Disinvestment of San Francisco’s African American Community 1970-2022


Publish Date:
June 27, 2023
  • Janet Martinez, Cary McClelland, Justin Bryant, Madi Burson, Carolyn Carlisle, Ronald Chen, Julian N. Davis, Arden Farr, Kimberly Idoko, Kyra Jasper, Cheyenne Joshua, Samantha Lee, Masha Miura, Mide Odunsi, Sofia Penglase, Sarah Reyes, Brandon Roul, L’Nard Tufts II & Amy Zhai, Disinvestment of San Francisco's African American Community 1970-2022, Policy Practicum 8080 San Francisco Human Rights Commission, Stanford Law School Law and Policy Practicum and Martin Daniel Gould Center for Conflict Resolution (2022).
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The San Francisco Human Rights Commission (SFHRC) has been tasked by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to propose policies to repair enduring historical harms to San Francisco’s Black community. To that end, the SFHRC formed an African American Reparations Advisory Committee (AARAC). The SFHRC asked Stanford Law Gould Center for Conflict Resolution to develop a policy practicum – the Stanford Law and Policy Lab “Human Rights Reparations Project” – to assist with research on the history of Black disenfranchisement in San Francisco. The policy practicum focused on housing: the legal, social, and political restrictions that prevented Black residents of San Francisco from buying or owning a home. Housing forms the core means of disinvestment of non-White communities.

The history of spatial harms to Black San Franciscans starts from the influx of Black workers during World War II. The subsequent destruction of the Black Fillmore in the name of development continues today through gentrification, high-priced single-family homes, and the privatization of public housing. The City’s political economy prioritized growth and development. The consequence of these policies—public and private—was to prohibit home ownership and financing and push Black residents out of San Francisco. Employment restrictions combined with the 1906 earthquake to drive more Black residents out of San Francisco. The first official zoning code began the formal process of excluding communities of color in the interests of White property values.

A review of this racist history lays out a system of policies and partnerships that produced unequal outcomes for Black San Franciscans, for which the City itself is squarely responsible. The research produced an extensive policy report – Disinvestment of San Francisco’s African American Community (1970-2022) – that tracks systemic black disenfranchisement and marginalization. It is apparent from the City’s very beginnings, that anti-Blackness was part and parcel of the City’s political economy and social fabric. The City, as the body responsible for producing and maintaining a racialized, unequal political economy and the spatial arrangements it requires, is responsible for these housing-based harms. In turn, the span of housing and development policies produced concomitant inequalities in related areas: education and employment, environment and heath, and culture and family. This report is foundational to the City’s continuing investigation of historical harms to its Black community.