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San Leandro's History

San Leandro's History of discrimination has contributed unequal climate burdens for some neighborhoods

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A difficult history,

Acknowledging our past is essential to building a better future:

Our founding

40 tribal groups collectively known today as the
Ohlone lived in this area for thousands of years in this area of the Bay. It was rich with seeds, roots, shellfish, birds, grizzlies, elk, antelope, and small game, making it a hugely productive agricultural and hunting area to live and settle.


1800s Gold & Agriculture

The Ohlone were further pushed out as squatters
and gold miners rushed in after gold was discovered
in the state in 1848.

Farmers found that almost anything would grow on
the fertile flatlands, while Bay access and early
railroads provided the means to ship produce to
other markets. Farmers needed equipment to work
heavy clay soil and vast acreages. Industrialists
arrived in San Leandro in the late 19th century to
meet that need. San Leandro had factories
producing tractors, combines, hay presses, and
other farm equipment, as well as a cannery to
preserve local produce, by the late 1800s.


1930s Redlining

Opportunities in housing were not available to all.
Housing discrimination through Redlining excluded
African-Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanics,
Latinos and lower income people from living in areas such as
Estudillo Estates and Broadmoor. Redlining pushed them into lesser outer neighborhoods in the industrial areas. These reports were written by San Leandro Mayor Ray Billings, and the San Leandro Inspection Department.


1960s & 70s City & Real Estate

Industry Exclusion

San Leandro was a “sundown town,” which was a way of threatening violence on people of color existing in a town after dusk. These towns designated themselves "white only,” and often had signs announcing that these areas were sundown towns, meaning African Americans, Mexican Americans, Chinese Americans, or others of color were not allowed in town after the sun set.

San Leandro maintained its racial exclusivity through homeowners’ associations that reportedly kept a “vigilante-like” watch on real estate agents to ensure no one would show homes to African- Americans and that city government took no action to stop the intimidation.

Six Realtors in San Leandro “refused to exchange multiple listings with the integrated Oakland border". This refusal banned Oakland’s minority population from the opportunity to purchase homes in San Leandro by denying these home seekers essential information about available housing on the market.


1700s Spanish Colonization

21 missions were established near the California coast for Spanish priests to "seek souls," and many Tribes were forcibly incorporated into the Spanish Missions by 1800. The colonization was devastating to the Ohlone and resulted in disease, destruction, and dispersion of the California Indians


1900s Industry

During the war years, thousands immigrated here for work in military industries. The population of San Leandro continued to swell in the 1950s and 1960s and fields were sold to developers, who built housing for the growing population.

Agricultural land was used for industrial development and San Leandro began billing itself as the "City of Industry".


1950s Construction of a

National Interstate Highway System

In the 50s and 60s, the federal government
funded urban renewal projects to clear out and
“revitalize” cities. This included the construction
of a national interstate highway system, built
through urban centers and leaving damaging effects
to the economic and social fabric of
communities. Construction began to replace
street routing of Highway 17 through the
East Bay in 1947. Eventually, it ran the
length of San Francisco Bay and is now known as
I-880. The interstate split San Leandro in half
and left many residents cut off from
downtown, City services, and the ease of
getting around without a car. 880 serves as a
major trucking route for Northern California
and the Port of Oakland, making
neighborhoods along the highway suffer high
concentrations of noise and air pollution


The Present

Federal discriminatory housing policies made it expensive or impossible to get mortgages or maintenance loans for people of color. This led to disinvestment and depressed housing values in these communities which persists today. Although the 1968 Fair Housing Act banned discrimination in lending, the previous years of policy and continued exclusionary illegal activities impacted both the built environment and the unequal distribution of wealth we see today.   Eight San Leandro neighborhoods are considered to be disadvantaged environmentally and/or economically, and experience higher health burdens, such as high rates of asthma and cardiovascular disease, housing burden, food insecurity, and lack of access to green space.

San Leandro

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