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Article 9 of 11-Part Series
Longtime Residents Moving to Suburbs
By Danielle McNamara
SAN FRANCISCO — John Burton grew up in a quiet neighborhood in the Bayview District in the 1960s.
His mother and step-father bought the home for $26,000 when they moved from the South.
More than three decades later, drugs and gang violence have turned the quiet neighborhood into a place where Burton no longer felt his family was safe. So three months ago, they bought a home in Fairfield in Solano County. It was an exit his two brothers had already made.
"The crime in Bayview was too much," he said. "I'm raising four kids. If I didn't have a family I might have stayed, but I don't want them here. Children can't be children there."
Burton is one of many longtime black residents who left Bayview for a better life in the suburbs. Enclaves of black families - often the children or grandchildren of blacks who moved to Bayview from the South in the 1940s - have moved to Bay Area suburbs such as Antioch, Stockton and Fairfield. There they've found cheaper housing, better schools and safer neighborhoods.
Fairfield's population has more than tripled in the last 25 years and people keep moving there for its lower crime rate and slower pace.
Natalie Hill has lived in Bayview with her grandmother her whole life, but the numbers push her to consider alternatives. About one-third of the city's homicides have been committed in her neighborhood this year. Three of her siblings have already moved to the Sacramento suburbs in the last six years.
"I'm going to stay with my grandmother, but I'd like to leave," she said. "I'm raising children and this isn't an ideal situation. I don't want to let my kids go outside anymore."
Natalie's brother, Jon Hill, took his family of four out of Bayview after two of his son's friends were killed by gunfire.
"That was it. I couldn't have my kids in this. Children shouldn't go to children's funerals," he said.
Although specific numbers were unavailable, several real estate agents who work in the Bayview area said they've seen a sharp increase in the number of families moving to the suburbs.
James Blanding, who started Bayview Property Managers in 1976, moved to Bayview from the east coast to get a job at the shipyards in Hunters Point in the 1960s.
"When I was at the shipyard there were jobs here, people had work and the neighborhood was fairly good, but when it closed - well that was one of those pivotal moments," he said.
African Americans from across the country, but especially the South moved to Bayview-Hunters Point for good-paying jobs in the Navy Shipyard. When the Navy closed it in 1974 the jobs went with it and a black exodus began.
"The older people had bought houses and were able to retire and live on that," he said. "But that generation has been passing lately and when the do, the children usually sell the homes and move out of the city."
While black families move out, Latino and Asian families are moving in, buying houses that are relatively affordable for the city.
"Used to be 95 percent of my customers looked like me," said Blanding, who is black. "Now it's closer to 45 percent."
Real estate agent Otis Brown said many of his clients in Bayview move to suburbs of Phoenix, Arizona and Houston, Texas. By selling their homes here -a three-bedroom, two bath house sells for about $650,000 - they can pay cash for their new homes.
"They want to get away from the blight and violence here," he said. "When they move out of state they don't have to worry about a large house note because their homes here sold for so much."
Joe Williams has been renovating his Bayview home for about six years so he can sell it and move to Oregon. He bought in the neighborhood because it was affordable.
"It's a quality of life issue," he said. "I don't have to move right now, but I want to. (Bayview) always looks better in the rearview window."
To Blanding, this turnover is disturbing.
"The younger generation has a tendency to sell the homes and move. All that tradition is lost, but that's the way it goes. If a person can't get a job around here then there's not much else he can do," he said. "It's a tragedy."
|© 2006 UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism|