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Community Organizing and
Resistance in SF’s Mission District
Sydney Cespedes, Mitchell Crispell, Christina Blackston, Jonathan Plowman, and Edward Graves
Partner Organization:
People Organizing to Demand Environmental & Economic Rights (PODER)
Project Manager:
Miriam Zuk
Project Advisor:
Karen Chapple
Additional advisory support was provided by Carlos Romero. This case study was funded in part by
the Regional Prosperity Plan1 of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission as part of the “Regional
Early Warning System for Displacement” project and from the California Air Resources Board2 as part
of the project “Developing a New Methodology for Analyzing Potential Displacement.”
The Center for Community Innovation (CCI) at UC-Berkeley nurtures effective solutions that expand
economic opportunity, diversify housing options, and strengthen connection to place. The Center
builds the capacity of nonprofits and government by convening practitioner leaders, providing technical assistance and student interns, interpreting academic research, and developing new research out
of practitioner needs.
June 2015
Cover Photograph Source: http://bloomingrock.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/The-Womens-Building-Mural.jpg
The work that provided the basis for this publication was supported by funding under an award with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The substance and findings of the work are dedicated to the public. The author and publisher are solely
responsible for the accuracy of the statements and interpretations contained in this publication. Such interpretations do not necessarily reflect the views of the Government.
The statements and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the California Air Resources
Board. The mention of commercial products, their source, or their use in connection with material reported herein is not to be construed as actual or implied endorsement of such products.
Community Organizing and Resistance in SF’s Mission District
Case Study on Gentrification and Displacement Pressures in
the Mission District of San Francisco, CA
The Mission District is located in the southeastern region of San Francisco. Since the 1950s, the neighborhood has been San Francisco’s Latino enclave. Prior
to this time, the neighborhood was an Italian and Irish
working-class neighborhood with an industrial character (PODER, 2014).
In this case study we will examine the time period from
1980 to 2013, with a focus on the changes caused
by the rapid growth of the internet sector, alternatively
known as the dotcom boom, in the late 1990s. The
result of this rapid speculative growth was an increase
in the cost of living and a rise in the cost of housing
in the Mission, which led to the displacement of longtime residents. During this time, much of the industrial
sector in the Mission District was wiped out (Casique,
2013). The changes experienced by the Mission during
the dotcom boom are those typically associated with
the traditional conception of gentrification, or the influx
of investment and higher-income, usually White, residents to areas with low-income, often minority, residents.
New residents were—and are still—attracted to the
amenities provided by higher density, the cultural richness of the neighborhood and to the transit accessibility of the area. Multiple bus lines as well as two BART
stations (16th Street and 24th Street Mission Station)
service the neighborhood for an easy commute to the
financial district. The neighborhood is also close to the
freeway and the Caltrain, which provide accessibility
to the greater region, including Silicon Valley.
This first wave of gentrification is the main story in
the neighborhood’s shift from a lower-income Latino
area to its present state. Although the bust of the dotcom bubble caused gentrification pressures to slow,
the neighborhood has continued to be a high demand
area, seeing an influx of high-income residents once
again from the tech sector. However, this current wave
of gentrification is taking place in a neighborhood
context that has already undergone years of gentrification—not just with new residents who had moved
in, but with an ongoing influx of new retail and public
Today’s ongoing battle over the Mission is therefore of
a different kind, with weaker community organizations
and fewer units left to gentrify. Many long-time residents are holding on and benefitting from the neighborhood’s new investment and amenities, but there is
even more pressure than before on the remaining affordable units and less of a community to defend them.
This case study examines demographic, housing,
and commercial characteristics from 1980 to 2013 to
identify changes and trends in the Mission District. After outlining basic demographic changes in the area
between 1980 and 2013, we provide a close look at
the dotcom boom period and the displacement effects
this time of rapid change had on industrial, business,
and residential uses, as well as the community’s response. Next, we turn to an examination of housing in
the area—perhaps the clearest way to observe gentrification, change, and displacement. We briefly outline
some of the affordability concerns for residents, and
then detail several strategies used to slow displacement, as well as strategies used to speed it up. Before
concluding, we outline public investment in the area—
which can contribute to gentrification—and recent
commercial displacement.
Case Study Methods
The case study relies on mixed methods to study
changes in the Mission since 1980. The demographic
and housing indicators presented in this case study
are those associated with processes of residential displacement, and/or thought to influence susceptibility
to such processes (Chapple, 2009). Data on these indicators are from the decennial Census for the years
1980, 1990, 2000, and from the American Community
Survey (ACS) for 2009-2013. Census data from 1980
to 2000 is from the Geolytics Neighborhood Change
Database, and is normalized to 2010 Census tract
boundaries. Data for 2009-2013 is from the American
Community Survey’s 5-year estimates. The aggregated data of eleven census tracts are used to represent
the Mission District: 177, 201, 202, 207, 208, 209, 210,
228.01, 228.03, 229.01, 229.02. The census tracts
used do not perfectly delineate the neighborhood but
they are the best representation available at this time
and were vetted with Community Based Organizations
Center for Community Innovation, University of California, Berkeley
Mission District Case Study
working in the Mission. Data on residential sales and
housing permits was taken from DataQuick and Zillow.
Qualitative data included archival research of newspaper articles, planning documents, and academic
literature. Interviews with six community stakeholders
were incorporated into the narrative based on questions regarding demographic, housing, and commercial change. These stakeholders ranged from staff
at community organizations, government officials, to
developers. We partnered with People Organizing to
Demand Environmental & Economic Rights (PODER),
a grassroots environmental justice organization based
in San Francisco’s Mission District. PODER helped
launch the Mission Anti-Displacement Coalition (MAC)
during the dotcom boom to address residential displacement in the Mission.
To verify the data found in these secondary data sets,
we conducted a “ground-truthing” exercise where, for
sample blocks in the case study area, we conducted
a visual survey of conditions on the ground to ascertain levels of investment and change (see appendix).
The data gathered through ground-truthing was subsequently compared to Census figures and sales data
from the San Francisco Assessor’s Office, which was
obtained through Dataquick, Inc. Of the sample blocks’
193 parcels recorded in the assessor dataset, field
researchers were able to match 73% of these parcels on the ground. Of parcels for which the land use
was indicated in assessor data and verifiable through
ground-truthing, 87% matched. The total number of
units on the four blocks ranged from 319 according to
assessor data, to 421 according to ground-truthing, to
431 according to the Census. These results suggest
that some error may exist in either the Census or Assessor’s reported count of housing units and unit type,
likely due to rapid or unpermitted changes to parcels.
Demographic Changes
The Mission District is home to almost 52,000 of San
Francisco’s approximately 818,000 residents (Table 2).
Since 1980, the area has seen significant shifts in racial composition, occupancy, educational attainment,
and median income. Tensions are growing among
various groups with an interest in the fate of the Mission: lower-income Latino residents, tech sector employees who often work in Silicon Valley but prefer to
live in urban neighborhoods like the Mission, longtime
residents, small business owners, and others. These
tensions have made news across the country as the
Mission has in many ways become the poster-child
of gentrification (Goode, 2013; Nieves, 2000). Understanding how these changes have taken place may
provide some insight into the causes and indicators of
residential displacement. From 1980 to 2000, the population of the Mission district swelled by about 19%,
then declined slightly in 2013. In contrast, San Francisco’s population has steadily increased in the last
three decades.
Table 1: Total Population SF & Mission District,
San Francisco
Percent Change
Source: Source: U.S. Census 1980, 1990, 2000 (Geolytics, 2014);
ACS 2009-2013
The decrease in population from 2000 to 2013 may
be linked to the steady decrease of family households
since 1980 (Figure 1). The share of family households
dropped to 38% in 2013 from 52% in 1980.
Figure 1: Number of Households in the Mission,
by type 1980-2013
Source: U.S. Census 1980, 1990, 2000 (Geolytics, 2014);
ACS 2009-2013
The decrease in family households is accompanied
by a decrease in the Latino population, shifting from
44% in 1980 to 38% in 2013 while the White population increased from 36% to 43%. The racial and ethnic
demographics of the Mission in 2013 is similar to the
city’s (Figure 2).
Center for Community Innovation, University of California, Berkeley
Mission District Case Study
Figure 2: Race & Ethnicity in the Mission District by
population and percent, 1980-2013, and San Francisco, 2013
Source: U.S. Census 1980, 1990, 2000 (Geolytics, 2014);
ACS 2009-2013
There were significant shifts in educational attainment from 1980 to 2013. The percentage of residents
aged 25 or older with a bachelor’s degree or higher increased from 18% to 52%, and the percentage without
a high school diploma decreased from 41% to 17% in
the same period (Figure 3).
As may be expected, an increase in median income
accompanied the increase in educational attainment
in the study area. Median household income in the
Mission District has risen significantly from 2000 to
2013, increasing at a faster pace than San Francisco
overall (Figure 4).
Figure 3: Educational Attainment in the Mission
U.S. Census 1980, 1990, 2000 (Geolytics, 2014); ACS 2009-2013
Figure 4: Median Income, Mission vs. SF (1980-2013), 2013 $
Source: U.S. Census 1980, 1990, 2000 (Geolytics, 2014); ACS 2009-2013 *Median income unavailable, average income used
Center for Community Innovation, University of California, Berkeley
Mission District Case Study
The Dotcom Boom:
Displacement of Industry,
Business, and Residents—
and Community Response
The dotcom boom in the late 1990s fundamentally changed the character of the Mission District. The
boom hit its peak in 2000 and by 2002 was in decline.
This short boom resulted in residential and commercial displacement (Casique, 2013). The industrial sector in the Mission is primarily located in the Northeast
Mission Industrial Zone (NEMIZ), an area taking up
the northeast corner of the Mission District. Even
though the zone was designated in the midst of the
dotcom boom, the market for industrial uses was “depressed,” according to a stakeholder, and “a bunch of
companies had moved out,” like a brewing company
and lumber yards. This devaluing of the land for industrial purposes due to the changing economy coincided
with the growth of San Francisco as a result of the
dotcom boom.
Industrial uses began to change to office space and
housing. According to a community-based organization staff member, the emerging technology companies were in need of office space and able to pay
higher rents, so they began converting former light
industrial uses to office space; many of these offices,
in turn, became empty after the dotcom bust, but light
industrial uses did not return.
In terms of conversions to housing, a 1988 ordinance
allowed the conversion of industrial spaces into socalled “live/work” spaces, where it is presumed a resident both lives and does their work (Casique, 2013).
Advocated by artists, the live/work ordinance was
seen as an opportunity to promote the art industry
in the city by providing affordable housing arrangements in San Francisco (PODER, 2014). Under the
ordinance, developers interested in constructing live/
work units in the NEMIZ did not need to get the area
rezoned nor did they need a conditional land use permit to build and therefore did not need to conduct an
environmental impact report (EIR)—major hurdles for
construction developers were able to avoid. As a result, many small developments “started springing up
everywhere,” according to one stakeholder, and began converting many industrial structures, vacated
due to the changing economy, into expensive “live/
work” spaces to house the new residents coming to
work in the technology sector as a result of the dotcom boom. According to the San Francisco Housing
Databook report issued by the SF Rent Board in 2002,
2,324 live/work units were constructed in San Francisco from 1987 to 2000.3 Right before the dotcom crash,
the number of constructed units peaked at 587 units in
1999, more than twice the amount of units built in any
other year (SF Board of Supervisors, 2002).
Once it became clear that such conversions were possible, land values in the NEMIZ area began to rise,
making remaining industrial uses difficult to sustain
and resulting in business displacement (San Francisco Planning Department, 2002). The live/work ordinance allowed conversion without the requirement of
hearings or public comment, allowing them to proceed
unnoticed for a long time (Casique, 2013). Once advocates became aware of the situation, the Mission
Anti-Displacement Coalition worked with Sue Hestor,
a notable SF land use attorney, to force hearings at
the Planning Commission and before the board of supervisors (PODER, 2014). Before the formation of the
Mission Anti-Displacement Coalition, the “Committee
for Jobs, Arts, and Housing had been raising concerns
about the developers’ scam on live/work developments,” according to a community-based organization
Residential displacement in the Mission was also a
concern during this period. Between 1990 and 1999,
an estimated 925 households were evicted in the Mission (MEDA, as cited by Kennedy & Leonard, 2001).
The Mission Anti-Displacement Coalition (MAC) was
a major player during this time period, advocating for
existing tenants’ rights. According to a stakeholder involved with the Coalition, “the value of MAC’s work is
that unlike most other anti-gentrification work in other
parts of the country…MAC focused not only on tenants’
rights and stabilizing the neighborhood through that
strategy but also on preserving space for local-serving
businesses and [production, distribution and repair, or]
PDR/light industrial space, especially given that those
jobs paid often better [than other jobs available at the
time].” Due to MAC’s successful lobbying efforts, the
San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a moratorium on the live/work conversions and the production
of market rate housing in the Mission that ultimately
lasted two years (Casique, 2013).
Only four units or more were counted which might result in
Center for Community Innovation, University of California, Berkeley
Mission District Case Study
Another of MAC’s efforts was the creation of a “People’s Plan.” Published in 2005 after a community engagement process, it outlined community members’
vision and priorities for the district, including economic, cultural, and community development, affordable
housing, livability in the streetscape, environmental
issues, transportation, and a specific land use map—
essentially, a comprehensive plan for the Mission
done by the people (The Mission Anti-Displacement
Partnership, 2005). According to PODER, “aspects of
this community-led effort were incorporated into the
city’s Eastern Neighborhoods Plan” (PODER, 2014).
When asked to assess the impact of the People’s Plan
on the Mission, an organizer involved with the effort
shared that he does not believe there was a “causal” effect on affordability in the neighborhood; instead,
“market conditions in and of themselves eased some
of the pressures on prices given the [dotcom] bust.”
However, he believed that even with the bust, rents
were not decreased in a “substantive way.” Instead,
he believe that the planning process was significant
for the “social capital” it built “by having trained people
work on planning issues in the neighborhood and understand the zoning and planning conditions and how
those decisions get made.” 4
A park that is currently under development at the intersection of 17th and Folsom Streets represents some
of the successes of the People’s plan. The park, will include a grassy area, playground, community gardens
with trees bearing edible fruit, and public art that honors the Latino character of the neighborhood. multiyear community outreach process was conducted in
partnership with PODER, starting in 2009. According
to a staff member at PODER, community members
were prepared to have meaningful engagement with
the city due to the understanding of planning and zonThe stakeholder also shared the following outcomes of the
process: “The whole Mission Anti-Displacement Coalition and
the People’s Plan work did a couple of things. One, with MAC, I
think it gave visibility to a new level of leadership in the neighborhood that was less accomodationist in terms of the interests
of developers, of downtown, of some of these interests. And I
think it pointed to a generational divide in the Mission in terms
of the Latino ‘old guard’ and newer leadership...The People’s
Plan in particular, because of the need to engage with the city
and community, I think it also helped the new generation...
for understanding how these often arcane and technical issues
like land use and zoning are addressed…How we need to be
informed and engaged in these processes at the neighborhood
and city level...there’s an aspect of that reflected in the newer
ing they developed working on the People’s Plan. The
staff member said that, the “areas that were rezoned
through [the People’s Plan] process in the 2000s are
coming to fruition after these many years....that speaks
to the social capital that has been built. Not just, ‘let’s
rezone and forget about it.’ But, ‘let’s make sure these
policies come into fruition.’ And we’re going to be seeing that happening this year” when the park opens.
Housing: Conditions for
As is the case in the rest of the city, the housing market in the Mission District is competitive. In 2000, right
before the dotcom bust, the vacancy rate was at an
extreme low of 3%. In 2013 the vacancy rate jumped
to 7.6%, representing the decline of the house market. This figure cannot be seen as representing current
patterns of gentrification as the housing market has
since rebounded.
In terms of tenure, there has been a slight decrease in
the portion of occupied housing units that are rented:
from 87% in 1980, to 76% in 2013, which is consistent
with gentrification patterns.
Overcrowding, when more than 1 person per room
lives in an apartment or home, was 50% lower in 2013
than 2000 (Figure 5). One explanation is the decrease
in both family households and of the Latino population,
as low- and moderate-income Latino households often
live with extended family members in overcrowded living conditions (MEDA, 2011).
Figure 5: Overcrowded Units in the Mission
Source: U.S. Census 1990, 2000 (Geolytics, 2014);
ACS 2009-2013
Center for Community Innovation, University of California, Berkeley
Mission District Case Study
San Francisco has one of the most expensive housing markets in the nation and market rate rents in the
Mission are reflective of the city’s high cost of living. In
2013, the average price of a market-rate one bedroom
apartment in the Mission District was $2,850 while
the average for a two bedroom was $4,705 (Zumper,
2013). With 76% of residents in the Mission renting (as
of 2013), these high rents prevent low-income households from moving into the neighborhood. Additionally,
current residents experience a very high rent burden.
From 2000 to 2013, the share of rent burdened households, those paying 35% or more of their income on
housing costs, increased from 27% to 34%.
Despite high demand for the area, the Mission District has failed to see significant increases in its housing stock, thereby exacerbating pressures on existing
housing (Table 2). This lack of new development was
a common concern among the stakeholders interviewed. A realtor in the area discussed the difficulty in
obtaining approvals for new buildings because of the
lengthy environmental impact review process, which
sometimes caused developers to walk away from projects. A senior staff person from an affordable housing
developer spoke about the challenges of building new
housing, in part due to the real estate market collapse
and the elimination of redevelopment as a funding
source for affordable housing in California.
Meanwhile, as few units are being constructed, 80%
of households have recently moved in to their housing
unit (Table 3). This puts upward pressure on the rents
in the older housing stock.
Table 2: Number of Housing Units by Year of
Built 2010 Or Later
Built 2000 To 2009
Built 1990 To 1999
Built 1980 To 1989
Built 1970 To 1979
Built 1960 To 1969
Built 1950 To 1959
Built 1940 To 1949
Built 1939 Or Earlier
Source: American Community Survey 2013 5-year estimate
Table 3: Mission District Percent of Householders who
Moved in Last 5 Years, 1980 – 2013
Percent Moved in Last 5 Years
Source: U.S. Census 1980, 1990, 2000 (Geolytics, 2014);
American Community Survey 2009-2013 *Note: The 2013 figure
is the percent of households who moved in last 3 years.
Rent Control
San Francisco’s rent control laws protect tenants who
live in multi-unit rental buildings built before June of
1979. The rent control ordinance limits the amount
a landlord can raise the rent annually, based on the
consumer price index. When the unit is vacated, landlords can raise the rent to market rate, also known as
“vacancy decontrol”.5 Once the rent is raised, future
rent increases are still governed by rent control. Therefore, while units may technically be considered rent
controlled they may be unaffordable due to vacancy
decontrol. To prevent landlords from evicting tenants
in order to raise rents to market rate, the ordinance
also includes a “just-cause evictions” clause requiring
landlords to have a good reason for eviction such as
chronic late rental payments or a nuisance complaint.
There is no record of units that have undergone vacancy decontrol and their new base-rent.
We attempt to estimate the number of rent-controlled
units in the Mission District by identifying parcels that
contain a building with two or more units, built in 1978
or before, and are identified as an “apartment” or “flat”
using tax assessor data from Alameda County (Figure
6). This estimation method is imperfect, as housing
units that are condominiums, tenancies-in-common,
or currently not rented (through the Ellis act) are not
rent controlled. However, data on these exempt housing units are not available. Approximately 68% of units
in the Mission census tracts are potentially rent-controlled. Eighty-nine percent of these units were built
in 1939 or earlier (Figure 7). Older buildings are often
highly desirable to wealthier residents due to their architectural value; that so many buildings in the Mission
District are from the Victorian era increases the likelihood of displacement.
SF’s rent control ordinance never included vacancy control and
due to the passage of Costa Hawkins in 1996, vacancy control
was banned statewide.
Center for Community Innovation, University of California, Berkeley
Mission District Case Study
The map in Figure 8 shows that there is a high percent of vacancy decontrolled units in the tracts west of
Valencia Street. A walk down Valencia Street shows a
trend in higher-end commercial and retail stores. This
trend, to be discussed in greater detail in a later section, might explain the higher vacancy decontrol rate in
census tracts along Valencia Street as landlords may
be taking advantage of the economic investment along
the street to appeal to wealthier tenants.
Figure 6: Potentially Rent Controlled Units
Source: Association of Bay Area Governments, 2014
As noted earlier, rent controlled apartments do not
necessarily signify affordability due to vacancy decontrol; hence estimating the number of recently vacancy
decontrolled units and when these vacancies occurred
is important for the purpose of understanding affordability in the rent-controlled market. Our estimate suggests that a maximum range of between 18-28% of
rent controlled units experienced rent increases due
to vacancy decontrol between 2010-2013.64This is a
maximum because, while we are reasonably sure that
18-28% of rent controlled units experienced turnover,
it is not guaranteed that landlords would increase the
rent when that turnover happens; therefore, the actual
figures may be lower.
This estimate is derived using estimates of the total number of
rental occupied housing units from the American Community
Survey (2009-2013 five-year estimates) in combination with data
from the San Francisco Public Health department on the percent
of rental units in each tract that are subject to rent control. These
data sources allowed us to estimate a number of units in each
census tract that are subject to rent control. Since ACS figures are
reported with a margin of error, we found a range for this figure.
Then, we turned to ACS data for counts of renter households who
had moved in since 2010. We multiplied this by the proportion of
units in the tract subject to rent control (the Public Health data),
assuming that the newly moved-in households moved into rent
controlled and non-rent controlled units at the same proportion
as exist in the tract. This figure—the number of rent control units
that experienced turnover between 2010-2013—is taken to be the
same as the number that experienced vacancy decontrol. We then
divide this figure by the total rent controlled units in the tract to get
the percent of units that experienced vacancy decontrol. To get the
figures for the whole Mission, we simply add the counts from each
tract of vacancy decontrolled units and total rent controlled units,
and divide these sums.
Figure 7: Housing built before 1979 by Block
Source: Association of Bay Area Governments, 2014
Figure 1: Percent of Units with Vacancy Decontrol by
Census Tract
Valencia Street
Figure 8: Percent of Units with Vacancy Decontrol by
Census Tract
Source: 2009-2013 American Community Survey and San Francisco Public Health Department
(“Proportion of Housing Stock that is Rent-Controlled or Affordable, San Francisco, CA | Data | San Francisco,” n.d.)
Public and Subsidized
Housing in the Mission
While many residents of the Mission struggle to afford
rent, the area is host to a sizable stock of subsidized
housing: nearly 2,000 units, as detailed in Table 4 (excluding any units built only with local funds, some of
which are discussed in the next section). The neighborhood would have likely experienced even greater
displacement rates without these units.
Inclusionary Housing
Stakeholders said San Francisco’s inclusionary housing ordinance has had a limited impact. Inclusionary
Housing began as a policy in 1992 and later became
“part of the Planning Code” in 2002; it was revised in
2006 and 2010 (San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development, 2014). The policy
requires developers to build affordable units equal to
15% to 20% of a market-rate development or pay a fee
in lieu of building such units. The policy has resulted
in the creation of 1,560 units of below-market rental
andownership units in San Francisco between 1992
and 2013 (Table 5).
However, a court ruling in 2009 has limited the impact of the ordinance. In the case, Palmer/Sixth Street
Properties LP vs. City of Los Angeles, the California
Supreme Court let stand a lower court’s ruling that
held jurisdictions may not mandate developers to build
inclusionary rental units, since doing so entails the
setting of rents by the city, which was banned by the
Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act (California Planning and Development Report, 2009; Reuben, Junius
& Rose LLP, 2009). The ruling does not affect inclusionary policies for ownership units. The city made revisions to the law in 2010 that “require developers to
pay an affordable housing fee rather than construct inclusionary affordable housing” (San Francisco Budget
and Legislative Analyst, 2012). That resulted in a significant decrease in the number of inclusionary units
produced under the program, from 384 in 2008 to 32 in
2009, without a comparable increase in the fees paid,
which could be related to the overall dynamics of the
real estate market in these years (San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development,
Table 4: Public and Subsidized Housing
in the Mission, 2013
Type of Unit
# of units
Public Housing
Low-Income Housing Tax Credit
Section 8 New Construction
Section 202 (Senior Housing) New
Construction and Substantial
Project Rental Assistance Contract
Other (including Loan Management
Set-Aside and others)
Grand Total
Source: HUD Yearly Data Picture (Department of Housing and
Urban Development, n.d.) for Public Housing figure; (California
Housing Partnership Corporation, n.d.) for the rest. Note these
figures do not include residents who rent using tenant-based
vouchers or units developed as part of SF’s inclusionary ordinance or any subsidized units developed only with local funds.
Table 5: Inclusionary Housing, 1992 - 2013
Projects with
Units (On or
Off-Site) or
In-Lieu Fees
Mission District7
San Francisco
Projects Choosing On-Site
Inclusionary Housing
Projects Choosing Off-Site
Inclusionary Housing
Choosing to
pay Fee
Total Number of
Number of
Number of
Affordable Units
Number of
Number of
Affordable Units
Number of
Source: San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development, 2014
As defined by the Mayor’s Office on Housing; a map was not provided to compare to the area we have defined as the Mission.
Center for Community Innovation, University of California, Berkeley
Mission District Case Study
Community Opposition to
Development at 16th and
Mission Streets
Some believe more housing for all income levels is
needed to improve affordability in San Francisco, while
others believe housing production should focus on affordability for low-income residents. An example of this
tension is the proposed ten-story, 351-unit building on
the corner of 16th and Mission Streets. The development is under community scrutiny, with the Plaza 16
Coalition leading the opposition. The new apartment
complex would replace a Walgreens, a Burger King, a
bar, a Chinese restaurant, a market and a parking lot
(Elsen, 2014). Despite the fact that no existing tenants
or housing would be displaced, the coalition argues
that if this development were to proceed, it would result in business and residential displacement (Christopher, 2014). This type of opposition highlights the
social and cultural complexity of gentrification. The
10-story luxury apartment complex represents development for new residents, leaving the Latino community feeling neglected and disrespected. According
to a community-based organization stakeholder, the
“Plaza 16 Coalition has made substantive arguments
against the project ranging from the height, impacts
on the adjacent school, traffic concerns, and yes, the
pressures luxury condos have on housing prices in the
The developer of the 16th street Mission housing
apartment complex has yet to determine how it will satisfy the city’s affordable housing requirement (Dineen,
2013). Yet regardless of how the developer will satisfy
the affordable housing requirement, residents oppose
this development as the project represents a change
in the Mission’s character. In an article entitled, “Coalition protests 16th Street development”, an organizer
for Causa Justa :: Just Cause put this clash succinctly,
“the height of these towers will keep Marshall Elementary [School] next door in a constant shadow….this
project will literally overshadow the Latino students attending that school” (Christopher, 2014). While it may
be true that residents will not be directly displaced by
the development, the project will have an impact on
surrounding businesses and could potentially increase
the cost of living in the neighborhood. A city official explained that once new housing development happens
“there is such a huge impact on the surrounding area,
prices immediately respond.” This same city official expressed skepticism that simply building more housing
will make the Mission more affordable.
Ellis Act Evictions
Another highly public issue in the Mission has been
the impact of the Ellis Act. The Ellis Act is a state law
passed in 1985 that allows landlords to evict tenants
building-wide by removing the building from the rental
market entirely or for five years before being allowed to
rent apartments at market rate. The result in San Francisco has been a decrease of rental options in a city
where the supply of housing is already strained. The
increase in the percent of residents who are homeowners from 13% in 1980 to 24% in 2010 may reflect,
at least in part, Ellis Act condo conversions.
While the Ellis Act continues to be a subject of contention in the housing market debate, Figure 10 shows
that the number of evictions has decreased since
2001. The number of Ellis Act evictions tends to mimic the health of the economy and housing market: in
down periods, such as after the crash of the dotcom
boom (2001-2004) and during the recent recession,
evictions decrease. During up periods, such as in
2005-2007 during the height of the housing boom and
more recently, as the economy has begun to recover,
Figure 1: No-Fault Evictions in the Mission, 2001-2013
evictions increase.
Ellis Act Evictions allow landlords to exit the rental housing business
Other ‘no fault’ evictions include those where the eviction is not a
result of tenant’s actions (e.g., owner move-ins, etc.)
Figure 9: No-Fault Evictions in the Mission,
Source: SF Rent Board as reported by SF Board of Supervisors
Budget and Legislative Analyst, 2012
Center for Community Innovation, University of California, Berkeley
Mission District Case Study
A city official working in the government for the last
three decades commented that the planning department saw the peak of Ellis Act evictions in the nineties.
This is supported by compiled data from the time referencing 1998 as the “peak” year of Ellis Act evictions
(Capps, 2014). The city official believes that since the
Planning Department has authority over land use it
could restrict the conversion of rental properties to
ownership properties. For example, zoning changes
or other policy interventions could restrict conversion
or make it difficult to do, thereby deterring landlords
from pursuing it.
Regardless of the fact that the total number of Ellis
Act and no fault evictions has gone down since 2001,
the total number of evictions for the Mission compared
to the rest of the city has been very high during this
twelve-year timeframe. The Mission District (represented in the report issued by the SF Board of Supervisors Budget and Legislative Analyst by the zip code
94110) had a higher number of Ellis Act and no-fault
evictions than any other neighborhood, with 383 evictions and 1,222 notices, respectively. Between 2009
and 2013, of the seven neighborhoods with the most
Ellis Act evictions, the Mission continued to exhibit
the highest number of evictions with 71 evictions, a
demonstration of the neighborhood’s lucrative housing
market (Table 6).
Tenant Buyouts
In addition to evictions, tenant buyouts are another strategy in which landlords attempt to lure current
tenants out of their homes with cash to increase rent
for wealthier residents. The Mission district has experienced the highest concentration of buyouts from
2008-2014 (“Tenant Buyouts Are On The Rise In S.F.,
As Are The Dollars Involved - SocketSiteTM,” 2014).
Buyouts offer landlords several advantages over Ellis
Act evictions: the landlord can immediately rent out the
unit at market value and retain the option to convert
units into condominiums at a later date. The total number of reported buyouts in SF went from 90 in 2007
to 175 in 201386(City and County of San Francisco,
Budget and Legislative Analyst’s Office, 2014). The
Mission district had the highest number of buyouts in
2008-2014 with 165 or about 28% of the total share
of buyouts, however there is no requirement to report
buyouts so these are likely underestimates. There is
no regulation of the amount that must be paid for a
buyout and sometimes tenants are offered just a few
thousand dollars (City and County of San Francisco,
Budget and Legislative Analyst’s Office, 2014). San
Francisco Supervisor David Campos has introduced
legislation to regulate buyouts. One of the regulatory
features he is proposing is to impose the condo conversion prohibitions that are already in place for nofault evictions (Taylor, 2014).
Table 6: Top Seven Neighborhoods for Ellis Act
Evictions, 2009-2013
Ellis Act
Eviction Notices
Russian Hill./Polk Gulch
Castro/Eureka Valley
Outer Richmond
Inner Richmond
North Beach
Haight-Ashbury/Western Addition
San Francisco Total
Source: SF Rent Board, accessed through (San Francisco Board of
Supervisors Budget and Legislative Analyst, 2013)
Sales and Investment
While the percent of households who are mortgage
burdened has stayed constant over time, the cost to
buy a home has increased substantially since the
1980s in the Bay Area, San Francisco, and, especially,
the Mission District, as shown in Figure 10 and Figure
11. The rise in price during the dotcom boom is clear,
as is the more recent rise in costs between 2002-2007,
then a slight downturn during the recession with a
quick recovery since 2012. Single-family homes have
shown more dramatic change, particularly recently in
the Mission, whose home have shot up in price above
San Francisco and the Bay Area.
The data reported by the SF Tenant Union likely undercounts
the number of actual buyouts as these are self-reported by
Center for Community Innovation, University of California, Berkeley
Mission District Case Study
Figure 10: Median Sale Price per Square Foot – Multi-Family Properties
Source: Dataquick, “Bay Area” includes all tracts in the 9-county area)
Figure 11: Median Sale Price Per Square Foot - Single Family Homes
Source: Dataquick, “Bay Area” includes all tracts in the 9-county area)
Center for Community Innovation, University of California, Berkeley
Mission District Case Study
Use Changes
The increases in housing prices have been paralleled
by a gradual increase in the number of parcels whose
land use is residential. Many of these are new construction, but others represent use changes. A small
portion of parcels changed use each year, but in 2007,
9% of parcels with a commercial use had converted
from other uses (mostly industrial and miscellaneous)
and 5% of parcels with a residential use had converted from other uses (mostly commercial) (Dataquick,
16th St. BART
Valencia Street
24thSt. BART
Private Investment
We examined trends in sales and building permit
data to identify spatial characteristics of investment
in residential property. This analysis has the potential
to demonstrate how outside pressures and public investments impact patterns of private investment in the
Mission District over time.9 As Figure 12 shows, there
are a higher number of residential sales in the northwest and central-western portions of the Mission. The
northwestern concentration may be related to higher
density of housing stock.
Figure 12: Number of Residential Sales by Block,
2003 – 2013
The number of residential sales peaked in 2003 and
2004, declined through the housing bubble burst, but
appears to have stabilized (Figure 13). San Francisco
as a whole recovered from the impact of the financial
recession and housing market crash much faster than
the rest of the nation.
16th St. BART
Valencia Street
Figure 14 displays the average residential sales prices
per square foot in the Mission and shows a slightly different pattern than Figure 13, with the largest cluster
of high prices seen in the southwest.
24thSt. BART
Figure 14: Average Residential Sales Price per Square
foot by Block, 2003-2013
Sales data was taken from the first quarter of 2003 through the
fourth quarter of 2013 from DataQuick, (DataQuick, 2014). We
joined the data to a shapefile containing San Francisco parcels
and converted to point data using ArcGIS (ABAG, 2005). These
points, which each represent a sale, were spatially analyzed and
visualized at different geographies through spatial joining. Building permit data from the San Francisco Planning Department
were analyzed similarly (San Francisco Planning Department,
Figure 13: Yearly Total Number of Residential Sales in
the Mission, 1988-2013
Source: Dataquick, 2014
Center for Community Innovation, University of California, Berkeley
Mission District Case Study
Average Permit
Cost per Unit
Figure 15: Total Annual Cost of Residential Permits in
the Mission, 2005-2013
Source: San Francisco Planning Department, 2014
The amount of private investment in residential properties has also been increasing since 2005 (Figure
15). The total annual value of permits (as ascertained
through the cost of building permits) in the Mission increased by 545% from 2005 to 2013. When comparing
investment in the Mission to the rest of the city, Figure
16 shows how parts of the Mission are averaging higher permitting investments per unit.
Public Investment
Public investment, in so far as it makes the neighborhood more desirable, has the potential to contribute to
gentrification pressures. The public project that seems
most clearly related to gentrification is one on Valencia Street between 15th and 19th streets completed
by the Department of Public Works in July 2010 at a
cost of $6.1 million. In 2004 the Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA) began the planning for the Valencia
Streetscape Project, which expanded and beautified
sidewalks, resurfaced and restriped the street with
bike lanes, and provided other infrastructure improvements (City of San Francisco, n.d.). The street looks
nicer than nearby streets and, today, the commercial
establishments along Valencia Street are mostly new
places that serve a higher-income clientele (further
analysis of commercial change is in the next section).
By contrast, along Mission Street, another main commercial corridor in the district, more of the older, legacy resident-serving establishments are still around,
and visible gentrification is less advanced. This may
Figure 16: Average Permit Cost per Unit in the Mission
by Census Tracts, 2005-2013
Source: San Francisco Planning Department, 2014a
be, at least in part, connected to the completion of the
Valencia street beautification process. Additional improvements (some completed, some planned) include
several streetscape improvement projects, road diets,
and new plazas throughout the district. These are detailed in an appendix.
Together, these projects signal an interest in the Mission on the part of city agencies. The investment they
bring is a parallel and reinforcing factor to the other
changes discussed here. One stakeholder interviewed
said that a lot of residents see streetscape improvements like these as a sign of gentrification. All of these
projects included public processes, and several affirm
the Latino cultural identity of the neighborhood. They
also ostensibly improve the neighborhood for existing
residents. On the other hand, the improvements could
contribute to residents’ dissonance, especially if they
feel the neighborhood is being upgraded for others
or being made more attractive for outsiders to move
in. The improvements may make the area even more
desirable to higher-income people and, therefore, encourage gentrification and displacement.
None of the improvements include provisions to ensure permanent housing affordability for existing residents to stay in the neighborhood and enjoy the new
streets, plazas, and parks. In this way, the investments
may not benefit existing residents in the long run, representing a missed opportunity to stabilize the neighborhood.
Center for Community Innovation, University of California, Berkeley
Mission District Case Study
Commercial Displacement
In order to understand how gentrification may put
pressure on retail businesses, we evaluated data on
commercial establishments from the National Employment Time-Series Database (NETS), a proprietary
database (Walls & Associates, 2013). Using census
tracts, we analyzed the data by dividing the Mission
District into three distinct commercial neighborhoods
shown in Figure 18 based on our own assessment of
commercial uses.
In 1990, there were more retail businesses in the
24th Street corridor neighborhood than in the 16th St.
BART neighborhood (Figure 18). Since then, the number of retail businesses has steadily declined in the
24th Street corridor and steadily increased in the 16th
Street neighborhood. Today there are about twice as
many businesses in the 16th Street BART neighborhood as in the 24th Street corridor.
Here, we compare trends in the 16th Street Bart and
24th Street Corridor areas10. The businesses in the
16th Street Bart neighborhood may face problems due
to neighborhood gentrification, customer dislocation,
and increased wage costs for their workers. Businesses along 24th street may feel less pressures, in part
due to the activism that has led to protecting businesses and tenants in the area (Dicum, 2005).
Figure 17: The Mission District, Commercial
16 St.
24 St. Corridor
NE Mission
16 St. BART/ N. Mission/ Valencia
24 St. Corridor
NE Mission Industrial
Figure 18: Number of Retail Businesses in the Mission, 1990-2011
Source: National Employment Time-Series (NETS) Database
The number of retail businesses in the Northeast Mission Industrial neighborhood increased slightly, but is lower than the other
two neighborhoods; we exclude it from the remainder of our analysis.
Center for Community Innovation, University of California, Berkeley
Mission District Case Study
Figure 19: Total Number of Businesses, 16th St. BART (left) and 24th Street Corridor (right)
Source: National Employment Time-Series (NETS) database
To ascertain the change in local- versus regional-serving businesses, we categorize them based on
their North American Industrial Classification System
(NAICS) code into businesses that are more likely to
serve local residents (such as markets, drug stores,
and hardware stores) and businesses more likely to
serve regional markets (such as department stores
and furniture stores). In the 16th Street Bart neighborhood, growth has occurred in both local and regional
serving businesses, while on 24th Street, local-serving businesses have decreased in number (Figure 19).
retail businesses. However, an analysis of businesses
owned by Hispanic people on the 24th Street corridor
reveals a different story. Of the businesses that closed
in recent years (2007-2010), nearly 50% of them were
owned by Hispanics, compared to 38% of businesses
that opened over the same time frame.11 Additionally,
the overall proportion of businesses owned by Hispanic people decreased from 40% to 36% between 2000
and 2011. Though this is a small change, it still shows
a change in the character of local retail and minority
owned businesses.
This suggests that changes in the 16th Street area
may be spurred both by changes in the local resident
population and in the neighborhood’s capacity to draw
customers from the region. For example, this corridor
is a night-life destination where people from outside
come to visit restaurants and bars. Changes in the 24th
Street corridor, by contrast, appear to be more related
to changes in the local residential population, resulting
in a decline in local-serving businesses, without comparable increases in regional-serving businesses.
Nonprofit funding has changed since the first wave
of displacement as well. During the first dotcom era,
funding and staff were available to Mission Housing
when it spearheaded MAC. Today, the organization
has fewer resources. One stakeholder believes the
“velocity of change” is faster today than the previous
dotcom boom; another commented that, due to fewer
resources, more-formidable opponents (large technology firms as opposed to smaller start-ups during the
previous era), and the “Mayor’s pro-tech agenda,” the
community’s capacity to respond has diminished.
When asked about how different parts of the Mission
have experienced change differently, a non-profit stakeholder identified the 24th and Mission neighborhood
as one that has maintained its character more than
others, keeping a high percentage of Hispanic-owned
The corridor is defined as 24th Street between Mission and
Potrero; note that this definition is different than that used in
the other figures in this section. Source: NETS data and 2000 US
Census. Methodology explained in appendix.
Center for Community Innovation, University of California, Berkeley
Mission District Case Study
The Mission District is a potent example of the demographic and commercial changes that can occur in a
high-demand location with walkability, accessibility,
and access to amenities in the center of an expensive
region. The data presented here show clear signs of
change in the Mission.
Over the last thirty years, the area has seen a decrease in the proportion of family households and a
decrease in the Latino population, while the percentage of the population with a bachelor degree or higher
and median income have both increased dramatically—all consistent with gentrification patterns.
Despite an increase in income, housing burden has
increased in the Mission, demonstrating the neighborhood’s high desirability and, therefore, high cost of living. Rent control, public and subsidized housing, and
inclusionary zoning all seek to limit displacement and
increase affordability for low income households, but
all have shortcomings, and, overall, are only partially
mitigating the intense displacement resulting from new
Evictions and buyouts are two of the processes contributing to displacement. While the number of Ellis Act
and no-fault evictions has gone down in the last decade, the Mission continues to see the highest rate of
evictions in the city. Meanwhile, buyouts in the Mission
are at a rapid incline, perhaps indicating a switch in
landlords’ tactics from evictions to buyouts.
A perennial question in anti-displacement policy is
which of two approaches to pursue: preserving existing housing as affordable, or increasing production of
new housing, either market-rate or affordable. Preservation, in the face of strong market forces, is difficult.
As during the dotcom boom, today streams of high income workers are flooding the housing market, placing upward pressure on housing prices and encouraging landlords to use various tactics to raise rents.
Furthermore, there is a dwindling supply of naturally
affordable housing units left to preserve; most renters
are already cost-burdened, and with vacancy decontrol, even rent control units can jump to market simply
from someone moving. Strengthening eviction policies
could limit these effects.
Increased production of market-rate units is considered an affordable housing strategy by some, but not
all: the increased overall supply, some would argue,
will bring down rents across the board. However, community opposition to this approach is fierce, as evidenced by the 16th and Mission project. While in the
long run new housing may relieve pressure on rents,
in the short term it is certain to contribute to upward
pressure as the neighborhood gentrifies. In addition,
the scarcity of land in the Mission means that new development will be limited. Can enough new housing be
built that these supply effects will bring down rents?
That is unlikely, especially since new housing is likely
to be oriented toward the highest end of the market,
given the larger trends in the economy.
Therefore, to ensure a long-term supply of affordable
housing in the Mission, affordable housing production,
in addition to preservation of the existing stock, is key.
Inclusionary housing has produced only 136 units in
the Mission in over twenty years; this policy’s future
impact will be limited due to recent legal changes. The
area is host to nearly 2,000 units of affordable housing. But more will be needed to keep low-income families living in this area.
The Mission has already undergone significant gentrification and continues to experience displacement.
This neighborhood has been here before: the dotcom
boom at the turn of the century foreshadowed (and
set the stage for) many of the changes facing it today.
The capacity building activists engaged in at that time
provide a foundation for residents and advocates to
incorporate successful tactics—and new approaches—to the present situation. While Valencia Street on
a Saturday night may be unrecognizable to residents
from twenty years ago, the neighborhood still hosts a
sizable Latino population, and, in the words of a community-based organization stakeholder, “contestation
for place and the right to stay is still going on.”
Center for Community Innovation, University of California, Berkeley
Mission District Case Study
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Center for Community Innovation, University of California, Berkeley
Mission District Case Study
Appendix A: Additional
Data Points
Table A1: Percent Foreign Born, Mission
Percent Foreign Born
Source: U.S. Census 1980, 1990, 2000 (Geolytics, 2014);
ACS 2006-2010
Figure A3: Homeownership by Race/Ethnicity
in the Mission
Source: U.S. Census 1980, 1990, 2000 (Geolytics, 2014);
ACS 2006-2010
Figure A1: Mission District Housing Tenure by
Percent, 1980 - 2013
Source: U.S. Census 1980, 1990, 2000 (Geolytics, 2014);
ACS 2009-2013
Figure A4: Renter-Occupied Units by Race/Ethnicity
in the Mission
Source: U.S. Census 1980, 1990, 2000 (Geolytics, 2014);
ACS 2006-2010
Table A2: Mission District Housing Vacancies,
1980 - 2013
Table A3: Total Annual Cost of Residential
Total Vacant Units
Source: U.S. Census 1980, 1990, 2000 (Geolytics, 2014);
ACS 2009-2013
Total Annual Cost
Percent Change
Source: San Francisco Planning Department, 2014
Figure A2: Mission District Residential Building Type,
1980 - 2010
Source: U.S. Census 1980, 1990, 2000 (Geolytics, 2014);
ACS 2006-2010
Center for Community Innovation, University of California, Berkeley
Mission District Case Study
Appendix B: Methodology
for Analyzing Proportion
of Hispanic-Owned
We followed a methodology used by researchers at
UCLA to analyze changes in Asian-owned businesses
in several Los Angeles neighborhoods (Paul M. Ong,
Chhandara Pech, Rosalie Ray, 2014). We began with
the National Establishment Time-Series database,
which includes businesses’ opening and closing dates
and owners’ names. We pulled this data for businesses in the zip code 94110, which contains the 24th
Street corridor. We removed any record without a business name and/or officer name and then removed all
records except those with an address between 2700
24th Street and 3278 24th Street, which runs from
Protero to Mission Streets. We then compared the surnames of each businesses’ officer with a list of Hispanic surnames, which we created from a list of all names
with 100 or more respondents from the 2000 Census.
We created a list of surnames whose percentage of
respondents was at least 75% Hispanic. If the name
of the business owner was on this Hispanic surname
list, we concluded that the business was owned by a
Hispanic person.
Appendix C: Public
Investment in the Mission
District—Additional Detail
Completed Projects
On Folsom Street between 19th and Cesar Chavez
Streets, a $5.44 million streetscape improvement
project was finished this year to reduce the number
of vehicle lanes, add bike lanes, repave streets, add
bus bulb-outs, and add trees (City and County of San
Francisco Department of Public Works, n.d.-b).
A larger-scale plan for the entire Mission District was
developed in 2008 and 2009, when the planning department led a community process to create a streetscape plan as part of the larger Eastern Neighborhoods
planning process. A final plan was generated in 2010
that called for “a system of neighborhood streets with
safe and green sidewalks; well-marked crosswalks;
widened sidewalks at corners; creative parking arrangements; bike paths and routes; close integration
of transit; and roadways that accommodate automobile traffic but encourage appropriate speeds” (San
Francisco Planning Department City Design Group,
2009). Overall, these changes would make the streets
more accessible to pedestrians, bikers, and users of
transit. The total estimated cost of the improvements
is $95.5 million (San Francisco Planning Department,
The plan touches all the main commercial areas in the
District, and includes 28 projects that were cleared
through the environmental review process. The following projects have been completed:
Plaza at the 24th St BART station
Bryant St between 23rd and Cesar Chavez – road diet
with new median
Folsom St. between 17th and 25th – road diet with
bike lanes has been created through re-striping street,
though the planned median is not built and not in the
Intersection of Mission, Capp, and Cesar Chavez
Streets – new plaza
Another project along the southern edge of the Mission district—Cesar Chavez Street—is a streetscape
improvement project (City and County of San Francisco Department of Public Works, n.d.-a). The project,
which will cost $11.6 million, includes many improvements, such as “widening the center median and installing bulb-outs at intersections and mid-blocks,” new
trees, drainage improvements, bike lanes, and public
plazas (City and County of San Francisco Department
of Public Works, n.d.-a). The median and bike improvements are near completion or complete.
Planned Projects
The following projects from the overall Mission District
plan are in progress:
Intersection of Mission and Valencia, the “Green Gateway” – A new plaza should be finished by March 2015
that will include sidewalk widening on west side and
will incorporate existing bus stop.
Center for Community Innovation, University of California, Berkeley
Mission District Case Study
Intersection of San Jose and Guerrero – The community benefits agreement for a new hospital project in
the vicinity includes funding to improve the safety of
this intersection.
Bryant St between 21st and 22nd – The block will be
redone starting in November 2014 as a shared street
incorporating the public open market previously there.
Intersection of Dolores St and 18th St – The intersection will be rebuilt, possibly as early as October 2015.
Additional projects remain in the plan, including revamped alleyways parallel to Mission Street for much
of its length in the District and median improvements
for the major streets in the District.
Appendix D:
Ground-Truthing Analysis
To tell the story of gentrification and displacement
in the Mission District of San Francisco, California,
we relied on data from the assessor’s office, Census data on demographic and other change, several
other secondary data sources, and qualitative policy
reviews and interviews with key stakeholders. However, secondary data sources are incomplete, at best,
and outright wrong, at worst. Therefore, we employ
a “ground-truthing” methodology to verify the validity
of these datasets. The ground-truthing, which is described in more detail below, essentially consists of
walking from structure to structure on a few sample
blocks and taking detailed notes on several variables,
like number of units, state of maintenance, and more.
With this data in hand, we can compare the story of
gentrification the secondary data sources are telling
with data obtained “on the ground,” while also increasing the richness of our narrative overall from the visual
observations we make on the blocks.
In this memo, we discuss four sample blocks in the
case study area. For each, we first present the secondary data sources—assessor and Census. We analyze this data to ascertain the nature and extent of
recent neighborhood change on those blocks. Next,
we describe the ground-truthing data and offer a similar analysis in terms of neighborhood change, but this
time based solely on the ground-truthing. Finally, we
reconcile the two data-sets: are they telling the same
story? Where are the discrepancies? What do those
discrepancies reveal?
For this analysis, we selected blocks from the case
study area that seemed to have experienced a range
of degrees of change, based on secondary data (see
Figure 1). We consulted with a community-based organization familiar with the area to choose blocks
they thought were illustrative of the varying amount of
change occurring in the area.
To prepare this memo, we consulted the following data
Assessor Data: Using a dataset purchased from Dataquick, Inc., we accessed assessor and sales data
from the County of San Francisco, which is current as
of April 23, 2014.
US Census Bureau: We also consulted block-level
decennial Census data from 2000 and 2010.
Ground-truthing data: This information comes from
a visual observation of each structure on the block
by walking around and noting the building’s type
(multi-family, single-family, business, etc), the number
of units it appears to hold, and a long list of signs of
recent investment, like permanent blinds and updated
paint, as well as signs of perceptions of safety, like
security cameras. The parcel numbers used to organize this data come from the Boundary Solutions data
set, which is current as of December 13, 2012.
The ground-truthing methodology is based on one
used by Hwang and Sampson (Hwang & Sampson,
2014), who used Google Street View images to analyze neighborhood change in Chicago. We created
an observation tool based on their work and, with that
in hand, conducted a pilot ground-truthing of several
blocks in one of the case study areas (the Macarthur
BART station area of Oakland, California). The research team revised the methodology based on this
pilot; the final observation tool appears in the appendix.
On November 14, 2014, a researcher with the Center
for Community Innovation, an organizer at the community group PODER, and a consultant with deep knowledge of the area walked through four blocks in the Mission District, stopping to take notes at each building.
Center for Community Innovation, University of California, Berkeley
Mission District Case Study
Finally, on Block 1007, almost all of the parcels from
the ground-truthing data set did not appear in the
assessor data. This is primarily the result of the Dataquick data missing over 40 parcels for the building
at 3000 23rd St. In place of those parcels, it had only
one, with many units, with a listed use as an apartment building. Likewise for the building at 2652 Harrison St; while the building has 20 parcels/units—condominiums—according to the Ground-truthing data, it
appears with only one on the Dataquick data. This is
almost definitely a glitch in the data, not a result of the
timing of the data sets.
Table D1: Parcel Mismatch Among Datasets
Block and
Census Tract
Figure D1: Map of Mission District, with census tracts,
and four Ground-Truthing blocks in green.
# assessor
parcels matched
to ground-truth
parcels, of total
# ground-truth
parcels matched
to assessor
parcels, of total
Block 3003
Tract 228.01
65 / 81
66 / 70
Block 2000
Tract 208
26 / 55
28 / 31
Block 1007
Tract 228.03
12 / 16
12 / 87
Block 1004
Tract 228.03
37 / 41
39 / 39
Unmatched Parcels
The ground-truthing exercise is meant to provide an
additional set of data to verify conclusions reached
through analyzing assessor and Census data. Complicating this effort is that the data sets do not have
the same set of parcels (Table 1). All data reported
from the assessor data (Dataquick) includes all parcels in that set; likewise, all data reported from the
ground-truthing data collection includes all parcels
in that set (which is based on parcels from Boundary
Most of the mismatch is not significant enough to skew
results; however, three areas of discrepancy are significant; these are highlighted in yellow in the table.
First, on Block 3003, 15 of the parcels in the assessor
data did not appear in the ground-truth data set.
Second, on Block 2000, 29 of the 55 parcels in the
assessor data did not appear in the ground-truth data
Overall Impressions from Ground-Truthing
The blocks walked have a distinctly “old” feel to them—
one could tell walking around that the neighborhood
had a history and had been developed mostly a long
time ago, while parts of it represent more recent additions. Its streets (except the major artery Van Ness)
were quiet and pleasant to walk through. The streets
and sidewalks are mostly clean. A steady flow of people walks the streets.
The uses on the blocks vary: former industrial sites
share the block with new condominium developments;
unmaintained townhomes sit next to beautiful, recently-renovated townhomes; expensive cafes and grocery stores have popped up next to long-open diners.
Besides these signs of transition, an overt sign of gentrification—and community opposition to it—is a sign
reading “Evictions” pasted below a “STOP” sign, so
that the message was “STOP Evictions.”
Center for Community Innovation, University of California, Berkeley
Mission District Case Study
All four blocks are mostly residential, with a mix of
single-family homes, multi-family rental buildings,
and condominium buildings, which are usually newer.
There are a few non-residential uses on each block,
including some light industry, stores, offices, and one
church. The structures are mostly older, though there
are some very new buildings. The neighborhood is diverse in terms of socioeconomic status (judging by a
range of businesses) and race (judging by the signs
posted in a laundromat and observing pedestrians).
The blocks’ primary land use is residential, though
there is some first-floor commercial space. Most of
the structures are single-family, attached homes with
two or three stories. There are some apartment buildings, usually of 4-6 units, though there are a few larger
buildings. There are a handful of one-story homes that
appeared to be more recent construction (in the last
30-50 years). Most structures are beautiful old Victorian homes; even if they had some damage, they still
maintain a handsome character. The new construction, though not in this same style, fit in with the neighborhood fairly well; their windows mimic the Bay-style
windows of the old Victorians, though instead of being
curved out as traditional Bay Windows are, they are
rectangular boxes. The walls of most structures are
aligned with the sidewalk, though some have shallow
yards. This, and the lack of side yards, gives the neighborhood an urban feel.
Most homes are classic San Francisco Victorian townhouses, while there are about a dozen newly modernized or constructed homes that, for the most part, are
condominiums. We can tell a condominium by the parcel numbers: if there are many within one structure,
each unit is owned by a different person. There were
several instances of buildings that had clearly formerly
been part of one parcel with one owner, but had been
split up in recent years to house multiple families. We
could tell this because a building that was once one
continuous structure is now host to several different
parcel numbers.
gates for safety? If so, do current residents fear for
their safety, or are the fences and gates a vestige of
a time when residents were fearful, and, by contrast,
residents today feel safe? Walking around on a Friday
afternoon, the streets were lively and the structures
Besides the residential units, there are several neighborhood-serving commercial businesses, including a
handful of restaurants, a Laundromat, and one Korean
church. There are also several remnants of the old industrial uses of the neighborhood. For example, there
is one store with a sign reading “Kaiser Glass.”
Some businesses, due to a low level of maintenance,
seem oriented towards residents without high incomes. For example, a corner café and legal services
office fit this description; the latter had signs offering
immigration assistance. Other businesses, like a pet
store and upscale grocery market, are housed in newly-constructed buildings or have new, recently-developed interiors.
After passing one restaurant, the PODER staff member remarked that it had been there forever, but was
now serving both long-time and new residents; businesses are not used exclusively by either old or new
residents. This point was made clear when the researcher entered a Laundromat (on 18th Street between Capp and Van Ness, part of Block 2000 in Census Tract 208). On the bulletin board, about 10 flyers
were posted (see Figure 2). Several seemed oriented
towards Spanish-speaking residents, such as flyers
advertising a concert, a dance club, computer services, video and photography services, and a room
for rent. Other signs, in English, advertised Capoiera
(a Brazilian form of martial arts) classes, a concert, a
counseling center, and an exhibit on Modernism at the
deYoung museum. From these flyers alone, it is clear
this is a mixed neighborhood.
Many homes—old ones and new construction alike—
have garages. There are many “No Parking” signs on
homes, which signals that parking is scarce and residents want to ensure people are not using their driveways to park.
A fair number of entrances are gated or have a
non-decorative fence (i.e., metal) out front. However,
almost none of these look new. Are the fences and
Figure D2: Bulletin board inside a Laundromat on 18th
and Capp Streets
Center for Community Innovation, University of California, Berkeley
Mission District Case Study
Neighborhood Activity: The neighborhood has steady
street traffic, though off the main roads it has a quiet,
residential feel to it. We spoke with several people who
said there had been a lot of change in the area.
Block-by-Block Analysis
Tables 2 and 3 provide a summary of relevant secondary data for each block, the case study area, and San
Francisco overall.
For two variables—land use and number of units—
comparisons are made on a parcel-by-parcel basis;
only parcels that appear in both data sets are used for
this comparison (Table 4). Census data is not provided
on a parcel level, and so includes all households surveyed by the Census. For each block, the total number
of units based on three different data sets vary widely,
as do the listed number of units for each parcel. Land
uses, on the other hand, match fairly well on each
Table D2: Sales History and Assessed Value of Residential Parcels
Median Year of
Median Year of
Last Sale
Percent Sold
Median Sale
Median Sale
Price Per
Square Foot
Assessed Value
Per Square
Foot (2013)
Source: Dataquick, 2014. These figures refer to all parcels in the area, including non-residential uses.
Table D3: Indicators of Neighborhood Change: Census Data/Demographics
Percentage Change From 2000 - 2010
Number Hispanics
of Family
Number of
1 to 8
Source: Decennial Census 2000 and 2010, accessed through NHGIS.
Assessed value would likely be higher if the assessor data included new condominium buildings on the block.
Center for Community Innovation, University of California, Berkeley
Mission District Case Study
Table D4: Summary of Parcel Matches and Primary Land Use
Primary Land
Use, based on
Land Use
Residential: 50%
condo, 21%
Total Number of Units on Block
Percent of
Parcels whose
Number of
Units match
Assessor Data
and Visual
Assessor Data
Visual Observations on
Census Data:
Total Housing
Units – 2010
Residential: 42%
multi-family, rest
condo and single-family
condo, multi-family
71% (denominator is 7)
is 12)
Residential: 45%
multi-family, 38%
Note: Percent Land Use Matched and Percent Units Matched take as their denominator only those parcels for which a land
use or number of units was indicated by both assessor data and ground-truth data.
Block 3003
Secondary Data
This block was chosen due to a decrease in the Hispanic population between 2000 and 2010 and a relatively high change in ownership over the last few
years. It is also located in the northeast quadrant of
the Mission and so adds geographic diversity to the
blocks selected. On the corner of Van Ness and 19th
Street, there is a small glass manufacturer, evidence
of the neighborhood’s historic industrial character. Besides this industrial building and a small legal services
office that offered immigration services, the other
structures are all housing, with a few more multi-family
buildings than the other blocks surveyed. There was a
sign about sidewalk repairs on the street. This block
has an older feel, and featured fewer new structures
than the others.
This block is changing rapidly, with a very recent median year of last sale (2005), high percentage sold in
the last five years (29%), and a median sale price per
square foot ($491) that is much higher than in the Mission and San Francisco overall. The buildings on this
block are very new, with a median year of construction of 1985, compared to 1912 in the Mission and
1932 in San Francisco. Between 2000 and 2010, the
population on this block decreased by 5%; the changes on this block therefore likely have occurred since
2010, which is consistent with 29% of parcels selling
between 2010-2014. The demographics of the block
have changed, though not substantially: between 2000
and 2010, there were 14% more whites, 22% fewer
Asians, and 11% fewer Hispanic residents. Of the four
blocks, this one shows the highest median sale price
per square foot, indicating significant new investment
in the block.
The block has several signs of recent investment. 67%
of the parcels on the block appear “new” or “above average,” with 21% of all parcels appearing new.
Center for Community Innovation, University of California, Berkeley
Mission District Case Study
Other signs of investment include:
- 9 parcels with for-sale signs
- Almost no parcels had cracked windows (1),
boarded windows (0), nor dirty windows (6)
- 57% of parcels had new or maintained paint.
- Very few signs of disorder
However, there are also signs of disinvestment:
- 19% of parcels had peeling or fading paint
Signs of perceived safety include:
- 37% of parcels had metal security doors.
- 10% had safety fencing
- 11% had security alarm signage
- Only 2 had bars on windows
- 26% had security cameras
- 20% had signs saying “Beware of Dog” or “No
Public Investment: Block 3003 is host to transit stops,
municipal lighting, street furniture, bike racks, and public trash cans. There were very few signs of disorder on
the block. Ongoing public investment appears to be
happening: we saw a sign marking sidewalk repairs.
There was no distinct pattern to the parcels that did not
match. However, the majority of them did not match because the assessor data13 did not list a use or (for four
parcels), or no use was listed from the ground-truthing
exercise; for example, because the building was behind another one and difficult to see. The primary type
of residential unit on the block is condominiums, with
50% of parcels. Next was multi-family rental units, with
21% of parcels, and single-family residences with 13%
of parcels.
Number of Units: The assessor data underestimated
the total number of units on the block significantly—81
compared to 134 based on ground-truthing. Most
buildings have 4 or fewer units, with two larger condominium buildings (16 units and 10 units), according
to ground-truthing data. The parcel data only matched
with observed data 30% of the time; almost always,
when the parcels’ number of units did not match, the
assessor data listed fewer units than the ground-truthing revealed. For example, a 10-unit building was listed as having only 1 unit and several 4-unit buildings
were listed as only 2 or 3 units, etc.
Block 2000
Overall, the two data sets paint a consistent picture
of the block: recent investment, new construction, and
significant turnover. The new construction on the block
is in line with the high percent of parcels that appear
“new” visually; the high percent sold in the last five
years, is in line with the 9 for-sale signs observed. The
high sale price per square foot aligns with the many
signs of investment and almost no signs of disorder or
Secondary Data
However, the secondary data misses several things,
mainly the continued perception that the area is not
safe, evidenced by visual signs like metal security
doors and cameras. On the other hand, these could
just be standard for new construction. The secondary
data also misses the significant public investment on
the block.
Land Use: The primary land use is residential; most
units are condominiums or multi-family rental buildings. 86% of the land uses for parcels identified by
the ground-truthing exercise matched assessor data.
This block appears to have experienced the least investment of the four blocks; it has the lowest median
assessed value per square foot ($205), lowest percent
sold in 2010-2014 (19%), oldest median year of last
sale (1999), and oldest median year of construction
(1903), with some of these figures even lower than in
San Francisco overall. However, between 2000 and
2010, it experienced a 383% increase in the number
of rental housing units and a decrease in the Hispanic
population (25%) around the same level as the other
Note: Five parcels are listed as “Store/Office Combo” and one
is listed as “Miscellaneous Commercial” in the assessor data.
Based on the ground-truthing, buildings containing these firstfloor non-residential uses were identified. However, the specific
parcel these non-residential uses occupy was impossible to tell
through the ground-truthing. The 86% matched figure counts
these parcels as “matched,” since ground-truthing did identify
a parcel among several within a structure as having a non-residential use. The percent matching for the other three blocks is
derived through similar modifications to the ground-truthing
Center for Community Innovation, University of California, Berkeley
Mission District Case Study
This block, like the others, has mostly residential uses.
However, it is also host to a casual Salvadoran restaurant and the aforementioned laundromat, a small burger fast food restaurant with a parking lot, a corner café,
and a Korean church—which was surprising, given the
reputation of the neighborhood as Latino.
The majority of Block 2000’s parcels appeared “average” or “below average.” The block has the following
signs of investment:
- No abandoned structures
- Only 2 buildings had dirty windows, and none
had boarded windows
- Minimal spraypaint or graffiti – only 2 parcels
- No litter or debris on any parcel
- Very few signs of disorder
- On the block, there were 3 signs discouraging
However, the block also has signs of disinvestment:
- 25% of parcels had peeling or fading paint
Signs of Safety:
- 47% of parcels had a metal security door
- 28% of parcels had a fence intended for safety
- 25% of parcels had security alarm signage
- 4 parcels (13%) with signs saying “Beware of
Dog” or “No Trespassing”
Public Investment: Block 2000 has only municipal
The two datasets matched in part for this block, too.
In particular, the lower assessed value, less turnover,
and less recent construction are consistent with a majority of parcels visually “appearing average” or “below
average.” While there are signs of investment from the
ground-truthing data, they are more the absence of
disinvestment than the presence of investment, and
so therefore the data are consistent with the assessor
data. The block does show ones sign of disinvestment:
25% of parcels had peeling or fading paint. Also, perception of safety is low, which is not revealed by the
assessor data.
Land Use: The primary land use is residential. 84%
of the land uses for parcels identified by ground-truthing matched assessor data, and where they did not
match, it was usually because there was no data on
the parcel in the assessor data. Of the parcels, 42%
are multi-family rental buildings and the rest are evenly
split between condominiums and single-family homes,
plus the few stores and the church.
Number of Units: Most buildings host only one unit,
but two buildings were larger, with 11 and 12 units respectively, based on ground-truthing data. Only 34%
of the parcels had matching unit numbers in the assessor data.
Block 1007
Secondary Data
This block has had many recent sales, with a median
year of sale of 2004, but not a particularly high median price per square foot ($216, relative to $314 in the
Mission overall and $277 in San Francisco overall), indicating turnover, but not necessarily investment; this
block may be on the cusp of gentrification. The block
had the highest median sale price when square footage is not taken into account ($925,000)—perhaps
the units that sold are mostly single-family homes, not
condominiums? However, the parcel-level analysis
here is based on only small subset of the actual parcels on this block, given error in the Dataquick set, so
it is difficult to make definitive conclusions about it.
Related to these changes, and probably consistent
with it, is the very large increase in renter units between 2000 and 2010: 3,700%, according to the
Census. Between 2000 and 2010, the block’s overall
population increased by 81% and its white population
increased by 111%—the highest of the four blocks, the
Mission, and San Francisco. It also lost 28% of its Hispanic residents and experienced the largest decrease
in average household size (46%), going from 3.26 to
1.77. This block experienced significant demographic
change, while residential sales prices were not as expensive as on other blocks.
Center for Community Innovation, University of California, Berkeley
Mission District Case Study
This block was chosen due to a relatively high change
in ownership over the last few years, according to
parcel data, demographic change between 2000 and
2010, and its proximity to Parque Niños Unidos, discussed below.
The historic industrial character of this block was clear
by the shape it has: running through the middle is
an empty space where an old train line used to run
through the neighborhood. In that space, there was
trash and several trucks parked. On one corner, 23rd
and Treat, sits a warehouse for a “lighting and grip”
company; on another corner, 22nd and Harrison, is an
abandoned industrial warehouse. In front of the former
was a food truck and several young, Latino men sitting
on the corner hanging out.
The rest of the block was mostly single-family houses
on pleasant, tree-lined streets. Two new condo buildings and one apartment building that appeared to be a
redeveloped warehouse are on the block, too.
However, Census data can be compared. It showed
a huge increase in rental units, but that was not at all
evident from the ground-truthing. In terms of safety,
most parcels had security alarm signage and cameras
because of the condominium buildings having these;
however, this does not mean that residents are concerned about safety, it may just be a standard feature
of a new condominium building.
Land Use: The block is primarily residential, although
it has several buildings that house light industry, retail,
or offices in addition to its many condominiums and
multi-family rental housing, plus single-family homes,
too. The block has 74 parcels that do not appear in
the assessor data. These parcels are in three buildings that appear to be condominiums and appeared
brand new. Interestingly, this block is adjacent to a relatively new park. Did the creation of the park hasten
the block’s transition to hosting brand new condominiums? Or was it the large warehouse buildings on the
block that are relatively easy to convert to residential
Across Treat Avenue from this block is the Parque
Niños Unidos, a park that PODER fought to get built
several years ago. The park is nice and well-used. It
is possible that some of the new development on this
block is related to the park’s construction.
Number of Units: Most buildings have fewer than 10
units but three buildings—new condominium developments—have 10, 20, and 44, respectively, based on
ground-truthing data.
On Block 1007, the new condominium buildings—with
their large number of parcels—put the percent of parcels that appeared “new” at 89%. Signs of investment
- There were no dirty nor broken windows.
- No abandoned structures.
- The vast majority of the parcels on the block are
in new condominium buildings.
Block 1004
Signs of Safety:
- 28% of parcels have fencing for safety purposes
- 62% of parcels have security alarm signage
- 86% of parcels have security cameras
Public Investment: Block 1007 has municipal lighting,
3 signs discouraging disorder, and no signs of disorder.
Secondary Data
Of the four blocks, this one had the most turnover in
parcels between 2010-2014, with 42% sold, more than
twice the figure in the Mission District overall, and the
most recent median year of last sale, 2007.5. These
sales also had a median price per square foot, at
$366, slightly higher than the Mission, at $314. However, there does not appear to be much new construction
on the block, given the median year of construction
is 1904.5. As with Block 3003, these changes have
likely happened since 2010, because the population
decreased by 11% between 2000 and 2010. However, over the same period, the block experienced a
growth in the number of rental housing units of 683%.
Between 2000 and 2010, this block experienced the
largest decrease in the number of Hispanic residents,
losing 30% of them.
It is impossible to legitimately compare the assessor
data to the ground-truthing data given the huge discrepancy in parcels.
Center for Community Innovation, University of California, Berkeley
Mission District Case Study
This block was chosen due to a relatively high change
in ownership over the last few years, as well as that it
was a place where PODER organized against evictions in the early 2000s. This block featured a funky
little café at the corner of 23rd and Van Ness and a
brand new pet store. It also had several new structures. Otherwise, it was similar to the others.
Broadly, the secondary data sets and ground-truthing data paint similar pictures of change on these
four blocks. Where the assessor data is ambiguous
or reveals a mix of forces, as with Block 1004, so
does the ground-truthing data. On one block (3003),
the data sets align in terms of the broad story, but the
ground-truthing takes the narrative deeper and reveals
continued concerns about safety and significant public
On Block 1004, the appearance of buildings was a
spectrum: 35% “new,” 23% “above average,” 28% “average,” and 10% “below average.” Signs of investment
- Only 5 parcels had dirty windows
- 23% of parcels had new or maintained paint
Signs of disinvestment:
- 25% of parcels had peeling or fading paint
Signs of Safety:
- 4 parcels had bars on their windows
- 23% of parcels had metal security doors
Public Investment: Block 1004 has municipal lighting
and on-street residential permit parking. There was
graffiti on a public sign, but other than that, very few
signs of disorder.
The picture painted by both sets of data for this block
is that it is right in the middle of changing. Structures’
appearance fell across the spectrum, and while many
parcels have sold recently, the median price per
square foot was not much higher than in the Mission
overall, and new construction has been minimal. Each
data set presents an ambiguous picture, so it is difficult to compare them.
Land Use: The block is primarily residential, with 45%
of parcels holding multi-family rental buildings, and
38% in condominium buildings. 83% of land uses
matched between ground-truthing and assessor data.
Block 1007 provides a cautionary example. On this
block, the assessor dataset was missing a large number of parcels, most of them in two new condominium
buildings. Without ground-truthing the block, we would
have missed the major impact these buildings have
on the feel of the street, and their implications for gentrification in the area. The block is a good example of
a place in transition: running through its center there
is still a relic of the area’s former industrial character,
there is a warehouse and some older, poorly-maintained buildings, and yet at the same time, there are
several nicer homes, two new condominium buildings,
and a new, well-used park across the street.
n terms of comparing data sets, unmatched parcels
was a concern for three of four blocks and the number of units recorded per parcel usually did not match.
This could be related to the high incidence of condominiums, and the rapid change in the area. On the
other hand, land uses consistently matched between
ground-truthing and assessor data.
Finally, the quality and age of buildings was comparably assessed by both methods, while perception
of safety and public investment cannot be ascertained from the secondary data sources but only from
ground-truthing. The limited number of signs of ethnicity across all blocks made it difficult to ground-truth
demographic data.
Number of Units: Most parcels have 3 or fewer units
and there are two larger buildings with 10 and 12 units
respectively, based on ground-truthing data.
Center for Community Innovation, University of California, Berkeley
Mission District Case Study
Figure D3: Ground-truthing data collection worksheet
Center for Community Innovation, University of California, Berkeley
Mission District Case Study

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