Increasing residential segregation in the Bay Area

A new report shows an increase in residential segregation in the Bay Area over recent decades:

Photo by Mohamed Almari on Pexels.com

The Bay Area has become more racially segregated since 1990, mirroring a long-running national trend of cities and neighborhoods dividing more starkly along ethnic lines, according to a new study by UC Berkeley researchers.

Oakland, Fremont, San Francisco and San Jose are all among cities ranked as “highly segregated” by the university’s Othering & Belonging Institute…

Menendian said land use policies, including restrictions on denser housing and apartments, have driven segregation, particularly in the Bay Area. “It’s crystal clear that excessive restrictive zoning plays a significant role.”…

The impact of segregation, Berkeley researchers say, is clear: residents in communities of color have lower future economic gains, educational achievement and poorer health.

The full report includes a number of interesting sections.

In some ways, the Bay Area is seen as a success story. Exciting cities and and cultural opportunities. Proximity to Silicon Valley and the tech industry. Diversity. A striking setting. But, this report hints at a darker side of this success: an ongoing process of homogenization. Divisions by location based on race and class. Zoning that keeps uses and people separate.

Do the two trends – success and division – necessarily go together? One does not have to lead to the other or vice versa. The same project found high levels of residential segregation in cities in the Midwest and Northeast, places without the same level of success as the Bay Area in recent years.

One way to think about this is to look at how the region as a whole could address this. Individual municipalities could address particular topics – like affordable housing or zoning issues – but might only help so many people and push the problem into other communities. A region-wide approach would help think about how gains can be shared and how concerns can be addressed by all. Even the biggest cities cannot go it alone when they rely on nearby places for workers and amenities.

Another matter to think about as addressed in the final paragraph above: residential segregation has cascading effects that can last for a long time. Where people live affects many aspects of life, ranging from what jobs can be accessed, the quality of housing, what is available through local schools and other institutions, and more. This is not an issue of people choosing to live some places rather than others; residential segregation speaks to patterns that can become reified and can physically establish different social worlds.

Finally, I am reminded of the Emerson and Smiley book Market Cities, People Cities. Is the long-term goal of the region to put the economy first? Or, is there enough interest in promoting more people friendly policies? The reputation and history of the area suggests there are resources and collectives to move toward more people oriented policies. However, this is a difficult move for any American city as social, political, and economic forces push toward placing the economy first.

One thought on “Increasing residential segregation in the Bay Area

  1. Pingback: Taking Los Angeles from 10 million planned residents down to nearly 4 million | Legally Sociable

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