Urban Fold

The Evolution of San Francisco - Winners & Losers

San Francisco is in flux - more than just the sky-line is changing. Middle-class families, blacks, even Latinos may be in flight while whites and Asians are on the rise, and the young and old rich fill the new high-rises.

"San Francisco is changing so rapidly some say the San Franciscans of 2007 won't recognize the place in five years.

Housing and change run together. Where the city needs affordable housing, it is getting condos, though some of the building fees the condo projects generate are earmarked for affordable housing. One Rincon, which cost $290 million to build, generated $20 million toward low-cost housing."

While the change is exciting to some, it "is also sobering - some experts worry that a new San Francisco of high-rises and fine living will be a city of the very rich and very poor, a boutique city and not a real one.

"It will be economically less diverse and to some extent less racially and ethnically diverse," said Richard DeLeon, emeritus professor of political science at San Francisco State University. DeLeon literally wrote the book on San Francisco's politics with his "Left Coast City," a study of the rise of the city's cutting-edge leftist progressive movements.

DeLeon notes the sharp decline in San Francisco's African American population, which has dropped from 16 percent of the residents to 6 percent in 30 years.

He said the city may also lose much of its Latino population, driven out by high home prices. It could become a city with fewer children and fewer families - a city without a middle class.

If present trends continue, DeLeon thinks San Francisco might become a city that is white and Asian, with marked declines in the number of black and Latino residents.

The changes are driven by economics and politics, he said. "The issue is who gets to live in San Francisco and who can afford to live in San Francisco."

"San Francisco does have one unique quality: It's always changing, but it opposes change. "We think we are progressive and open-minded," said Meagan Levitan, a real estate broker and native San Franciscan who is also on the Recreation and Park Commission, "but we say, 'Don't change a thing.' "

Full Story: High-rises are a sign of the times in changing San Francisco


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