Opinion | Gentrification Nation: How Stanford (and its college students) contribute to Bay Space displacement

Again in July 2020, when the pandemic was simply stepping into full swing, the Every day launched an opinion by Kiara Bacasen ’22 MS ’22 and Daniella Caluza ’22 summarizing their ideas about Stanford college students dwelling off campus within the Bay Space in the course of the pandemic and on-line courses. They highlighted how dangerous the housing disaster within the Bay Space is, and the way Stanford college students have been contributing to it by transferring into low-income housing that would have been reserved for native residents. No matter whether or not you have been FLI or an individual of coloration—as a Stanford scholar, that was gentrification at work. 

Sadly, Stanford’s on-line education wasn’t the primary or final time Stanford college students (soon-to-be techies, entrepreneurs, and consultants) would contribute to the displacement of locals within the Bay Space. The housing disaster ravaging America has lengthy been pushed by establishments and the rich white individuals who run them. That is one thing that’s been occurring ever since Stanford set roots right here, displacing the indigenous Ohlone individuals. It’s been occurring for the reason that destruction of the Fillmore within the Nineteen Sixties, the next white flight into the suburbs of the East Bay, the creation of BART and its destruction of West Oakland within the early 70s and the restrictive covenants positioned across the Bay that made East Palo Alto one of many few locations Black individuals might hire from within the till the 80s. Gentrification actually picked up since Google, Fb and enterprise capitalists implanted themselves into the Bay Space in the course of the creation of the Silicon Valley and the height of the dot-com increase in 1999. The results of this are felt as we speak, with Stanford and tech giants like Fb nonetheless participating within the housing mess they’ve contributed in direction of.

Whereas the definition of gentrification—the “transformation of a poor neighborhood in cities by the method of middle- and upper-income teams shopping for properties in such neighborhoods and upgrading them”—was coined by Ruth Glass in 1964, it has developed to imply one thing rather more because the Bay’s housing disaster continues to develop and alter. Definitions of gentrification now include a extra complicated take a look at the wealth hole pushed by not simply the tech business, however capitalism as an entire. 

As somebody who was born and raised within the Bay Space, and is now a Stanford scholar, my private expertise with gentrification and the wealth hole right here is a little more distinctive. I grew up in Newark, CA, the small suburb immediately throughout the Dumbarton Bridge from East Palo Alto. My dad and mom, each immigrants from Mexico, moved our household right here once I was two years outdated. They enrolled my sister and I in a non-public Catholic college, for the reason that colleges in Newark have been horrible on the time. I didn’t actually perceive that I had a special studying expertise from different youngsters in Newark till I used to be in fifth or sixth grade, when my soccer teammates instructed me how Newark Junior Excessive (the one junior excessive in Newark) was stuffed with academics who didn’t care and lacked sources for the entire college students. All issues of underfunded, POC-majority colleges. 

I didn’t expertise it myself till I went to highschool. Newark Memorial Excessive Faculty wasn’t an ideal college, being half unwilling, half unable to provide all their college students what they wanted. That they had some sensible youngsters that “made it out,” both going to 4 12 months schools or discovering a very good job in tech. However most individuals didn’t get the eye, cash and help they deserved. We have been a poorer suburb—nothing just like the neighboring cities of Fremont or Palo Alto (simply thirty minutes away), the place that they had in depth infrastructure and stellar excessive colleges. Town didn’t assist eithe—six determine jobs in Newark went to metropolis and college administration, all whereas classroom sizes grew and academics and counselors have been fired. The Metropolis of Newark additionally closed two elementary colleges in 2020, citing a finances deficit of $6 million, whereas concurrently constructing a brand new civic heart for metropolis directors, police division, and library, with a finances of $72.3 million, created out of a gross sales tax improve. It was right here, experiencing all this, that I began to grasp how unfair the training and political system was in Newark. Sadly, I didn’t know the way deep the roots ran. I figured that going into greater training was a strategy to not solely get myself out of this case, however come again and assist my neighborhood as nicely. Stanford was my dream college—ever since my mother labored as a nanny for Stanford professors. Plus, Stanford was my solely manner of affording a 4 12 months college, with its coverage to provide full tuition scholarships to anybody underneath $120,000.  So once I did get in, with tuition absolutely paid for, I figured life was going up from there.

Sadly, whereas Stanford got here with privileges and alternatives, it additionally got here with socioeconomic discrimination, simply by being a Latine from the Bay Space who wasn’t a part of the rich majority of scholars. Earlier than I used to be accepted, my household and I needed to transfer out of our home, for the reason that financial institution forcibly foreclosed it on us the summer season earlier than my junior 12 months. We ended up transferring to my dad’s childhood dwelling in North Truthful Oaks, an unincorporated space of San Mateo County. With my household there, and me at Stanford, I skilled for myself the huge wealth hole that exists within the Silicon Valley. The highest 10% of Silicon Valley earners maintain 75% of its wealth. The typical earnings for the area in 2021 was $170,000, however the common earnings for service staff within the Silicon Valley was $31,000.  Simply two road lights away from my dwelling in North Truthful Oaks, is without doubt one of the wealthiest neighborhood in the US: Atherton, with a median family earnings above $250,000, and a median dwelling worth of $6.3 million. The admissions, class variations, help programs, scholar tradition, endowment: it was like nothing I had ever skilled in my life. The Peninsula was an entire different place, stuffed with absurdly rich individuals. Stanford contributed to that—having direct ties to not solely the Silicon Valley and its tech strongholdings, however political, financial and academic elites worldwide—creating the tradition of wealth and elitism that’s Stanford’s model. I wish to be aware that we’re privileged to haven’t moved out of the Bay Space. My grandparents have had that home for the reason that 80s, and allow us to hire from them. With out them, we’d have been like everybody else—transferring to the Central Valley. 

When the pandemic hit, I used to be stuffed with much more disrespect for Stanford than I had earlier than, witnessing college students gentrifying the Mission and repair staff being fired with out a second thought. How might the College not defend the very staff that they relied on to maintain the college operating? Why doesn’t Stanford construct sponsored, hire managed and/or low-income housing for its service staff, as a substitute of getting them commute lengthy hours nearly each day, with some coming as much as 75 miles away from the Central Valley? How was it that college students rented out cheaper and low-income housing within the Bay when all of the dorms stood empty? I don’t blame college students a lot—whereas they’re complicit, most are conscious of the privileges that they maintain from the Stanford identify. They shouldn’t be taking rental models, but it surely’s additionally not their fault there’s not sufficient inexpensive housing, or that Stanford kicked everybody out.  I blame Stanford as an establishment, and capitalism as an entire. The system, and the establishments that uphold them, are those responsible. 

This isn’t merely only a dialog about gentrification. It is a dialog about wealth, and the massive hole between the highest 0.1% and the remainder of us. So regardless of my expertise rising up within the Bay Space, I don’t suppose abolishing the tech business, or placing a ban on “outsiders” is an answer to the problems. The truth is that the tech business is right here to remain within the Bay Space. It’s a part of our on a regular basis lives, with iPhones, the web, pc applications. The Bay Space has all the time been a spot of main commerce, and if we in some way took away the Silicon Valley, one other business will come to switch it. What we do must do is make issues extra even. We’d like these in energy (tech firms, political figures, Stanford) to care, and to attempt. That features Stanford college students, who immediately contribute to the wealth hole and housing disaster simply by transferring into and getting jobs within the Bay. You aren’t the supply, however you maintain partial blame. You won’t be purposefully displacing households, or elevating the value of hire your self or constructing luxurious single household houses or residences—however you’re the market. You’re the ones that these firms, these builders, are on the lookout for, to “beautify” and “renovate” the neighborhoods they’re “investing in.” I can’t cease you from shopping for houses and getting good jobs, however hopefully I could make you consider the ripples you make as you accomplish that.