Imagine living in the same neighborhood for years or decades. You know your neighbors; some of them are your friends. Imperfect though it may be, this is home.

Then a new type of neighbors start moving in: richer, better educated, whiter. Rents go up. Some of your longtime neighbors are forced to move deep into the eastern suburbs, chasing the last affordable housing in the Bay Area.

The new people don’t say hello to you in the street and call the cops at the slightest disturbance. A community that took years to build begins to fracture under the pressure of development. You wonder when it will be your turn to go. The new paint and manicured lawns that come with the new residents can’t replace the social network that kept you going through both good days and hard times.

Many Oaklanders don’t have to imagine this; they are living it. A new report by Causa Justa::Just Cause (CJJC) in collaboration with the Alameda County Public Health Department (ACPHD) finds that gentrification is not only changing the character of Oakland, it is literally making residents sick.

“Constantly, as a public health department, we are looking at what community conditions do people need to be healthy,” said Dr. Muntu Davis, ACPHD Director and County Health Officer. The department’s Place Matters team has been developing policy recommendations to support health through social equity in a variety of areas, including housing, since 2009.

The new study, funded with a grant from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), looks at public health outcomes in ongoing or late stage neighborhoods (see map above), such as North Oakland, middle stage areas, such as West Oakland parts of the San Antonio district, and early stage neighborhoods and those susceptible to gentrification, including most of East Oakland and Chinatown. Neighborhoods where property values were historically high and residents affluent, such as the Oakland Hills, were classified as “not applicable.”

“Gentrification is not the same as development,” Davis said. The report defines gentrification as: “a profit-driven racial and class reconfiguration of urban, working-class and communities of color that have suffered from a history of disinvestment and abandonment.”

Changes in populations of people of color in Oakland. Alameda County Public Health Department

Changes in populations of people of color in Oakland, 1990-2011
Alameda County Public Health Department

Using 1990 numbers as a baseline, ACPHD analysts compared data from 2011.  The results are stark.  During that period, Oakland’s African-American population fell by 40 percent, from 43 percent of city residents in 1990 to just 26 percent by 2011. At the beginning of the study period, 50 percent of North Oakland homeowners were African-American; after two decades of gentrification, that figure was just 25 percent. A similar drop is reported for West Oakland. While Jerry Brown’s 10k plan led to construction of 6,000 units of new housing in downtown Oakland, only 6 percent of these (400 units) are affordable housing.

Median rents in Oakland Alameda County Public Health Department

Median rents in Oakland 1990-2011
Alameda County Public Health Department

According to the report, between 1998 and 2002, during the first dot-com boom, Oakland rents doubled while the rate of “no fault” evictions in the city tripled. In 2011, median rents in rapidly-gentrifying North Oakland were higher than those in “historically affluent” areas such as Rockridge.

Mortality rates by race in gentrifying neighborhoods. Alameda County Public Health Department

Mortality rates by race in gentrifying neighborhoods.
Alameda County Public Health Department

“When we look at where we see the areas of most disease in the county,” said Davis, it’s usually in areas lacking healthy infrastructure such as a grocery store, a pharmacy, and housing that is “not so expensive you don’t have income to pay for healthy food, medicine.” The researchers found higher mortality rates for all racial groups in neighborhoods in any stage of the gentrification process. In the final stages of gentrification, however, mortality rates for white residents decrease, while those for African-Americans remain high, perhaps reflecting shifting neighborhood networks that no longer provide support on which historic residents relied.

“Educational attainment and income are two of the most important determinants of a person’s health,” Davis said. “For many of these places, we want development to happen.” But, he added, the problem with gentrification is that “people who have been living there who have been suffering from poor health because of the conditions they are living in aren’t benefiting” from development in their neighborhoods. When families are forced to move, children often have to change schools, disrupting their education and diminishing opportunity. “Shifts in population,” he noted, cause people to lose “the ability to stay in the place that they call home.”

Changes in income distribution in Oakland, 1990-2011 Alameda County Public Health Department

Changes in income distribution in Oakland, 1990-2011
Alameda County Public Health Department

Davis noted that public health issues  are not solved by displacement, merely shifted to different parts of the county or the region. “Even if I have an area in West Oakland that may be developing,” he said, and current severely poor health outcomes have improved in five years, that is probably because “you’re looking at a different population.” In fact, displacement can exacerbate health problems, forcing residents to spend more money and time commuting to work and leaving them less to spend on healthcare and food.  

“I think the key is, this is about improving the conditions in which everybody finds themselves,” Davis said. “It improves the image and attractiveness of the city.”

The authors of the report are calling for Oakland to adopt development strategies that protect historic communities from displacement.  Look for more on that aspect of the report in part two of Oakland Local’s coverage.

Buy or request a copy of the full report here.

Median home values in Oakland, 1990-2011 Alameda County Public Health Department

Median home values in Oakland, 1990-2011
Alameda County Public Health Department

37 Responses

  1. Stew

    So how long do you have to have lived in the Town before your not a gentrifier? I would guess that the author of this is not FROM Oakland, she sure dont live in Oakland. So how can we tell the gentrifiers from the, well old gentrifiers? Just sayin.

  2. edson

    “Calling the cops….”…..haha…hilarious. Whats next? “Look at that latino there…he is acting white….washing his car. Keeping it all clean. What a sell out”. Haha…..Oakland Local, you are losing credibility with your viewers.

  3. OaklandNative

    Is that what you got from the article? You’re mocking people’s problems because you either don’t understand or don’t agree with them. I guess that’s easier and lazier than fully understanding the issue.

  4. Jade

    “Protect historic communities.” What are they proposing exactly? Are they planning on using eminent domain to take away private property and keep it in a trust to protect these crime ridden neighborhoods?

    The study uses an infantile way of looking at a very complex problem by examining this one component. Let me go pull some FBI crime stats and show you people are dying in these same neighborhoods from bullets and other violent crimes.

    Gentrification brings jobs, money and security to these crime ridden neighborhoods. Nah, let’s protect Oakland’s heritage err, I mean crime by stopping new residents.

  5. OaklandNative

    Many native people here do not see our community as a cesspool.

    Some of the rudest, most disrespectful people I’ve seen are the new residents. To assume that all newcomers are good and all natives are bad is ignorant.

  6. JF

    As an African-American, I get a little nervous reading articles like this. They appear couched in a “social justice” perspective, but when you get down to it, they are espousing similar exclusionary beliefs as suburban whites wanting to resist “urban influences” from impacting their communities.

    The fact that the author can explicity write “richer, better educated, whiter” is somewhat shocking. These terms are just different fear-inducing buzz words that one in Danville (for example only) might use to talk about a perceived influx of black residents. Could we imagine what the – justifiable – reaction would be if an author of a local paper in the I-680 corridor wrote “poorer, less educated, blacker”?

    I will buy the argument that the suburbanization of poverty is a true issue and working its way into being a crisis, but there’s too much evidence of environmental racism within urban communities of color to truly buy the argument that somehow keeping the status quo in some of these communities is a somehow health benefit. I think we should understand that all new residents aren’t bad (or white for that matter), all current residents aren’t necessarily “for the betterment of Oakland”. Articles like this seem to say different-looking newcomers should be viewed warily at best, and be rejected at worse. This kind of language instantly rings alarm bells in my mind.

  7. A


    Funny, some of the rudest, most disrespectful people I’ve seen are natives or long term residents. To assume that all natives or long term residents are good and all newcomers are bad is ignorant. Statistics don’t lie about the crime that is happening in these “native” neighborhoods. It might be a shock to you, but could it be that *some* of those native/long term residents are criminals and enjoy the fact that they have free reign?

    As I mentioned several times, Oakland is going to change whether you like it or not. The Bay area is a magnetic for people and at the rate the world population is growing, people are going to get displaced. It’s not realistic to believe that your version of Oakland will ever be the same with the realities of migration.

    Also, from a person who stated in another article they welcome change, I find it ironic that you seem to like the status quo just nicely.

  8. OaklandNative

    OaklandLocal just posted an essay titled “Oakland Reconstructed.” It might give you a better understanding of what you’re talking about.

  9. OaklandDataCrusader

    This study, at least how it’s presented in the article, is very misleading and not statistically sound. The authors conclude that gentrification is hurting health because mortality rates are higher in gentrifying neighborhoods than in wealthy neighborhoods? Well that should be obvious. Wealthy neighborhoods have access to more healthcare, grocery stores, etc than poorer ones.

    I guess the authors didn’t think their study would be as impactful or attention grabbing if they titled it “Study finds poorer neighborhoods are less healthy”. To evaluate their current hypothesis, the authors should have focused at the individual neighborhood level and looked as to whether the neighborhoods were getting less healthy on average when experiencing a rise in gentrification. But then again, they probably would have found the opposite true, and wouldn’t have published.

    Really bad research.

  10. Seamus

    Maybe you can find a way to keep white people out of Oakland, but I have my doubts.

    On the flip side, At least there’s shops and restaurants downtown now. When I lived in Oakland back in 1998, downtown was a ghost town…everyone was too afraid to open businesses there back then.

    I don’t think deep East Oakland will ever get nicer. You might find some cheer in that.

  11. OaklandNative

    I know a lot of African Americans who like East Oakland. I know a lot who live out there as well.

  12. edson

    Sorry Oakland Native…its called an opinion. Just that I can either laugh at it or get upset. I rather laugh. Keep trolling the comments “baiter”. This lazy person is now going out for a workout and a coffee at the new coffee shop in my neighborhood. Have a great life.

  13. Jonatton Yeah?

    Don’t bother with the so-called “Oakland Native.” He proclaims so much concern for Oakland and its oh so noble native communities but refuses to ever bother to say what he does for them; other than whining on here, that is. Despite being asked countless times. Others have spoken of themselves as teachers, social workers, and beyond; providing vital and far from financially lucrative services to those less fortunate. The retort? That those who provide those services think they’re “better than” those they spend their lives helping and that’s why they do it. That’s actually the response. Once again, “Native”, what do you do again? Who elected you Head Troll For Oakland? His “arguments” amount to transparent circular logic, answering questions with questions, and cryptic straw men. An utter waste of time all around. The Oakland Museum Utopia of 1993 still exists, “Native.” It’s at 85th and Bancroft. The underage prostitution, the murder, the robberies, and the urban decay define it as a cesspool (your word), not anyone else. Your standards, said once again, for what represents “community” is disgusting and disgraceful to the people you’ve anointed yourself spokesman for.

  14. edson

    Thank you Jonatton. Troll is the right name. That person seems like they spend way too much time on this site. Oh well….some people dont have hobbies or friends. Thanks for your comments. Definately made sense. Peace.

  15. Jake

    I don’t know that much about Oakland, but my relatives in Antioch bitterly complained about the influx of Oakland residents ruining their town. I thought they were just racist, but this article confirms that there was a huge exodus from Oakland at that time. Sadly they brought their behavioral problems with them. Across the street from their beautiful new high school, black youths rioted in a brand new shopping center near my relatives home. After a horrible beating at a local park near his house, my nephew to feared for his life. After this, even in our city, he was frightened to go to a local park with my kids. He left town as soon as he could after high school.

  16. TheDude

    OaklandNative completely ignored JF’s comment. Thanks for showing me a little bit more of your cards 😀

  17. seamus

    I think the big issue here is rising rent prices and subsequent displacement of people.

    This whole ‘White people don’t say, hi.’ thing is just ridiculous.

  18. JR

    It’s really telling to see that the comments section of this article are pretty much (with the one exception) just ripping this not exactly factual article to shreds. I believe that the commenters are more in tune to what Oakland needs than most of the articles on this website.
    It’s funny how this article talks about an area “lacking healthy infrastructure such as a grocery store, a pharmacy, and housing that is “not so expensive you don’t have income to pay for healthy food, medicine.”” Then in another article similarly minded people talk down about the “evil” WOSP plan to bring these exact things to these areas. Even though this plan has gone through years of planning with the community that the complainers could have gone to. Maybe they are, dare I say, the actual gentrifiers that are arrogantly coming to Oakland and thinking that they know what is best for us? Either way it is hypocrisy in action and the only thing it will accomplish is stagnation, which is exactly what we don’t need.
    As a lifelong Oaklander I still can’t believe the awesome changes that have been going on-from the new places to hang out and to live at, to whole neighborhoods becoming safer and a new people moving here from all over the country. Let’s not mess this up, go Oakland!

  19. N.K.

    JF- Very well said. Thanks for an intelligent perspective. I believe gentrification has unfortunate consequences. But it is also very complex and cannot be simply stated. Easily summed up. The ills of oakland also cannot be blamed on blacks or on whites. Articles like this are bad for oakland’s health because they perpetuate misunderstanding and animosity between old residents and new ones. I’m white and moved to oakland 3 years ago. I care about the community. I care about the well being of my neighbors who are black, white, latino, asian. I care about diversity and I dont want people to lose their homes. I volunteer for an organization that helps underserved women in oakland- who are of all races. I strive to do my part to help where I can, and give back to the city I have grown to love. I agree that people who move here should not act like entitled jerks, demanding everything from oakland. Rather they should ask what they can give, how they will impact the neighborhoods and how do they want to impact peoples’ lives. Let that be the discussion in articles, instead of simplistic blind generalizations.

  20. OaklandNative

    The authors aren’t saying they don’t want change. They are saying they don’t like the way Oakland is changing.

    As one man stated, there is a difference between development and gentrification. These people want development, not gentrification.

    I disagree that it’s the same as when a black family moves into a white neighborhood and the neighbors sigh “there goes the neighborhood.” You’re comparing two totally different attitudes and experiences.

  21. allen sanford

    As Mayor of Oakland, Jerry Brown go a lot of money put into the downtown area. this started the gentrification. When he left, 1 out of 8 homes in Oakland were in default or foreclosure. By not securing any funds for the outlying neighborhoods, Brown all but guaranteed that these ares would go down in value. also because he didn’t provide funds for city services like police, these areas fell victim to the present crime wave, which the present Mayor has had little success in solving. When he became Governor, Brown pushed through the HOMEOWNERS BILL OF RIGHTS. This “Bill” was not presented to voters. If it had been, voters would have asked the question, why weren’t these laws enforced while you were the Attorney General. The crimes that were committed by the banks in California, were committed form 06-09. Brown was Attorney General from 07-2011. His office did not respond to complaints of fraud against the banks. Instead those with complaints were referred to the Office of Thrift Supervision. The majority of those affected were minorities and the elderly. You can read about how this was done by looking up…Real Estate Crisis or Government Sanctioned Racketeering? The evidence that is presented is completely verifiable and should have been presented in court.

  22. rayon

    This article is blind. The costs of not changing are underfunded schools, underfunded city services including police, limited opportunities for employment and economic self-reliance, extreme levels of street crime, decrepit housing, etc, etc.

    As things stand, who in their right mind would raise kids in these neighborhoods if they had any other choice?

  23. Oakie

    @rayon: “As things stand, who in their right mind would raise kids in these neighborhoods if they had any other choice?”

    Dan Siegel claims he lives in East Oakland. Said he sent his kids to Oakland public schools (well, to Skyline, not among the extreme underachiever campuses) and supports continuing the same policies and dogmas that have had 30 years of control in Oakland. A vote for Siegel is for a continuation of the status quo.

  24. allen sanford

    If a new development is built in East Oakland that provides long term employment for the young men in the city, Oakland will be transformed into one of the most prosperous cities in the country. Jerry Brown neglected East Oakland and city services in favor of the downtown area. When he became Governor he did the same thing to other cities in the state by enacting the HOMEOWNERS BILL OF RIGHTS. This bill was not presented to voters and prevents cities for taking banks to court for past transgressions. Eminent domain will not work, as the City of Richmond will soon find out. It won’t work because hardship on the city is not a concern to the banks who have entered into individual contracts with homeowners. However, I have provided the city with evidence that will show that fraud and racketeering has occurred. As Attorney General, Jerry Brown turned a blind eye as the cities in CA were being looted by the banks. The “bullet train” and the “water project” are further examples of how Mr. Brown caters to big business at the expense of the 99%. Read,

  25. Laura McCamy

    Thank you to everyone commenting on this article.

    I certainly don’t claim to have presented all the findings of the 112 page report in this space. If you are interested in this topic, I suggest reading the report and forming your own opinions of it.

    The description of neighborhoods as being “richer, whiter and better educated” came from metrics used in the report as a way to determine the stage of gentrification. Their methods were based on methodologies used to study gentrification in other cities.

    I think a better term than gentrification in this context might be displacement. New businesses, reductions in crime and other neighborhood improvements are unquestionably good – unless you aren’t able to stick around for them because your new and improved neighborhood is too expensive for you. This is the situation that many historic Oakland residents find themselves in.

    I think we need to look beyond the individuals who are seen as “gentrifiers” and who are, for the most part, just human beings looking for an affordable place to live. It’s easy to throw stones at one another; it’s much harder to consider changing the economic and government policies that allow and even encourage the kinds of huge shifts in populations that have been happening in the Bay Area.

    The report is titled Development Without Displacement and recommend policies that allow much needed development while preserving the right of people to stay in their homes and neighborhoods. Look for a second article next week on these policy recommendations.

  26. smcd

    If one considers the mortality graph included above, it shows clearly that mortality rates actually decline for all groups (except, it appears, Asians, which seem to come out at about the same spot) as “gentrification” continues. Just look at the difference between “susceptible” (i.e. not “gentrified” yet) and “ongoing” gentrifying neighborhoods — how can anyone say with seriousness that “gentrification” hurts public health as mortality rates, the key driver determining the authors’ conclusions, decline with continuing gentrification? Should one not conclude instead that as neighborhoods in Oakland approach “N/A” (i.e. already “gentrified”) that public health increases? Clearly the data presented shows the highest mortality rates in neighborhoods not yet gentrifying (i.e. “susceptible”) with the lowest mortality rates in neighborhoods already gentrified (i.e. “N/A”) with clear declines in mortality rates as “gentrification” continues (i.e. each intervening stage of gentrification displays continuing declines in mortality rates)!

  27. rayon

    @smcd. You are right.

    The main flaw of the study is that they are looking at those who stay. Any claims about the health effects of displacement would have to look at those who left.

  28. Christopher

    Pure twenty first century government funded anti white racism. Plain and simple.

  29. OaklandNative

    Can you explain your statement? This is another perspective on Oakland’s gentrification problem. Don’t you think it is just as valid as yours?

  30. Matt Ghali

    I admit, I did the same thing… move in with non-black neighbors and not say hi to them. It’s because they’re Sec 8, drive Hummers and Mercedes, smoke weed and leave trash out in the yard and wait till the monthly street cleaners to clean it up. Now you know why we don’t talk to you.


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