Gentrification Nation: How Stanford (and its students) are contributing to displacement in the Bay Area

Back in July 2020, as the pandemic was just beginning to peak, the daily published an op-ed by Kiara Bacasen ’22 MS ’22 and Daniella Caluza ’22, sharing their thoughts on Stanford students who have been off-campus during the pandemic lived in the Bay Area, summarized online classes. They highlighted how bad the Bay Area housing crisis is and how Stanford students are contributing to it by moving into low-income housing that could have been reserved for local residents. Whether you were an FLI or a person of color, as a Stanford student, gentrification was at work.

Unfortunately, the online training at Stanford wasn’t the first or last time Stanford students (aspiring techies, entrepreneurs, and consultants) helped displace Bay Area locals. The housing crisis sweeping America has long been driven by institutions and the affluent whites who run them. This is something that’s been happening ever since Stanford put down roots here and drove out the Ohlone tribe. This has been happening since the destruction of the Fillmore in the 1960s, the subsequent white flight to the East Bay suburbs, the formation of BART and the destruction of West Oakland in the early 1970s, and the restrictive agreements around the Bay, the East Palo Alto was one of the few places where black people could rent until the 1980s. Gentrification has ramped up since Google, Facebook, and venture capitalists settled in the Bay Area during the founding of Silicon Valley and the height of the dot-com boom in 1999. The repercussions of this are being felt today at Stanford and tech giants like them. Facebook still participates in the housing chaos they helped create.

While the definition of gentrification—the “transformation of a slum in cities through the process by which middle and upper income groups buy and upgrade real estate in such neighborhoods”—was coined by Ruth Glass in 1964, a meaning has developed from it, all the more so when the real estate crisis in the Bay continues to increase and change. The definitions of gentrification are now accompanied by a more complex view of the wealth gap created not just by the tech industry but by capitalism as a whole.

READ :  For the KU Port St. Lucie Campus Trio, graduation was a family affair

As someone who was born and raised in the Bay Area and is now a Stanford grad, my personal experiences of gentrification and the wealth gap here are a little more unique. I grew up in Newark, California, the small suburb just across the Dumbarton Bridge from East Palo Alto. My parents, both immigrants from Mexico, moved here with our family when I was two years old. They enrolled my sister and I in a private Catholic school because schools in Newark were terrible at the time. That I had a different learning experience than other Newark kids, I didn’t realize until I was in the 5th or 6th grade when my soccer buddies told me that Newark Junior High (the only junior high in Newark) had a lot of teachers who that could not care and lacked resources for all students. All problems of underfunded POC majority schools.

I didn’t experience it myself until I was in high school. Newark Memorial High School wasn’t a great school because it was half unwilling, half unable to give all of its students what they needed. They had some bright kids who “survived” by either going to a four-year college or finding a good job in tech. But most people didn’t get the attention, money, and support they deserved. We were a poorer suburb – very different from the neighboring cities of Fremont or Palo Alto (only 30 minutes away), which had good infrastructure and excellent high schools. The city hasn’t helped either — six-figure jobs have gone to Newark city and school government while class sizes have increased and teachers and counselors have been laid off. The City of Newark also closed two elementary schools in 2020, citing a $6 million budget deficit while building a new City Government, Police and Library Civic Center with a budget of $72.3 million funded by a sales tax became increase. As I experienced all of this, I began to understand how unfair Newark’s educational and political system was. Unfortunately, I didn’t know how deep the roots went. I thought that going to college would not only be a way to get out of this situation, but also to come back and help my community. Stanford has been my dream school ever since my mother worked as a nanny for Stanford professors. Also, Stanford was the only way I could afford a four-year college because they have a policy of giving full scholarships to anyone under $120,000. So once I got in and the tuition was paid in full, I figured it was going to be an uphill climb from there.

READ :  How Students Can Be Accepted To College Without Ever Applying

Unfortunately, while Stanford brought privilege and opportunity, it also brought socioeconomic discrimination simply by being a Bay Area Latino who was not part of the affluent majority of students. Before I was accepted, my family and I had to move out of our house because the bank foreclosed on us the summer before my junior year. We ended up moving into my father’s childhood home in North Fair Oaks, an unincorporated area of ​​San Mateo County. With my family there and myself at Stanford, I’ve seen for myself the enormous wealth gap that exists in Silicon Valley. The top 10% of Silicon Valley earners own 75% of the wealth. The region’s median salary was $170,000 in 2021, but the median salary for Silicon Valley service workers was $31,000. Just two streetlights from my home in North Fair Oaks is one of the most affluent neighborhoods in the United States: Atherton, with an average household income of over $250,000 and an average home price of $6.3 million. The admissions, class differences, support systems, student culture, aptitude: it was like nothing I had ever experienced in my life. The Peninsula was a very different place full of absurdly rich people. Stanford has contributed – through direct connections not only to Silicon Valley and its technology strongholds, but also to political, business and educational elites worldwide – creating the culture of wealth and elitism that defines Stanford’s brand. I would like to say that we are privileged not to have left the Bay Area. My grandparents have owned this house since the 80’s and let us rent it. Without them we would have moved to the Central Valley like everyone else.

When the pandemic hit, I felt even more disrespect for Stanford than I had before, watching students brighten up the mission and service workers being fired without a second thought. How could the university not protect the very staff it relied on to keep the school running? Why not Stanford build subsidized, rent-controlled and/or low-income housing for its service workers instead of having them commute for hours almost every day, some as far as 75 miles from the Central Valley? How come students rented cheaper, low-income housing on the Bay when all the dorms were empty? I don’t blame the students that much – although they are complicit, most are aware of the privileges that the Stanford name brings to them. They shouldn’t be renting, but it’s not their fault that there isn’t enough affordable housing or that Stanford kicked everyone out. I blame Stanford as an institution and capitalism as a whole. The fault lies with the system and the institutions that maintain it.

READ :  Sac State and other CSUs to provide early access for community college students

This isn’t just a conversation about gentrification. This is a conversation about prosperity and the huge divide between the top 0.1% and the rest of us. Although I grew up in the Bay Area, I don’t believe that ending the tech industry or imposing a ban on “outsiders” is a solution to the problems. The reality is that the tech industry will stay in the Bay Area. It’s part of our everyday lives, with iPhones, the internet, computer programs. The Bay Area has always been a place of big commerce, and if we somehow took away Silicon Valley, another industry would take its place. What we need to do is make things more even. We need those in power (tech companies, politicians, Stanford) to care and try. This includes Stanford students who are directly contributing to the wealth gap and housing crisis simply by moving to the Bay and finding work there. You are not the source, but you are partly to blame. You may not be displacing families in a targeted manner, raising rents yourself, or building luxurious single-family homes or apartments – but you are the market. They are the ones these companies, these developers are looking for to “beautify” and “renovate” the neighborhoods they are “investing” in. I can’t stop you from buying houses and getting good jobs, but hopefully I can get you to think about the impact you’re leaving behind.