Walking down Third Street in Bayview, one cannot help but notice the rapid changes occuring–construction of new apartments and the opening of new businesses line the streets–yet, this is only the beginning for Bayview-Hunters Point. After decades of disinvestment that left Bayview-Hunters Point an impoverished ghetto, two current projects—the Third Street light rail line and the Hunters Point/Candlestick Point Redevelopment projects—are poised to completely remake the district.
Opened in 2007, the T-Third Street Muni Metro line has brought much-needed transit access to Bayview-Hunters Point, re-integrating the district with the rest of the city and inducing residential and commercial development along the corridor. The T-Third line has provided an excellent opportunity for smart growth and economic revitilization in Bayview and finally shows that City Hall is beginning to take notice of Bayview-Hunters Point.
This process of reintegration and reinvestment will be augmented by the redevelopment of the Hunters Point Shipyard and Candlestick Point stadium area. Encompassing nearly 3% of San Francisco’s total land area, the Shipyard and stadium redevelopment is projected to bring at least 10,500 new residential units to Bayview-Hunters Point with 1/3 below market rate, likely amounting to 25,000 new residents over the next decade (and potentially more if/when the 49ers move to Santa Clara). While these projects generally follow sound urbanist and smart growth principles and will expedite the environmental cleanup of the area, many residents view this transformation as the final attempt to push Black and low-income residents out of San Francisco.
Even before the latest redevelopment, San Francisco’s Black population has been decreasing at an alarming rate, a phenomonon that many label the “Black Exodus.” San Francisco’s Black population has decreased 46% since 1970, from 96,018 to 51,795 (2007 ACS), in large part due to urban renewal, rising cost of living, and the opening of the suburbs to Blacks as housing discrimination decreased. While cities like Richmond, Oakland, and East Palo Alto, and more recently Vallejo, Pittsburg, Antioch, and Stockton have seen their Black populations soar, San Francisco now has a lower proportion of Blacks than cities with traditionally low Black populations such as Seattle, Portland, and San Diego. This general trend is also true for Bayview-Hunters Point, which has seen its Black population decrease 22% since 1970, and Blacks currently account for less than half of the population.
Some hope still exists in preventing wholescale gentrification and preserving the diversity and Black character of Bayview-Hunters Point. Recently, Bayview-Hunters Point has been targeted for reindustrialization as “green industries” move into the area–including the recycling, biodiesel, and solar panel industries. In addition, Hunters View, one of the worst housing projects in Hunters Point, just received 6 million dollars from the Stimulus package to finally be torn down and completely redeveloped, going from 250 public housing units to 800 mixed-income units. In general, the city has tried to reach out to the community in the redevelopment process and ensure the availability of affordable housing, but these efforts have not healed the anti-government sentiments in the district.
All in all, this project left me feeling conflicted. On the one hand, Bayview-Hunters Point could very well add 35,000-45,000 new residents by 2030 in an environmentally-friendly and energy-conscious manner. On the other hand, it will without question be the most changed district in San Francisco, and gentrification will inevitably occur. Situations like this pose some of the most complex and conflicting choices for me as someone who supports infill projects and Smart Growth while at the same time wanting to aid neglected low-income communities in economic development while preventing gentrification. But then again, the only thing that’s been constant in Bayview-Hunters Point the past 100 years is change. Hopefully, redevelopment will not be as destructive as postwar urban renewal, and finally stabilize the district while allowing it to remain diverse and affordable. Whether or not this can actually occur is yet to be seen.
Don’t be afraid to read my paper!