Tanvi Misra is a staff writer for CityLab covering immigrant communities, housing, economic inequality, and culture. She also authors Navigator, a weekly newsletter for urban explorers (subscribe here). Her work also appears in The Atlantic, NPR, and BBC.
While diversity in the outer Bay Area is rising, its core county is getting more homogenous.
San Francisco's share of people of color is declining, while diversity in every other Bay Area county is climbing, according to a new demographic profile of the region released by the social equity group PolicyLink. The report predicts that by 2040, San Francisco will be the whitest county in the region—a startling difference from the 1980s, when the city was an island of diversity in an otherwise homogenous region.
"Its startling because the city’s diversity and identity as a progressive, inclusive city is seriously at-risk," says Sarah Treuhaft, director of Equitable Growth Initiatives at PolicyLink, and a San Franciscan. "In fact, an honest look at the data show it is becoming a mirage."
Since that time, the Bay Area (defined here as the five-county metro) has seen a dramatic increase in its share of minorities: people of color made up 68 percent in 2010, up from 34 percent in 1980. Today, all counties except Marin contain a majority of people of color. By 2040, while the share of minority racial groups will continue to rise in San Mateo, Alameda, and Contra Costa counties, it will decline in San Francisco.
One of the most talked-out reasons for this trend is the Bay Area's tech-boom-induced gentrification. According to Governing magazine, 28 percent of the city's Census tracts were gentrifying between 1990 and 2000, with 19 percent gentrifying since 2000. The city has become so ridiculously expensive that even white, middle-class residents—typically considered gentrifiers in other cities—can't afford to live there, writes Ilan Greenberg in The New Republic.
Here's Greenberg on how the city's high cost-of-living has changed the focus of the discussion around displacement:
Here, the debate is dominated by fierce new champions of the anti-gentrification cause who aren't concerned so much about the truly poor being forced from—or tempted out of—their neighborhoods. In their view, the victims of gentrification are also affluent, just less so than the people moving in. And the consequences are supposedly catastrophic not only to these relatively well-off people who are living amidst people even more well-off, but a mortal threat to nothing less than the rebel soul of San Francisco.
Just today, the Associated Press is reporting that the city's sky-high rents have risen another 15 percent. For the "truly poor"—often the people of color in this area—the invisible wall keeping them out just got a bit stronger.