A Map of Gentrification in the Bay Area

Save ArticleSave Article

Failed to save article

Please try again

This article is more than 7 years old.

Where are the Bay Area's gentrification hot spots? In which neighborhoods are low-income residents most at risk of being pushed out due to rising real estate prices? Which areas have become exclusive enclaves unattainable to most of us?

UC Berkeley researchers assembled data on more than 2,000 census tracts in the region -- including everything from property prices and rents to density of low-income households to migration patterns -- to try to create a new portrait of gentrification and displacement dynamics. The result, released earlier this week under the auspices of UC Berkeley's Urban Displacement Project, is the interactive map above -- available with lots of supplementary data and case studies at the project's website.

The team, led by Karen Chapple, a professor of city and regional planning, and Miriam Zuk, a postdoctoral researcher at Cal's Center for Community Innovation, wasn't focusing specifically on displacement and gentrification.

Instead, they were trying to answer questions about the impact of policies meant to help attain state and regional goals for responding to climate change -- measures like encouraging in-fill development to help reduce sprawl and vehicle miles traveled. The takeaway is that those policies may spur gentrification and displacement -- if they are not managed carefully.


Chapple and Zuk said the biggest surprises from the research included:

  • Fifty-three percent of of all low-income households in the region live in neighborhoods at risk of, or already experiencing, displacement.
  • "The crisis is not half over" -- meaning that rising rents and home prices, along with an influx of more affluent people, increase the pressure on low-income people to move to the region's outer suburbs.
  • Displacement is occurring beyond neighborhoods that are clearly gentrifying -- something the researchers call "an ongoing story of exclusion" that's being experienced even in more affluent areas where property prices are rising.
  • Between 2000 and 2013, the region lost 50 percent of the units defined as affordable for low-income households; at the same time, the number of low-income households regionwide increased by 10 percent.
  • One of their main conclusions is that there is simply no way for the Bay Area to build its way out of the displacement problem. Instead, an approach that focuses both on increasing the supply of affordable homes, while adopting or strengthening policies to protect the existing supply of affordable housing, will be needed to slow displacement.

The project's report also found that one of the key indicators for gentrification in a neighborhood is a spike in development of market-rate housing. That's become a key issue in San Francisco's Mission District, which was one of nine neighborhoods the project focused on in a series of case studies that accompany the displacement map.

We asked Chapple and Zuk their thoughts about a proposed moratorium on market-rate housing in the Mission: Could it be effective in halting the march of gentrification in the district? Their answer: It might be useful as a tactic in winning some sort of agreement among community groups, the city and developers to add more affordable housing to the mix proposed for the area.