened as the nicely dressed African-American man from the Redevelopment Agency asserted that the black exodus in San Francisco is more pronounced here than in any other city in the country. I sat thinking that it is ironic that a man from an agency that has done more to cause the black exodus would be the one presenting the findings of what that agency has sown.

"I wanted to have this hearing 7 years ago but felt that politically I couldn’t have it. But now I can" said Supervisor Chris Daly, facing an audience eager to speak. The Supervisor cited many causes for the exodus, including lack of educational, social and cultural opportunities, housing affordability, environmental injustice and the epidemic of violence.

Looming heavy in the air of the chambers was the subject of Lennar Corporation and the environmental justice concerns of Bayview Hunter's Point that have gone unaddressed. Figures and statistics were given indicating that 45 % of the black population in San Francisco have been exposed to asbestos. Lennar Corporation spent over 4 million dollars to pass Prop G, a major housing development at the Hunters Point Shipyard and Candlestick Point. Residents know it for what it is - a land grab - with the city giving 720 acres of land to Lennar. The result has been 250 eviction notices to residents of Bayview Hunters Point.

Fred Blackwell, head of the Redevelopment agency, presented the numbers. The black population in 2000 was 54,000. In 2005 there were 46,000 blacks in the city. "That’s not enough to fill Candlestick Park" he said as the audience sat patiently. The bottom line - all other ethnic groups increased in population while the black population decreased.

A paralegal from Hunter's view cited the San Francisco Housing Authority's role in contributing to the exodus with it's Grannie Evictions - the practice of evicting grandmothers for the deeds of a grandchild.

Aileen Hernandez, chair of the task force expressed frustration at the process. This is a city that has a problem with discrimination. Task forces are put together but often times not paid attention to. We can put out 10 more reports but if we have no vision, we have nothing.

A resident from Bayview Hunter's Point concurred. "This is an emergency situation. There should be emergency hearings. If you want a problem to go away, study it to death. 6 months later people will forget about it and we'll be back to business".

The final report and its recommendations will be presented to the board of supervisors within the month.



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