Black Population Deserting S.F., Study Says

Leslie Fulbright, San Francisco Chronicle, August 10, 2008

African Americans are leaving San Francisco because of substandard schools, a lack of affordable housing and the dearth of jobs and black culture, according to a report by a committee looking into the exodus.

The African American Out-migration Task Force, put together by the mayor’s office last year to figure out what can be done to preserve the city’s remaining black population and cultivate new residents, presented its findings at a public hearing Thursday called by Supervisor Chris Daly.

San Francisco’s black population has dropped faster than that of any other large U.S. city’s. It went from 13.4 percent in 1970 to an estimated 6.5 percent in 2005, according to the census. Nationally, African Americans make up 12.1 percent of the population.

Much of the blame has been placed on the Redevelopment Agency, which intentionally drove black families and businesses from the Fillmore district in the 1960s and 1970s.

Many residents who attended the nearly four-hour meeting live in the Bayview-Hunters Point area and expressed concern about the redevelopment project now under way there, saying it will continue to reduce the city’s dwindling African American population.

Much of the anger was placed on Lennar Corp., the developer building 1,600 houses at the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard. Residents say they are being pushed out, so the city can gentrify the area that is the last black neighborhood.

“In San Francisco, we run the risk of losing the entire black population,” said Minister Christopher Muhammad of the Nation of Islam. “There should be emergency hearings, because this is an emergency.”

In San Francisco, the number of African Americans in very-low-income households has increased, the number of black-owned businesses has declined, and African Americans have the lowest home ownership rates, according to the report.

About 24 percent of black people in the city are living in homes that need severe or moderate repairs, and African Americans make up nearly half of the residents in public housing.

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The report recommends improving schools in black areas, adding programs for youth, increasing employment opportunities and promoting business development.

“African Americans in San Francisco lag behind the rest of the city in almost every key economic indicator and face significant barriers to addressing the disparities,” the report states.

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“This is a city that still has a problem with discrimination, and many of the things we are talking about are the result of discrimination,” she said. “Every organization that has anything to do with eliminating discrimination has been underfunded, understaffed and underrecognized.”

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