Byrd scans the crowd of 50 or so people, many of whom are holding signs with messages like No More Evictions & Foreclosures For Profit!, Hold Wall Street Banks Accountable, and Justice for Trayvon.

"You wanna know why I'm mad as hell?"

"Why?!" a handful of folks shout back.

Geary Brown and many other Bayview residents fear that the foreclosure crisis is accelerating the gentrification of their neighborhood.
Michael Short
Geary Brown and many other Bayview residents fear that the foreclosure crisis is accelerating the gentrification of their neighborhood.

"Because of the idea of the American Dream applying to everybody except black and brown people! You know how I know that? Because we are the ones losing our houses at disproportionate numbers!"

Over the last 40 years, the black population in San Francisco dropped from over 13 percent to 6 percent, the biggest percentage decline in any major American city. Around a quarter of the city's remaining black population lives in Bayview, which has the highest foreclosure rate in San Francisco.

"Because we are the ones who get shot the bad deals at the mortgage table!" Byrd continues. "Because we are the ones walking into banks with our heads up and walking out with our heads down!"

"That's right!" someone in theaudience yells.

Brown lingers at the back. He is a fixture at these anti-foreclosure rallies, which are often organized by Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, a nonprofit organization helping people keep their homes. Brown was there when protesters marched through a serene Los Altos neighborhood en route to a rally in front of Wells Fargo board member Nicholas Moore's home. And he emphatically nodded his head as Ross Rhodes, another foreclosed-upon homeowner, spoke into a megaphone about "fighting against the destruction of our communities" and "practices that are disproportionately driving African-Americans, Latinos, and the working class out of San Francisco.... We're Americans just like you."

And on this day at City Hall, he emphatically nods as Byrd likens the foreclosure crisis to Reconstruction.

"What we are facing today is a reign of terror on the black and brown community," he declares. "More than a hundred years ago, a campaign was launched to inflict terror on the minds and hearts of black people so that they would stay in their place."

"Preach, brother!" a man shouts.

"The reign of terror against the black and brown people continues!" Byrd exclaims. "You inflict erroneous mortgage and loan practices to keep us under the glass ceiling!"

To some extent, city leaders appear to agree with Byrd. In April, the Board of Supervisors passed a nonbinding resolution calling for a moratorium on all foreclosures in the city. Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting conducted an audit that found that 84 percent of foreclosure sales involved violations of law. The Sheriff's Department, in charge of carrying out eviction orders, eases the process by contacting residents before the eviction, and provides them with a list of organizations that can help.

As Byrd speaks, Brown spots Vivian Richardson, a small 61-year-old woman with short gray hair. He approaches her and the two embrace. Richardson, who lives a few houses down Quesada Avenue from Cato, was facing eviction just a few months ago. She and advocates blasted her lender, Aurora Bank, with, she estimates, 700 phone calls and 1,400 e-mails. Media outlets covered her plight. Eventually Aurora rescinded the foreclosure and offered Richardson a loan modification. It was a big victory for her, but a small one overall. For every Vivian Richardson, there are dozens more Geary Browns.

"They've done it to the Fillmore and all the other areas and now it's time for the Bayview," says Richardson. "Because too many people in Bayview have been foreclosed on in such a short period of time."

When Byrd finishes speaking, the crowd bursts into cheers. King steps up to lead a chant.

"The banks got bailed out!" he shouts.

"We got sold out!" returns Brown and everyone else.


For the first time in 40 years, black people are not the top homeowners in Bayview-Hunters Point. Asians, who comprise 30 percent of the area's population, own more houses than black people do. To many local residents, the emigration of black people from Bayview follows a direct line of descent from the displacement of black people from the Western Addition neighborhood, also known as the Fillmore.

Through the 1940s San Francisco's black population jumped from under 5,000 to more than 43,000. A third of them lived in the Fillmore, which featured lots of decrepit and cheap Victorian houses that survived the 1906 earthquake and fire. By the beginning of the 1950s, the Fillmore had been christened California's first official "redevelopment district." Over the next three decades, despite concerns from black leaders and neighborhood activists, old flats and office buildings were torn down and new market-priced apartments, co-ops, and senior citizen housing was built in their place. Higher-income people bought up the increasingly en vogue Victorians to live in or rent out.

"Redevelopment was the key to destroying the African-American community," says San Francisco State University geography professor emeritus Mark Kirkeberg, who has studied the evolution of city neighborhoods.

In all, 3,320 "affordable units" were built to replace the more than 12,000 that were destroyed, according to a 1976 study by the city's Redevelopment Agency. A good portion of the displaced black population headed to Bayview, an industrial hub with an established black community that had grown throughout the postwar years.

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18 comments
Porky
Porky

This is but another back door way that the city is getting most of the low middle income black community out of San Francisco.

Oink....if they wont to blame some body then thank all the radical communist agenda's that controled the city's political machine during the mid 1990's and up to the present.

What a shame when will people wake the hell up from this communist bastard's death grip !!!

JasonC
JasonC

This article is a crock.

I'd feel a hell of a lot more sympathy if any of these foreclosed people were actually victims of circumstances beyond their control (e.g. loss of a job, death of a family breadwinner, debilitating disease, etc.). Those are the awful twists of fate that no one can control. I would have no problem helping out people like that or feeling anger towards a predatory bank that swoops in to take the family home.

But that's not what's going on here. As far as I see it, we have an entire neighborhood full of greedy people who made some really stupid decisions. Everyone in the story was middle-class. No one was "trapped" in poverty. Most likely every thing that was purchased by these folks with refinance money could have been purchased with cash in time. Problem is, these people wanted the toys NOW! And the re-fi money was the "get rich quick" way to do it.

And I'm sorry, but why were these people so naive to think that these lending institutions had only the best interests of the borrowers in mind? That's just crazy! And if you're borrowing that much money ($400,000+), why wouldn't you read the fine print???? This is only the most important financial transaction of your life!!!!

I also find it incredibly offensive that other posters believe these people should be coddled and made to be victims. Isn't this only because these folks are people of color? If they were white, everyone would say "well, they got what they deserved!" Why don't you hold non-white people to the same standards? Is there some sort of unwritten truth that blacks and latinos are these excitable, mentally deficient, and child-like people who are incapable of acting like rational, mature adults? Talk about the soft bigotry of low expectations...

Ernest Gardner
Ernest Gardner

Historically Black neighborhoods like the Bayview are changing because of a reignited interest by those with money to live closer to the urban core. The market affordable rental housing, once found in abundance close in, is moving to the suburbs. With the suburbs inflated by Metro's artificial shortage of land, inner city is inflated even more. People's interest drive the market as well. I believe that interest is what's inflated much housing nationwide. Not just buildable land. That is the standard line the planners feed people all over the USA after they destroy affordable housing for the poor in this housing struggle the Black homeowners in the Bayview the Dispossesed. .

aviva
aviva

The author has no support for his claim that this is the "free market" and not racism. The bank bailout is proof that we don't have a free market in this country. I want to echo earlier comments by reminding everyone that our country has a history of government-sponsored racist housing policies. I think it's supremely unfair of the author here to leave that information out, or worse, actively deny it, with no evidence to back that up!

Ed Donaldson
Ed Donaldson

The history of mortgage lending is rooted in racism. Goggle search the "The Federal Home Loan Corporation" where you will find that it was federal gov't that started the practice of redlining, which was later adopted by the banks. Just think 40 years ago black folks couldn't get a loan because they were deemed to "risky" but, with asset securitization the banks found other unsuspecting goofs to "sell" the risk to so, that they could simply collect the fees. Now that they have drove the economy off a cliff with their unscrupulous practices everyone wants to blame the victim!

Finally, if you had $500K to lend would you feel compelled to loan to someone that didn't have the income? Of course not since you would do your due diligence to verify everything on the loan application. Basically, no one held a gun to head of the banks to force them to make the type of loan you currently find in the black community. In fact, the banks made loans in the black communities because they knew this is where folks had the most equity due to the pent up demand from redlining. In the end, this will go down as the biggest transfer of wealth in the history of America!

"Well thought out greed couple with unintended ignorance"

Richmondman
Richmondman

This guy pulled $280,000 of cash out of his house, didn’t repay, and HE IS THE VICTIM? On the other hand, the bankers who approved these loans should have been fired.

Rob
Rob

There are a number of very real truths here. Banks did in fact lend out money to people who could not within reason pay it back over the long term, with the premise that they were ultimately covered and would profit by the notion that real estate is always a positive investment, and by investing at the same time that lenders would default. At the same time many a Bayview resident took money with shortsighted visions of "free cash" and future sales or future easy refinances. Ultimately both sides took huge gambles that blew up in their faces, the difference being that the large banks had the benefit of a government bailout and a task of clearing balance sheets and underwater assets while homeowners who werent prudent found themselves in a hole, one that government stimulus was only marginally meant to help them out of. Trickle down has never really trickled down, and history was bound to repeat itself.

I am a Bayview resident, and i know many like those mentioned in this article. Many of which were my FORMER neighbors. Gentrification is a fact of life in the Bayview, and it see it with the changing faces of my neighbors, and changes to the neighborhood, but gentrification isnt the root cause of what happened, but rather gentrification is the effect. With informed and thought out fiscal responsibility nobody can force you out of your home, and nobody is unfairly throwing anyone out. Choices were in fact made, and poor ones at that at times, but for some things there is not a do-over and certainly not a requirement to give someone a helping hand and when it comes to a financial bottom line such an occurrence is often non-existent. What has happened in the Bayview is the same thing that happened all across the central valley, all across the country, it just happens to be magnified in the Bayview because of the deep ethnic core shift that is the result of the bubble burst. Too many saw the opportunity of "free money" and lived easy, and what seemed like a dream quickly became a nightmare, and not gentrification as system nor a bank made people believe it was a dream.

In 2006 my home in the Bayview appraised for $850k in 2009 it appraised for $600k today it sits around $475k, and if i had jumped at the money in 2006 i would without a doubt been just like those in this article, and exactly like my neighbors to my left and across the street who are now my former neighbors for the exact reason, because they did take the money. And with that money they had new cars, took trips, lived it up, and talked about refinancing when their ARM ended, as if it was given...well nothing is given. We know that as indisputable fact now. Every morning on my way to work i drive past no less than 6 homes that have been bought as foreclosures and are being flipped (yes flipping is alive and well in the Bayview) and while it isnt part of cunning gentrification the result will look like a cleansing as it were of one socio-economic group for another.

In the end, the development of Mission Bay will eventually continue to march its way past Dogpatch and up Third Street and when it comes around the corner of Islais Creek, property owners are going to see the $$'s and sell, and old buildings will give way to new developments (5800 Third, 5600 Third) with more to come and then you will see a very marked poplulation shift. For all those who do not know the T-line was NOT built for the current residents of the Bayview (Despite anything Willie L. Brown Jr. said) but for the future residents of the Bayview and there is your gentrification plan. To suddenly incorporate a historically unicorporated part of San Francisco, with mass transportation, and development, and partnership with mega builder, there is your gentrification plan. The construction of all the senior housing to encourage homeowners to sell property they cannot maintain, thats your gentrification. The replacement of Alice Griffith and other public housing, thats your gentrification actively at work and I will freely admit, some aspects of gentrification of the Bayview are much in demand and even needed, but the financial crisis wasnt part of the plan, it just made it that much easier when it seduced peoples greed with the promise of money dreams without working for it. Too many took to that dream, and in the working class Bayview where many have long lived earning 50% of the median income in San Francisco (even today average income is only 29k) dreams are all there are, but this was the ultimate ill-conceived dream too tempting to resist, but with a steep price to pay for being a dreamer.

The Bayview as a "Black" neighborhood is undoubtedly on its final countdown, and it is sad to see, for what might have been, of a thriving incorporated ethnic neighborhood. But even before this financial crisis took hold there was a need for the neighborhood to open up, socioeconomically, to not continue to be stuck in the time warp where the "hustle" was more celebrated than the professional, and where it was more vogue to complain about what you dont got, and who wont help you get it, than to do the work to do for self. For those who want to stay in the Bayview...stay, your house may no longer be your home, but stay, continue to take pride in staying. Walking away to say you were kicked out, pushed out doesnt tell the full story, at least not the same as with the Fillmore, nor does it honor the generations who did work so hard with arms and legs in the shipyards, etc. to create the Bayview as it has existed for so long.

wanderer
wanderer

When one writes about the "free market" doing something nowadays, the implication is that it is inevitable, could not be stopped. But the housing bubble and bust of the 2000s was not inevitable. The Federal Reserve, under the (then) sainted Alan Greenspan, consistently worked to keep credit cheap and easily available. Greenspan was repeatedly warned about financial and housing market bubbles (and scams) and was given explicit authority to regulate them, authority he refused to use. He was sure that the markets would self-correct, that bankers would act rationally and responsibly. But bankers didn't act rationally and responsibly, and the result was a global financial crisis.

So homeowners in the Bayview were offered loans that were too good to be true. That was happening everywhere, but there seems to be some evidence that it happened more in heavily Black neighborhoods like the Bayview. No doubt some owners signed up for apparently easy cash without reading every word of a long documents written in deliberately obscure language (language that some states are now making banks simplify). It was morally (and perhaps legally) incumbent on the sophisticated bankers and brokers who sold these loans to homeowners, some of them not very sophisticated, to provide clear explanation of the potential risks. Doing that would approach some more decent version of capitalism, rather than the predatory capitalism of recent decades.

It could have been different. It might be that the Bayview would have turned over to higher income families in the long run, that is a powerful dynamic in San Francisco (and subject for a different discussion). But it needn't have been so catastrophic and so wrenching for ordinary peoples' lives.

MikeJ
MikeJ

This is what happens when you use an adjustable rate short term loan to finance a long term investment. The rate increases were right there in the loan papers. It's not the banks fault that the borrowers committed to a loan that they could not afford. They gambled on the real estate market. Sometimes when you gamble you win, sometimes you lose. No guarantees.

Jackie
Jackie

I agree the city would love to have diversity be gone...I've seen it to be true my whole life in SF. BUT having purchased a home in Ingleside district in 1998, I know firsthand the many flyers stuffed in my mailbox and I was wise enough (thank goodness) to know that it was a scam! Every flyer sent to me went in the trash...I still have my home, I can afford my payment and that's with a couple refi's over the years to lower my interest rate. It's true people were preyed upon, but homeowners go greedy too. If you refi to start a biz that's a big risk and you should be ready to deal with the fallout.

Don
Don

No one forced anyone to sign these mortgages. Sorry, but there are people all over losing their homes because they can't pay.

sfcynic
sfcynic

Hey Don, yeah, a whole bunch of people are losing their homes because they cant pay. Actually, millions of people are losing their homes because they cant pay. On top of that, mortgage back securities, mortgages that weren't secure at all, all messed up a crap load of investments, retirements and pension funds and now, those people can't pay. Oh, let's not mention the crashed economy because the market was flooded with these loans. Now all these people, that had jobs and were paying, we're laid off and now they can't pay. And how about those cuts to education? Well, there's alot of people in the future that wont be paying anything because they don't have a education that would put them in a position for a career job that would allow them to pay.

And hey, the banks!!! No one put a gun to their head to push and incentives toxic loans into working class and middle class communities. But they sure as hell aren't paying.

Good looking out, though Don. You're simplistic view on things just inspired me to participate in any event that helps educates people like you and help people that are in this article fight to get their homes back.

ps. did someone pay you to post to this article? because I'm sure no one forced you to post what you posted.

Forsaken
Forsaken

Great article, thank you for seeing through glitzy hype and pandering deception of big money. They seem to be very satisfied with themselves while Pushing the Poor and Needy into the streets and lining their pockets with bigger bonuses.

Marcy Fleming
Marcy Fleming

This is leftist garbage. When you don't pay your mortgage you are properly evicted. Anyone with a brain could see the problem with balloon mortgages. The Feds were wrong to encourage so many irresponsible people to take out mortgages. Of course capitalism is always to blame ! I stopped reading Big Fat Bruce's Bay Guardian four years ago because of this type of slanted rubbish. Why should I tolerate it here ?

BethAnn3
BethAnn3

Uh, in case you haven't noticed, sfweekly has also been an alternative newspaper. You have it backwards about whether you should "tolerate" it because you apparently have never read this site or the paper until today, or you would know that.

You can always watch Fox News to find coverage that agrees with your view of the world.

Marcy Fleming
Marcy Fleming

You can't either read or think straight. I've been familiar with SF Weekly since the 80s.Just because it's a so-called alternative paper doesn't mean it has to have a braindead left view like the BG.Don't watch regular TV. Never watched Fox News because I'm a libertarian, not a neocon.Sorry I don't fit your stupid stereotype.

 
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