Download our new research brief on the impacts of displacement in San Mateo County here!

UC Berkeley Case Studies

How did we choose these neighborhoods?

Our advisory committee from the Regional Prosperity Plan chose these 9 neighborhoods after UC’s analysis of regional data of neighborhood change. The cases were chosen in an effort to capture geographic diversity and to examine different stages of the gentrification and displacement process.

Key findings

  • Gentrification may not precede displacement. Gentrification is often assumed to be a precursor to residential displacement, yet in many of our cases we found that displacement precedes gentrification and that the two processes are often occurring simultaneously.
  • Mobility may or may not be by choice. On average, roughly 15% of Americans move each year. There are many reasons for people to move and it is therefore often desirable for researchers and policy makers alike to separate voluntary moves from involuntary moves. Yet, it’s nearly impossible to discern such distinctions with data and even through practice.
  • Gentrification and displacement are regional. Although gentrification and displacement are often seen as a neighborhood or local phenomenon, our cases show that they are inherently linked to shifts in the regional housing and job market.
  • Policy, planning and organizing can stabilize neighborhoods. Many of the cases have shown remarkable stability, largely due to strengths of local housing policy, community organizing, tenant protections and planning techniques.
  • Transportation investment shapes displacement. Our research suggests that it’s not just the investments in transportation and infrastructure that can accelerate the processes of gentrification and displacement, but the planning of such investments as well

Full Report

Learn more about the project here:

Full Report

Executive Summary

San Francisco’s greater Chinatown neighborhood has witnessed years of housing pressures. Although strong community organizing and planning restrictions have prevented the core of Chinatown from the tide of gentrification and displacement, some of its greater area experienced significant changes. The neighborhoods of Polk Gulch and parts of North Beach have suffered from loss of Asian households since 1980.

Key Findings

  • The unique history of land use politics and policy in Chinatown—from the earliest days of forced segregation through to recent years of housing rights activism—has given rise to a complex set of challenges as well as community assets to address them.
  • New infrastructure initiatives, such as the Chinatown Central Subway Station construction project, alongside ongoing work by community based organizations, will have a major impact on the community’s future.
  • While housing in Chinatown Core has been preserved for low-income individuals, many of whom are foreign-born Asian Americans, all of Greater Chinatown faces significant pressure as rates of rent- or mortgage-burdened households have skyrocketed since 2000. 

Conclusion

While part of the broader picture of San Francisco’s affordability crisis, the unduplicated factors that shape Chinatown’s built form require a locally-tailored approach to preserving the neighborhood’s livability and vibrancy. As with the 1986 Rezoning Plan, the neighborhood’s effectively mobilized resident base allows for potential solutions to be indigenous to the community. Continued organizing efforts by community groups like CCDC will be critical as both the population and the neighborhood’s infrastructure continue to evolve.

For decades, San Francisco’s Mission District has been the site of active community organizing, affordable housing and minority-owned businesses. However, under the pressures of the "dot com boom," more and more industrial land has shifted to high-end residential uses. It has now become the icon of gentrification and Displacement in the Bay Area.

Key Findings

  • Over the last thirty years, the Mission has seen a decrease in the proportion of family households and Latino population
  • Despite an increase in income, housing burden has increased in the Mission
  • The Mission continues to see the highest rate of evictions in the city.

Conclusion

The Mission District serves as a potent example of the demographic and commercial changes that can occur in a high-demand location with walkability, accessibility, and access to amenities in the center of an expensive region.

The Mission has already undergone significant gentrification and continues to experience displacement. While Valencia Street on a Saturday night may be unrecognizable to residents from twenty years ago, the neighborhood still hosts a sizable Latino population. This neighborhood has been here before: the dotcom boom at the turn of the century foreshadowed (and set the stage for) many of the changes facing it today.

After years of city planning and redevelopment, the area around San Jose’s Diridon Station is transforming into an affluent urban neighborhood. Redevelopment efforts of the 1980s displaced low income households and primed the land for the current development growth. Recently, activism around the Station Area plan has reignited the call for affordable housing, but its success would depend on the funding available in this post-redevelopment era. 

Key Findings

  • New funding mechanisms will be needed to reach the goal in the Station Area Plan that 15% of new housing in the Diridon Station Area be affordable to low income residents.
  • Diridon is already a significant transit hub, with stops for Caltrain, Amtrak, VTA light rail and multiple bus lines, and the station is a planned stop for both BART’s extension to San José and high-speed rail, making it a highly accessible and desirable location.

Conclusion

Existing community organizing among residents around issues like immigration may provide a base for organizing on issues related to housing and resisting displacement.

As investment continues flowing into the Diridon Station area, a citywide or urban village-specific public benefits zoning policy or similar policies may be the only way to avoid continued displacement.

The neighborhoods surrounding North Oakland’s Macarthur Bart Station have undergone rapid demographic and physical change, associated with both its proximity to revitalizing commercial districts, affluent neighborhoods, and transit accessibility.  These current housing dynamics in MacArthur are born of a long history of institutionalized racial discrimination, with the most notable impact on the area’s African American residents. Any efforts to achieve equitable development must take this history into account.

Key Findings

  • With major revitalization projects slated for central locations within MacArthur, the area’s desirability will likely continue to increase
  • The severity of the affordability crisis continues to accelerate, with continuously rising rents and a tremendous jump in rates of housing burden. 

Conclusion

While MacArthur has passed the peak of the latest foreclosure crisis, many residents remain vulnerable to displacement, and the full impact of the foreclosures is yet to be determined as properties continue to rapidly change hands and sales prices climb.

As much of the region’s challenges are actively debated and addressed in MacArthur, changes in the area provide an opportunity for advocates, researchers, community leaders, and government officials to inform regional solutions through careful tracking of MacArthur’s ongoing development.

As an immigrant gateway in the city of Concord, the Monument Corridor was severely impacted by the Great Recession. Its large ethnic minority population and high renter population has made the neighborhood vulnerable to displacement and gentrification. Its proximity to the BART and the City government's redevelopment plans have resulted in active speculation, and thus, displacement of low income and Latino residents. 

Key Findings

  • For a long time, Monument residents lacked a voice and weren’t included in the city’s decision-making process. This discourages them from interacting with local officials.
  • Residents suffer from extremely high rent burden
  • Developers are capitalizing on the impact of the housing crisis through “home flipping” strategies meant to attract a white, young, and wealthier population. 

Conclusion

Despite these challenges, there is a growing grassroots movement in Concord demanding protection for residents in the Monument. Community-based organizations such as Monument Impact have made significant strides in building residents’ capacity to advocate for themselves and fostering a culture of civic engagement through leadership development programs, neighborhood action teams, and a range of skills-building workshops. A tenants’ rights advocacy organization is currently trying to “create a culture of fighting back” to “build a tenants’ rights movement” in Concord. Concord is at a critical juncture where it can alter its trajectory by electing to protect its most vulnerable community. 

Redwood City is located in the heart of Silicon Valley. To create an active job and housing center, leaders of Redwood City are trying to redevelop the once nearly abandoned downtown. This planning and growth largely ignores the needs of future low income workers and existing residents of surrounding neighborhoods. This results in an acute risk of exclusionary displacement. 

Key Findings

  • When the city attains its economic development goals, there will be a mismatch between housing supply and job growth for low wage workers. Current plans do not account for the growth in this job sector.
  • Affordable housing provisions elsewhere in the city are not sufficient to protect low-income residents against displacement pressures

Conclusion

An increasingly unaffordable downtown commercial center will not serve the needs of lower income community members, and will continue to exclude these residents from the benefits of economic growth. On its current path, Redwood City runs the risk of becoming increasingly segregated and inaccessible to the workers who will form the foundation of its new economy.  Along with housing policies, city governments in the region should also consider adopting other policies such as living wage or other asset building strategies to ensure that all inhabitants share in the region’s prosperity.

The Canal neighborhood of San Rafael is located in the wealthy county of Marin. It continues to serve as a point of entry to immigrant communities, specifically of Latin American origin. The neighborhood is currently not experiencing gentrification, because of the substantial stock of low quality multi-family housing, significant overcrowding, as well as the physical separation (i.e., highway and industrial/ commercial land uses) from the rest of the city. However, it may be at risk in the near future, when the SMART train station opens.

Key Findings

  • When the SMART train station opens in San Rafael, the Canal area will be at risk of gentrification: the area could become a preferred housing location for commuters, resulting in gentrification and displacement
  • The area offers limited land to develop new housing.

Conclusion

Despite being at risk of gentrification, the high density of Latino residents is a potential strength of the community. Organizing is easier than in other areas where members of these communities are farther spread out, such as Novato. This expertise could be leveraged, in partnership with local agencies to respond to displacement pressures in the future.

The City of East Palo Alto was established on the principles of protecting housing of lower income communities of color in the affluent Silicon Valley. These principles have translated to some of the strongest tenant protections in the Bay Area. However, continued high income job growth, as well as the lack of new or affordable housing in surrounding communities, has created much pressure in recent years.

Key Findings

  • Jobs-housing ratios show that housing pressure are mounting and pose a serious threat to East Palo Alto’s affordability.
  • The city is home to many low-income households (and undocumented immigrants), already burdened by their housing costs
  • With much of city’s rental housing owned by a single landlord, tenants face aggressive eviction actions and other forms of harassment.
  • The stakes are high for households that leave, because little affordable housing is available in surrounding cities.

Conclusion

East Palo Alto is distinctive for its government’s commitment to ensuring the city remains affordable to low income households, and for a strong legacy of community organizing that holds the City government accountable to that commitment. Yet the housing pressures are mounting, and households that cannot afford East Palo Alto may be forced to leave the region altogether, and are relocating as far as Tracy, Manteca, and the Central Valley.

Marin City is a historically African American community, established during WWII. Despite being surrounded by affluent communities of Marin County and restricted in growth because of the County’s value of preserving open space, Marin City continues to house over half of its residents in subsidized housing. It is home to many low and moderate income families, even after racial and demographic shifts.

Key Findings

  • The proportion of African-Americans households in Marin City continues to decrease
  • There is a constant fear that public housing units will be lost, given the area’s high land value and views of the Bay, as well as recent unfriendly policies and deferred maintenance.

Conclusion

Current concerns regarding displacement do not appear to be as high of a priority compared to other community issues, largely because of the unusually large core of public and subsidized housing that provide stable homes for many of the community’s low-income families.

However, residents’ experience with the loss of the flea market—which, unlike the current shopping center, was successful and provided local residents economic opportunity—has primed them for the experience of displacement.