Illustration by Brian Stauffer.

A crowd has gathered around Geary Brown and his letter.

"Look what I got," he says, almost in a whisper.

Geary Brown, a trucker, saw his monthly mortgage payment shoot up from $1,800 to $2,800 around the time the recession hit. He faces eviction this month.
Michael Short
Geary Brown, a trucker, saw his monthly mortgage payment shoot up from $1,800 to $2,800 around the time the recession hit. He faces eviction this month.
Since Dexter Cato took back his Bayview house, it has become the rallying point for local homeowners facing foreclosure, a hub for fliers and barbecue.
Michael Short
Since Dexter Cato took back his Bayview house, it has become the rallying point for local homeowners facing foreclosure, a hub for fliers and barbecue.
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.

Heads peer over his shoulder.

They see the Bank of America masthead and the curt, three-sentence paragraph saying that the bank is considering giving him a loan modification. It is the first communication from the bank in three months, since the eviction warning in December.

"Congrats, Geary!" says a woman in a sweatshirt and jeans.

"Bout time they got back to you!" says a man sporting a beat-up 49ers cap.

Brown, a stocky 61-year-old with an amiable demeanor and a buzz cut, nods his head, smiling like a winner at the racetrack. He doesn't say anything more, just looks down at the paper as palms pat his back. Perhaps he doesn't want to gloat. Brown is the fortunate one. Many in this crowd are about to lose their houses and would love to get this letter.

They have congregated on this blue-skied spring Saturday in Bayview to mobilize against the foreclosure crisis that has hit this neighborhood harder than any other in San Francisco. By 3 p.m. there are more than two dozen people standing in front of 1401 Quesada Avenue, Dexter Cato's house. Technically the house belongs to Wells Fargo, because Cato was evicted in February. But two weeks later, Cato returned to the property and "the back door was mysteriously open," he explains with a sly grin. Cato changed the locks again, and hung on his fence and sidings yellow banners that say things like, "An Injury To One Is An Injury To All: Save Our Homes."

Since then, Cato's home has become a rallying point for many other Bayview homeowners facing foreclosure, a manifestation of the residents' will to fight back as eviction notices push them out of their neighborhood. And today he's hosting a barbecue — part block party, part protest against the banking industry.

As the swelling crowd bleeds into the street, passing cars slow down to rubberneck. Many drivers roll down the window to wave, or tap out a light honk-honk in solidarity. Passersby greet familiar faces, detouring for beer and short ribs. Neighbors lounge on plastic chairs by the grill. Two old men have set up a table for chess on the sidewalk. A local band jams on the street corner and several people are dancing.

"This block, man, something about it — we all grew up together, all our kids grew up together, went to the same school," says Cato, a 45-year-old longshoreman. "We looked out for each other."

But now the Bayview residents at this barbecue see their community dissolving. Foreclosures have spread like weeds. On Quesada alone, 11 houses are in foreclosure. Eight more on Palou Avenue, the next block north, and 15 more on Revere Avenue, the next block south. Between 2008 and 2012, according to projections from real estate database RealtyTrac, nearly 1,500 homes in Bayview's zip code will have been foreclosed on — a massive swath for an area with around 10,000 housing units.

To many residents' minds, the foreclosures serve to clear the path for the city's plans to redevelop and gentrify Bayview-Hunters Point, the southeastern neighborhood that both locals and Realtors call the final patch of San Francisco not yet redeveloped.

"Like they did to Fillmore," says James Pace, whose sister used to live across the street from Cato before she was foreclosed on. He leans against the house as he chats with Brown.

"You look at it now, where'd all the people go?" asks Brown.

"Went down to Pittsburg, went down to Antioch," replies Pace.

"It's all about money," deadpans Brown. "They're trying to get us out of here so they can develop."

Most every Bayview old timer remembers the way city leaders and developers in the 1950s and '60s whitewashed the Fillmore, the city's original black epicenter. The locals fear the same thing is happening to Bayview. Old timers have seen the exodus of the neighborhood's black population for decades. In 1980, Bayview was 65 percent black, and nearly two-thirds of that demographic owned a home. By 2010, the neighborhood was 34 percent black, and less than a third of them owned a home. The foreclosure crisis, many residents believe, is enabling the final thrust that pushes black people out of San Francisco.

"It's like they just plotted on us, just preyed on us," says Cato, his voice rising and brow tightening into a scowl. "They been tryna get this hill for the longest. All this new redevelopment — the palm trees, the light rail, Candlestick going down, the condos, the fancy restaurant — we know what they're doing. That ain't for us."

And so the Bayview residents are now trying to hold the line, fighting to keep a house and then a neighborhood. This time, though, it's not city leaders and developers forcing them out. It's the free market.

"I'm mad as hell!"

Rev. Malcolm Byrd stands on the steps of City Hall alongside more than a dozen activists and community leaders of all colors, a group that includes Amos Brown, president of the city's NAACP, and African Orthodox Archbishop Franzo King, the well-known preacher whose Bayview home faces foreclosure.

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.

"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.

Black people leaving the South for work and equality in the West came for the area's dock jobs — the International Longshore and Warehouse Union was one of the few integrated unions in the city, explains Bill Issel, professor emeritus of history at SFSU. In the late 1950s Geary Brown's parents arrived from Oklahoma, Dexter Cato's from Louisiana.

In addition to jobs, the industry brought smokestacks, loud machinery, and raw fish and meat smells — all of which kept property values low and, partnered with white flight and redlining, left available plenty of affordable housing for working-class black people looking to become homeowners.

By 1980, Bayview — the only zip code in city history to be predominantly black — had the highest rate of homeownership in San Francisco. But as factories and shipyards closed in the '70s and '80s, unemployment, gang crime, and the drug trade rose, spurring many black residents to leave the neighborhood, and San Francisco. More Asians and Latinos moved into the city, with many settling in the southeastern pocket. By the turn of the millennium, the black population in Bayview had stabilized at around 50 percent.

Then came the housing boom and bust. Hundreds of homes, including many that had been paid off and later refinanced, fell into foreclosure. Second generation residents, whose parents had planted roots in the community, suddenly faced the prospect of leaving town.

"We've reached the point where those who are going to stay have made it clear: 'No I'm not going anywhere,'" says Ed Donaldson, a housing counselor with the nonprofit San Francisco Housing Development Corporation and a Bayview native. "With the foreclosures, those people who would otherwise be able to stay are being pushed out."

Geary and Shirley Brown bought their first home in June 1995. He had built up savings from his years as a trucker and was then making a solid wage as a Muni bus driver. Throw in Shirley's income as a nursing assistant at Laguna Honda Hospital and they could afford the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage for the two-story, three-bedroom, two-bathroom, $194,500 hilltop house in Bayview.

Brown got back into trucking in 1998 when Pac Bell Park construction started up. Soon he was pulling in six figures. By 2005, he wanted to expand his business, so he took advantage of his rapidly appreciating property and refinanced his home for $300,000 with Wilmington Financial — he'd been getting pamphlets in the mail describing how smart and lucrative refinancing was. The way it worked was Wilmington paid off Brown's original mortgage ($194,500), then gave Brown a new home loan for the current appraised value of the house ($300,000), with Brown pocketing most of the $106,000 difference.

Seven months later, property values still rising, he replaced that loan with a $431,550 loan from Equifirst; and then again in January 2007 for $475,000 with Countrywide Home Loans. For all three mortgages, the lenders offered him their "pick-a-payment" program, which allowed homeowners to select how they wanted to pay off the loan. Brown chose the option with the lowest monthly payment: an adjustable-rate mortgage, where monthly payments begin at a certain amount before increasing after a set number of years. For the $475,000 mortgage, he started paying $1,800 a month.

He used the new money to buy a 2000 Peterbilt truck, which got much better gas mileage than his '79 Mac. He hired drivers. Approaching 60, he wanted to ease down his number of shifts, spend more time with Shirley. The rest of the refinance cash paid off his bills.

To Brown, who'd worked hard all his life to earn his house, the refinance felt like a well-deserved reward. He wasn't the only one, of course. Many of the homeowners at that Saturday afternoon barbecue had reason to refinance. Cato and Rhodes each say they had a kid in high school and wanted to be able to afford college. Carolyn Gage, a former San Francisco Sheriff's deputy, says she got injured on the job and needed an extra cash flow to supplement the worker's comp. Josephine Tolbert, a 75-year-old daycare provider who's owned her home for 45 years, says she owed her ex-husband money after a divorce settlement. Romeo Baful, a Filipino who has lived on Quesada for more than 20 years, say he needed to install new walls because the old ones had suffered termite damage.

Whatever the residents' reasons, the loans came with similar ease. Homeowners like Brown and Cato were eager to take advantage of their property's rising value, wanted in on these free-market spoils. And lenders were happy to take advantage of that enthusiasm.

"They sat my family upstairs in that living room and said, 'You know how much money you can save?'" Cato recalls. "All that money that would be going to my kids' college trust fund. It seemed too good to be true. But I was working, my wife was working, why wouldn't it happen to us? We wanted the American Dream, too."

The story is familiar by now: The housing market collapsed, and property values tanked, meaning that many homeowners could no longer pay off the mortgage by selling the house. Compounding the problem for Cato and Brown, their adjustable-rate mortgage payments had increased after two years. Brown's climbed from $1,800 to $2,800, Cato's from $1,700 to $4,200.

Many residents believe that they were manipulated into taking bad loans, targeted because of their skin color. Over the past couple of years, well-publicized evidence has supported this notion.

In 2009, a federal lawsuit accused Wells Fargo of targeting working-class black people for subprime mortgages, loans with higher interest rates and less favorable terms to compensate for a borrower's perceived financial insecurity. One loan officer testified that employees called them "mud people" and described the mortgages as "ghetto loans." In November 2011, former banker James Theckston explained to the New York Times that some account executives "targeted less savvy borrowers — those with less education, without previous mortgage experience, or without fluent English — and nudged them toward subprime loans," because they earned a higher commission for those transactions. A 2010 study by Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs concluded that black homeowners with similar credit profiles and down payment ratios to white borrowers were more likely to receive subprime loans. And in December 2011, Bank of America agreed to pay a $335 million settlement after the Justice Department alleged that the bank's Countrywide Financial unit charged higher rates and fees to minority borrowers than to financially comparable white borrowers.

"They dangled a carrot in front of people that didn't know a lot of what they were doing," says Rhodes. "'You can send your children to college! Buy a new car! Go on a vacation! When was the last time you went on a vacation? All you gotta do is pull some money out of your house, all you have to do is refi!'"

"That's all we want," he adds, "to send our kids to college. Get a new car. Go on a family vacation. We want that apple pie we see on TV."

A nagging knee injury put Brown's wife on disability in 2008. So when the recession hit and Brown's business slowed, the household didn't have the second income to balance the budget. It was around this time that the mortgage payment jumped to $2,800. This surprised Brown, who had been under the impression that he was locked into the original rate.

"I should have read and understood what they were doing," he says. "I should have read the fine print about the percentage rate on the loan, and how long that was supposed to last. I didn't think about the economy. I didn't see that far ahead."

Brown began missing payments. Then in early 2010, his wife was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He didn't want to worry her about the financial matters, so he kept the urgency of the mortgage situation to himself. He sold one of his big rigs and laid off most of his employees. With fewer drivers but higher mortgage payments, Brown gave himself more trucking shifts. The infrastructure projects spurred by the federal stimulus package, he says, opened up much-needed work for him. He spent most days on the road.

Brown was scraping together enough to meet payments, but not enough to cover the months he had missed. In November 2010, he paid American Home Financing, a foreclosure assistance service, $3,500 to help get him a loan modification. The company told him to stop paying his mortgage until a representative got back to him, he says (American Home Financing did not answer several calls from SF Weekly). This was a common piece of advice: In many cases, banks only considered modification once a homeowner proved hardship. But American Home Finance never got back to him. (The Better Business Bureau has given the company an "F" rating.) Brown missed six straight payments.

Bank of America says that around this time Brown was offered a trial modification program, where borrowers must complete three monthly payments at the modified rate before being considered for a permanent modification. The bank claims he missed the trial payments. Brown says he doesn't remember getting this offer.

He continued to seek a loan modification. Bank of America continued to decline. After all, the bank no longer owned the mortgage — like many loans, Brown's had been bundled with others and sold to investors. So the bank was looking out for the investors' interest. From that perspective, the math is simple: Usually for a bank to modify a loan, says Bank of America spokesman Rick Simon, the modification must yield the investor more profit (or less loss) than the foreclosure sale would.

"In the end, the loss taken by the investor to modify a loan, including lost interest income over the average life of a mortgage, must be less than the expected loss incurred if the loan goes to foreclosure," Simon explains.

On Sept. 6, Harborview Mortgage Loan Trust, the investment group that purchased Brown's loan from Bank of America, became the owner of Brown's deed. Two months later, the bank offered Brown $5,000 to leave the house. He considered it. "But I put too much into that house," he says, before adding with a chuckle, "How 'bout I give you $5,000 and I keep the house?"

By January the bank had put the house up for auction. The property was appraised at $252,191. In February, Brown's wife died.

Weekdays at 2 p.m. investors gather at the City Hall steps for an auction of foreclosed property. The size of the group varies, depending on the number and appeal of the day's products. On this day in April, about a dozen are in attendance. No one is willing to give a name on the record, and no one sees much financial promise in Bayview properties.

"Most people don't wanna take the risk right now," says a man in a green fleece. "Where the prices are at, you're not gonna be able to sell it for much more anytime soon."

While investors are not especially interested in the area now, many agree that it is only a matter of time before the market improves. But that uncertainty is a major drawback. Another regular on the steps, who says he has bought more than a dozen auctioned properties in each of the last two years, including one in Bayview, explains that he is hesitant to buy property there because there is no telling how long it will take for the proposed redevelopment to shoot up market values.

"The Bayview is good value if you're looking for something long-term, but the question is, how long will it take to pop?" he says. "Bayview gets less interest at the auction steps than any other district. The Bayview is hard to sell, and the profit margins aren't any better."

Historically, one reason the area hadn't drawn much interest from developers was its geographic seclusion: Highways 280 and 101 walled off the neighborhood from the north and west, and few main roadways funneled into the rest of the city. Plus, shuttered factories and shipyards had left brownfield along the Mission Bay shoreline. High crime rates scared off buyers as well.

Still, Bayview boasts some of the best weather and vistas in the city. Over the last decade, housing and retail projects have popped up around the area that many investors and Realtors see as the foundation for eventual SOMA-like redevelopment. And, to the benefit of all homeowners in the area, development tends to bring jobs, lower crime rates, and increase home values.

"Is there upside? Long-term there is some upside," says Herb Alston, a Realtor at Coldwell Banker. "In the next three to five years we're gonna see prices go up again in Bayview."

In 2007, a light rail line expanded down Third Street, Bayview's main thoroughfare. In July 2010, the Board of Supervisors tentatively approved Lennar Corporation's proposal to construct a $7 billion dollar residential and commercial complex at the old Hunters Point Naval Shipyard grounds. A month later, city hall adopted a plan for the "Bayview Hunters Point Redevelopment Area." (The proposal has not moved forward since Gov. Jerry Brown froze state redevelopment funds in December.) A library is under construction. A jazz lounge just opened.

"Where in San Francisco do you have 1,000 acres of undeveloped land?" asks Donaldson, the housing counselor. "We're sitting on a gold mine here."

For now the new buyers are still middle-income families who want to live in San Francisco but can't afford anywhere else in the city, says Jim Hurley, a Realtor with Vanguard. A majority of those families are Asian or Latino, whose combined population in Bayview has surpassed that of black people.

Most everyone agrees that a certain level of development is good; most everyone agrees that a certain level of displacement is bad. The challenge is striking the right balance, if such a thing exists.

Concerns over Bayview gentrification may seem premature, but memories of the Fillmore's fate persist. Lessons were learned, mainly: It's too late to fight once the bulldozers roll in. More than 30 years later, history professor Issel writes in his forthcoming book, Church and State in the City, Thomas Fleming, a Fillmore newspaper editor, and Daniel Collins, founder of the city's National Urban League branch, "looked back on the 1940s as a time of lost opportunity, when the African American residents of the Western Addition failed to rouse themselves sufficiently to influence the redevelopment of the district.... As they recalled it, very little community opposition was manifest prior to the actual tearing down of buildings."

Real estate experts believe the foreclosure crisis is only half over. Many more mortgages remain underwater — loan balances higher than property values. Waves of missed payments are likely to continue for the next couple of years with scores of Bayview evictions a near certainty.

"Because of redevelopment, because of gentrification, they've been pushing us out of our communities time and time again," says Carolyn Gage, whose parents first bought her Bayview home 50 years ago after getting displaced from their Fillmore apartment building. "It's like a hurricane, like Katrina — do you wait till the levees break?"

But this time there are no antagonists plotting to drive out residents. Rising market values generated the fickle wealth and false sense of security that tempted homeowners to take out risky mortgages. Recognizing this expanding consumer base, lenders solicited loans with the intent of maximizing the chance for fees and profits. When the market sunk, homeowners lost the money that would have repaid the banks. Because foreclosure can be cheaper than loan modification, lenders kept the collateral, the houses, consequently accelerating the flight. The free market threatens to do to Bayview what city leaders and developers did to the Fillmore.

Geary Brown remembers the Fillmore redevelopment well. He got his first trucking gig transporting equipment and building materials to construction sites in the Western Addition in 1976. On a recent morning, he sits at his dining room table. Papers blanket the glass surface — a Countrywide loan agreement, a receipt for a $3,500 check to American Home Financing, a $100,000 "Brown and Sons Trucking" invoice for work on San Francisco General Hospital renovations.

Brown glances down at the layers of documents. He leans back and exhales.

"If you got money, you could stay here in San Francisco," he says. "If you don't, don't even think of coming back here, 'cause San Francisco is too expensive. You don't like it, you can get with it or you don't. That's the way I see it. It's not gonna change for me or you or anybody. Either you can handle it or you can't. And me right now, I'm just tryna hold on 'cause I love this house, it's me and my wife's house, our first house and I can afford it."

He looks up and smiles.

"And I'm fittin' to push it up a notch," he goes on. "Buy me a few more pieces of property. I'm a rent this out, probably six, seven, eight months down the road. Take up this carpet, do this floor, and probably rent it out, buy me another house."

"The banks got bailed out!"

"We got sold out!"

The chanting continues at the rally on the City Hall steps — around the corner from the steps where the auctions take place. Shuffling through the crowd, Brown runs into another acquaintance, a twentysomething in a blue V-neck. The two shake hands.

Since getting that letter a few weeks ago, Brown has heard again from Bank of America.

"The bank made a judgment," Brown discloses, unprompted.


"They said they're not gonna modify."

He must vacate his house by May 2.

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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 !!!


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. .


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"


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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 ?


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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