The decline in the black population has been so rapid that Mayor Gavin Newsom launched the African American Out-Migration Task Force and Advisory Committee in 2007 to reverse the trend. One key recommendation of the committee is for more affordable housing – much like the new development in the Western Addition.
It's projects like this, says the Rev. J. Edgar Boyd of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, that could help retain middle-class African-Americans who may otherwise flee to northern California cities such as Stockton or Antioch. That flight has left a wide gulf within the black community here. On one end of the spectrum, seniors stay because they own homes. On the other, poorer and younger black families populate public housing. What's missing, he says, is a middle ground.
That means fewer churchgoers in the pews on Sundays and not as many parishioners taking part in community efforts. "It just kills the life and spirit of the community," he says.
Findings of the mayor's task force confirm that black families with moderate and above-moderate incomes have been leaving since 1990. As a result, very-low-income households made up more than two-thirds of the black population in 2005 – up from roughly one-half in 1990.