San Francisco Noir

Bayview - Hunters Point
The Last Stand

Willie RatcliffAccording to the 2000 Census, Bayview - Hunters Point, San Francisco’s District 10, had the highest concentration of African Americans in the city: 29 percent. Asian-Americans are the new majority with 30 percent. Whites comprise 26 percent and Hispanics make up the remaining 15 percent. In the eight years since the census, Blacks have left the District in such numbers, in January 2008 a front page story in the San Francisco Chronicle called it a “Black Exodus.” As the national press picked up the story, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom convened a task force (The African American Out–Migration Task Force), to study the situation. In August 2008 they released their findings (click on Aileen Hernandez).

The redevelopment plans have produced a deep divide among Blacks in Bayview - Hunters Point. The Nation of Islam, joined by White environmentalists, want the project halted while a health and safety assessment is made on residents living near new construction.
On the other side, Black Christian ministers and the lone Black supervisor Sophie Maxwell, have sided with the developer Lennar, who is building 1,600 new houses, saying construction poses no health risks to the community by stirring up toxic waste and should continue. The matter ended in a raucous meeting before the Board of Supervisors in August, 2007. The vote was 6-5 to continue redevelopment, with Sophie Maxwell casting the deciding vote.

Anti-redevelopment forces then turned to the public and placed a measure on the June 2008 ballot, Prop F, “San Francisco Hunter’s Point Redevelopment Measure,” which would have forced the developer to make a number of concessions, including making half the new homes affordable housing. They were outmaneuvered and outspent by Lennar who got a competing measure on the ballot, Prop G. When it passed by an almost 2/3 majority African Americans, in effect, had lost the war. “All of the city agencies are working to please the big developers and rich communities,” Willie Ratcliff, publisher of the Bayview Reporter and fierce critic of the city’s plans, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “The supervisors want to grab the ground without any consideration for the people who have lived there and suffered through the environment, the shipyard and [Pacific Gas and Electric.]”

Population shifts within neighborhoods have been a part of the ebb and flow of San Francisco for decades. Prior to Blacks arriving in the 1940’s, Hunters Point was an Italian neighborhood. However, while other groups/communities simply migrated to a different part of the city, Blacks don’t have that option.

How many African Americans will remain in San Francisco when redevelopment is completed is unknown. Estimates run between 3 and 4 percent. At that point San Francisco’s Black population, relatively speaking, will be close to what it would have been had WW II never happened.


U.S. Bureau of Census 1860 - 2000
California State Census 1852 - 2000
Special Census of San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles 1945
U.S. Bureau of Census
Preliminary Census Estimate 2006 - U.S. Bureau of Census
San Francisco Housing Authority

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