The Mission District – one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods 25 years ago – is in “an advanced stage of gentrification” and is now comparable to some parts of the South Bay, such as Sunnyvale, a suburb with an average median income of around $106,000, according to a recent study by two Berkeley researchers.
While the Mission’s average median income – is around $74,000 – it is on its way to higher levels, according to recent economic trends. However, because there remains much more to be gentrified, there is also potentially much that can be done to prevent the neighborhood from arriving to an “end state,” according to the researchers Miriam Zuk and Karen Chapple.
“…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,” they wrote.
Looking at data from 1990 to 2013, the researchers created a scale to measure gentrification based on demographic changes such as increases in educational attainment, median income, and real estate investment. They found that, thanks to two tech booms, its attractive “cultural richness,” and its proximity to transportation, the Mission has experienced a rapid gentrification like no other neighborhood in the Bay Area, according to Zuk.
“High income households [move] into the region, looking for accessible, cool, young neighborhoods,” she explained. The attractiveness of the Mission specifically, she added, “in part it has to do with the age of the new workers that are arriving and in part it has to do with the character of the neighborhood and in part the accessibility of the neighborhood.”
The study shows how quickly and sharply the Mission has changed.
The average percentage of adults over 25 with college degrees in the Mission more than doubled from 1990 to 2013 – going from 21.22 percent to 33.86 percent of the population. Conversely, the non-white population in the Mission dropped from 71.8 percent in 1990 to 57.3 percent in 2013. (See full graphics at the end of the story)
Their data comes from community organizations, the U.S. Census, county tax assessors and real-estate transactions, as well as interviews and field observations.
As many Mission residents know, the sharp changes came in two waves: First, in the dot-com boom of the the late 1990s and the second, a few years after the 2008 recession.
“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,” the study authors wrote in their case study of the Mission.
When the dot-com bubble burst in the spring of 2000, gentrification pressures slowed, they wrote, and stalled again after the 2008 recession. A new tech boom built slowly after 2008 and has yet to subside.
In contrast to the first dotcom boom, however, other factors have fueled gentrification, including an influx of residents who place a value on culture.
“There’s this idea of wanting authenticity in where you live, being around people of different culture…and that that might be changing preferences in the younger population,” Zuk said in an interview.
Their case study also argues that gentrification in the 1990s meant that today there are “weaker community organizations and fewer units left to gentrify.”
Additionally, they wrote, buyouts in the Mission are increasing, “perhaps indicating a switch in landlords’ tactics from evictions to buyouts.”
Zuk and Chapple found that many areas of the Bay Area – including the Excelsior and Daly City – are at the beginning of the gentrification process or are at high risk of being gentrified.
“The number of [areas] at risk of displacement are 123 percent higher than the numbers already experiencing them, indicating that the transformation of the Bay Area will continue to accelerate,” the authors wrote as one of their key findings.
Only time will tell how long it takes these areas to reach the Mission’s advanced status. You can check out Zuk and Chapple’s study here, and see what it says about your neighborhood.