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The Story of City Rising

Oakland - City Rising Graphic Treatment
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From the displacement of Native peoples to the enforcement of Jim Crow, the history of U.S. land policy and practice is a history of inequi¬ties. Gold rush-era Chinese workers and Blacks fleeing Southern racism were barred from California’s housing market and segregated to particular communities. After the Great Depression, the federal government backed mortgage lending as a route to homeownership and wealth accumulation, but redlined minority communities. White flight to suburbia left the urban core starved for investment and government services. Predatory lending and the 2010 foreclosure crisis further depressed rates of homeownership in the inner cities. Today, housing deeds still bear restrictive language such as “no lot in said tract shall at any time be lived upon by a person whose blood is not entirely that of the Caucasian race.” The restrictions have lost their legal standing but their spirit lingers in more nuanced ways.
Ch. 1: Legacy

City Rising is a multimedia documentary program that traces gentrification and displacement through a lens of historical discriminatory laws and practices. Fearing the loss of their community’s soul, residents are gathering into a movement, not just in California, but across the nation as the rights to property, home, community and the city are taking center stage in a local and global debate. Learn more.

Gentrification arrives with promises of revitalization but has also developed from a history of discriminatory laws and practices in the United States. City Rising illuminates this history and reveals how gentrification is traditionally molded and dictated by those in power. 

Land and property have been at the core of American values, yet a history of Jim Crow laws and covenants enforcing racial segregation excluded people of color from ownership. This legacy continues today, most recently exemplified through the foreclosure crisis, in which people of color were disproportionality affected by predatory subprime loans.

Funding cuts that began in the Reagan era have made city officials savvy entrepreneurs who feverishly encourage development and regard displacement as inevitable. Areas once starved for investment are receiving an influx of money, which jeopardizes the culture and informal economies rooted in those communities.

Fast-rising home values have made property ownership more elusive than ever. Meanwhile, the rising population of renters are spending unsustainable portions of their income on rent. Urban planners are scrambling to solve the housing crisis and balance the positive effects of investment with the needs of the vulnerable communities. These trends are shaping conversations about gentrification. Can pathways to property ownership be created for residents? Or can they at least be spared displacement? Do renters have the right to be involved in the decisions being made that impact their neighborhoods?

Renters are beginning to recognize their power in numbers. People of color who cherish their community and culture are mobilizing against unsustainable rents and other forces they see pushing neighbors into homelessness. Fearing the loss of their basic needs, these residents are part of a movement, not just in California, but across the nation as the rights to property, home, community and the city are consuming local and global debates.

Redlining Map - Los Angeles
Redlining map - Los Angeles
renting inequality poster

Launching in September on KCET and Link TV, City Rising is a one-hour broadcast special and multi-media project that provides in depth critical analysis of the issues surrounding gentrification and displacement. 

The series looks at six California communities where residents, activists and urban planners have identified gentrification as a primary concern:

  • Boyle Heights, an urban enclave of Los Angeles that made itself a cultural mecca for the city’s booming Latino population;
  • South Central, the mostly poor and under-resourced neighborhoods near downtown Los Angeles that were historically African-American but have become nearly 80 percent Latino;
  • Long Beach, a coastal Southern California city whose central and western neighborhoods have a diverse population of Latinos, African-Americans, Southeast Asians (especially Cambodians), Filipinos and Pacific Islanders;
  • Santa Ana, a mostly poor and historically Mexican city in the wealthy, conservative, anti-immigrant and predominantly white Orange County;
  • Oakland, a major port city east of San Francisco that was historically ethnically diverse and has seen large influxes of young professionals and waves of urban redevelopment;
  • Oak Park, a modest, working-class neighborhood in the state capital, Sacramento, plagued by crime and a struggling economy.

If you liked this article, sign up to be informed of further City Rising content, which examines issues of gentrification and displacement across California.

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Freeways crisscross and a lot of concrete infrastructure as seen overhead

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