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May 2001

African Americans Screwed Again With Redevelopment

By Royce McLemore

After reading the article in Sunday's paper regarding the census in Marin City, I had to respond. What is happening in Marin City to African Americans is the same thing that is happening to us around the Bay Area-gentrification!

Marin City has always been prime real estate, but just like the "Western Addition" in San Francisco, Marin City became a "desirable" place to live to "those" who could afford to live anywhere.

Here are the issues as I see them.

1) Prior to the Braum Court and Marin City USA development, the Marin Headlands and Richardson Highlands were built. These developments were the same scenarios as the other developments. These developments were built with Federal funding, but when the deal came down only three African Americans were able to afford to live in the Marin Headlands.

2) I do not know why Benny Stewart of the Marin City Community Development Corporation was surprised that there are only 46 percent African Americans in Marin City. This organization is the group that was responsible for the last two development projects in Marin City. The Braun Court development was "supposed" to have been built for the community. At the time, the community was 77 percent African American. I was at the "drawing" for the Braun Court homes. There was only one person drawn who actually was able to afford a home by the time the houses were built. A lot of Federal funding was used for this project. This development was a prime example of a community being "sold-out" by its own people!

3. The Marin City USA was another community "sellout" project. Jobs, owning your own business, and new housing were promised to the "disenfranchised" of Marin City. What happened to the "disenfranchised" is that they are still" disenfranchised." You can count the small number of African Americans, who work in the "prison-looking" shopping center, on two hands. Many people took the Marin City Community Development classes to be entrepreneurs, but there is not one African American business. In fact, they have been discouraged because the truth is African Americans are not wanted in their own "downtown." The businesses that are there discourage "locals" from being on the site because they might scare other ethnic groups who come to the "Center."

Finally, a very small number of people were able to afford to live in either of the new housing developments. The EIR on Marin City USA shows that the Marin City Community Development Corporation actually met their goals to make Marin City economically integrated. However, the people of Marin City thought that it was for us, but instead it was really to bring others into the community with money.

With the money, blatant racism came into the community. Many of the people who moved into the condos were told that Public Housing was going to be removed and that is why many bought. These acts of racism are targeted at the residents who live in Public Housing. Public Housing residents are blamed for Marin City locals standing where they have stood for over 20 years, however, now it is the backyard of some of the Marin City USA condos. These people are attempting to get "bumps" put in the middle of public streets, but it is okay for them to drive outrageously fast on Drake and Donahue Streets; to have "No Loitering" ordinances pasted on public streets; and to ban public drinking of alcohol in Marin City.

4. Public Housing is the last pocket of African Americans in Marin City. Now the Marin Housing Authority-Marin County Board of Supervisors are pretending that they are saving the high-rises, but what is being done in secret? Pretending. The Marin Housing Authority has not aggressively sought a loan from the Marin Community Foundation for this major problem, but have received over a million dollars in "supportive services" funding. Which is most important? A place to live or "supportive services" and you are homeless!

5. Why would the Marin IJ have Vinh Luu, a Vietnamese man who does not live in Marin City, and Dorothy Hughes, a white woman who has lived in Marin City for two years, speak for the African American community? This is an insult. There are still 46 percent African Americans in the community. I am sure that the reporter could have found one person who currently lives in the community.

"Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." African Americans in Marin City are not going to vanish off the face of the earth because we have new neighbors in our community. Thank God, most African Americans know that there is a reward in the "end."


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