Not all neighborhoods were created equal in Palo Alto | July 3, 2020 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

- July 3, 2020

Not all neighborhoods were created equal in Palo Alto

A look at how real estate policies undermined Black homeownership

Jerry Harrison, an African American man, arrived in Palo Alto from North Carolina in 1922 in search of a better life, according to his grandson Michael Harrison.

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—Chris Kenrick


12 people like this
Posted by JimCrowInLosAltos
a resident of Los Altos
on Jul 3, 2020 at 7:45 am

The experiences recounted by black residents of Palo Alto in this article should shock one's conscience and stir them to act to correct the abuses by (none other than) servants of the public (PD, etc.) The actual problem is: these "Jim Crow" era practices continue to be the norm and in none other than our own and our surrounding communities.

Would Chris Kenrick/Palo Alto Weekly and locals be interested in learning about how Jim Crow is alive and well in Los Altos? Evidence for that as recent and current (2013-2020)? where the City enforces its Municipal Code differently for whites than for the non-whites? where whites are granted privileges, including the right to violate the Municipal Code, Fire Code, etc? where non-whites are required to "strict compliance with the Codes" and even asked to comply with extraordinary requirements NOT in the code "or else..."? and the City's entire apparatus (City staff from the City Manager and PD Chief on down to the lower echelons) would act in concert to protect the whites, target the non-whites, violate the laws, lie to the Courts in their retaliation, intimidation, obstruction of justice?

All this happening not in the distant past but today.
Detailed in two pending lawsuits in Federal Court.
Defendants include the City of Los Altos, senior City staff, etc.
Allegations include RICO and Conspiracy violations (for the City, PD, white homeowners and their attorneys acted in concert, not any differently than the Mafia).

All of that timely, relevant, and significant and goes to show these violations by those meant to "protect and serve" the public are more extensive and troubling than what we are now coming to know.

16 people like this
Posted by Jeff Dauber
a resident of Ventura
on Jul 3, 2020 at 8:00 am

As a resident of Ventura neighborhood, I can say with certainty that the history of racial inequality, underinvestment, and general neglect is not just remnants of history, but in fact is still felt today.

I recently requested some basic and affordable traffic speed hump control at the intersection of Margarita and Orinda, which is a 4-way stop sign I live on the corner of.

This is a residential neighborhood with tons of young families, and it’s also unfortunately a “cut through” boulevard for traffic attempting to bypass the Park Boulevard traffic controls and to skip the traffic lights along El Camino.

Virtually none of the vehicles stop at this sign and I have witnessed accidents and near misses at this intersection at an alarming rate.

I messaged the city and city manager and made a request on the cities “311” website for the installation of the cheap, bolt-down style speed bumps to force people to slow for the intersection.

The City replied that they would send officers to control the intersection, “as resources permit,” which is quite ripe considering they recently laid off the traffic enforcement group.

South Palo Alto doesn’t get the kind of attention that North Palo Alto gets. We don’t get full cobblestone streets and rumble strips and pedestrian traffic arming reflectors and speed bumps and pedestrian crosswalks with light up signage.

We get the short end of the stick because Ventura is a redlined district, where the City and University used to house their African American workers.

I guess we will need Zuckerberg to come buy 12 lots and combine them into another billionaire compound before we will see any real attention from the city.

It’s sad, but I now feel like I must be and advocate for my community. These speed bumps would cost at most a few thousand dollars, probably less than the City spent responding to my request if City Hall salaries are anything to go by.

6 people like this
Posted by Facts
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 3, 2020 at 9:01 am

This issue--certain neighborhoods and homeowners and properties privileged over others--is endemic to the Bay Area.

A more extensive investigation and reporting would reveal it certainly exists in Palo Alto and continues to be the norm, if not as pervasive as in prior times, in cities across the Bay Area. The lawsuits referenced in a prior comment shows what is going on in Los Altos. Would Palo Alto or Saratoga or Menlo Park be any or that different? I'd not be any surprised if what we are learning is the mere tip of the iceberg.

8 people like this
Posted by Stronger Together
a resident of another community
on Jul 3, 2020 at 12:00 pm

Nice to see the Palo Alto Fair Play Committee mentioned, this was the group that Josephine Duveneck and others created to purchase and develop the sixteen lots on Lawrence Lane in Palo Alto. To make things change, we have to have more representation in the decision making process. How many council seats and commission seats are up for election in your area - the deadline for filing is within the next two weeks. To have a seat at a table when no one is inviting you to be part of the discussion changes when you have an elected spot or in a position to effect the laws to make the changes. Register to vote, read what issues are being brought up in your town commission or council meetings and if you can't physically attend - send a letter and it will be part of the public record. We are stronger together.

2 people like this
Posted by Tk
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 4, 2020 at 10:24 am

I grew up here in the late 60’s father went 2 standford, grew up on the campus, we have 2 black families in Barron park!! 2? 2? That’s it? What a bunch of crap! It’s all about money!

Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 4, 2020 at 3:25 pm

A link to some more of the history:

Web Link

2 people like this
Posted by Tk
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 4, 2020 at 10:28 pm

Anon don’t school me on the past? I’m white! And I’ve lived here! It’s all about who has the biggest suitcase full of cash now! And always will be!

11 people like this
Posted by Fairmeadow
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 5, 2020 at 2:26 am

The government has repeatedly failed to legislate solutions to racial housing issues. [Portion removed.] Please limit government to the role of enforcing fair housing laws rather than determining racial composition of areas.

2 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 5, 2020 at 12:46 pm

Posted by Fairmeadow, a resident of Midtown

>> The government has repeatedly failed to legislate solutions to racial housing issues.

Just to be clear: it was *governments* (national, state) (in the South) and quasi-governmental bodies (FHA, VA), and, national organizations like the Realtors, that encouraged (entire country) and mandated (in the South) segregation, prior to 1948-1968.

We now don't have laws that directly and explicitly *mandate* segregation.
Is that what you don't like? Otherwise, I don't understand your point.

9 people like this
Posted by Jessica
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 6, 2020 at 9:32 am

Here we go with the false narrative of systematic racism! Unbelievable, disgusting and very toxic! Mark my wrongs in 4-5 years Palo Alto a beautiful city, is going down the drain in the name of a “woke” culture and diversity.

10 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 6, 2020 at 10:39 am

Posted by Jessica, a resident of Palo Verde

>> Here we go with the false narrative of systematic racism!

"false"? You have documented history and personal experience that matches the history. I guess "false" to you just means something you don't like?

>> Mark my wrongs

Yer tighping two faast.

>> in 4-5 years Palo Alto a beautiful city, is going down the drain

You are correct. It is going down the drain due to excessive office space development and job growth. Hyper-gentrification is going to make Palo Alto unaffordable to everyone who isn't rich.

>> in the name of a “woke” culture and diversity.

Too late. Palo Alto is already too diverse for you. Have you considered Coeur d'Alene, Idaho? Check out the demographics: Web Link

17 people like this
Posted by Jessica
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 6, 2020 at 11:58 am

Dear Anon post: Yes sorry to burst ur woke ideology but yes systematic racism in America is a lie! Does racism exist, yes! It exists all around the world and it will never cease. As a minority I have been discriminated, but that has not stop me from achieving my goals and becoming successful. Why because I live in America! I’ve been discriminated more by minorities than Whites, and so what. Does it mean I should hate a particular race or group? No! Life is not about what I like or dislike, it’s about truth, personal responsibility, family, respect, abiding by law & order, and hard work. Please stop praising the victim mentality, its destructive!

Oh no, I am typing too fast! I thought you believed in diversity? Shouldn’t you accept my typing as it is? It brings diversity to the platform. Why are you trying to bring me down? Why are you calling me out of my typing? Aren’t you not woke enough? Are you stereotyping me?! Wait are you racists?!??? Oh no call the cancel culture?! My feelings are hurt!!!

Seriously diversity, this country is more diverse than any other country! More than 1 million immigrants come to the USA every year?! And this does not include illegal immigrants. Hmm, I wonder why would minorities would want to come to America if it’s a systematic racism?? Wait didn’t we have a black President for 8yrs!?

I’m not rich, and I live in Palo Alto. But I’ve worked hard to earn what I have.

Everything you “woke” individuals touch, you destroy. Including, a once beautiful Palo Alto City.

11 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 6, 2020 at 1:33 pm

I always read the Real Estate Section of the paper to check up on the houses sold section - it gives the address, purchase price, previous owner and new owner. That is a public record. If you all would take the time to check out the transactions that are taking place you will note the names - Asian, Indian, etc. And lots of trusts to trust transactions. You then can judge what the current situation is and where the high price and lower price homes are selling and to whom. We do not have any lower price homes so that race is on for the higher price homes. We are a fair market for who ever can pay the price.

6 people like this
Posted by Alice Schaffer Smith
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 9, 2020 at 10:51 am

While in private practice in Palo Alto and active with Midpeninsula Citizens for Fair Housing, I had a client who had been told the apartment had been let, so I sent in MPCFH black couple and white couple. We found the apartment available for one and not the other. My client (a) obtained her apartment (b) $5000 in damages (this was in 1978, so that was hefty) and a written apology. That was hardly compensation for the humiliation but it opened a dialogue.

In West Hartford CT the restrictive covenants surrounding the house my parents bought prevented Jews from buying. On the southwest side of West Hartford there were 4 Jewish families and on the north side of town huge numbers because there were no restrictive covenants. This was in the 1940s. Not a proud history.

4 people like this
Posted by Sad memories
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 9, 2020 at 11:56 am

I can believe the discrimination described based on some of my parents' experiences when we moved to the US in the early 80's.  We are white (as was the neighborhood), though my parents' accent and (at the time) broken English was impossible to conceal. When my parents were visiting houses to rent in Philadelphia my mother felt insulted whenever an agent would try to instruct her on how to flush the toilet.  Some of the discrimination experienced was less subtle however.  For instance, after multiple slashed tires, we had to stop parking our car in the alley behind our house.  

8 people like this
Posted by Thank you, Joe Eichler.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 9, 2020 at 12:08 pm

As a resident of an Eichler neighborhood, it's important to point out that the presence of black families in Eichler neighborhoods had no negative effects whatsoever. They've have been great neighbors. I'm glad Joe Eichler stood his ground.

In the late 80's I (a young white female executive then) was dating an accomplished, well-educated, and very sweet black man, also an executive. I had to move for a promotion, and we took turns traveling between cities on the weekends to see each other.

The company I worked for hired a realtor to help me find an apartment in Pittsburgh, PA. She sent me a long sheet of listings to visit one weekend when he happened to be with me, When she arrived to show us the apartments and saw him, she pulled me aside and said, "Does he live with you?" I explained the situation, and she disappeared for a few minutes to make some phone calls. She cancelled more than half of our appointments. I was completely floored. My partner, by comparison, was completely unsurprised. I spoke with my supervisor (who appeared surprised that I would date a black man when I shared the experience) and explained I wanted to work with another realtor. My employer would not comply because they had a contract with her to handle their relocations, so I opted to search on my own.

The experience was an eye opener for me. At some level I understood that these things happened, but I had never understood how hidden and pervasive the problem was and is--nor how difficult and painful it is to be on the receiving end of such behavior. It was an inauspicious beginning to my tenure in that city. I left the company to find an organization that was more aligned with my values after one year, going back to my hometown. My landlord was sorry to see me go. We'd been great tenants.

I'm no longer with Mark, but we are still good friends. I want the world to be better for him and his family. It makes me sad that in 2020 this is STILL a problem. We can do better. We must.

Like this comment
Posted by Green Gables
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 9, 2020 at 12:15 pm

Jeff Dauber - e-mail the City Council and copy the City Manager about Ventura. You may get some action from the City Council.

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