In January, Katie Hymans started looking for a new home with a yard. Her family wasn’t under pressure to leave their little box of an apartment near Piedmont Avenue, but “I was also aware that prices seemed to be slowly increasing,” she recalled.

Hymans told the story of friends who rented a newly-built townhouse in the Temescal District. Because it was not subject to rent control, they found their rent increasing from the original $2,300 to $2,500. When the landlord slapped them with another increase at the beginning of this year — to $2,900 — they were forced to move. They found what she described as a “tiny 2-bedroom” in a less walkable and less safe neighborhood.

On the flipside of Oakland’s real estate boom is a rental market that threatens to push out the artists, musicians, and dreamers, along with communities of color that give Oaktown its flavor. Oakland was recently ranked the 8th most expensive city in the U.S. and the 7th most expensive city for renters, although its median income is slightly below the United States’ average.

The squeeze on renters comes on top of a seismic demographic shift in Oakland over the last decade. Census data from 2000 and 2010 shows Oakland’s white population increasing by about 10% while the black population decreased by almost 22%. Families with children were forced out of the city during that time, too, as the under-18 population shrank by 15%.

“We are hearing that the economy is picking up again, which you would think would be a good thing for people to be able to afford housing,” said Gloria Bruce, Deputy Director of East Bay Housing Organizations (EBHO), but “housing costs have always outstripped growth in income.”

Low-income Oakland renters are especially vulnerable to housing market fluctuations because of Oakland’s lax rent-control regulations. “What always happens during the booms in the real estate market, especially here in the Bay Area, is evictions go up,” said Robbie Clark, Regional Housing Rights Campaign Lead Organizer for Causa Justa/Just Cause (CJJC), a nonprofit that assists low-income residents with tenant and foreclosure issues.

“We understand that displacement is a result of gentrification and that gentrification is caused by systems and the economy” on a global level, said Clark. “One of the most noticeable things that we have seen on the ground is the conditions that a lot of low-income people of color are living in.” Clark noted that, because Oakland landlords can legally pass on the cost of repairs and capital improvements, tenants might keep silent about poor living conditions for fear of a rent increase. “What’s been true for a while is a lot of the older buildings in Oakland have not been properly maintained,” she said.

New construction of affordable housing, like the 90-unit Mural project that recently broke ground next to MacArthur BART, is “a drop in the bucket,” according to Bruce. While the project will provide much-needed housing to low-income residents, “the challenge is that that new building is part of a larger development” which will include market-rate units and could lead to gentrification, according to Bruce. “We have to make sure that the people living next door to that brand new building don’t see their rents go up.”

The biggest problem with new affordable housing is that there isn’t nearly enough of it. With the end of redevelopment, Bruce said, California “lost the biggest state source of affordable housing funding.” She added, “We’re still looking for the golden ticket.”

The City of Oakland has taken a big step to improve its assistance to residents dealing with housing crises by opening a one-stop Housing Assistance Center. The city wanted to create a place “where [residents] could go in and tell their story one time and not have to tell it over and over,” said Michele Byrd, Director of the Department of Housing and Community Assistance.

“Regardless of your situation, there are alternatives,” said Byrd. “We understand that just coming in is a big step, so we try to provide that individual with the services they need immediately.” She noted that the Housing Assistance Center follows up with everyone who reaches out to them. “We want to make sure that person has not fallen through the cracks.”

Hymans’ story has a happy ending: her family moved to a 3-bedroom apartment with a yard in June and they are “loving it.” Recalling her campaign to win the Dimond District unit, she said, “We took the tactic of doing a cover letter,” to promote her family to the owner. “We did try to negotiate,” Hymans said, but the landlady wouldn’t budge on the rent — not with 80 other applicants in line for the same apartment.

36 Responses

  1. John Garvey

    This topic seems to flow quickly from people interested in social justice, but we don’t define anything about Oakland that is changing. What communities are you talking about? — the 50% that live in the hills in stable, change-free neighborhoods or in the flat lands which have in the last century been the entry point for people seeking to live somewhere in the bay area. Are you talking about the influx of latino or hispanic residents who are living in East Oakland, a traditionally black or african american neighborhood? Perhaps you are referring to Asian residents who are living in eastlake and san antonio; another white then black or african-american neighborhood.

    But removing the reference to ‘white’ people taking over black neighborhoods (always a good story), maybe we should examine the process that we deliver housing, especially affordable housing. If we don’t like the way the market changes rents or home prices, if we don’t like using financial mechanisms to provide affordable housing, we need to disconnect housing from the market and invest in local ownership.

  2. Marcus

    I’m a landlord in Oakland and I have some tenants on Section 8. I’m amazed how they have never worked a day in their lives and how the government has taken care of them for decades.

    Why couldn’t I be that fortunate? I am a renter in San Francisco myself and I Oakland is very affordable. My 2 bedrooms in the Fruitvale area go for $1,300 per month. That means if a person making 30K per year can afford a roommate situation in Oakland. Considering minimum wage is 15K-20K per year, you basically need to make a bit more than minimum wage to afford a decent apartment in Oakland. Considering Oakland is a skip and jump away from the 2 best city in America San Francisco, I think renting in Oakland is a great bang for your buck.

  3. Terry Christian

    I’d like to piggy back on John Garvey’s point: when you set up the white’s up/black’s down narrative, it somehow seems clear there’s a major problem. But when you actually look at everyone in Oakland, you notice increasing populations of Asians and Latinos as well. Are rising Asian and Latino communities “problems” that need to be “solved?”?

  4. Fernan Gabriel

    Census data from 2000 and 2010 shows Oakland’s white population increasing by about 10% while the black population decreased by almost 22%. Families with children were forced out of the city during that time, too, as the under-18 population shrank by 15%.

    Someone wrote about the latter a decade ago, and said that that was the reason for the state takeover of the school district. The writer coined the phenomenon “Jerryfication.”

  5. Len Raphael

    Rents are booming but but construction of new rental or owner occupied units is not booming the way it is in SF. The prices of condos and single family houses did boom and bubble for a few months this past spring and then leveled off.

    Doubt that much of the why of that is from the end of Redevelopment money because the bulk of lower rent housing was always provided by private landlords here. Same with the definite effect in the last few months of Federal sequestration cutbacks on Section 8. If anything, the cuts in Section 8 should reduce rents because Sect 8 pays landlords market rates.

    Some part of the increase in rents is the increase in the proportion of affluent residents who then bid up rents. But that median income info from 2010 is either out of date or simply isn’t the stat to use to measure that change in behavior of above median income residents to renting instead of buying. A higher percentage of them either can’t/won’t buy single family houses or condos but will rent.

  6. Laura McCamy

    Great observations about demographic changes mentioned in the article (rise in white population and drop in the number of black residents). I didn’t mention other racial/ethnic groups because the changes over the same period were negligible and didn’t seem significant.

    I agree that the issue is much more nuanced – one could probably write a book about the changing face of Oakland over the years and I only had enough space to touch the surface.

    Perhaps the most telling demographic is the 15% reduction in the under-18 population. That indicates Oakland is less appealing to families with children. Whether this is because they are priced out of the market (the landlord who responded noted that his 2-bedroom apartment is affordable for roommates, but it would be harder for a low income family to swing enough space for their children) or because of increasing violence or other factors is a great question and a subject for additional research.

  7. fernan gabriel

    Jerry Brown ran for mayor on a platform that promised to bring 10,000 hipsters to Oakland. Condos sprang up like weeds. Families don’t tend to live in condos. It’s not rocket science. Oakland is very much like it was specifically planned to be.

    • Blue Panther

      Well what else did you expect to get built in downtown Oakland? Suburban ranch houses with yards and white picket fences?

  8. Andrea

    “On the flipside of Oakland’s real estate boom is a rental market that threatens to push out the artists, musicians, and dreamers, along with communities of color that give Oaktown its flavor. ”
    people of color are sprinkles that you shake over a city for flavor. Why is every article recently discussing the fate of Oakland shared through a limiting and non-representative perspective?

  9. Observant One

    Hi, Oakland has a higher median household income than NY, Boston and many other cities that are considered more expensive than Oakland is.

  10. Phillip

    Fernan / Everyone,

    I don’t really understand all the things you’re trying to say. Here’s just a couple questions, that if answered, would clear things up for me.

    1. I assume J-Brown didn’t say “I will bring 10,000 hipsters to Oakland”. What did he actually say/do to make this happen?

    2. What’s a hipster? It seems like that word is thrown around a bit too much as a stereotype. Is that white folk? Upper middle class? Folks who dress a certain way? People with mustaches? I really don’t know anymore.

    3. What do y’all think of my numbers which came from the same census data:
    White folks +7.93% (+9,912)
    Black folks -23.16% (-32,989)
    Asian folks +8.15% (+4,960)
    Hispanic folks +13.23% (+11,601)

    What do y’all think?
    So the Hispanic grew most percentage-wise, and by actual count. To me, the biggest points of interest are the extreme number of African Americans leaving as well as the shrink populate for those under 18. Not so much, the white increase.

    Honestly, it’d be awesome if anyone could answer any one of these questions.

  11. livegreen

    The 2000 Census shows Oakland had a population of about 399,000 people. The 2010 Census shows Oakland had a population of about 390,000 people.

    So about 9,000 people (presumably mostly african americans) were replaced by…nobody.

    So AT LEAST about 1/3 of the african americans weren’t being pushed out by anybody. So…why’d they leave?

    The gentrification argument is missing at least 1/3 of the point.

  12. Terry Christian

    1) The citywide demographic stats are meaningless, Laura, when the focus should be at the neighborhood level. For example, West Oakland has seen growth in the Latino population that, at least last census around, was an issue of concern to African Americans, before, I guess, the whites came around to be an issue of concern to African Americans. Look it up

    2) Continuing to see Oakland as a black and white city is just plain dumb. I suppose the only people who matter are those who can only speak English. I mean, Laura, come on: look at your friends! (I dont even know you, and Im assuming you have friends who are neither white nor black–who doesnt?)

    3) Again (and again): people leave Oakland voluntarily. I know it is hard to believe, but people of all ethnicities somehow bring themselves to leave this paradise on earth by choice.

    4) Also, there is no–repeat no–analysis anywhere (not anecdote, but analysis) of whether people who leave Oakland, voluntarily or not, end up happier (even if they didnt want to leave in the first place). There are these presumptions, like the one that sees people priced out of Oakland sitting around isolated and alienated all day just totally incapacitated because they arent living in West Oakland anymore, that are completely untested, or, at best, based on one or two people. There’s far less concern, i think, for those poor who continue to live here than there appears to be (by keystrokes, anyway) for those who may (or may not) be “displaced.”

  13. R2D2II

    Thanks to Terry Christian for asking the right kinds of questions which cannot be answered given the usual data available like census data. I’ve assumed that the relatively large drop in our AA population over the past decade is an indication that AAs who can afford to move out of the more violent neighborhoods are doing so. This assumption might not be accurate.

  14. fernan gabriel

    1) Jerry Brown’s campaign centered on his “10K” plan – he promised to bring 10,000 new residents to downtown. Obviously, he was talking about people with money who didn’t need an extra room for children. You can only add that many people if you build large condo developments, and you see that Brown was successful at that. Those condos target a particular demographic, and it ain’t about race. In order to attract people from that demographic to downtown Oakland, Brown (and Harris before him to a degree) had to eradicate the thing that people from that demographic fear the most: poor people.
    2) The people who say that hipsters are white are basically hipsters who aren’t white, or white people who feel a lot of white-guilt. I don’t know what the official definition of hipster is, but I know a TON of non-white people whom I would consider to be hipsters.
    3) Those stats you posted look exactly like gentrification.

    The real issue isn’t white versus black. The issue is poor against rich. In this particular case, it was poor families against young rich single people who could support a major nightlife-based economic boom within the context of a dense, compacted population. I’m not opposed to economic development in Oakland, but let’s be real, that development has specifically come at the expense of poor families, many of whom were black.

    Just look at all the development around the old Kaiser Civic Auditorium by the lake. There are two buildings standing in the way of that area being completely rejuvenated: The Auditorium and the old OUSD headquarters. Well, thanks to Brown’s 10K plan, OUSD doesn’t really need their old HQ building anymore…

  15. OaklandNative

    Christian,you wrote:

    “Also, there is no–repeat no–analysis anywhere (not anecdote, but analysis) of whether people who leave Oakland, voluntarily or not, end up happier (even if they didnt want to leave in the first place). There are these presumptions, like the one that sees people priced out of Oakland sitting around isolated and alienated all day just totally incapacitated because they arent living in West Oakland anymore, that are completely untested, or, at best, based on one or two people. There’s far less concern, i think, for those poor who continue to live here than there appears to be (by keystrokes, anyway) for those who may (or may not) be “displaced.”

    Of course there is no such study. However, that does not mean the realities don’t exist.

    The truth is, you don’t want to believe it, so you would not. No study will prove anything to you.

    I know many African American natives (yes, let’s talk about race) who miss Oakland. They miss their churches, communities, families, friends, etc. Who would do a study? It’s based on my relationships.

    Part of the problem with gentrification is people like you have no connection with us. You don’t want to. You think you already have the answers–even when we tell you our experiences are different.

    Gabriel is trying to distract from the discussion of race by denying hipsterism and white skin privilege. What can be more cool than trying to deny one’s privilege?

    Brown’s 10K Plan was clearly part of marketing to whites (oops, we don’t see race).

  16. fernan gabriel

    nice meltdown “native,” but please don’t ever put words in my mouth, especially when they are the complete opposite of what I actually said. it’s not my fault it went way above your head.
    google “jerryfication” and get a clue as to where my perspective came from.

  17. Tim

    “. . . that development has specifically come at the expense of poor families, many of whom were black.”

    There weren’t many residents of any sort in Uptown before JB started getting apartments and condos built. There are still umpteen empty lots and parking lots suitable for development that can be built on without displacing anyone. Yes new development will probably involve increasing rents in neighborhoods, but so will any improvements that make Oakland a nicer place to live. That’s not a good reason to oppose development.

  18. fernan gabriel

    That’s why i specifically said that i’m not against economic development…the part of the sentence that you conveniently did not include in the quote.

    also, please read previous posts of mine above. it’s not about the actual land that was developed, there was a larger campaign of making the 10,000 newcomers feel “safe” by displacing as many poor people as possible throughout the entire city (but mostly radiating out from the downtown core).

    there’s also a whole nother aspect to this that i hadn’t discussed, which is the years of corruption that helped keep such otherwise prime real estate at bargain prices for the politically connected developers…but i don’t have time to get into all that.

    real oaklanders know what is going on. and it isn’t new.

  19. Terry Christian


    That is just the point: I am not talking about your anecdotal experience–or mine for that matter–Im talking about trying to find out what is actually happening. This is possible, although it takes effort. I am sorry you know people who miss Oakland. I know people who dont. Does that mean there’s no reality, since our “experiences” cancel each other out? Of course not.

    I only ask these questions because there is this idea that “something must be done” about displacement. The question, then, is “what?” and “will it work?” If its government action, one must ask whether government can do anything to address the problem. That means analysis of some kind at some time (ideally), not spending time and money because of people’s individual “experiences.”

    Sorry; its true. If someone told me that they were the first in their generation to earn enough money to buy a house and send their kids to college because they made money dealing in predatory lending and subprime mortgages, that wouldnt make it OK, just because I dont share their “experience.”. “Experiences” are overrated, at least as a justification for public policy, and the unwillingness to look at hard data and ask tough questions is a major stumbling block for progressive/radical politics.

    And, OaklandNative, you dont know me, so check before you talk about who I know.

  20. BayMetro

    Terry Christian,

    In response to your second post here, I’d like to offer some answers to your propositions:

    1) The Citywide demographics are actually quite meaningful, as they, contrary to what you insinuated, are directly connected to what’s going on at the neighborhood level. The neighborhoods that comprise West Oakland, for instance, were almost exclusively Black for the last four decades. As that neighborhood has gentrified, we have seen a significant decrease in the Black population in that section of the city that would have a direct effect on why the percentage of Blacks in Oakland at the 2010 census was significantly less than 2000’s.

    I also highly doubt the increase in Latino population in the 2000s was a big “issue of concern” for most African-Americans in West Oakland. For one, West Oakland was actually the first cultural hub for Latinos even before it became that for Blacks. Secondly, even with the increase of Black WWII workers who settled in Oakland, there was always at least a stable Latino community in W. Oakland. Thirdly, West Oakland is home to the largest concentration of Oakland Housing Authority housing projects in the city. With this density, there have always been Latinos, Asians, Middle-Easterners, etc. that have lived in these projects. An argument insinuating Black vs. Latino angst would work much better in a place like LA, but in Oakland, the two groups have had a far too harmonious relationship for an argument like that to be taken seriously.

    2) You’re right; Oakland never has been, and never will be, just a Black and White city. However, because Oakland has had the most substantial and celebrated Black population in the Bay Area for decades, and because it has been the Black cultural center of Northern California, you can’t expect for people not to be astonished (and even concerned) at just how fast this particular population’s numbers have diminished in such a short period of time. It would be dumb to overlook the important distinction Oakland has had (and still has) as being a cultural HUB for African-Americans, and why many are concerned about this groups future.

    3) Sure, people do leave Oakland voluntarily. But people also leave Oakland because they can no longer afford to live there due to a new population’s presence in some neighborhoods. Leaving somewhere because you don’t want to be there anymore is voluntary. Leaving somewhere because you were priced out is NOT voluntary.

    4) True. There isn’t an analysis on why people leave Oakland or if it’s voluntary/involuntary or if their new home makes them happier. But there IS history, and trends, and, as much as you may want to neglect it, EXPERIENCE that can and should influence discussion on a policy level of how rising rents affect low-income communities. If a neighborhood that historically has been home to low-income residents is suddenly experiencing a rapid and unprecedented rise in residential rents, maybe we can look into what trend is occurring and see how to protect these citizens who inevitably will be pushed out of that particular neighborhood. I’m not pushing for the repeal of AB 1164 or anything, but there is work that can be done to protect long term citizens who become victims to the market.

  21. BayMetro

    “I’d like to piggy back on John Garvey’s point: when you set up the white’s up/black’s down narrative, it somehow seems clear there’s a major problem. But when you actually look at everyone in Oakland, you notice increasing populations of Asians and Latinos as well. Are rising Asian and Latino communities “problems” that need to be “solved?”?”

    I agree that a “white’s up/black’s down” narrative is not good to use, but you also need to look at how the change in demographics affect certain neighborhoods, and why and where Asians and Latinos have had significant increases.

    West, North, and East Oakland have all seen declines in their Black population, but in my estimation, for different reasons. Asians seem to have grown most in the area from Lake Merritt to about 40th Ave (the neighborhood I grew up in near 35th Avenue, went from all Black to literally almost all Asian with the exception of a few houses). While Latinos have grown significantly in the area of East Oakland from about 50th Ave to the Oakland/San Leandro border. While these two group’s growth in these areas does not negate their growth in other areas, it is clear to anyone who has spent a considerable amount of time in Oakland that the most significant growth of Asians and Latinos has happened in the neighborhoods that comprise the area of East Oakland between Lake Merritt and the San Leandro border (where they’ve had a large population for decades, albeit not as large as African-Americans). The interesting thing about this area is it is home to a substantially greater number of 1930s and 40s style tract houses, which most often are generic and void of much character. Fine houses, but no where near as highly sought after as the Victorians we now revere in the Bay Area. Where are many of the Victorians located in Oakland? In the West and North sections of the city. Which sections of Oakland are seeing the biggest increase in the number of Whites? The West and North sections of the city.

    Of course, the biggest factor in all of this is not Victorian houses, but the proximity of West and North Oakland to the trendy cities of San Francisco and Berkeley. But to say that the increase of Asians and Latinos (who in Oakland’s case, are largely working-class) has the same ramifications as the increase of Whites in the city doesn’t add up to what history has told us.

    Anyway, I’ve said all this to say that there is a bigger difference in middle-income people (of all races) moving into a neighborhood than a population of generally low-income people (of all races) moving into a neighborhood. Very few neighborhoods in East Oakland have been accused of gentrifying. Yet, all of West Oakland and much of North Oakland are indeed gentrifying. Who is this gentrification driven by? Who is this gentrification driving out? In the absence of analysis, numbers will have to do. And the numbers are suggesting that at least some of the city’s loss in Black population is attributable to the rise in rents gentrification has brought.

  22. Terry Christian

    So, if we need to protect “long term” residents (and how long is “long term” by the way) from rent increases that displace them, what, exactly, do you recommend? I tell you what I recommend: strengthening rent control. This means not only increasing funding for the Rent Board here in Oakland, and perhaps institute some reforms related to debt service and capital improvement pass throughs, but also having the political courage and organizing ability to challenge AB 1164 (that bill eliminated the right of cities to control rents between tenancies, for all those who dont know) and reform the Ellis Act in Sacramento.

    There is nothing, repeat nothing, else that can be done to minimize/mitigate displacement. You cannot build enough affordable housing, you cannot discourage people to move here, and you will not somehow save poor people by killing development projects. You will not shame people enough through art, or spoken word, or graffiti or blog posts or whatever to keep them from coming. Until I see all of this anti-displacement energy channeled into actual political and policy work on rent control and tenants rights issues, Ill refuse to take it seriously.

    What Ive learned from nearly two decades here is that there is so much talk, and no action, on this issue. It just gets so tiresome, hearing all the same stuff year after year. Not enough people–or enough serious people–really care about this issue, frankly.

    Thats my experience, anyway.

  23. Len Raphael

    Not politically likely to repealing the state and local laws which allow buyers who owner occupy to evict tenants below a certain age, not handicapped etc.

    Eliminating the debt service and improvement “loopholes” in local rent control is much more politically feasible but I don’t see how the social benefits of encouraging a bigger supply of worn out, crummy, low density housing stock that keeps rents lower outweigh the benefits of increasing the proportion of affluent residents that can afford the property and sales taxes needed to fund public education and other public services which particularly hurt lower income residents.

    Maybe increasing funding for rent control enforcement and education is needed. No idea how efficiently they use the money they get now in that city dept.

    But trying to use rent control to do anything more than slow gentrification, is as ineffective as using a garden hose to put out a forest fire and arguably does more harm than good to the remaining lower income residents.

  24. livegreen

    Earlier I pointed to the fact that Oakland has lost about 9,000 people. So about 1/3 of the African American population that left has been replaced by nobody. No gentrification there.

    The JB sponsored condos DT & UT did not replace poor people. As Tim said there weren’t many residents of any kind where these condos are now. Given that DT/UT have gained over 9,000 people, that’s another 9,000 people who’ve moved here and…Displaced almost nobody!

    If we presume the people who’ve moved into the condos are mostly white then that counts for ABOUT ALL of the white increase in population.

    So white gentrification is almost zero. Wrong hypothesis. Something else explains the departure of African Americans who left between 2000 and 2010.

  25. Len Raphael

    Another missing piece of data would be the age, income and net worth stats for the departed African Americans vs the people who stayed. There is some anecdotal about shift of people on Section 8 to Stockton and Pittsburg/Baypoint. But there is also anecdotal of departures of retired middle class who sold homes at nice gains and moved to Nevada or Southern US.

    Did the more affluent leave and the poorer ones remain? Remaining lower income residents might have adjusted to higher rents by doubling and tripling up in existing housing.

  26. R2D2IIr

    “Something else explains the departure of African Americans who left between 2000 and 2010.”

    Among my A.A. friends and co-workers, many who can afford to have moved out of Oakland to the farther-flung suburbs. Bigger houses for less money and far less shooting. Almost worth the big commutes to work.

  27. BayMetro

    ‘Earlier I pointed to the fact that Oakland has lost about 9,000 people. So about 1/3 of the African American population that left has been replaced by nobody. No gentrification there.”

    I noticed. And it was as ridiculous an argument when you posted it the first time as it was the second time.

    First off, how can you say for certain that all 9,000 people who presumably left Oakland from 2000 to 2010 were “1/3” of the number of African-Americans who departed? Undoubtedly, at least some of that number was African-American, but to assume all 9,000 of those people were/are African-American has absolutely no credibility.

    If we do the math, it breaks down to something like this:

    Oakland Demographics 2000/2010:

    2000 Black population: 142,460
    2010 Black population: 109,471
    Change in number: -32,989

    2000 White population: 125,013
    2010 White population: 134,925
    Change in number: +9,912

    2000 Asian population: 60,851
    2010 Asian population: 65,811
    Change in number: +4,960

    2000 Latino Population: 87,467
    2010 Latino Population: 99,068
    Change in number: +11,601

    Combined gains for Hawaiian/Pac. Islander & Native Americans = +585
    Combined gains for ‘Others’ = +6,786

    Loss of Blacks from 2000-2010: -32,989
    Combined gain for non-Blacks/’Others’ from 2000-2010 = +33,844

    So based on YOUR theory, all of the departed Blacks HAVE actually been replaced.

    So why were there allegedly 9,000 less people in Oakland in 2010 than 2000? Well, here is a more reasonable explanation:

    Undocumented immigrants, who most often are not counted in the census, tend to live in cities illegally regardless of citizenship status. Since there are thousands of undocumented immigrants estimated to be living in the City of Oakland, it would make sense why there would be a huge undercount in population. 9,000 less people by census data does not mean 9,000 less people in actuality. If you’re assuming all 9,000 presumably departed people are African-American, than all that means is those Blacks were no longer in Oakland to be counted. It DOES NOT mean that they “were not replaced”.

  28. livegreen

    BayMetro, In disagreeing there’s no need to add demeaning adjectives, like at a City Council meeting. Your arguments should be able to stand on the points you make.

    I agree the point I’m making is that one doesn’t replace the other.

    We’re talking about a net loss of population and there’s simply no way 9000 added whites displaced 30,000 african americans.

    You might or might not be right about latinos not being counted in the census, but latinos are not gentry or gentrifiers.

    Thus, either way you break it down, my arguments that there are other reasons for the loss of Oakland’s african american population stick.

  29. BayMetro


    The problem with your argument is that you’re saying that there is “no gentrification” affecting the loss of Black population. The other problem is that you’re claiming that at least “1/3” (which in this case would be more like 11,000, not 9,000 since 33/3 = 11) of the departed Blacks weren’t replaced or gentrified out. Again, the problem with that is you totally assume that all 9,000 of the possibly departed residents are African-American, and that the lesser number of people means Blacks have not been replaced.

    That type of argument works in Detroit; that city’s population continues to strongly decline as does its housing stock. There is no immigration boom that replaces the lost population. All things that are opposite of what’s really going on in Oakland.

    Has gentrification affected all 33,000 Blacks ex-Oaklanders? No. There are many factors that have contributed to the decline. We all know that some Black families sold their lucrative Oakland homes to buy cheaper homes in the periphery while pocketing the difference. We also know that Blacks everywhere in the West and Northeast are following the national trend of moving South. There are some Black families who left Oakland to escape crime. But the thing about all of these factors that get ignored is that many non-Blacks are doing the EXACT same thing. It is becoming difficult to live in the inner Bay Area for almost all working-class folks.

    So acknowledging those factors, it would be unfair to ignore another prominent factor, which is that gentrification by its very nature drives out low-income communities which more often happen to be People of Color. Acknowledging that isn’t an attack on Whites; it isn’t even suggesting Whites are the only gentrifiers. But to try to take gentrification out of the equation as to why Oakland has lost some of its Black population seems to be nothing more than self-absolution.

  30. livegreen


    Re. the net loss of 9,000 people, I used the word “about” for a reason.
    Also I’m talking about the net loss of people. All others ethnicities have gained population, so those who left from any one ethnicity were more than made up for by those who replaced them, bought their houses (from their ethnicity or another) or moved into new housing stock.

    You are acknowledging some of these other factors, but many others are not. This article does not. They posit that the loss of the african american population is gentrification. That’s it. That’s simply wrong.

    You say “the problem with my argument is that there is ‘no gentrification’ affecting the lost of black population”. I didn’t say that. I said there’s no gentrification where there’s a net loss of 9,000 Oakland residents.

    I agree with you there are many reasons african americans, LIKE OTHERS, have left Oakland. And I agree with some of the specific reasons you give like buying cheaper homes and fleeing high crime. Another important reason you left out is the poor state of education (even if it’s now slowly improving — too long & too late for many people of all races).

    The #’s show these reasons are as important as gentrification during the last decade, if not more so.

    Yet this article and many media conversations focus on ONLY the one. Well, it’s not that simple. Oakland Local should know better, but it’s not reporting on the others because it doesn’t fit it’s pre-determined ideology.

    PS. Now that the recession has ended, and prices are now going up, gentrification could become an even bigger factor than it was. But the others are still there and the city is still not solving those issues either.

  31. Len Raphael

    You can have the most vibrant culture and tight knit community but your kids and grand kids can’t get a decent education and decent jobs, or have to worry about getting shot walking to school or playing outside, for whose sake are you fighting to preserve the lower income portion of Oakland’s African American community?

  32. Born in Oakland

    A similar, but much more civil, discussion of population and neighborhood change in Oakland from three months ago.

  33. rayon

    Additional comments on demographic changes.

    African American census data:
    1990 – 163,526
    2000 – 142,460
    2010 – 109,471

    Oakland’s AfAm population declined by 1/3 over 20 years. If this has continued since, then we can say that the decline has been going on for 1/4 of a century.

    Families “forced out” by high rents? That’s certainly part of it. But, also, families want better lives for their children – better schools, a safer environment. I assume that much of the outward migration has been to buy homes in the suburbs and more remote communities.

  34. B Baxter

    Its interesting how people responding are trying to hide the obvious behind some sort of pseudo-intellectual “high level” debate – none of which is answering the questions posed, none of it quantifiable, none of it substantiated by any authoritative person or data. Pure personal perspectives thinly disguised as opposing views.

    The fact is, plainly from someone who has been in Oakland since 1972, raised here and has family who has also made their home in Oakland – grew up in the OUSD and has personal experience on the street level with every neighborhood and walk of life in Oakland since that time to today is the prevailing reason lower income people have moved out is gentrification and that gentrification has been a (known) ground zero target to get Blacks out of Oakland to make affluent Whites more comfortable to move here. Rent prices has been a very effective tool to achieve this other methods just were not strong enough (red-lining Black neighborhoods, letting the schools dilapidate and fail; allowing crime to proliferate; removing services from Black areas; removing social programs; providing no employment support / training, etc. – all failed to get low income Blacks out of Oakland) raising rent was what did it. Any time you raise rent on people who are not making more income, of course they are going to move out, you gave them no other choice! THIS WAS FORCED, NOT VOLUNTARY.

    Rent is the most expensive yet unavoidable bill a family can have – it is rent that makes people stay or leave an area. City planners knew what they were doing when they devised this – it came like a hammer over the heads of low income families (not just poor, but also working poor / lower class). There is no benefit to paying the ridiculous rents in Oakland right now – but maybe in the future, after the City Council and Oakland gets its backfire from turning its backs on needy residents – and finds those positions “gentrified” too. They could get away with their bumbling ways and foolishness with the former population – but they might have stabbed themselves in the neck by replacing them with a much less tolerant of stupidity crowd – and find themselves voted out replaced by… “hipsters” (are any of our current city officials in any way representative of “hipsters”? I think not but that will change…). Then we will see how they like being forced to move…

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