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Gentrification displaces Oakland residents

In the last year and a half, residents in East Oakland have been faced with the threat of displacement as gentrification has rapidly increased.

San Francisco was once the Bay Area city most associated with frequent increases in housing prices. However, according to a report by KQED, between July 2011 and July 2016 the median rents in Oakland have risen by approximately $1,100. As many of the individuals being driven out of Oakland make about $30,000 or less per year, the demographics of Oakland residents are beginning to change.

With the spiked prices of housing in areas such as the Oakland Hills, West Oakland, and Lake Merritt, many home buyers and renters are being forced to look towards East Oakland for affordable housing.  However, with the recent rise in demand, current East Oakland residents are slowly being pushed out of their neighborhoods with no alternative prospects.

“Residents from San Francisco are coming over the bridge and driving property prices up, which is affecting the communities in East Oakland,” said Jesenia Sablan, a former Mills student who has lived in East Oakland for her entire 21 years.

Sablan, a business major who has studied the increasing rate of business professionals from the San Francisco area moving into the more affordable housing districts in Oakland, gave her opinion on the matter.

“Many people have built their lives in these communities,” Sablan said. “People that have lived here for 10 plus years, mom and pop shops, even children in schools are being displaced. I believe it’s wrong.”

Sablan’s statement about the growing population of San Francisco business-people residing in Oakland underscores a legitimate concern. According to an article in the East Bay Times, many prospective home buyers who have previously been deterred from renting or purchasing in East Oakland due to news coverage reporting violence and danger are now in competitive bidding wars for homes and apartments in the area.

Sablan’s is a growing sentiment amongst current and former Oakland residents. College students in particular are experiencing immense difficulty in finding affordable off-campus housing. With approximately 43 percent of Mills’ 1,345 students living off-campus, according to a US News report in 2015, growing rates of gentrification in Oakland can have a significantly negative impact on the Mills community. 

For students like Felicianna Marquez, a Mills College senior who once had difficulties affording both on-campus and off-campus housing, this issue hits home.

“I have had to live on-campus, taking out loans [because] my parents have been unable to help me find or afford housing,” Marquez said. “With the increased population, the commute time has also increased immensely, making living off-campus almost not worth it.”

Marquez’s family has resided in Oakland for generations. She said that this type of displacement promotes racism and classism, as the majority of East Oakland residents were low-income people of color. Now, according to Marquez, the area is becoming gentrified by a large, wealthy, white population. 

Marquez said that if not for her grandparents and great-aunt and uncle being able to afford housing in Oakland during the 1970s, none of her family would currently have a place to live.

“[There are] multiple generations of people living in cramped spaces due to the fact that no one can afford to move into other homes,” Marquez said.

Gabriela Vargas, a Mills College senior who once said that gentrification can be hard to see, admitted that it has become obvious in recent years. 

“In the three years I have lived in Oakland, I have seen a rapid change,” Vargas said.