Where are the Bay Area’s gentrification hot spots? In which neighborhoods are low-income residents most at risk of being pushed out due to rising real estate prices? Which areas have become exclusive enclaves unattainable to most of us?

UC Berkeley researchers assembled data on more than 2,000 census tracts in the region — including everything from property prices and rents to density of low-income households to migration patterns — to try to create a new portrait of gentrification and displacement dynamics. The result, released earlier this week under the auspices of UC Berkeley’s Urban Displacement Project, is the interactive map above — available with lots of supplementary data and case studies at the project’s website.

The team, led by Karen Chapple, a professor of city and regional planning, and Miriam Zuk, a postdoctoral researcher at Cal’s Center for Community Innovation, wasn’t focusing specifically on displacement and gentrification.

Instead, they were trying to answer questions about the impact of policies meant to help attain state and regional goals for responding to climate change — measures like encouraging in-fill development to help reduce sprawl and vehicle miles traveled. The takeaway is that those policies may spur gentrification and displacement — if they are not managed carefully.


Chapple and Zuk said the biggest surprises from the research included:

  • Fifty-three percent of of all low-income households in the region live in neighborhoods at risk of, or already experiencing, displacement.
  • “The crisis is not half over” — meaning that rising rents and home prices, along with an influx of more affluent people, increase the pressure on low-income people to move to the region’s outer suburbs.
  • Displacement is occurring beyond neighborhoods that are clearly gentrifying — something the researchers call “an ongoing story of exclusion” that’s being experienced even in more affluent areas where property prices are rising.
  • Between 2000 and 2013, the region lost 50 percent of the units defined as affordable for low-income households; at the same time, the number of low-income households regionwide increased by 10 percent.
  • One of their main conclusions is that there is simply no way for the Bay Area to build its way out of the displacement problem. Instead, an approach that focuses both on increasing the supply of affordable homes, while adopting or strengthening policies to protect the existing supply of affordable housing, will be needed to slow displacement.

The project’s report also found that one of the key indicators for gentrification in a neighborhood is a spike in development of market-rate housing. That’s become a key issue in San Francisco’s Mission District, which was one of nine neighborhoods the project focused on in a series of case studies that accompany the displacement map.

We asked Chapple and Zuk their thoughts about a proposed moratorium on market-rate housing in the Mission: Could it be effective in halting the march of gentrification in the district? Their answer: It might be useful as a tactic in winning some sort of agreement among community groups, the city and developers to add more affordable housing to the mix proposed for the area.

  • Diane

    I’m not surprised to see Pacifica and San Bruno going through gentrification– those areas have been secret jewels all along. Well located for easy transportation, ocean views, easy access to Skyline College and National Park hiking areas… shhhhhhhh!

Author

Dan Brekke

Dan Brekke is a blogger, reporter and editor for KQED News, responsible for online breaking news coverage of topics ranging from California water issues to the Bay Area's transportation challenges. In a newsroom career that began in Chicago in 1972, Dan has worked as a city and foreign/national editor for The San Francisco Examiner, editor at Wired News, deputy editor at Wired magazine, managing editor at TechTV as well as for several Web startups.

Since joining KQED in 2007, Dan has reported, edited and produced both radio and online features and breaking news pieces. He has shared in two Society of Professional Journalists Norcal Excellence in Journalism awards — for his 2012 reporting on a KQED Science series on water and power in California, and in 2014, for KQED's comprehensive reporting on the south Napa earthquake.

In addition to his 44 years of on-the-job education, Dan is a lifelong student of history and is still pursuing an undergraduate degree.

Email Dan at: dbrekke@kqed.org

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