San Francisco Noir

Bayview - Hunters Point: The Last Stand

By Sidney Brinkley

Early in 2007 House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, (D.CA), whose congressional district includes San Francisco’s Bayview-Hunters Point, stood on the site of a largely Black public housing project, “Sunnydale,” located high on a hill. (Population, 674 families: 58.3 percent Black, 19.4 >White, 19.4 percent Asian/Pacific Islander, 0.7 percent Native American, 2.6 percent not available). In Task Force Sf Task force stark contrast to its name, it’s one of the worst public housing in the city. All around Pelosi stood dilapidated housing and unkempt grounds. However, beyond the grit and grime, was sweeping views of the San Francisco Bay. Views the city is famous for. Pelosi announced plans to raze the property and replace it with mixed-income housing. What she didn’t say, but is generally known, the majority of the displaced tenants would not be returning once the project is completed.

Housing project aside, many parts of Bayview are rather nice with neat two-storey homes on quiet residential streets. Homes purchased for around $130,000 25-years-ago, cheap by San Francisco standards, easily sell for several times that amount, even in these troubled real estate times. (Well, perhaps not so easily.)

Hunters Point is a lot grittier than Bayview: it has two housing projects. It also has high unemployment, poverty, a rampant drug trade and the violence that comes with it. Many of the men cycle in and out of prison. The kids attend the worse schools and many of the residents are in poor health, attributed to the nearly 300 toxic sites that have been identified in the neighborhood and decades of living in the shadow of a huge, air-polluting, power plant. Despite this, for developers and the city, it’s one of the most desirable areas in San Francisco. The Hunters Point Shipyards, with 800 acres, is the largest piece of undeveloped land in the city. It’s also a federal Superfund Site; the land is toxic. The Navy is cleaning up the shipyard and the city recently shut down the power plant. In addition to new housing, redevelopment plans include a 350 acre waterfront park.

Interest in Bayview - Hunters Point had been growing, quietly, for years but revitalization began in earnest when the new light-rail line began operation in 2007. The “T” line originates in the Castro, skirts downtown - and goes through the heart of BayView - Hunters Point. New condos, restaurants and other businesses are either rising, or planned, along the route.

The area has one of the highest rates of home ownership in the city, 51 percent. According to DataQuick, a real estate information firm, the median price for a home is $570,000. It would be a bargain to find one at that price. An ordinary home near the new rail line can fetch as much as $800,000.

With that kind of money on the table, some Black home owners are cashing in and leaving. Non-home owners who want to stay in the neighborhood are finding it increasingly difficult to do so. Rents are out of the reach of many and the city’s tough rent control laws don’t apply to new apartment buildings.

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