Black Californians Leaving the City and Reshaping the State

Hundreds of thousands of Black Californians are moving away from urban areas, opting for the promise of abundance and opportunity offered by suburban communities, a trend referred to as "California's Black exodus."

2 minute read

July 21, 2020, 8:00 AM PDT

By Lee Flannery @leecflannery


Oakland

brad lindert / Flickr

Since the late 1980s, 275,000 Black Californians have moved away from expensive coastal cities like San Fransisco, Oakland, Los Angeles, and Compton, in a shift that Lauren Hepler describes as "California's Black exodus." In large numbers, ex-city dwellers have sought the opportunity and security of suburban communities in areas like California's Central Valley, the Inland Empire, and the San Joaquin-Sacramento Delta. Hepler points out that those who move to new cities face a different set of challenges and opportunities than those they left behind. "While a version of this geographic scramble is playing out for working and middle-class people of all races, the distinct obstacles that Black residents encounter in new communities raise the question: How far do you have to go today to find opportunity — and are some things ever really possible to leave behind?" writes Hepler. 

As larger numbers of Black Californians make move from city to suburb, new forms of discrimination have emerged. Predatory lending practices and job discrimination are still unfortunate aspects of everyday life in the new hometowns of Black Californians. According to associate professor of geography and urban planning at Arizona State University Deirdre Pfeiffer, in some communities, the trend of upward mobility, opportunity, and security of experience during the "Black flight" in the '80s and '90s has not continued. Now, at the intersection of pandemic anxiety, political discord, and a profound wave of protests reckoning with systemic racism in the United States, "at issue is whether these overlapping crises will accelerate California’s Black exodus or force a reckoning both inside and outside major cities," says Hepler.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020 in Cal Matters

Aerial view of Oceanwide Plaza skyscrapers covered with graffiti tags.

LA’s Abandoned Towers Loom as a “$1.2 Billion Ruin of Global Capital”

Oceanwide Plaza, shuttered mid-construction after its developer filed for bankruptcy, has stood vacant on prime Los Angeles real estate since 2019.

May 21, 2024 - The Architect's Newspaper

Entrance to a drive-through car wash at night with green 'Enter' sign.

Ohio Towns Move to Ban New Car Washes

City officials in northeast Ohio are putting limits on how many car wash facilities can open in their towns.

May 16, 2024 - News 5 Cleveland

Ornate, tan stone capitol building with a gold dome roof and low-rise city buildings in the background.

States Are Banning Guaranteed Income Programs

Four states now have laws in place that prevent cities and counties from creating or continuing guaranteed income programs, and several more have tried or are trying.

May 23, 2024 - Bloomberg CityLab

California Governor Gavin Newsom announcing funding for tiny home shelter project in front of quick-build tiny home shelter unit.

California’s Tiny Home Pledge Still on Paper, One Year Later

A promise to fund 1,200 tiny homes for unhoused residents in four cities as a way to rapidly and cost-effectively provide shelter has yet to yield tangible results, but projects are moving ahead in some cities.

May 24 - CALmatters

Residential neighborhood in Colorado with fall foliage and snowy mountains in background.

Colorado Ends Non-Family Occupancy Limits

Local jurisdictions will no longer be able to limit how many unrelated adults can live in a household, a move that supporters say will help lower housing costs and help older adults supplement their incomes and stay in their homes.

May 24 - Strong Towns

A white crosswalk painted by Crosswalk Collective LA in Los Angeles, California.

Guerilla Urbanism Spurs Action From Cities

Rather than take a hostile approach to DIY urbanism, some cities are using guerilla efforts as an opportunity to understand critical infrastructure gaps.

May 24 - Smart Cities Dive

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Call for Speakers

Mpact Transit + Community

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.