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Un-forgetting the segregationist history of Palo Alto (and Daly City, and San Francisco, and…)

Richard Rothstein's book 'The Color of Law' documents how American communities — including much of the Bay Area — were purposefully segregated along racial lines

In 1954, one Peninsula real estate agent seized upon the sale of a single home on the east side of Palo Alto.

"The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America" by Richard Rothstein. Book cover image via Liveright/W.W. Norton Publishing.

Floyd Lowe, President of the California Real Estate Association at the time, quickly began amplifying racial tensions by warning residents that the one black family moving into their neighborhood marked the beginning of an impending "Negro invasion" into their community. The sordid strategy — known in time as "blockbusting" — worked as Lowe had intended it to: white families quickly sold at lesser values, enabling Lowe to market these homes to black buyers at inflated prices. Within a few years the neighborhood was predominantly African American, yet fast-tracked towards becoming a slum as residents struggled with exorbitant mortgages, schools became overcrowded and white-owned businesses fled the local economy. In time, Lowe's scheme — which was never opposed by government regulators — has been conveniently forgotten despite being essential to understanding the current social fabric of modern-day Palo Alto.

In his 2017 book, The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, local author Richard Rothstein deftly chronicled how Lowe's legacy was merely a single case study in how our nation was, in fact, very purposefully segregated along racial lines in the modern era. No, not by chance or even ill-intentioned private forces, but by public housing policy that went all the way to the federal level.

Rothstein, a research associate with the Economic Policy Institute, has documented a lengthy list of historical examples which suggest that housing segregation was not only intentional, but that it still remains at the heart of so many racially oriented disparities within our nation: education, income, health and more.

And while it's easy to think that the historical focus of his book would focus on red states with slaveholding legacies, Rothstein presents the Bay Area as Exhibit A of how tangible segregationist housing policy had been implemented in liberal urban areas throughout our nation. Indeed, there is no shortage of local examples: San Francisco, Richmond, Daly City. In fact, the example of Lowe and East Palo Alto was not the only instance of segregationist policy on the Peninsula. Rothstein also explains how in 1948 Palo Alto purposefully thwarted Wallace Stegner's efforts at developing a racially-integrated working-class housing settlement near the Stanford campus.

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When we caught up with Rothstein by phone recently, The Color of Law was ranked #9 on the Amazon Book list, where it has lingered for the past month.

Richard Rothstein is a research associate of the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. He is also a Fellow at the Thurgood Marshall Institute of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. His book The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America was published in 2017. Author image via Liveright/W.W. Norton Publishing.

We spoke with him briefly to expand upon how the makeup of today's Bay Area communities are tied to these historical policies, why many modern housing regulations still perpetuate segregation and how social media can keep these issues on the front burner.

Take a look…

To begin, I was curious about when this history first came onto your radar? And I ask that because when it comes to discrimination in this country and social struggles in general, housing discrimination and segregation tends to be less visible of an issue.

I was, as you may know, an education policy writer. As I explain in the book, I came to the conclusion that school segregation was one of the biggest problems we face in American education and that segregation largely explains the achievement gap. And I realized that schools were segregated because the neighborhoods in which they are located in are segregated. So I approached this really not as a housing issue, but as an educational issue. The more I got into it, the more housing segregation became an issue unto itself.

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In that regard, your book functions so well as a connecting of the dots — how one issue leads to another — and why so many of those dots do indeed lead back to housing segregation.

Well, that's right. The more I studied about this the more I understood that it wasn't just an achievement gap at schools that were a result of residential segregation. It's health disparities between African Americans and whites, because so many African Americans are concentrated in neighborhoods that are less healthy and more polluted, with less access to fresh food. African Americans have higher rates of heart disease and diabetes, and part of the explanation for that is that they are concentrated in neighborhoods that are less well-resourced.

Also, mass incarceration would not exist to such an extent for African Americans if so many young black men weren't concentrated in single neighborhoods where the police serve as an occupying force and maintain policies that are consistent with colonial police forces. And if young black men were not concentrated in single neighborhoods…I'm not saying that police would not discriminate against them, but it would not nearly be to the extent that we have.

The biggest single cause of racial inequality in this country is the ongoing enormous wealth gap between African Americans and whites. African Americans have household wealth that is 5% on average of white household wealth. And that enormous disparity is largely attributable to the fact that African Americans have been restricted to neighborhoods where if they own homes at all they don't appreciate in the same way that homes in white neighborhoods do, and that African Americans in the 20th century were prohibited from moving into neighborhoods where appreciation was rapid. So the wealth gap, and all of the other social inequalities that stem from the wealth gap, they all are continuations of residential segregation.

And finally, I would also say that the enormous and frightening political polarization in this country today is in part a consequence of racial segregation. It's hard to imagine how we can ever develop a common national identity that is necessary for the preservation of this democracy if so many blacks and whites live so far from each other, with no ability to understand each other or empathize with each other's life experiences. So I think residential segregation is the fundamentally most serious problem this country faces. And this is not something that I thought before getting into this. I had thought it was just an educational issue.

You point out early on in the book that this history wasn't a product of the former slave-owning south, but notably designed and implemented by liberal leaders. And as a way of conveying that to our local readers, to what degree would you say that the makeup of modern Bay Area communities had been shaped by these policies?

Well, as you know I focus a lot on the Bay Area. Many of my examples come from the Bay Area. I definitely think that the Bay Area has been shaped by this.

The suburbanization of the country that took place in the late 1940s and through the 1950s that was underwritten by the Federal Housing Administration was created on a racial basis. So you talk about the Bay Area, talk about Westlake in Daly City, a development that was financed by the Federal Housing Administration. The developer of that project, Harry Doelger, could never have generated the capital to build in Daly City on his own. No bank would have been crazy enough to lend somebody the money to build 15,000 homes which had yet to have any buyers. The only way you could do it was to go to the Federal Housing Administration and make a commitment to never sell a home to an African American, to concede to the Federal Housing Administration's requirement that every deed in the home prohibit resale or rental to African Americans. And on that basis, Daly City was built on a racially segregated, exclusively white basis. The homes at the time were relatively inexpensive (in today's money about $100,000 in Westlake at that time) and African Americans could have afforded that just as whites could. And if they were returning WWII veterans, which were much of the buyers of those developments, they required no downpayment via a VA loan. So this was not an economic difference. Of course, to some extent whites were able to afford homes more than African Americans, but many African Americans could have afforded to move to Westlake, but they were prohibited from doing so by the Federal Housing Administration and were instead concentrated in government created ghettos in the Bay Area.

And it's not just Westlake. Other areas in the East Bay — San Leandro, San Lorenzo — were similarly exclusively white-based on a federal requirement.

During World War II, with the influx of black and white war workers, to work mostly in the shipyards, the government had to supply housing for these workers and it did so always on a segregated basis, with separate housing projects for blacks and whites. The federal government built four projects, I believe, for whites only in San Francisco. And then one designated for African Americans in the Fillmore district, which became the black neighborhood in S.F.

So the Bay Area is no exception at all to these events.

Prior to reading your book I was unaware of the incident of "blockbusting" that had occurred in East Palo Alto during the 1950s, and I was struck by how foundational it was to where the city finds itself today.

Well, absolutely. East Palo Alto was transformed from a white to a black neighborhood through blockbusting that was led by a realtor who was the head of California's realtor association.

The whole theme of my book is that this is government action. So in the case that we are talking about, every real estate agent in California is licensed by the state, and (the realtor's association) did not pull the license of the real estate agent who led that effort in East Palo Alto, which means the licensing agency was violating the 14th Amendment. That was their obligation. So I don't consider this purely private activity.

Had you come across any examples where there was intervention by any of the regulatory agencies?

No, that's the problem. There was not. In fact, the National Association of Realtors had a code of ethics which prohibited the sale of homes in white neighborhoods to African Americans families. Every real estate agency in the country was obligated to subscribe to that code of ethics.

In 1948, the city of Palo Alto thwarted the efforts of well-known American novelist Wallace Stegner (pictured here) who led an effort to develop an affordable housing development for working class families near the Stanford campus. Since three of the prospective home buying families were black, local authorities and regulatory agencies blocked the effort from proceeding. Image via the Stanford Historical Photograph Collection.

Along those lines, how have these incidents and this history just fallen through the cracks of popular memory?

I don't know. All I can say is that they were. We never dealt in this country with the legacies of slavery or Jim Crow.

And now, not just in the post-George Floyd era — but the last five or so years…really since Ferguson — we're dealing with it more accurately and passionately than we ever have before in American history. I guess you can blame that on social media and the fact that people walk around with cell phones. But as you know, the subtitle of my book is A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America. Not a hidden history, no conspiracy…it's been forgotten. It is a difficult history to deal with, but people would rather forget it if it's not in their faces, but social media puts it in their faces.

I'm not a professional historian, but one thing I take some pride in is that — almost three years now that the book has been published — not a single historian has challenged a single fact in the book. So I think it is incontrovertible that it is accurate. And it's been forgotten.

In terms of our current state of affairs, are there certain modern policies that are playing a role in perpetuating segregation today? For instance, here in Palo Alto there is a 50-foot height limit on new developments as well as rigid parking requirements.

Oh, yes, you mentioned one of the biggest ones — zoning. That certainly perpetuates segregation. That's one.

For low-income families, the well-known Section 8 voucher program — as a subsidy to rent apartments — that re-enforces segregation because most Section 8 vouchers are only usable in low-income existing segregated neighborhoods. The biggest program for subsidized low income families is something called the low-income housing tax credit, and most of those developments are placed in low-income segregated neighborhoods, because there's no community opposition to placing it there. So that re-enforces segregation.

But I will say this, even if we were to reform these programs and change zoning, that wouldn't make much difference because what is also required is remedies for the enormous wealth gaps and income gaps that have been created by this segregation. Many fewer African Americans today, than in the past, can afford to move to Palo Alto even if it did change it's zoning. And that was not true in the past. So we need compensation, financial remedies, subsidies for working families (I'm not talking about poor people). We need subsidies for working-class African Americans to be able to buy into communities from which they have been excluded and which would have been affordable to them. Simply opening up those communities by relaxing zoning is not going to accomplish what needs to be accomplished.

Early in your book, you write that the idea to "‘Let bygones be bygones' is not a legitimate approach if we wish to call ourselves a constitutional democracy." And in that regard, I have to ask about your level of optimism in terms of how we move forward from here on these matters as a nation.

Well, I'm very optimistic. And I would have said this even before the current awakening, because as I said to you earlier, we are having a more accurate and passionate discussion about race today in this country then we have ever had in the past, ever.

My book has had a stunning reception, completely unexpected by me. But it's not just my book, it's Michelle Alexander's book The New Jim Crow, it's Brian Stevenson's book Just Mercy, it's the work of Ta-Nehisi Coates. All of these have penetrated the American consciousness in a way that has never before been done on issues of race. We have white elected Southern politicians removing statues that commemorate the defenders of slavery. That has never happened before.

Now, raised consciousness does not lead to action by itself. So my optimism is qualified by the fact that we need to move beyond awareness to action. And the action is difficult. But, am I optimistic? Yes, more than ever before. Am I confident? Absolutely not.

(Editor's Note: This interview was edited for length and clarity.)

"The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America" by Richard Rothstein. Imagery via Liveright/W.W. Norton Publishing.

Richard Rothstein's book The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America is available now via Liveright Publishing.

This article was originally published June 25 on TheSixFifty.com, a sister publication of Palo Alto Online, covering what to eat, see and do in Silicon Valley.

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Un-forgetting the segregationist history of Palo Alto (and Daly City, and San Francisco, and…)

Richard Rothstein's book 'The Color of Law' documents how American communities — including much of the Bay Area — were purposefully segregated along racial lines

by / TheSixFifty.com

Uploaded: Sun, Jun 28, 2020, 7:36 am

In 1954, one Peninsula real estate agent seized upon the sale of a single home on the east side of Palo Alto.

Floyd Lowe, President of the California Real Estate Association at the time, quickly began amplifying racial tensions by warning residents that the one black family moving into their neighborhood marked the beginning of an impending "Negro invasion" into their community. The sordid strategy — known in time as "blockbusting" — worked as Lowe had intended it to: white families quickly sold at lesser values, enabling Lowe to market these homes to black buyers at inflated prices. Within a few years the neighborhood was predominantly African American, yet fast-tracked towards becoming a slum as residents struggled with exorbitant mortgages, schools became overcrowded and white-owned businesses fled the local economy. In time, Lowe's scheme — which was never opposed by government regulators — has been conveniently forgotten despite being essential to understanding the current social fabric of modern-day Palo Alto.

In his 2017 book, The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, local author Richard Rothstein deftly chronicled how Lowe's legacy was merely a single case study in how our nation was, in fact, very purposefully segregated along racial lines in the modern era. No, not by chance or even ill-intentioned private forces, but by public housing policy that went all the way to the federal level.

Rothstein, a research associate with the Economic Policy Institute, has documented a lengthy list of historical examples which suggest that housing segregation was not only intentional, but that it still remains at the heart of so many racially oriented disparities within our nation: education, income, health and more.

And while it's easy to think that the historical focus of his book would focus on red states with slaveholding legacies, Rothstein presents the Bay Area as Exhibit A of how tangible segregationist housing policy had been implemented in liberal urban areas throughout our nation. Indeed, there is no shortage of local examples: San Francisco, Richmond, Daly City. In fact, the example of Lowe and East Palo Alto was not the only instance of segregationist policy on the Peninsula. Rothstein also explains how in 1948 Palo Alto purposefully thwarted Wallace Stegner's efforts at developing a racially-integrated working-class housing settlement near the Stanford campus.

When we caught up with Rothstein by phone recently, The Color of Law was ranked #9 on the Amazon Book list, where it has lingered for the past month.

We spoke with him briefly to expand upon how the makeup of today's Bay Area communities are tied to these historical policies, why many modern housing regulations still perpetuate segregation and how social media can keep these issues on the front burner.

Take a look…

To begin, I was curious about when this history first came onto your radar? And I ask that because when it comes to discrimination in this country and social struggles in general, housing discrimination and segregation tends to be less visible of an issue.

I was, as you may know, an education policy writer. As I explain in the book, I came to the conclusion that school segregation was one of the biggest problems we face in American education and that segregation largely explains the achievement gap. And I realized that schools were segregated because the neighborhoods in which they are located in are segregated. So I approached this really not as a housing issue, but as an educational issue. The more I got into it, the more housing segregation became an issue unto itself.

In that regard, your book functions so well as a connecting of the dots — how one issue leads to another — and why so many of those dots do indeed lead back to housing segregation.

Well, that's right. The more I studied about this the more I understood that it wasn't just an achievement gap at schools that were a result of residential segregation. It's health disparities between African Americans and whites, because so many African Americans are concentrated in neighborhoods that are less healthy and more polluted, with less access to fresh food. African Americans have higher rates of heart disease and diabetes, and part of the explanation for that is that they are concentrated in neighborhoods that are less well-resourced.

Also, mass incarceration would not exist to such an extent for African Americans if so many young black men weren't concentrated in single neighborhoods where the police serve as an occupying force and maintain policies that are consistent with colonial police forces. And if young black men were not concentrated in single neighborhoods…I'm not saying that police would not discriminate against them, but it would not nearly be to the extent that we have.

The biggest single cause of racial inequality in this country is the ongoing enormous wealth gap between African Americans and whites. African Americans have household wealth that is 5% on average of white household wealth. And that enormous disparity is largely attributable to the fact that African Americans have been restricted to neighborhoods where if they own homes at all they don't appreciate in the same way that homes in white neighborhoods do, and that African Americans in the 20th century were prohibited from moving into neighborhoods where appreciation was rapid. So the wealth gap, and all of the other social inequalities that stem from the wealth gap, they all are continuations of residential segregation.

And finally, I would also say that the enormous and frightening political polarization in this country today is in part a consequence of racial segregation. It's hard to imagine how we can ever develop a common national identity that is necessary for the preservation of this democracy if so many blacks and whites live so far from each other, with no ability to understand each other or empathize with each other's life experiences. So I think residential segregation is the fundamentally most serious problem this country faces. And this is not something that I thought before getting into this. I had thought it was just an educational issue.

You point out early on in the book that this history wasn't a product of the former slave-owning south, but notably designed and implemented by liberal leaders. And as a way of conveying that to our local readers, to what degree would you say that the makeup of modern Bay Area communities had been shaped by these policies?

Well, as you know I focus a lot on the Bay Area. Many of my examples come from the Bay Area. I definitely think that the Bay Area has been shaped by this.

The suburbanization of the country that took place in the late 1940s and through the 1950s that was underwritten by the Federal Housing Administration was created on a racial basis. So you talk about the Bay Area, talk about Westlake in Daly City, a development that was financed by the Federal Housing Administration. The developer of that project, Harry Doelger, could never have generated the capital to build in Daly City on his own. No bank would have been crazy enough to lend somebody the money to build 15,000 homes which had yet to have any buyers. The only way you could do it was to go to the Federal Housing Administration and make a commitment to never sell a home to an African American, to concede to the Federal Housing Administration's requirement that every deed in the home prohibit resale or rental to African Americans. And on that basis, Daly City was built on a racially segregated, exclusively white basis. The homes at the time were relatively inexpensive (in today's money about $100,000 in Westlake at that time) and African Americans could have afforded that just as whites could. And if they were returning WWII veterans, which were much of the buyers of those developments, they required no downpayment via a VA loan. So this was not an economic difference. Of course, to some extent whites were able to afford homes more than African Americans, but many African Americans could have afforded to move to Westlake, but they were prohibited from doing so by the Federal Housing Administration and were instead concentrated in government created ghettos in the Bay Area.

And it's not just Westlake. Other areas in the East Bay — San Leandro, San Lorenzo — were similarly exclusively white-based on a federal requirement.

During World War II, with the influx of black and white war workers, to work mostly in the shipyards, the government had to supply housing for these workers and it did so always on a segregated basis, with separate housing projects for blacks and whites. The federal government built four projects, I believe, for whites only in San Francisco. And then one designated for African Americans in the Fillmore district, which became the black neighborhood in S.F.

So the Bay Area is no exception at all to these events.

Prior to reading your book I was unaware of the incident of "blockbusting" that had occurred in East Palo Alto during the 1950s, and I was struck by how foundational it was to where the city finds itself today.

Well, absolutely. East Palo Alto was transformed from a white to a black neighborhood through blockbusting that was led by a realtor who was the head of California's realtor association.

The whole theme of my book is that this is government action. So in the case that we are talking about, every real estate agent in California is licensed by the state, and (the realtor's association) did not pull the license of the real estate agent who led that effort in East Palo Alto, which means the licensing agency was violating the 14th Amendment. That was their obligation. So I don't consider this purely private activity.

Had you come across any examples where there was intervention by any of the regulatory agencies?

No, that's the problem. There was not. In fact, the National Association of Realtors had a code of ethics which prohibited the sale of homes in white neighborhoods to African Americans families. Every real estate agency in the country was obligated to subscribe to that code of ethics.

Along those lines, how have these incidents and this history just fallen through the cracks of popular memory?

I don't know. All I can say is that they were. We never dealt in this country with the legacies of slavery or Jim Crow.

And now, not just in the post-George Floyd era — but the last five or so years…really since Ferguson — we're dealing with it more accurately and passionately than we ever have before in American history. I guess you can blame that on social media and the fact that people walk around with cell phones. But as you know, the subtitle of my book is A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America. Not a hidden history, no conspiracy…it's been forgotten. It is a difficult history to deal with, but people would rather forget it if it's not in their faces, but social media puts it in their faces.

I'm not a professional historian, but one thing I take some pride in is that — almost three years now that the book has been published — not a single historian has challenged a single fact in the book. So I think it is incontrovertible that it is accurate. And it's been forgotten.

In terms of our current state of affairs, are there certain modern policies that are playing a role in perpetuating segregation today? For instance, here in Palo Alto there is a 50-foot height limit on new developments as well as rigid parking requirements.

Oh, yes, you mentioned one of the biggest ones — zoning. That certainly perpetuates segregation. That's one.

For low-income families, the well-known Section 8 voucher program — as a subsidy to rent apartments — that re-enforces segregation because most Section 8 vouchers are only usable in low-income existing segregated neighborhoods. The biggest program for subsidized low income families is something called the low-income housing tax credit, and most of those developments are placed in low-income segregated neighborhoods, because there's no community opposition to placing it there. So that re-enforces segregation.

But I will say this, even if we were to reform these programs and change zoning, that wouldn't make much difference because what is also required is remedies for the enormous wealth gaps and income gaps that have been created by this segregation. Many fewer African Americans today, than in the past, can afford to move to Palo Alto even if it did change it's zoning. And that was not true in the past. So we need compensation, financial remedies, subsidies for working families (I'm not talking about poor people). We need subsidies for working-class African Americans to be able to buy into communities from which they have been excluded and which would have been affordable to them. Simply opening up those communities by relaxing zoning is not going to accomplish what needs to be accomplished.

Early in your book, you write that the idea to "‘Let bygones be bygones' is not a legitimate approach if we wish to call ourselves a constitutional democracy." And in that regard, I have to ask about your level of optimism in terms of how we move forward from here on these matters as a nation.

Well, I'm very optimistic. And I would have said this even before the current awakening, because as I said to you earlier, we are having a more accurate and passionate discussion about race today in this country then we have ever had in the past, ever.

My book has had a stunning reception, completely unexpected by me. But it's not just my book, it's Michelle Alexander's book The New Jim Crow, it's Brian Stevenson's book Just Mercy, it's the work of Ta-Nehisi Coates. All of these have penetrated the American consciousness in a way that has never before been done on issues of race. We have white elected Southern politicians removing statues that commemorate the defenders of slavery. That has never happened before.

Now, raised consciousness does not lead to action by itself. So my optimism is qualified by the fact that we need to move beyond awareness to action. And the action is difficult. But, am I optimistic? Yes, more than ever before. Am I confident? Absolutely not.

(Editor's Note: This interview was edited for length and clarity.)

Richard Rothstein's book The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America is available now via Liveright Publishing.

This article was originally published June 25 on TheSixFifty.com, a sister publication of Palo Alto Online, covering what to eat, see and do in Silicon Valley.

Comments

resident
Downtown North
on Jun 28, 2020 at 9:38 am
resident, Downtown North
on Jun 28, 2020 at 9:38 am
15 people like this

Is this article about Palo Alto or East Palo Alto or both? The title says "Palo Alto" and the first few paragraphs say "Palo Alto", but then most of the article seems to be about East Palo Alto. These 2 cities are of course in different counties and have different governments. I am very confused about what part of the article applies to Palo Alto and what part applies to East Palo Alto.


SingleZoner
Crescent Park
on Jun 28, 2020 at 10:23 am
SingleZoner, Crescent Park
on Jun 28, 2020 at 10:23 am
20 people like this

I'm tired of folks using the history of de facto segregation as a basis for attacking single family zoning. The kind of redlining and block busting tactics, and race-based deed covenants, that were endemic to all areas of the country , including the Bay Area, until the civil rights act (and even afterwards) effected multi-family housing just as much as single family housing. Single family housing in and of itself was not a tool for segregation.


Person of color
Juana Briones School
on Jun 28, 2020 at 10:37 am
Person of color, Juana Briones School
on Jun 28, 2020 at 10:37 am
11 people like this

How do you misspell Jim Crow? Is this the local journalism we want to support? Stop being lazy.

The New Jim Crowe


JR
Palo Verde School
on Jun 28, 2020 at 10:45 am
JR, Palo Verde School
on Jun 28, 2020 at 10:45 am
25 people like this

The article fails to mention that South Palo Alto has a long history of inclusiveness and equality. Joe Eichler was a strong anti-racist and strongly rejected any race-based discrimination in all of his developments. South Palo Alto is a model of inclusiveness that North Palo Alto and other towns can learn from.


White Homeowner
Menlo Park
on Jun 28, 2020 at 12:40 pm
White Homeowner , Menlo Park
on Jun 28, 2020 at 12:40 pm
19 people like this

Don’t get your panties in a bunch, the book isn’t just about PA. I just read this book, and boy was it an eye opener. It detailed the systemic, state sponsored discrimination that made sure black people couldn’t get loans or own land like white people in the 1800s and 1900s. The stories were so sad that I often cried. There’s a reason that today, in 2020, black families have one tenth of the wealth of white families. And that reason is, white folks designed it that way. I think the first step for those of us who want to effect change is to educate ourselves - because we didn’t learn it in school. And step two: Figure out ways we can meaningfully help right these wrongs, so that the future looks better than the past - and the present. It’s not enough to say ‘I’m not racist.’ It’s time to actively fight the racism in our system on behalf of black Americans.


Me 2
Old Palo Alto
on Jun 28, 2020 at 1:17 pm
Me 2, Old Palo Alto
on Jun 28, 2020 at 1:17 pm
2 people like this

"South Palo Alto is a model of inclusiveness that North Palo Alto and other towns can learn from."

Not anymore. The push to make Eichler housing historical is another example of restrictive zoning mentioned above that leads to more segregation.


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 28, 2020 at 2:20 pm
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 28, 2020 at 2:20 pm
5 people like this

Has anyone read the book in question? "Palo Alto" certainly did one odd thing in the era mentioned: getting the airport land moved from San Mateo County to Santa Clara County and annexing it to Palo Alto. (Menlo Park annexed the parts it wanted, leaving an unincorporated "East Palo Alto" in San Mateo County.) But, I don't understand what is meant by this:

"Rothstein also explains how in 1948 Palo Alto purposefully thwarted Wallace Stegner's efforts at developing a racially-integrated working-class housing settlement near the Stanford campus."

That housing settlement exists to this day-- Ladera, and, it has always been part of San Mateo County. It was always conventional suburban, but, they tried to make it more affordable through the use of a co-op-- like the food co-op that existed in Palo Alto until 199x. The Peninsula Housing Association (PHA) failed because it couldn't get financing. Probably because they refused to put a restrictive covenant on houses (the FHA liked such covenants), but, it was the co-op that needed a bridge loan, not homeowners. Many members of the initial PHA co-op were Palo Alto residents, they met at the Community Center and College Terrace Library. Some members of the (food) co-op were part of it.

Here is an account. I don't see any mention of the City of Palo Alto "purposefully thwarting" the PHA.

Web Link

What does the book say about this?


Anonymous
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 28, 2020 at 2:26 pm
Anonymous, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 28, 2020 at 2:26 pm
8 people like this

I read the book a couple of years ago. It’s pretty readable. To use it to blame every woe on earth on Palo Alto, CA is misplaced, though.
San Lorenzo is hardly an upscale area.
Stability and real estate investment can sure help families.
(However, as an aside, I thought most super big family fortunes are lost by the third generation, unless one has managed investments like the Kennedy family?)
Many immigrants have become successful; I know one who came with very, very little and ended up owning a tech corporation! Yes, Caucasian, but hard to understand accent. So not fully material to this discussion.
A lot of randomness: being in a certain era, at a certain time, in a certain city with a good or bad city council helped the Black population or terribly burt them - and for generations.
There are SO many details, places, experiences.
I’m sure we all have recollections, for better or worse.
Joseph Eichler worked hard to do the right thing around here. I wasn’t here then (or alive, for partnof his work life), but I believe written accounts attesting to this.
I have a variety of family members who helped African Americans in concrete, meaningful ways. For example, one person I knew well gave steady employment (1960’s - I was there, though very young, I know what I’m what I’m talking about); another published their writings (1960-1970’s). Others much earlier in a free state where I’m from assisted those fleeing north using the Underground Railroad.
One direct ancestor was a sheriff in the above state, then ran for sheriff in another when he moved (Miami, FL Dade County) as a Republican in 1920’s - original newspaper clips I have of this big race (which he lost) show Republicans like him respectful of Black people and Democrats clearly denigrating Black people. So that’s how it was then - there.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 28, 2020 at 7:25 pm
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 28, 2020 at 7:25 pm
17 people like this

The reason that they want to make Eichler's historical is because of the design of all glass walls. Everywhere is this city people are tearing one story houses down and putting up two story houses that would look directly into other people's homes. I live in an Eichler and people work hard here to maintain some privacy through the use of fences and plants, trees, and hedges. Making this area historical prevents people from dissembling how the houses are located on the streets and circles to maintain privacy.

The next problem you have is by making this a part of this discussion. Every action gets translated into a theme or topic when the theme or topic has little to do with why the architectural features were a very modern 1950's design feature.

My son lives in the Oakland Hills and his house - built at a certain time looks exactly like the house I grew up in in LA. Because they were built in the same time period.

Architectural style has to do with timing. WW2 timing. Location timing. Available building material timing.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 28, 2020 at 7:39 pm
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 28, 2020 at 7:39 pm
7 people like this

During WW2 the whole state of CA and elsewhere were involved in building airplanes, ships, and munitions. The whole population was involved and working. Also cars, trucks, factories rolling out products to support the effort. Many in CA because of the great wind storms in the mid-west drove people westward. We no longer have manufacturing to any great degree. The work force now is a very narrow category of type. The state is a shadow of itself as it was in previous decades.
We are now trying to bring manufacturing back to the USA. That shows up more in states that have a better tax base.
Relatives in Baltimore - that city had a great port system with products coming by ship. No more.


Geoff Ghallagher
Old Palo Alto
on Jun 28, 2020 at 7:53 pm
Geoff Ghallagher, Old Palo Alto
on Jun 28, 2020 at 7:53 pm
11 people like this

Another book meant to divide the nation and sow hatred. Dick Rothstein, why do want Americans to hate each other?


Geoff Ghallagher
Old Palo Alto
on Jun 28, 2020 at 7:54 pm
Geoff Ghallagher, Old Palo Alto
on Jun 28, 2020 at 7:54 pm
8 people like this

Another book meant to divide the nation and sow hatred. Richard Rothstein, why do want Americans to hate each other?


Stronger Together
another community
on Jun 28, 2020 at 9:32 pm
Stronger Together, another community
on Jun 28, 2020 at 9:32 pm
22 people like this

Have you heard about the community that was organised by Josephine Duveneck and others? This was the Lawrence Lane Project in the late 40s in the unincorporated area of Palo Alto. This project was sixteen lots and were sold to African Americans, people of Asian decent and to people of European decent that were being blocked from buying in Palo Alto. This area was eventually incorporated into Palo Alto. Still standing and still a diverse community with beautiful homes.


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 28, 2020 at 10:41 pm
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 28, 2020 at 10:41 pm
8 people like this

>> What does the book say about this?


Both the East Palo Alto and Ladera episodes are in Chapter 1 of the book, which is available within a Google preview here:

Web Link

Interesting, upsetting reading. Doesn’t say anything one way or the other about Palo Alto, at least in this segment, but shows how the California Real Estate Association, various banks and insurance companies, and most of all the Federal Housing Administration did immense damage that persists to this day.


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 29, 2020 at 8:51 am
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 29, 2020 at 8:51 am
4 people like this

The article by Charles Russo appears to draw from Rothstein's book for the comments about Palo Alto, but, Rothstein (book or verbal comments) doesn't mention Palo Alto in the ascribed context. The article either contains several errors, or, fails to document its own sources for the unsubstantiated comments.

Rothstein's book looks very interesting, as are his comments, but, I would ignore what Russo has added unless the article is revised or corrected.

In any case, the Federal Government via the VA Web Link and especially the FHA Web Link greatly contributed to the spread and strengthening of segregationist policies after WWII.


Gunn Graduate
Gunn High School
on Jun 29, 2020 at 9:13 am
Gunn Graduate, Gunn High School
on Jun 29, 2020 at 9:13 am
7 people like this

Having grown up in the Palo Alto school system, I can attest that the attitudes toward segregated communities hinted at in this article still existed within Palo Alto during the 80's and 90's. The prevailing attitude of the era was always those who worked the hardest got to live in the best neighborhoods, and anyone who could not afford to live in Palo Alto had nobody but themselves to blame.

You can still see people recite that exact argument every time some initiative threatens to change the delicate single family zoning of a particular neighborhood.


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 29, 2020 at 10:43 am
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 29, 2020 at 10:43 am
8 people like this

Posted by Gunn Graduate, a resident of Gunn High School

>> Having grown up in the Palo Alto school system, I can attest that the attitudes toward segregated communities hinted at in this article still existed within Palo Alto during the 80's and 90's.

Seems like a good moment to remind folks that under California law, counties are the next-level government under the State, and, cities and school districts are wholly-contained *local* entities within counties. But, within the county boundary, school district boundaries and city boundaries are not tied to each other in any way.

Schools have their own reporting structure, with a County Office of Education in every county, that reports to the State Department of Education. Lots of data available on the websites of course. e.g. Web Link

In some states, school districts and cities are more closely tied together than in California. Here, they are independent of each other, but, are both *local* to a particular county.

Since East Palo Alto is in San Mateo County, it is not tied to Palo Alto either way - local government or school district. If people wanted to join East Palo Alto and Palo Alto together, it could be done, if SCC and SMC agreed, and, if Palo Alto and East Palo Alto agreed, and, the State agreed to change the county boundary.

At one time I favored the idea of EPA changing counties. It would allow school districts and cities to merge. The boundary was adjusted before, to bring the airport into SCC. But, now that EPA is overdeveloping and building tall, massive buildings, I no longer favor the idea. Ikea, Home Depot, etc were good additions, and have brought sales tax revenue into EPA, but, I'm sorry that EPA is now a tech-office destination. Ultimately, it will push the current EPA residents out.


Reality Check
Midtown
on Jun 29, 2020 at 10:44 am
Reality Check, Midtown
on Jun 29, 2020 at 10:44 am
16 people like this

They must be realizing that society has rejected their flimsy "narrative." Pretty soon they'll dredging up stories of Greek prejudice against Persians.


Mark Weiss
Downtown North
on Jun 29, 2020 at 11:02 am
Mark Weiss, Downtown North
on Jun 29, 2020 at 11:02 am
8 people like this

A demographer would have to fact check this but I believe as a gunn ‘82 I knew Ventura and its residents at its peak in terms of being a black community. my friends classmates and teammates from that neighborhood. Some of the families are still there or maybe you can say there is a Ventura Diaspora. And the fry’s deal pretty much is endgame.
Terms of Stegner (ironically my actual neighbor), although known more as a teacher a writer and an environmentalist I believe he was for civil rights. In terms of his short stories that deal with race and ethnicity I recommend: pop goes the alley cat, the chink, something from the Mindanao deep. the latter two more about anti-Asian sentiment which Stegner is defining as a way to refute it.


Mark Weiss
Downtown North
on Jun 29, 2020 at 11:10 am
Mark Weiss, Downtown North
on Jun 29, 2020 at 11:10 am
Like this comment

By the way, in Hanover, New Hampshire where Dartmouth College is, students from other side of the river not creek or freeway, in Norwich, Vermont— across the state line are part of the Hanover school district so there is precedent for merging East Palo alto and Palo Alto at least for schools and beyond Tinsley.


Green Gables
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 29, 2020 at 11:20 am
Green Gables, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 29, 2020 at 11:20 am
1 person likes this

Person of color. It's Jim Crow as in Jim Crow laws were state and local laws that enforced racial segregation in the Southern United States.


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 29, 2020 at 11:25 am
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 29, 2020 at 11:25 am
7 people like this

Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Downtown North

>> A demographer would have to fact check this but I believe as a gunn ‘82 I knew Ventura and its residents at its peak in terms of being a black community. my friends classmates and teammates from that neighborhood. Some of the families are still there or maybe you can say there is a Ventura Diaspora.

I don't believe that there is available published census data on "East Palo Alto" as the boundaries exist today prior to 1970, but, census data for Palo Alto in 1950 and 1960 were 542 and 847 African American. In 1950, I believe that EPA was zero or almost zero, because prior to 1954, the EPA section was white, with some Japanese flower-growing gardens/greenhouses remaining in the area. Ventura already had a considerable African-American community in 1950, and, it continued to grow until ~1990. So, yes, for some time, Palo Alto's black community exceeded that of EPA. From 1970-1990, there were 10,000-11,000 African Americans in EPA. Then, the number began to decline again. In the 2010 census, there were 4,704 Black or African American residents.

Census data on this site: Web Link


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 29, 2020 at 11:33 am
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 29, 2020 at 11:33 am
12 people like this

I think we keep resurrecting these tales for political gain. I grew up in LA - Tom Bradley was the Chief of Police , then the Mayor and he ran for Governor. The Airport International Terminal is named after him. He went to UCLA, was a track star, and Southwestern Law School.

Willie Brown in SF was Mayor, in the State Assembly - and head of the State Assembly. He writes for the SFC. He went to UC Hastings Law School.

And you have Ms. Lee in Oakland in the legislative Assembly.

Any time we work to "normalize" the balances the next generation pops up and goes at it. The goal is to "normalize" the status of everyone - but you know if you pay attention to "Hollywood" that is not going to happen.

If a party does not have a position relative to the world at large then the whole show starts over again. Where we were post WW2 - half have never left that point.

I have worked in "defense" the majority of my life and that is the most diverse group of people you will ever meet and a lot have senior positions. And when you go to a base you are dealing with senior personnel who are diverse.

As to the book your next door neighbors are Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Woodside, Atherton, and Menlo Park. Palo Alto is just a neighborhood on the peninsula among a lot of other small urban cities who are "urban" - not major manufacturing centers which typically are very diverse.
The man is selling a book. It is just a book.


Anon
Evergreen Park
on Jun 29, 2020 at 12:17 pm
Anon, Evergreen Park
on Jun 29, 2020 at 12:17 pm
8 people like this

Digging up old dirt for political gain, as usual.

If you talk about segregation, look at SF Chinatown. It was there since what? early 1800's? So what? The community has prospered just like rest of the city. There are Chinatowns in New York, LA, etc. All seem doing alright. If you want good Chinese food or exotic Chinese goods you want go there. There is also Little Saigon in San Jose.

Italians and East Europeans set up their own communities in early times in New York and Chicago. Even now various sections of New York are de facto segregated by ethnic groups. But they mostly are doing alright. They have their own ethnic churches, temples, shops, Sunday schools, and authentic restaurants that are tourist attractions.

But I'm not aware of any significant black neighborhoods in this country, except some small towns in the South, that thrive like a Chinatown, a Little Italy, or a Little Saigon, where not only people feel safe to visit, but want to go there to participate distinct cultural activities like great food and shops.

I think people, especially black leaders, need to pay more attention to this phenomena, instead of racial segregation, which is no longer a problem today. How can we make Austin of Chicago a safe tourist attraction famous for distinct black heritage, authentic African American food, shops, cultural centers, and so on? If you build your community together, build your culture together, you can thrive.


Reality Check
Midtown
on Jun 29, 2020 at 3:07 pm
Reality Check, Midtown
on Jun 29, 2020 at 3:07 pm
16 people like this

@Anon,

The word "political" doesn't quite capture it. There are strong economic aspects to it. Even a sort of psychopathology -- munchausen-by-proxy.

A bunch of whites and asians -- who would never dare venture into a black neighborhood for fear of being robbed or murdered -- march in and try to draw attention and resources to themselves by trumpeting the problems of black communities. They just keep peeling the scab off without ever addressing the root causes of black failure. You'll never hear them talk about illegitimacy or plummeting educational standards.


Ramona Fernando
Ventura
on Jun 29, 2020 at 9:42 pm
Ramona Fernando, Ventura
on Jun 29, 2020 at 9:42 pm
2 people like this

Very good article about East Palo Alto and Palo Alto housing issues, which is more from the perspective of E.P.A.

Web Link FeHP6p8fM9kQWZFPunN4z7stcb2mMfJ_qq54ts1Ah_8infNGV0Ex73Gnjw5Uu_ViZQBJkJqFaTO5y9hbjiDq0JnIPeUdNIP6u2wLF-ua6LbUPDj2MNKOvClWESbo8icUyk5hKafDXq1OUcu188M0zqOu


Mark Weiss
Downtown North
on Jun 30, 2020 at 11:21 pm
Mark Weiss, Downtown North
on Jun 30, 2020 at 11:21 pm
Like this comment

@Stronger
I did cruise Lawrence Tract off Greer. News to me.
I also walked Cubberley campus.
On Saturday, some Cubberley Old Boys and I biked all over South Palo Alto pointing out who lived where when. The House house was just torn down.
We are renaming Cubberley Pavillion “Presley Pavillion at Cubberley” for coach Bud Presley but also Elvis since there are dancers Fri and Sat nights.


Elise D
another community
on Jul 1, 2020 at 1:00 am
Elise D, another community
on Jul 1, 2020 at 1:00 am
Like this comment

Interesting to understand who ran the federal housing administration at the time they required no sales to African Americans ... and who at the real estate boards made these decisions ... those wealthy families should be stripped of name and wealth.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Adobe-Meadow
18 hours ago
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
18 hours ago
4 people like this

I really get concerned when I read a east coast paper and the city of Palo Alto pops up. Palo Alto is not the center of Silicon Valley. San Jose is the biggest city on the peninsula. Mountain View is the center of Google - a giant transnational company.

As all transnational companies going back to the late 1800's they do not use local people as employees - they bring in foreign workers. That is true from the great expansion of the Central American countries, the building of the Panama Canal, all of which imported workers from the British colonies in the Caribbean. The workers who grow the coffee, work on giant plantations growing tropical produce, they all displaced the local population workers.

The slaves coming to America were sold by Africa or your favorite EU country. America was colonized by various European countries. We needed workers to grow food and crops. They then went on to colonize Africa and plunder the great resources of that continent. And that theme continues to now as the big Silicon Valley Companies resist hiring local, US employees who are coming out of the best colleges and universities.

If you do some Wikipedia searches on Slavery and the end result of importation of workers then other countries have a higher percentage of workers from Africa. Everyone keeps trying to make money by slicing a piece of history and trying to make it the total history - expanding it's role in the over all total picture of history.

So some have Palo Alto pegged as the representative local city from which to launch a position. In the scheme of things the surrounding cities which house the biggest Silicon Valley companies are where it is at now. And any one who is at SU is living on campus. And UC-Berkley - Oakland is a heavily populated black community.


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