By C.W. Nevius
April 24, 2015
Ethnic diversity is in San Francisco’s DNA. Isn’t it?
|Diversity and choice are delicious. But when choices are forced, the outcomes only serve the few.|
Walk down virtually any street in the city and you’ll not only see a wide range of people of color, but chances are good that you’ll hear any number of non-English languages. This is a city that is proud of its diversity and has done what it can to encourage it.
To take it further, the organization projects that by 2040, there will be more white residents in San Francisco than people of color. That’s a big change from today, when 42 percent of the city’s residents are white.But a recent study says that if trends continue, San Francisco is headed in the opposite direction. In fact, the report from PolicyLink, a research and advocacy organization in conjunction with a University of Southern California program, says the white population in San Francisco is on a steady increase.
That’s striking because the study also predicts that in the same time period, the four adjoining counties (Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo and Marin) will become more than 50 percent diverse — which reflects the census projection that the United States will be a majority people-of-color nation by 2044.
So is San Francisco headed for a time when it becomes an affluent, white enclave surrounded by an ethnically diverse population?
“I saw that in the report, and it was definitely eyebrow raising,” says Fred Blackwell, CEO of the San Francisco Foundation, a community advocacy organization. “We may be entering into a kind of community crisis.”
Bucking a trend
What’s really striking is to look at a demographic map from 1980. Back then, San Francisco was an island of diversity, surrounded by white-majority counties. The PolicyLink projection for 2040 reverses that: The four other counties will have a majority of citizens of color, while San Francisco will be an island where more than half the residents are white.
Sarah Treuhaft, a PolicyLink director, admits that projecting trends 25 years in the future can be tricky. But by becoming more white, San Francisco is definitely bucking the national trend
“You don’t see that in many places,” she said. “We looked at all the counties in the country, and in only 25 did the people of color decline.”
But Egon Terplan, regional planning director for the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association, says there’s no reason to panic.
“Lots of things can happen over time,” Terplan said. “There’s a lot we can do with policy.”
Treuhaft doesn’t disagree. What she does point out, however, is the trend among younger residents.
“You can see the future by looking at the demographics of the youth population,” she said. In 1990, whites 18 and under were 22 percent of the youth population. Today, they are 33 percent.
Meanwhile, Asians under 18 are a significant part of the youth population — over 30 percent. But instead of increasing, that number is gradually sliding down: It was 36 percent in 1990, and 32 percent in 2007.
You will not be surprised to hear that the major cause of the demographic changes is affordability. Not only are housing costs rising, but wages have plateaued.
Blackwell says his group has been tracking the trend.
“You have people who have grown up in a specific area in San Francisco and have a very strong connection with those communities,” he said. “They want to make them stronger, so they work in nonprofits or as a teacher. What they end up with are salaries that don’t allow them to live in a community they care so much about. It’s kind of heartbreaking.”
Meanwhile, the African American population continues to decline. In 1970, San Francisco was 13 percent black. Now it is 8 percent, and PolicyLink predicts it will be just 5 percent by 2040.
Unfortunately, we’re still waiting for that awesome plan that finds a way to fund housing for the lower-middle class, which in San Francisco can mean families earning $50,000-$75,000.
A less diverse city “is not necessarily a self-fulfilling prophecy,” Blackwell said. “But it is concerning.”
|"San Francisco is so much better since Plan Bay Area. |
Thank you for all of the new Smart Growth housing "
[Editor's Note: Plan Bay Area is displacing communities of all races and ethnicity through crony development policies. We think planning should be about the existing communities, not displacing communities for an imagined future. Every community is a home to someone. We should respect rights to live free without being forced from our community we love.]