San Francisco's loss - Page 3

Heading East: San Francisco is losing much of its diversity, cultural edge, and working class to the East Bay -- can anything be done?

"I must say that Oakland is more fun," says City Council member Rebecca Kaplan of her city.

African Americans make up 28 percent of Oakland's population, compared to only 6.1 percent in San Francisco, and 6.2 percent of the population of California. In San Francisco, the number of black-owned businesses is dismal at 2.7 percent, compared to 4 percent statewide and 13.7 percent in Oakland. The census also finds that 25.4 percent Oaklanders are people of Latino origin, compared to San Francisco at 15.1 percent and 37.6 percent statewide. San Francisco is 33.3 percent Asian, compared to Oakland at 16.8 percent and all of California at 13 percent.

Both cities are less white than California as a whole; the state's white population is 57.6 percent, compared to 34 percent in Oakland and 48.5 percent in San Francisco.

Gentrification shows its face differently depending on the neighborhood. Some say Rockridge, a trendy Oakland neighborhood where prices have recently increased, has gone too far down the path.

"Rockridge has been 'in' for a long time, but the prices are staggering and it isn't as interesting any more," Barbara Hendrickson, an East Bay real estate agent, told us.

The nationwide foreclosure crisis didn't spare Oakland and may have sped up its gentrification process. "The neighborhoods are being gentrified by people who buy foreclosures and turn them into sweet remolded homes," observed Hendrickson.

Yet Kaplan said many of these houses simply remain vacant, driving down values for surrounding properties and destabilizing the community. "I think we need a policy where the county doesn't process a foreclosure until the bank has proven that they own the note," said Kaplan, who mentioned that the city has had some success using blight ordinances to hold banks accountable for the empty buildings.

And as if San Francisco didn't have enough challenges, Kaplan also noted another undeniable advantage: the weather. "The weather is really quite something," she said. "I have days with a meeting in San Francisco and I always have to remember to bring completely different clothing. Part of why I wanted to live in California was to be able to spend more time outdoors, be healthy, bicycle, things like that. So that's pretty easy to do over here in Oakland."

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