“The San Francisco Redevelopment Agency will leave the Western Addition in January, ending a 40-year “urban renewal” project that was touted as a move to wipe out blight but actually destroyed the city’s most prominent African American neighborhood.
In total, 883 businesses were shuttered and 4,729 households were forced out, according to city officials. Roughly 2,500 Victorian homes were demolished.”
Sad chapter in Western Addition history ending [SFGate]

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by question

    So, what do you do when the “most prominent African American neighborhood” is blighted?!?

  2. Posted by resp

    The 40’s and 50’s were certainly a different time for racial inequality.
    Today and going forward though I just don’t understand why and how race should have any bearing on anything real estate-related whether it’s lending, renting, developing, demolishing, targeting, etc. It should be about pure economics.
    just a general thought.

  3. Posted by livinintheloin

    2,500 Victorian homes were demolished — whoa!

  4. Posted by Michael

    “So, what do you do when the “most prominent African American neighborhood” is blighted?!?”
    Dollars rather than bulldozers. Leveling a community to build fortresses of low income housing is a travesty. Invest in the infrastructure of the community to encourage outside investment, provide incentives for individuals to invest in their homes or for new buyers to move into the neighborhood, and make it easy for developers to build smaller mixed-income/use buildings.

  5. Posted by inthemarket

    Over 100 blues clubs were demolished, including the incredible Jimbo’s Bop City. These were places that people came from around the world to check out. San Francisco was a world center for blues and pop music. The “redevelopment” project literally wiped out the musical soul of this city and it’s never fully recovered.
    I shuddered, by the way, when I read the phrase “pure economics”. I hope resp was being ironic.

  6. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    “Over 100 blues clubs were demolished…”
    Wow, that’s amazing to have 100 blues clubs in a single neighborhood. I don’t think that today the entire city has that many night clubs altogether.

  7. Posted by natomahead

    “So, what do you do when the “most prominent African American neighborhood” is blighted?!?”
    The fillmore area was not blighted. It was a vibrant sulf-sustaining neighborhood. Redev of this area was not about removing blight, it was about accommodated the housing demand of that time (for Whites) at the expense of Blacks and Japanese. This area was full of shops, restaurants, bars (as it is today), that were mostly black owned, but more importantly, most of the residents, from lower to upper middle class, were Black.

  8. Posted by Zig

    PBS did a great documentary on this area. Fillmore was like a mini Harlem where all the greats in Jazz and Blues played
    “Blight” truly is in the eye of the beholder informed at the time by white WASP downtown values
    They envisioned a new kind of city and a place for white middle class people to live (in new high rises) and to drive (on the new blvd Geary)
    Thankfully we have learned the lesson to well and now we have the era of planning paralysis by hyper community invlovement

  9. Posted by Conifer

    This travesty was done by the same kind of “big brother” do-gooders who still sit on the board of supervisors and other city agencies. They believe they know what other people should have. One of the Planning Commissioners consistently refers to his own small condo, “perfectly adequate” when deciding whether to allow larger units to be built. He is especially bitter toward people who want and can afford larger spaces, and want to build up or out. Let us hope that the election this fall produces a few saner Supervisors. SF has the chance to replace some of the worst.

  10. Posted by likesemtall

    Don’t forget, it was the Japanese internment by the US durning WWII that led to establishment of the Western Addition as an African-American community.

  11. Posted by Zig

    Likesemtall
    I question that claim. About 5000 Japanese were interned
    It wasn’t just a japanese area pre WWII but rather was a highly mixed (one of the most in the US) with an African American community but also many others and a significant Japanese population. African American community in SF was small (like 5K) but they mostly lived in the Fillmore and had since early times as there weren’t racial convenants
    Blacks came from the South and like a lot of areas many people left cities after WWII
    Just pointing out the history is more complicated than I see people posting everywhere

  12. Posted by Zag

    http://www.pbs.org/kqed/fillmore/learning/time.html
    “African Americans begin to migrate from the South to work in Bay Area shipyards and other war industries, moving into the Fillmore housing left vacant by the interned Japanese Americans. By 1945, some 30,000 African Americans are living and working in San Francisco.”

  13. Posted by zig

    Not sure what your point is
    I am not trying to minimize anything here but understand there were about 5000 Japanese in San francisco. The Fillmore and the Western Addition were not Japanese districts (there was a smaller J-town area) but rather was a place were people excluded by racial covenants and hgih housing prices could live. There were about as many African Americans living in SF before WWII as Japanese(almost all in the Fillmore too becuase of racial covenants)
    These 30,000 African Americans didn’t replace 5000 japanese
    The real story is interesting enough

  14. Posted by question

    “Dollars rather than bulldozers.”
    Ah. So the answer is gentrification?

  15. Posted by crispyfloss

    “So, what do you do when the “most prominent African American neighborhood” is blighted?!?”
    Stop using “blighted” to mean “a place we’d like to build a freeway.” See also “blighted” Jewish areas in Manhattan circa Robert Moses.
    The Western Addition got screwed twice by the internment – once by forcing out the Japanese, and again by razing however many blocks to build a mall to apologize.

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