San Francisco

Even Vallejo is Feeling the Ravages of Gentrification

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Image by Abraham Woodliff

Guest post by Abraham Woodliff found of Bay Area Memes

When the word ‘gentrification’ comes up in conversation, what cities first come to mind? San Francisco? Well, yeah. Modern-day San Francisco might as well be considered a living monument to the ills of gentrification and housing-policy gridlock. What about Oakland? Of course you think of Oakland. Skyrocketing prices have been pushing people out of Oakland for years now, but do you think about the suburbs? Specifically, the working-class suburbs. Yes, not all suburbs are Walnut Creek or Palo Alto, some are filled with people who live by modest means, and even in these less-than-posh suburban landscapes, Bay Area gentrification can rear its ugly head. And in the city of Vallejo, a working-class suburb of 120,000, sitting 30 miles from San Francisco on the northeastern shore of the Bay, that is exactly what’s happening.

Two apartment complexes in Vallejo, most notably, the Strawberry Hill Apartments, have been purchased by San Francisco-based property developer, Reliant. Tenants in the complex woke up one morning to notices attached to their door, notifying them that their rent is scheduled to double and in some cases, nearly triple. These types of rent increases are unfair to anyone, but especially to a community that is predominantly composed of low income, Filipino senior citizens.

In an interview with the Vallejo Times Herald, Mozeas Pena, a low-income tenant at the Strawberry Hill Apartment complex said “It’s a 110 percent increase. The new owners said if you can’t afford it, just get out. Fifteen tenants have already moved out.” Despite the questionable morality of such evictions, there’s nothing that makes no-fault evictions, such as those occurring at Strawberry Hill, illegal in Vallejo.

Image by Abraham Woodliff

While many believe rent control is common in Bay Area cities, it isn’t. Out of the Bay Area’s 101 cities, rent control has only been established in 11 of them. Vallejo is not one of those cities, and for a long time, that made sense. Vallejo has historically been, and still is among the most affordable communities in the 9-county Bay Area, and the most affordable within a 30-miles-radius of San Francisco.

That being said, the tech boom has changed the economic balance of the Bay, not just the Silicon Valley suburbs that also function as job centers on the southern end of the water, or the urban core in the center. It’s having a profound effect on what I call the Bay’s industrial corridor. The industrial, blue-collar cities of Contra Costa and Solano Counties don’t see any legitimate increase in opportunity due to the new money rushing into the region, but the rent goes up regardless. It almost functions as a sort of prosperity tax. While you don’t necessarily get to participate, you have to pay to be even near it. If you want to be in the audience, you have to buy a ticket, and unfortunately for many in the Bay’s working-class communities, the price of admission is too much to bear.

Vallejo is a great example of how rapidly the Bay is changing due to tech. If I were writing about Vallejo ten years ago from an economic perspective, I’d likely be talking about how the city is bankrupt. Now we’re talking about a place that’s so expensive and in demand it’s topping lists of the hottest places to buy real estate in America and someone’s grandma may be facing homelessness trying to keep up.

For all the region’s talk of progress, it’s startling how little those ideals actually show up in legislation. They say a rising tide lifts all boats, but in the Bay, many of those on the boat are being thrown off and left to drown.

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Abraham Woodliff - Bay Area Memelord

Abraham Woodliff - Bay Area Memelord