Census no surprise to outmigration taskforce

San Francisco Redevelopment Agency

 “San Francisco is losing its black population faster than any other large city in the United States — and the trend is unlikely to stop unless the city takes immediate action.” That’s what the Guardian wrote in August 2008, when we covered a draft report that the Mayor’s African American out-migration task force produced.

But despite the taskforce’s dire warnings, the Mayor’s Office didn’t hold a press conference when the final report was published in 2009. Instead, it was quietly posted on the Redevelopment Agency’s Website, where you can still find it today tucked into the bottom lefthand corner.

And despite the report’s numerous recommendations, taskforce members say that little funding had been made available to turn their ideas into realities.
So, it comes as no surprise that San Francisco’s black population continues to shrink while that of Asian Americans and Latinos make big gains.
According to newly released 2010 Census figures, San Francisco’s total population grew by 3.7 percent to 805,235 in the past decade, the Asian and Latino populations each swelled by 11 percent, the white population shrank by 12.5 percent—and the black population shrank by 22.6 percent.

This means, San Francisco now has 337,451 white residents (42 percent of total population), 265,700 Asian residents (33 percent of population), 121,774 Latinos (15.1 percent of the population), and 46,781 blacks (5.8 percent of population).
In 2009, the out-migration task force, which used 2005 US Census and state demographic data, placed the city's African American population at 1/16 of San Francisco's total population, compared to its two largest minorities, Asians and Hispanics, which made up 1/3 and 1/8, respectively.

"We saw that the African American population has declined by 40.8 percent since 1990, and as a share of the population decreased from 10.9 percent in 1990 to 6.5 percent in 2005," the AAOMTF’s 2009 report states.

(As it happens 6.5 percent of the population in 2005 translated into 46,779 black residents. So, while the black population appears to have grown by two people, when viewed as a share of the city’s entire population in 2010, it can be seen to have shrunk by 22.6 percent, reflecting a flight to the East Bay and other states.)

"That's not enough people to fill Candlestick Park," Fred Blackwell, executive director of the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency, stated in 2008, during a presentation about the taskforce's draft report. He cited a lack of affordable housing and educational and economic opportunity, severe environmental injustice, an epidemic of violence, and lack of cultural and social pride, as the reasons blacks were leaving.

But sadly not much has changed, including the frustration of local black leaders.
"We could paper the walls of this building with reports that have been made on this issue," task force chair Aileen Hernandez said in 2008, pointing to similar studies that were done in 1995 and 1972, while fellow task force member Barbara Cohen said the draft recommendations "should have long ago been called the final recommendations."

Reached by phone today, AAOMTF task force member Sharen Hewitt recalled how she and London Breed called for the creation of the taskforce, only to see many crucial recommendations ignored.
“We called for the creation of the taskforce in face of an imminent threat to the sustained presence of African Americans in San Francisco, especially low-income residents,” Hewitt said. “The taskforce’s draft report did not capture 80 percent of the discussion.”
Hewitt says a key flaw was the absence of a “real plan to address the fate of  African Americans who live in subsidized low-income housing.”

Fellow AAOMTF task force member Regina Davis, director of the San Francisco Housing Development Corporation, agrees that a lack of action didn’t help.
“Today’s numbers could have looked different based on actions,” Davis said.
She hopes that today’s increasingly dire financial system will be a call to action.
“Especially with the threat of the elimination of redevelopment agencies, because a lot of the housing for low-income folks is jeopardized in ways we haven’t experienced for three decades,” she said. “People are understanding that this is a market they haven’t seen before.”

Davis remains optimistic that the 2010 Census figures will galvanize folks.
“I’ve been mystified why people haven’t protested the war more,” she mused. “Maybe they will now that dollars they have taken for granted aren’t on the table. And maybe they’ll start to realize that tax cuts cost money. I don’t know where folks get the notion that tax cuts are free.”

Other AAOMTF members say the whole taskforce process was very discouraging for those who worked so diligently to find solutions.

”After all that intense work, we were all left with no notable action taken, (At least no action that I am aware of),” wrote AAOMTF member Larry Saxxon in an email. “At the least, the report should have been released to the general public for their review and feedback. It left me questioning the motives for the process from a political point of view.”

Saxxon said that because of feeling a great deal of dissatisfaction with the AAOMTF’s Education Committee’s findings, he and fellow taskforce member Barbara Cohen wrote a minority report on the needs for greater educational services for the African American community.

In their report, Cohen and Saxxon noted that there was a need to increase awareness and advocacy for African American students who are classified as special needs students.

And in his email, Saxxon noted that as an African American and an active advocate for the African immigrant community, he strongly suggested that AAOMTF include the presence of the African immigrant community in the final report as this was the only known incoming source of Blacks arriving in San Francisco. 

“From the statistical data that we had access to, we know that the African immigrant comprises, at a minimum, of 10 percent of the overall African American presence in San Francisco. This 10 percent is only counting those that are documented.  When we view the ratio of undocumented African immigrants… that number increases considerably! Sadly, that fact never manifested in the final report.”

“This is an issue that is very dear to my heart, as I too feel like an endangered species as an African American man and father trying to survive, and indeed thrive, in San Francisco,” he said. “The prospects seem to get dimmer as the months and years go by.”

Saxxon was pleased Mayor Ed Lee “did at least acknowledge the nature of
the problem and also by his alluding to the fact that some concerted action
needs to be taken.”

And it’s true that Lee has signaled a commitment to the African American community through his support for Sup. John Avalos’ local hire legislation, which kicks in March 25. (The AAOMTF identified jobs, as well as housing, education, economic development, cultural and social life, and public safety and quality of life as key policies and practices that can “help stem the outflow and even entire more African-Americans to make a home and establish roots in San Francisco, while making them feel like an integral part of the City’s stability and vibrancy.”)

But will Lee take other significant steps to stem the outflow in his ten remaining months in office (assuming he doesn’t throw his hat into the ring of the mayoral race, after all?) And will the plight of the city's African American community even become an issue in the 2011 mayoral race?


actually two more blacks than in 2005. The percentage of blacks has declined but the absolute number of them has increased, slightly.

So blacks are not LEAVING San Francisco, as you suggest. It's simply that in net terms they aren't coming here, while some other groups are.

Now, since net US immigration tends to be mostly asian and hispanic, that's not surprising. Not many people immigrate to the US from Africa.

The real noteworthy thing about the numbers is the sharp decline in the white population. But of course that's of no interest to you, because there is no liberal mileage in decrying that.

Which is too bad because that's a disproportionate part of the tax base - whites tend to earn more and pay more taxes.

Posted by Harry on Mar. 10, 2011 @ 4:33 pm

Depends on the "white" in question, doesn't it?

It'll be a little chilly tonight, better throw a cross on the fire.

Posted by Matty on Mar. 10, 2011 @ 6:35 pm

earn more than blacks (on average, obviously) usually comes from the bleeding heart left, and not from the dark forces of the right. Apparently it's all a huge conspiracy, or something.

You got your PC wires crossed there.

Posted by Harry on Mar. 10, 2011 @ 7:48 pm

But Sarah, who acts as the Guardian's token black writer even though she's British and white, doesn't consider that grounds for alarm.


It's more than a little patronizing to assume that blacks leaving San Francisco are doing so because they couldn't make it in the city without massive government assistance programs. Or that they'll return if we crank up government aid, as if their raison d'etre were to sit around and collect government checks in return for adding their distinctive and colorful ways to our black-less city. Patronizing and frankly, a little racist too.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Mar. 11, 2011 @ 11:20 am

It's time to call out Lucretia on his/her racist and patronizing rants against writers that cover folks that are not identical to themselves. The logical conclusion of your argument is this: U.S. born journalists shouldn't cover foreign affairs. Women shouldn't  cover male events. Gay reporters can't comment on straight issues. Hmm. How do you like them apples? Or, wait, am I not supposed to use anyone's dialect other than my own? And btw, in case you've never visited the U.K., (which is the impression your comments give) it's a pretty multi-culti rainbow these days. Time to get out of your comfort zone, Lucretia, and live a little.

Posted by sarah on Mar. 11, 2011 @ 11:28 am

Not in the same way someone familiar with the community can. You're certainly correct on that. Randy Shilts wrote "And the Band Played On" from the perspective of someone, who was gay, who lived through the early years of HIV infection in San Francisco. Are you saying, had you been around, you could have covered the issue with the same insight and passion? That any straight person could? Give me a break.

Anyway, you're not "covering" events, you're editorializing on them with grand pronouncements on what's necessary to help de' po' black folks who have been driven from San Francisco. Pronouncements which, whether intentionally or not, reek of patronizing, white liberal bias.

As I said earlier - who are you to draw qualitative conclusions from quantitative data on population figures? The answer you come up with, that black people have been driven out of SF by the lack of government programs they clearly depend on for their entire existence, rests on the assumption that they're too dumb or driven to make it here without government assistance. Whether intentionally or not you've bought into that argument.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Mar. 11, 2011 @ 12:00 pm

You seem to be implying that whatever SF's racial demographic was at some past point in time is somehow the benchmark for what it should always be.

Racial shifts have been happening forever in this city, and will continue to change. Complaining about each shift in the demographic is as futile as standing on the beach and demanding that the tide stop.

There is no "correct" level of black population in SF, and there never was. People live where they want to live for their own reasons. The last thing we want is social engineering solutions designed to maintain quota's here or anywhere else.

Posted by Harry on Mar. 11, 2011 @ 12:56 pm

Please point to where I am "editorializing" in this post, Lucretia. Your ongoing attempt to smear straightforward coverage of the issues is getting old.

Posted by sarah on Mar. 11, 2011 @ 1:06 pm

For starters, the headline.

The post says, "San Francisco’s total population grew by 3.7 percent to 805,235 in the past decade," but the headline (indeed the tone of the post) says "outmigration".

Why the focus on outmigration, when the story is about "inmigration," unless there were an editorial point being made in defiance of that story?

About that editorial point: the deconcentration of the races - that is, a more thorough mixing of us all - would be a good thing for society, but others seem to have different views.

Posted by Not Lucretia on Mar. 11, 2011 @ 1:43 pm

You never admit fault or change a story or even run a correction when an error is pointed out to you. After all - working at The Guardian means never having to admit you're wrong.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Mar. 11, 2011 @ 2:07 pm

The taskforce that Mayor Gavin Newsom convened in 2007 to study the reasons why SF's black population is shrinking was called the African American Outmigration Taskforce. So, p[erhaps you meant to attack Newsom or the taskforce for choosing that term. But it's ludicrous to attack a reporter for the accurate use of the taskforce's title.

Posted by sarah on Mar. 11, 2011 @ 3:41 pm

at the end point than at the start point.

Your own statistics indicates that blacks did not leave but rather that other races arrived.

So there is no out-migration to worry about. There is just in-migration of other races.

You seem to be trying so hard to create a problem when in fact there is none. Why?

Posted by Harry on Mar. 11, 2011 @ 5:53 pm

Harry, I am covering the reports of the 2010 census. And as my coverage shows, African Americans have been leaving faster than other races and or/ not moving here in as large a number as other ethnic groups.

Posted by sarah on Mar. 11, 2011 @ 6:15 pm

(according to your cited stats anyway) that blacks are leaving but rather that they are not arriving.

So, are you saying their non-arrival is a problem? Why?

Should the city be targeting inbound peoples on the basis of their skin color?

And if so, how do you suggest we perform that particular piece of social engineering? Should we offer every new inbound AA resident one year's free afro hair styling? Home delivery of soul food delicacies? Block hip hop parties?

Spell it out for us, Sarah. How did you do it back home in Brixton, Bristol and Birmingham?

Posted by Harry on Mar. 11, 2011 @ 7:31 pm

Why, exactly, is it the business of government to concern itself with whether blacks are leaving SF or not? It really is not a government matter.

Posted by Scott on Mar. 12, 2011 @ 1:30 pm

considered valid government business.

Should stores use plastic bags?

Should fast food joints give away kids' toys?

Should yellow pages be delivered?

Should construction companies be compelled to hire local residents? Minorities?

So yes, social engineering of this type is considered desirable. As to why, I have no clue.

Posted by Harry on Mar. 12, 2011 @ 2:57 pm

Economic engineering is one instance of social engineering, one absent human values.

Many San Franciscans want human values to dominate over economic values, hence legislating regulations on commerce and ensuring that individuals do not harm others through their conduct.


Posted by marcos on Mar. 12, 2011 @ 3:11 pm

Does this mean The City should take measures to stop Latinos and Asians moving into traditionally black neighborhoods? And how exactly would this serve the diversity imperative?

Posted by Peter on Mar. 16, 2011 @ 11:10 am

need my money to enact your values.

Meaning you should at least take a shot at persuading me you're right about the fact that the black population of SF needs to be at some pre-specified numerical level.

Posted by Harry on Mar. 12, 2011 @ 6:15 pm

I think Harry is Arthur Evans.

I now ignore Arthur Evans's flames. I read some of Harry's posts which reminded me of Arthur Evans without all the pretty words.

Posted by Jorge Orwell 1984 on Mar. 12, 2011 @ 7:22 pm

Forever. And coming from the white, British reporter, it's just beyond nauseating...

You are advocating for racial quotas in this City. That's what you're doing.

Sarah - you're out of your league here... And now you're getting defensive. If you can't see or understand why your editorializing is striking a nerve, then you need to take a step back.

Lucretia is far more eloquent, so I'll just let it rest with saying he/she is dead on. Basically, your writing on these issues SCREAM "us smart, educated white people assisting the helpless local blacks... they need us". It's barely under the line - and honestly, your surprise at the accusation just seems lame and dishonest. You know it's there.

As mentioned before, I grew up here. I don't expect that to give me any special authority on SF political issues... I get that. But your columns continue to portray black families leaving as some tragic forced exodus - a move they simply have no control over. If you were on the ground - and knew these people, lived with these people, went to school with these people, played varsity sports at McAteer with these people - you would KNOW that's not the situation. Black people are capable of leaving on their OWN... because of better schools, safer neighborhoods, and the opportunity to sell a home and take profit. Decisions all people, of all races, make all the time.

Your writing on the issue is gross. Out of your league. Not your topic. Stick to RCV.

Posted by Sambo on Mar. 13, 2011 @ 1:37 am

To Lucretia and others who would hurl criticism at Sarah for daring to be a white British journalist reporting on issues that affect the African American community - a couple points.

1) If the Guardian's Sarah Phelan covers this topic, you howl about 'patronizing, white liberal bias.' Since your goal is clearly to refute the idea that a diminishing black population is a legitimate problem facing SF (and the best way to achieve this goal, you suppose, is to attack the messenger as patronizing and ill-informed), you'll have to come up with a different way to discredit the San Francisco Bayview newspaper, which saw fit to cover this very topic last month: http://sfbayview.com/2011/black-population-drops-to-3-9-in-san-francisco/ And in 2008: http://sfbayview.com/2008/‘repair-the-damage-of-destroying-the-black-presence-in-this-city’/ You've also got work to do crafting a response to Mayor Ed Lee, a Chinese American, who told the Chronicle in a story about new demographic info. in the Census, "I'm also worried about the out-migration of certain groups, and I need to pay attention to that as well." [After all, what other group was he alluding to?] http://articles.sfgate.com/2011-03-09/bay-area/28670698_1_asian-numbers-... And you'd best start warming up those fingers to type out your denouncement of the Chronicle for its recent coverage of Oakland's declining black population: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/03/10/MNO91I8F86.DTL For your 'white liberal bias' attack isn't going to be effective against any of the other sources that have hit on this issue as newsworthy!


2) As to the notion that Sarah should not be covering issues facing the black community because she is British and white, here is an excerpt from a Pulitzer Prize winning nonfiction work called "The Race Beat: The Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation" by Gene Roberts and Hank Klibanoff. This paragraph examines the way the (white-dominated) mainstream American press treated issues facing black people, prior to the start of the civil rights movement: "The press, other than black newspapers and a handful of liberal southern editors, simply didn't recognize racism in America as a story. Segregation ... by law in the south and by neighborhood and and social and economic stratification in the north, had engulfed the press as well as America's citizens. The mainstream American press wrote about whites but seldom about black Americans or discrimination against them; that was left to the black press."

In 2011, you've come here to enlighten us by saying a white journalist should only cover issues that are of interest to white people. This is beginning to sound familiar.

Posted by rebecca on Mar. 13, 2011 @ 2:47 pm

reasons that go way beyond her rather comfortable British white liberal roots. I'd hesitate to discount what she writes purely on that basis. Moreover, I have to believe that her artciles are vetted and approved by Bruce, Tim or Steve, so that Sarah's view is a "house view" and not a peculiarly British outlook.

I am much more concerned with the idea postulated that there are somehow correct quota's by race. And that it's a problem if the demographic changes over time. Why would that be a problem?

Was it a problem when the Italians, Irish and Germans started moving out 50 years ago?

Is the large hispanic inbound immigration a problem?

Many Asians come here. Another problem?

Lots of gays come and live here. Problem?

Why would the SFBG argue that the racial proportions that existed in 1990 or 2000 have some special, timeless correctness to them such that they should never be varied?

Is it just because blacks are a reliable Democratic vote?

Posted by Harry on Mar. 13, 2011 @ 3:09 pm

Blog posts aren't "vetted", Harry. And if it wasn't for this post, you wouldn't know the raw number of African Americans in town had actually increased by two, even as the percentage of total population decreased. 

Posted by sarah on Mar. 13, 2011 @ 5:02 pm

bosses trust you enough to not perform any editting whatsoever.

And it's true that I learned from your article that the black population of SF has increased, particularly since the sense and tone of your piece is that blacks are leaving.

But i am still waiting for you to answer the question why it matters if the black population was declining, either in absolute or relative terms?

Would it bother you just as much if the straight, white male population were declining? And if not, why not? Are some demographic groups innately more desirable than others here, for a reason you are yuet to articulate?

Posted by Harry on Mar. 13, 2011 @ 5:29 pm

His motto remains the same, though:
100% Bloviation.
0% Fact.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 13, 2011 @ 8:09 pm

"are some demographic groups innately more desirable than others"?
-Harry on Mar. 13, 2011 @ 5:29 pm

"straight writers CAN'T cover GLBT issues"
-Lucretia Snapples on Mar. 11, 2011 @ 12:00 pm

It seems the answer is yes.
According to the rabid conservatives like yourself.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 19, 2011 @ 12:37 pm

There's nothing progressive about Posting Under The Name Harry

Posted by marcos on Mar. 13, 2011 @ 9:09 pm

> I am not 'black' - I also am 'british' - though I have lived in SF for almost 40
> I do not live in BVHP - though as a visiting Hospice RN I have helped care for
hundreds of families in the neighborhood over the years.
This problem has nothing to do with 'racial quotas' or most of the other specious arguments and excuses advanced ad nauseam here and elsewhere for decades.
It has everything to do with the multiple manifestations of racism historically and presently practiced here in San Francisco, and nationwide.
It has to do with money, power, control, land speculation and subservience to 'Massa'; a situation which increasing numbers of 'white' people are finally realising includes them also
I do not pretend to be as informed as I would like to be, but I have learned a lot over the years from my 'teachers' in BVHP.
I have no intent or interest in getting further involved in this 'discussion' here, but merely want to add to Rebecca's references above. Like many other ignorant 'white' folks, I am struggling with my inherent complicity in the injustices 'we' have perpetuated for centuries and searching for ways in which I might be of some help in the fight for justice and equality. For those who truly want to try understand what is going on today, and it's genesis, I suggest checking out the following links, from a variety of sources. Hope they work, I found them to be enlightening.
Have a good read.

Posted by Pat Monk.RN. on Mar. 14, 2011 @ 9:32 am

Not bad for Monday morning. Only 1 typo and 1 false lead. One more try.

PS @"Sambo". Excuse us for giving a damn, but racist remarks and attitudes like yours above only deepen the divide.

Posted by Pat Monk.RN. on Mar. 14, 2011 @ 10:16 am

The census data, as a whole, show increasing integration in San Francisco and the Bay Area. The Mission became a little less Latino, but the city became more Latino overall. The Asian population grew in areas that once had few Asian residents.

Many African Americans who grew up in San Francisco moved the suburbs, as SF-native whites have been doing for decades. (As have many SF-native Latinos and Asians.) Replacing them have been Asian and Latino immigrants, as well as young people, many highly educated, from other parts of the US.

The Bayview has one of the highest homeowner rates in SF, and homeowners who were able to sell their homes before the crash made a lot of money. So it is a mistake to view everyone who left the city as victims.

It is also a mistake to assume, like one writer on this thread, that SF's African American community were natural political allies of the Bay Guardian. African American voters supported the policies of Willie Brown more than those of Matt Gonzalez, and overall were more conservative on social issues, especially gay rights.

Posted by Guest Dan on Mar. 14, 2011 @ 9:15 pm

Dan, the high home owner rate in the Bayview is often quoted, but as a sign of what? That African Americans are buying homes? That other ethnic groups are buying into the Bayview? And what about the concentration of foreclosures in the Bayview in recent years? Those statistics need to be fleshed out to put the results of the 2010 census and the fate of the city's black community into clearer perspective. And you are right that historically there has not been a natural alliance between the African American community and the Bay Guardian.

Posted by sarah on Mar. 15, 2011 @ 10:05 am

The high homeowner rate in the Bayview has long preceded the real estate bubbles of the late '90's and 2000's. Many African American families have owned their homes in the Bayview from the time when they were inexpensive. Some have sold at great profit to newer residents of other ethnicities. In this case, African Americans left the Bayview because it was financially possible and advantageous to do so, not because they were forced out by gentrification.

Posted by Dan on Mar. 17, 2011 @ 4:05 pm

Danny-boy. Not gonna re-hash, we've been there, done that. I fully agree that the the root causes are many. However I still maintain that socio-economic racism, decades of designed neglect, denial of basic services, unequal allocation of resources, red-lining, co-opted political 'representation, etc, are prime factors; and that these are national, not just local problems.
I also agree that the African American, and most other, minority communities may not be natural 'allies' of SFBG, or many other so called progressive entities. If they had made those alliances, instead of listening to the disinformation propogated by the Uncle and Auntie Tom's, the situation might not be so dire. Many in the progressive establishment leadership are to blame for their failure to effectively communicate with, and publicly support minority communities in their struggles for justice and equality.
Be well my friend. Hasta la vista.

Posted by Pat Monk.RN. on Mar. 22, 2011 @ 11:09 am

Why are people just too dumb to know whats good for them, I can't imagine why people are turned off by progressives.

Posted by maltlock on Mar. 22, 2011 @ 12:42 pm

You seem to be using this space as a personal spotlit masturbatory forum, rather than for discussion of the issues at hand.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 19, 2011 @ 12:43 pm

It’s been a while since I last viewed this blog.

I must say, I am very disillusioned at the level of vitriol that I am reading here.
What I seem to be bearing witness to, among other things, is an attempt to “Kill the Messenger” coupled with no notable informed efforts at critically analyzing the contents of the actual report on which the original story is based.

Many of the attitudes here speak to what appear to be deep seated resentments aimed at the African American community. There are a number of assumptions that are flat out wrongheaded about African Americans that render us into a simple monolithic block. We are not now, nor have we ever been a simple people. African Americans, like any other group, range the entire spectrum which, includes members of the GLTBQ communities; low-income to high-income; lower educated to higher educated professionals etc., and we encompass virtually all political perspectives. And, NO…we are not all fans of Willie Brown!

Having worked on the Task Force for over two years, I was hopeful for a much more informed, and evenhanded response.

Sadly, many of the attitudes manifested here are proof positive that expose an insidious insensitivity towards African Americans at best –and at worst– are indicative of just how deeply entrenched racism is in San Francisco. Its little wonder that many African Americans no longer feel welcomed to live in this city. I am deeply saddened by some of the these responses here.

Posted by Guest Former Task Force Member on Apr. 19, 2011 @ 11:48 am