Gentrification of Bay Area Census

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Updated: Jun 21, 2022
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The San Francisco Bay Area is a technology hub and with 9 counties, and many popular cities in the metropolitan area, including San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose, you might think there would be plenty of space for improvement, but the reality of the Bay Area proves this false. Gentrification, staggering housing prices, and an increasing cost of living are making the Bay Area nearly unlivable for many. Suddenly, people are unable to pay their mortgage or rent and previously ignored neighborhoods and streets being converted into newly constructed homes and trendy shopping areas (East Bay Express).

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Leigh Gallagher’s The End of the Suburbs: Where the American Dream is Moving is a book discussing the changes that she believes will occur when it comes to U.S. metropolitan areas. Gallagher mainly argues that suburbs across America are changing as people’s interests change. She focuses on Millennials’ potential impact, arguing that most want to live in cities and are far less focused on typical aspects of the American Dream, a large suburban property with a white picket fence. This, she argues is the “end of the suburbs,” signaling change. Gallaghers main points centered around commute times and high fuel prices, stable home prices in cities after the housing crash, and crime and poverty moving from cities to suburbs. The San Francisco Bay Area is an interesting place in regards to Gallagher’s statements because some of these points can be seen in the Bay Area while others are farther off. Mainly, the Bay Area’s high fuel costs for commuters, and housing costs that held up better in cities (Bureau of Labor Statistics, Paragon/Bay Area Market Reports). Decreased crime and poverty rates in cities with increases in the suburbs can be seen, but a lot of this change can be associated with the cost of living in urban centers (SF Chronicle, Paragon/Bay Area Market Reports).

Gallagher argued that Millennial’s interest in living in urban areas would impact suburbs, with more people choosing to live in cities instead, but with such high costs of living in Urban Bay Area, most Millennials cannot afford these areas. If Millennials were living in the center of cities they would be less inclined to have kids, buy homes or cars, and spend less time commuting and while I do not think this is incorrect, I felt Gallagher focused too heavily on the short term and was too specific with her argument. Since this large scale change would take time, you also cannot predict what whole generations of people will do, especially because of personal preference, and financial stability. As the Census Bureau reported, between 2000 and 2010 there was an approximate 200,000 population increase, making the Bay Area the second densest metro area, after New York (US Census Bureau/City Lab, Refer to Figure 3). With a median age of 37 years old, during this time, the percentage of people under 17 decreased whereas the population of 18 and above increased (Bay Area Census). The percentage of households with children under 18 also decreased between this time (Bay Area Census). During this time the Bay Area was becoming more expensive and this was the beginning stages of increasing cost and gentrification (Bay Area Census). This conclusion can also be made because, the median household income also increased by $18,368 between 2015 and 2018 (Paragon / Bay Area Market Reports, Refer to Figure 1). With both a decreasing young population and increasing average income, it is clear that financial change is taking place in the Bay Area, and gentrification goes deeper than just Millennials decisions.

Similar to other metropolitan areas, rising city costs caused an influx of people leaving the center (Refer to Figure 2). As New Geography summed up, growth will not be happening in San Francisco and San Jose as much as it will be happening out in much cheaper, Vallejo or Stockton areas (New Geography). Many people in the Bay Area have to make sacrifices to live there, often choosing a longer commute. In her book, Gallagher discussed gas prices and commuting from suburbs. Those living outside of cities have to commute more, therefore, higher gas prices are a more expensive commute. It may seem like a simple choice with gas more expensive than the national average, to move closer to your work, but the reality is that for most in the Bay Area, this is impossible (Bureau of Labor Statistics). While Gallagher believes that more people will move out of the suburbs, I think she is idealistic, because many want to do this, but are unable to in the Bay Area. Gallagher’s title emphasizes that current suburbs are changing along with the American Dream. Suburbs around San Francisco are changing, and this change supports some of Gallagher’s arguments, while also going against others. One of Gallagher’s relevant arguments is how crime and poverty in cities are decreasing, meanwhile crime and poverty further out in the suburbs is increasing. This could be the case around San Francisco because low-income Californians cannot afford to live in expensive areas so they, in turn, get pushed out to cheaper suburbs, rising poverty rates in these areas. Interestingly, in 2018 the violent crime rate in San Francisco reached a 50 year low, whereas 4 Contra Costa suburbs made the 100 most violent cities list between 2016 and 2018 (SF Chronicle, Contra Costa Herald). In regards to poverty, three Bay Area counties now have high enough median incomes that a household income of less than $117,000 a year would make you low-income (CBS).

The changing demographics and the increasing cost of the Bay Area point towards the potential for more issues to come. Gentrification is pushing people out, meaning there is a need for cheaper housing options, but because California homeowners benefit from increasing home prices, shown through the rejection of Proposition 10, the future of the housing market will remain unpredictable, as learned by the 2008 recession (East Bay Express, OC Register). This could cause many planning issues because if the Bay Area not only cannot make cheap enough housing but if the market were to crash, everyone would lose money. Another planning issue, as mentioned before in regards to Leigh Gallagher’s argument, is that people’s own interests are unpredictable. While many including Gallagher argue that Millennials will not be moving back to the suburbs to have kids, and will instead choose a more urban lifestyle, no one can predict the actions of everyone. While Gallagher made strong arguments and had good supporting facts, her overall take on the future of metropolitan areas is too specific and dependent on the majority of Millennials doing the exact opposite of their parents.

For the Bay Area, housing prices and cost of living are only increasing, but this could change quickly, and while many, like Leigh Gallagher, argue this is because of Millennials, this change in the Bay Area has been caused by many more factors. Overall, residents of the Bay Area may be uncertain when it comes to housing prices, but one thing is for certain, with prices continuing to increase in cities, the suburbs are not reaching their demise in the Bay Area.

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Gentrification Of Bay Area Census. (2022, Jun 21). Retrieved from