Take a trip through some pivotal moments in Marin history that contributed to its demographics today. Bay Curious is a podcast from KQED that answers your questions about the Bay Area.

Six years ago, Henry Ma moved to the Bay Area with his wife from New York City. They settled in San Rafael — the perfect location between both of their jobs.

When they had two girls, he started to notice something about where he lived in Marin County.

“Our daughter was the only Asian in the school of 72 kids,” Ma said.

It made him wonder: “The Bay Area is one of the most diverse places in the country. Within the Bay Area, why is Marin County the least diverse?”

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Henry Ma lives in San Rafael (Courtesy of Henry Ma)

Looking at the Numbers

The data back up Henry’s experience. According to the most recent U.S. Census data, a huge majority — as in 72 percent — of people who live in Marin County identify their race as white. And that doesn’t include Hispanic/Latino folks who also identify as white.

For comparison, Alameda County is 33 percent white and 29 percent Asian. Asians make up just 6 percent of people in Marin County.

But look back at Marin County’s history and you’ll find that it wasn’t always that way. In fact, its demographic history is not too far off from the rest of the Bay Area’s. Archives at the Anne T. Kent California Room show that what is now Marin County was once almost completely occupied by tribes of the Coast Miwok Indians.

In 1817, the Spanish established Mission San Rafael Arcangel in what is now the city of San Rafael. Between 1834-1846, significant portions of Marin were owned by people of Spanish and Mexican descent.

Finally, there was a huge influx of African-Americans who came to work in the shipyards during World War II, though it wasn’t enough to change the demographics significantly.

So what explains the county’s demographics as they look today?

A common guess is that it has to do with the lack of public transportation options in Marin County. BART, for example, doesn’t reach the North Bay.

Low-income residents who live in San Rafael — home to the highest percentage of Latinos in Marin County — have reported that they live there because of the public transportation options. San Rafael has the most used transit service in the county, and some residents say that better transit throughout the county would allow them to move.

But there’s a lot more to it.

How Conservation Efforts Took Up Space

There were a few huge moments in Marin County history that played a role in changing the demographics of the county.

The first came in 1896, when a couple of business-minded conservationists built the Mount Tamalpais Scenic Railway.

The railway was an 8-mile long, open-air ride up the side of Mount Tamalpais. At the peak of the mountain was a spectacular view of the San Francisco Bay Area. There was a resort, a grand restaurant, bar and tavern where visitors could stay the night. People from the East Coast and even Europe would travel to Marin County to ride the railway in long dresses and three-piece suits.

But the main purpose of the railway was to showcase the natural beauty of Marin so that people would want to preserve it.

“Seeing those things inspired people to want to create the national parks they have now,” said Fred Runner, a historian who wrote a book on the historic railway. “Their whole thing was to show off the lovely scenery and to try to promote wilderness conservation. Everybody who worked on the railroad believed in that.”

Fred Runner stands in front of the Book Depot in Mill Valley, where the Mt. Tam Science Railway trains would board passengers.
Fred Runner stands in front of the Book Depot in Mill Valley, where the Mount Tamalpais Scenic Railway trains would board passengers. (Ericka Cruz Guevarra/KQED)

The railway was just the start of fruitful conservation efforts in Marin County — efforts that today leave around 80 percent of the county undeveloped because of long-standing commitments to land preservation.

Marin County has the most land set aside for preservation of any Bay Area county.

“One of the battles that raged early on was to try and stop building homes,” said Runner. “There were a number of legal battles around that — just by the skin of their teeth — being able to stop housing developments and create preserved wilderness.”

The Mt. Tamalpais Watershed
The Mount Tamalpais Watershed ( Jesse Wagstaff/Flickr)

A combination of limited land, zoning laws and Marin County’s proximity to San Francisco created a scenario in which the demand for housing far outweighed supply.

The homes that were built were very expensive. Who doesn’t want to live next to a giant park, right? Today, the median household income is nearly $94,000 a year, according to census data. This, over time, began to limit who was able to move into Marin County.

Fred Runner shows historic photos of the Mount Tam Scenic Railway from his book.
Fred Runner shows historic photos of the Mount Tam Scenic Railway from his book. (Ericka Cruz Guevarra/KQED)

Fights Over Affordable Housing

Marin’s skewed demographics caught the attention of the Department of Housing and Urban Development in 2011, and it conducted an audit on the county. It sought to answer: Was the county working hard enough to include people of color in its housing plans?

“HUD identified Marin as a county of interest because Marin County is primarily white,” said Jessica Tankersley Sparks, who co-wrote a report called the “Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice” for Marin County. “In comparison to surrounding counties, those demographics are strikingly different from the demographics in Marin County.”

The median household income in Marin County is almost $94,000 a year.
The median household income in Marin County is almost $94,000 a year. ( Garden State Hiker/Flickr)

The county’s demographics looked a lot like Westchester County in New York, which became the site of a famous fair housing lawsuit related to patterns of residential segregation. Officials suspected the same thing might be happening in Marin County.

“When you talk about Marin County, you really have to look at the history of segregation,” said Caroline Peattie, executive director of Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California and another co-author of the audit. “In some ways it’s not atypical. It just played out in slightly different ways.”

Caroline Peattie, executive director of Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California, sits in her office in San Rafael.
Caroline Peattie, executive director of Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California, sits in her office in San Rafael. (Ericka Cruz Guevarra/KQED)

The audit found that the county had failed to comply with fair housing and civil rights laws, agreeing that it had built only a fraction of the low-income housing mandated by the Association of Bay Area Governments.

By failing to comply with these laws, the audit found, Marin County had failed to take active steps to welcome the people those laws sought to protect —  including people of color.

“What we saw by and large was that the effective opposition to affordable housing had a corollary effect of creating impediments to housing choice to people in protected classes,” said Sparks. “[That includes] people of color, people with children, people with disabilities.”

Marin County isn’t the only place with some history of opposition to affordable housing. But other factors — namely, all of the land set aside for conservation — made it that much more difficult to find suitable places to build affordable housing.

A painting that reads "Good neighbors come in all colors" hangs in the office at Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California, which was formerly known as Fair Housing of Marin.
A painting that reads “good neighbors come in all colors” hangs in the office of Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California, which was formerly known as Fair Housing of Marin. (Ericka Cruz Guevarra/KQED)

“Marin is very wealthy and the houses here cost quite a bit,” said Peattie. “It’s hard to own property here [and it’s] easy to say, ‘Oh, it’s just a question about money, it’s not about race at all.’ But it’s not that simple.”

The Role of Reputation

While the lack of affordable housing answers why low-income people of color might not move into Marin, why aren’t high-income people of color moving there?

A report from the Center for Responsible Lending found that people of color in California who can afford to move into expensive neighborhoods typically choose not to. Instead, they mostly still choose to live in low-income, majority-minority neighborhoods.

People are quick to turn to a “self-segregation” argument, says professor Maria Krysan, head of the sociology department at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She thinks that argument doesn’t hold up.

“The desire to avoid those settings is not driven by an affinity to live with their own kind, but a desire to avoid negative treatment by their neighbors,” says Krysan. “Certainly a perception or reputation of a community, and its openness to people of your own race and ethnicity, is something that comes up more often for African-Americans and Latinos than it does for whites.”

This anticipation for hostility, she says, has historical precedence.

“[It] comes from a history of discrimination and discriminatory treatment. It comes from a long history of that for African-Americans moving into white neighborhoods,” she said. “People trying to move into these communities were met with a great deal of hostility and violence, and I think that the memory of that and the repeat performance of that over time, creates a dynamic of anticipated discrimination that can make it an unpleasant prospect to move into an all-white neighborhood — especially if that neighborhood has been making the news or has reinforced that reputation of not being welcoming.”

Fighting Perception

I met a guy named John Young, who was born and raised in Marin City. He’s African-American and he says he knows people of color who have floated around this idea of Marin as a place just for white people.

“That’s why a lot of people of color stay away,” he said.

But Young hoped to change that. He became executive director of a group called Marin Grassroots, which was all about empowering people of color in local politics in Marin — a task he says was a challenging one.

John Young sits in his Vallejo home, where he's lived for 17 years now. He was born and raised in Marin City.
John Young sits in his Vallejo home, where he’s lived for 17 years now. He was born and raised in Marin City. (Ericka Cruz Guevarra/KQED)

“There was no baseline for social justice anywhere there,” he said. “Even the language of social justice, social equity … there was none of that present in Marin.”

Young admits that he had his fair share of encounters with cops because of “driving while black.” But he also says he loves Marin.

“We didn’t really have whites on this side, blacks on [that side],” he said. “I didn’t walk outside saying, ‘Oh, this is a racist place where I live at.'”

John lives in Vallejo now because he couldn’t afford to stay. But if he could move back, he would. He says there are people in Marin County who recognize the lack of diversity, and who are working to change it — including white people. 

A Setting That ‘Represents Society’

Marin has made some changes that some say are steps in the right direction. County supervisors are trying to get landlords to rent to more Section 8 voucher holders, for example. They’ve also taken some measures to begin making up for their shortage of affordable housing.

When I asked Henry Ma why he asked us this question, it was personal — especially when it came to his kids.

“We don’t want them to think that they are such a rare occurrence — that being Asian is such a rare situation,” said Ma. “We don’t know how it’s going to shape their view.”

And that’s important to him.

“We just think that when they get out to society that the representation is not going to be like this,” he said. “We want to expose them to a setting that represents society. That’s all that we want to ask for.”

Why is Marin County So White? 11 January,2018Ericka Cruz Guevarra

  • SenorMartillo

    What a ludicrous proposition: Expensive housing is racist? The article then goes on to state that even high income minorities CHOOSE to live somewhere else? So what are they proposing to do about it? Force some rich black people at gunpoint to move to Marin? What absolute rubbish.

    • Bryan

      Not to mention 99.9% of Marin County has white guilt!

    • disqdude

      If you read the article, you would notice that it’s an issue of having a critical mass to increase the comfort level of the potential residents in question. The lack of housing affordability aggravates this issue. Based on your response, I suspect that you can’t relate. Do you identify as white? Do you consider yourself wealthy?

      • Bryan

        Why aren’t we bitching about Beverley Hills? I wanna live there! Some rich guy should give me his house. Socialism is the answer. Let’s all be equal even though some may work harder or strive more than others. We want equality across the board. Except for our Democrat politicians who become rich serving in government. Don’t you realize slavery is still alive in the form of food stamps and welfare?

        • disqdude

          Social services are not slavery. Equality should be based on people’s potential, not people’s actions. If you choose to work part-time at McDonald’s, then you don’t deserve economic equality. You still deserve social equality, though. Please note the emphasis on choose, as many fast food workers don’t have the luxury of choosing to have a full-time career.

          The Beverly Hills comparison isn’t particularly relevant. This would be like arguing that all the affordable housing in Marin should be built in Tiburon. Nobody is arguing that. Nor is anybody arguing that rich people should give away their houses. Nice attempt at distraction, though.

          I didn’t claim that socialism is the answer, but since you brought it up, let’s look at socialism in places like Scandinavia. The productivity, wealth, health, and happiness of its residents are undeniable. We could stand to learn something from them. They understand that nothing trickles down in trickle down economics, and the folly of America’s poor is they have been convinced by Republicans that something does.

          • David MySky

            I’ve been with you all along this thread up until you mentioned choosing to work at McD’s. Who chooses to work there? That would be the last place to head up anyone’s list of options. It’s nothing but a last resort.

    • potatoz

      No one said anyone should be forced to move. Artificially limiting housing supply is a problem in and of itself. And having a diverse community is an asset, so the current Marin inhabitants would do well to think about why they seem to be unwelcoming to minorities, even wealthy ones.

    • I just expelled kombucha (OUCH) from my nose at the thought your post put into my head as an image: Someone saying “ROUND THEM UP and make them move to… mansions in Marin.”

      Something’s not right with this entire story. It suffers from lack-of-specifics about anything done in my lifetime or maybe ever to make people coloured anything but white ‘feel unwelcome’ in Marin (unless they happened not to have enough money). The opinion of someone who lives in Illinois, based on generalities, may be interesting but is *not* illustrative. This is KQED’s chance to jump in with more facts, history, and evidence.

  • franko

    lol watch out poor Marin. The eye of Sauron has turned upon you…time to pack the bags again soon

  • Bryan

    What’s with the attack on white people these days? You Liberals are a bunch of race baiting bigots that seem to only want turmoil! Get over it and write something useful for once. You wanna live in Marin? Get rich! Or you can rent a 1 bedroom studio and go broke doing so, like me. It isn’t racism. It’s capitalism. You want the fancy things, better work hard to get em!

    • disqdude

      A complete lack of understanding of systematic racism, and an unwillingness to recognize that the status quo does not do an adequate job of addressing these issues. Exhibit 1.

      • Bryan

        Exhibit 1? Systematic racism. Hahahaha

        Sounds like an easy way to turn yourself into a victim to me. That’s what the Democratic party does. Divide people into groups and turn them on one another. It’s called identity politics. It then allows you guys to demonize anyone with different ideals and you then brand them racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamaphobic, etc. Which then seems to make it alright in your minds to attack us because we are fascists. It’s really quite sad how hard you tow the line for the party of slavery, segregation, Jim Crow, 3 strikes law, etc, etc. Even Obama didn’t do anything for the black community. Chicago looked like Iraq under his 8 years of Presidency. But he was turned into a pop culture icon and is now the hero of the Left. Time will hopefully open your eyes!

        • disqdude

          The Democratic party does not divide. The Republican party does. This is an undeniable fact. Republicans are the ones who are racist, sexist, and economically exclusionary. What Democrats did 50 or 100 years ago is not relevant today. But what Republicans are doing today is. Just look at the POTUS. His track record is disgusting. Nice try with your distractions, though.

          Chicago looks nothing like Iraq. Have you been to Iraq, or do you know people who have served or worked there? I do. The comparison is preposterous.

          In case you think you’re being clever with your attacks on the Democratic party, you aren’t. I am not a Democrat. I am not a Republican. Partisan politics is a joke and does more harm than good in this country. There is plenty of room for people to work outside of traditional partisan labels. After all, that’s how a heavily Democratic state like California could elect and re-elect a Republican governor. I voted for Schwarzenegger in 2006. Did you?

    • potatoz

      Who attacked white people here? There’s a fact: Marin is very white. There’s history: limiting housing supply and historically not feeling welcoming to minorities.

      If you see that as an attack the problem is on your side.

  • Student

    That was a great question. And Bay Curious, I’m glad you took it on.

  • Ellen

    Mr. Ma enrolled his daughters in a school with 72 students, and they were the only Asian students. I’m guessing a school that small was a private school. Perhaps he could have enrolled them in a public school and found more diversity.

    • David MySky

      You’re guessing. Why don’t you come back when you have more to add to the discussion than pure conjecture.

  • disqus_JxA7Fvme5A

    I have lived in Marin for 35 years. My family moved here from Daly City. The house that grew up in (which is no longer in my family) is worth over 1.5 million . My parents were not rich, they were working class, or middle class back then. That’s when Marin was very “white” but not anymore! Come to Novato where I now live. Where I can barely afford a one bedroom apartment; where the majority of my neighbors ate Hispanic. So give me a break OK? There is no way that i, a white person who works full time could EVER afford a house here. The question should be Why is Marin so Hispanic ? I’ve lived here a long time so I can see what’s happened, I don’t need demographic reports to tell me

    • disqdude

      Cool story bro. Just because Marin isn’t as Aryan as the good ol’ days doesn’t mean it isn’t still super white. Even Novato is whiter-than-average for the Bay Area. Move to the Canal and then you’ll see a real Hispanic community, which manages to exist despite Marin’s stereotypical racist leanings that you have so eloquently expressed in your last two sentences.

      • Bryan

        I have worked in the canal and currently work at a roofing company in industrial San Rafael with 90% Mexicans. They all have union jobs, don’t bitch, and not only live in the Canal, but all throughout Marin, Sonoma and the East Bay. You act like there is a sign upon entering Marin that says: “No Minorities Welcome!” When in fact, Marin County is (and has been for a long time) one of the most expensive counties in the state, if not the country! So using common sense, it makes it a little tougher for first or second generation immigrants to suddenly be able to afford a house there. Like I said before, I rent a tiny studio here for quite a bit of money. I choose to pay extra and struggle to be closer to work and to live in a nice area. That’s just the way of the world buddy. I’m white and I am poor. I don’t bitch though, I put my head down and work. Now, I know you’re gonna say that black people have been systematically targeted, and I would agree that in the past things were a lot harder. But the issue now goes way beyond “systematic racism” (by the way, all the talking heads you seem to listen to, they say “systemic”). Social issues within the black community are holding a lot of people back. Fathers leaving homes, violence, drugs. There are plenty of examples of black kids not living that lifestyle and getting out of poverty. Yes, it’s tougher than most have it, but by making yourself a victim you’re already defeated. In today’s world everyone has a chance to live and do what they want. So this notion of systemic racism is ridiculous. People will always have biases, but the world is not as racist as you make it out to be. We just had a black president for 8 years, come on!

        • disqdude

          Which “talking heads” do I listen to? I’m curious who you think I listen to. Maybe I should start listening to some, as I’m not currently.

          Marin County has been a wealthy community for quite some time, but it wasn’t always. It became wealthy because of housing practices that excluded the quantities and types that would support a more diverse population. There’s a reason why even a wealthy area like San Mateo County is substantially more diverse. It didn’t just happen overnight.

          I know many people (including myself) that have lifted themselves out of childhood poverty and made a positive impact on the world. But it is much more difficult for the “victims” of systemic (happy?) racism than white people. Arguably, the only obstacle between a white person and success is perseverance. For others, however, there are a plethora of other obstacles that you aren’t willing to recognize. Knowledge is power, so read up on the issues they face. And feel free to ignore the loudmouths that complain about your trigger words invading their safe spaces. They’re just as fringe to the left as white supremacists like Richard Spencer are to the right.

          • Bryan

            Richard Spencer doesn’t speak for the majority of whites or even white Trump supporters. But you obviously suffer from the victimhood effect. Good luck with that. But maybe if you think this country is so racist you should move elsewhere and see how well that works out… Pretty sure America creates the best opportunity for anyone regardless off race, religion, sexuality, political views, etc. Go to Cuba, Venezula or even Mexico for that matter. You have it so well you don’t even realize. I bet half the immigrants lining up to get here legally would smack you upside the head for bitching so much about how bad you have it. You have no clue. You wanna live in Marin? Make enough money and you can. But I hate Marin. A bunch of hypocritical liberals who try to be the least racist people around, try to satisfy all you, and you attack them! Those are your people man… Don’t blame them for being rich. Instead, ask em to move in… Maybe they’ll welcome you, Syrian “refugees”, and ILLEGAL immigrants into their homes. But probably not. Because like I said, they’re hypocrites. Do yourself a favor and listen to Michael Savage. 560 AM.

          • disqdude

            Did you even read what I wrote? Obviously Richard Spencer doesn’t represent the predominate conservative viewpoint. That’s what I wrote…

            Suggesting I move elsewhere because I think we can be a better country is trite. Please work on your talking points.

            I also didn’t say I have it bad. Your reading comprehension skills really need improvement.

            I don’t want to live in Marin. Have you been there? No thanks! Working there is more than enough for me. It’s dead at night and the restaurants suck.

            I’m okay with Syrian refugees and illegal immigrants. I grew up in San Diego. Totally fine.

          • Bryan

            My reading comprehension needs work? I DO live there! I have said that multiple times. If you don’t wanna live there why fight so hard for some supposed racism that doesn’t exist?

          • David MySky

            I worked and lived in Marin for 17 years and I did not think it was dead, and I also found there were great eateries there, too. Granted, it’s not NYC, LA, or even SF, but the live music that passes through kept me busy and broke. Unless you like to party to 4 in the morning, it’s fine. Except for maybe Novato. Novato was dead and bland.

          • eliauw

            “Do yourself a favor and listen to Michael Savage. 560 AM.”
            That explains the anger and vitriol of Bryan-speak. Parroting the language and half-truths and lies of conservative fake news propaganda shock jock. He even uses the far-right standard of “hypocrite”; he’ll get around to using the term “libtard” when he figures out he’s losing the spotlight. Like so many other Trump acolytes, Bryan acts the victim and blames everyone else but himself for causing his problems. When what little he has left — Social Security, disability, Medicare, his retirement investments, etc. are taken from him by the very government he keeps voting for, he’ll still blame everyone else but himself. No need to listen to Mike Savage. Bryan just repeats the garbage that he spews.

        • And that Black president was supported by a wide majority of Marin voters too.

          • Hillary Clintub

            That’s why they’re called “Limousine Liberals”. They can afford to be liberal toward the peons as long as they don’t have to actually associate with them or let their kids go to school with them. Anyone know how many private school students there are in Marin county compared to, say, San Jose or Oakland?

      • disqus_JxA7Fvme5A

        Dude..I’m a woman. So it’s OK to say why is Marin so white but if I say Hispanic then immediately racist leanings are mentioned. Typical.

        • disqdude

          If you interneted more, you would get the reference.

      • … you just called Novato’s Hispanic community ‘fake’ for not being big enough, apparently.

  • Joe Brant

    Blame restrictive zoning on extreme housing prices. It’s especially pronounced in Marin County because there is so much protected land, but the rest of the Bay Area has the same problem. If cities were allowed to build more densely on existing developed areas, we can protect natural land while creating a more affordable and inclusive Bay Area. There is a huge range of density between today’s Bay Area and something extreme like Hong Kong.

  • Theresa

    One thing the article left out is the restrictive covenants that were part of many of the subdivisions built in Marin in the 50’s and early 60’s. Purchasers had to sign an agreement to not resell their house to anyone who wasn’t “of the white race.” These covenants were later declared illegal, but you can still find them in old records. It happened in suburbs all over the US, not just in Marin. Read “Sundown Towns” by James Loewen http://sundown.tougaloo.edu/sundowntowns.php

    • Now *that’s* interesting, though I would like to see some specific examples. Which subdivisions and what source materials? KQED! Rescue us!

      • Theresa

        I don’t have a lot of data on Marin, but I do know the Sleepy Hollow area in San Anselmo had racial covenants – a friend purchased a home there in the 1980’s and was told he had to sign it even though it no longer was legal to enforce it. Check out the website I posted – it will take a lot of work to really uncover this history.

        • I read over the list of towns on the website you posted, again, and I see (so far as I recognise) only one Marin County town on there: Ross, for which (at http://sundown.tougaloo.edu/sundowntownsshow.php?id=1266)
          it has this to say, under Comments: “A caller to a radio show, September 28, 2005, said Ross was sundown. He used to see black maids at the bus stops, and it was told to him that any blacks
          remaining after sundown would be taken out of the city by the police.” (“Confirmed Sundown Town? Probable”). Interesting anecdote but not what I was hoping the authors of this article would be able to show us.

        • IhateLiberals

          In other words – you’re making stuff up and have nothing to prove your racist point.

    • Odysseus

      This point only makes sense if you think restrictive covenant were more prevalent in Marin than elsewhere.

  • DAS

    At least there is land preservation in Marin. I live in Napa County, and the proliferation of wineries, vineyard expansions, high-end resorts, and fancy restaurants is sickening. And the pace of development not only is continuing, it’s growing. The people making the money and the politicians who serve them don’t seem to mind that the workers and service people needed to keep it all going drive in from other less-expensive counties. Marin County may not have the racial diversity that some would like, but the county deserves credit for retaining so much of its natural environment and beauty.

  • Hillary Clintub

    Sounds like the residents of Marin county, after having invested exorbitant amounts in their land and property, don’t want anything that could devalue those investments…including having poor people moving in. Realtors know that more expensive properties will maintain their market value much better than lower priced properties in nearly all circumstances simply because the price excludes people who would bring the valuations down. Higher priced properties in exclusive locales depreciate less in times of market busts and appreciate more in times of market booms than lower priced properties. If the residents of Marin county let that dam be ruptured by government regulators, it won’t be long before the whole county is covered in low cost apartments and rentals and their conservation efforts will have been for naught. That’s how slums come into being. Back during the silver rights era, realtors called it “block busting”. It’s what set off all the white flight to suburban and rural areas.

    • David MySky

      “[I]t won’t be long before the whole county is covered in low cost apartments and rentals.”

      The county has preserved open space. You can’t build out any more. It’s a peninsula. But open space and solitude are necessary for the human spirit to survive.

      The rich who live there still need restaurant staff, admin assistants, accounting clerks, retail clerks, and on. These people who don’t get paid enough to live there either move out, or start renting illegal units, or pack 2+/bedroom, or end up homeless. Where would you propose they live? They certainly don’t get paid enough to commute from great distances. I moved out after 17 years because I had enough of rising rents. Marin needs more affordable and more dense housing for these people.

      Discussion of owning rental properties overheard in a chichi salon: “I don’t understand why there are so many homeless people around these days.”

      • Hillary Clintub

        That’s what I was pointing out. The residents of Marin county need to decide which they’d rather have, preserved open space or hordes of poor people. They can have one or the other but not both. They’re mutually exclusive.

        • David MySky

          What I’m saying is that preserved open space is a necessity and kudos for the county for having done so.

          But the rich folks who live here are going to need workers to perform all sorts of low paying jobs. The problem is then where to house them. Answer- additional strategically placed high density housing near transit corridors. With out the service class, who would clean their pools, detail their cars, serve their food, take care of their kids, and clean their offices, in addition to the other jobs I previously mentioned. They can’t reasonably expect to live here and not have higher density housing.

  • Marc Monaghan

    I was raised in California, but now live in Chicago. I visit the Bay Area often and love to take hikes in Marin County, but I want to tell you that viewing Marin County from Chicago is a bizarre experience, at least when looking through the lenses of the New York Times, the Bay Area media and Facebook. Through those lenses about the only thing in Marin County that has come into detailed focus during the past 10 or so years is the Drakes Bay Oyster Farm controversy. So, imagine this: A man sitting at home on the south side of Chicago with the sounds of gunfire in the distance almost every night, safe because of his demographics and inherent privilege, reading about arguments over oysters in Marin County. Surreal. It is no surprise that Marin County is so White.

  • Well, speaking as a Black person who could afford to live in Marin, but chooses not to, I think this article is spot on.

    It could go further in elucidating some of its points, but there is nothing here that doesn’t jibe with my personal experience and that I’ve heard from many others.

    I have one friend who bought in Mill Valley many years ago and said she realized she was the only Black person she’d ever see around and about when she moved there, but assumed over time other Blacks would come. Decades later and she’s still waiting. She wanted me to move there. Bah! People are too hostile when I’m just visiting to meet up with friends (usually White friends). No way I’d make that my 24-7.

    Instead I live in the East Bay, where there is a tremendous amount of diversity in my neighborhood and I always feel like I blend in and know I’m welcome by all the warm greetings as I walk down the street. It’s a pretty well-off neighborhood (easily 80% owner-occupied) with a very low crime rate and easy access to a Regional park, with the option of a short drive to BART to get into SF or just driving most places you might want to go here in the East Bay. Life is good. Marin can stay White as far as I’m concerned. It’s their loss, whether they realize it or not.

    • Hillary Clintub

      Yep. Birds of a feather and all that. It’s perfectly natural for people to want to segregate themselves with their own kind. It’s why we still have HBCs. too. Wish there were more HWCs around today.

      • David MySky

        I think most of America these days is HWC.

    • SenorMartillo

      So it sounds like we’re all in agreement then? Sweet.

  • Decades of experience taught me the hard way who to avoid.

  • Todd Berman

    I expected there to be mentions of laws that restricted where Chinese Americans could live – they were forced off of farms and into Chinatown, I think around the turn of the century – and some mention of red-lining practices by banks.

    • Hillary Clintub

      Were the Chinese FORCED into Chinatown or did they congregate there because they found life easier among their own kind? In my experience of California – and the U.S. in general – there are many ethnic communities, both urban and rural, that were started by single ethnic groups and remained that way for decades simply because the residents preferred it that way. They had their common language, their common religions, their common values and even their common commercial traditions.

      • Todd Berman

        Sure, partly grouping together for comfort, but also for safety. There was a long history of racist violence in the west.


        • Hillary Clintub

          There’s a long history of racist violence all over the world. Genghis Khan was no slouch at racist violence himself. The history of all civilization is dominate or be dominated.

    • Odysseus

      You have that exactly backwards. The Chinese settled in Chinatown. After the Exclusion Act, many were welcomed in to (then-rural) San Rafael. Many took up shrimp farming in what is now called China camp.

  • Unite_Blue

    Nobody thinks this article in pure blatant racism? How about this title. “Why is Marion County so black?” Why is it everywhere blacks go, it’s a 3rd world cesspool? Edgy my @ss. Pandering Cultural Marxist BS.

  • johngardner

    Surprised no one has advanced the excuse that places like Malibu and Santa Barbara (or, closer to home, Napa Valley, Berkeley Hills, Danville, etc.) have been stealing away minorities who would otherwise settle in Marin.

    Great article!

  • Odysseus

    Vapid. Marin is a very expensive place to live. Seems the author is looking for racism where there is none.
    By the way, China Camp in San Rafael has some great history. Marin welcomed Chinese who wanted to leave SF following the Exclusion Acts.

    Or maybe the author just doesn’t like white people, or safe neighborhoods.


Ericka Cruz Guevarra

Ericka Cruz Guevarra is an on-call interactive producer for KQED News. She was an intern with NPR’s Code Switch team in Washington, D.C., where she assisted with production for the Code Switch podcast. Ericka was also KQED’s first Raul Ramirez Diversity Fund intern, and is an alumna of NPR’s Next Generation Radio project at member station KJZZ in Phoenix. She currently studies international relations at San Francisco State University. You can follow her on Twitter @erkagvra or email her at ecruzguevarra@kqed.org

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