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Census Reveals Big Changes In San Diego Neighborhoods

Audio

Aired 3/22/11

The census confirms it, San Diego's neighborhoods are going through some big changes. We'll discuss how ethnic majorities are shifting in communities throughout San Diego County.

The new census numbers have confirmed a lot of what we were already seeing when it comes to changing demographics in San Diego. Our Latino population is growing and changing the traditional ethnic makeup of some neighborhoods. But, change, even when we see it coming, can be disconcerting for some.

Guests

Ruxandra Guidi, KPBS Fronteras reporter

Adrian Florido, reporter voiceofsandiego.org

Carl Luna, professor of political science at San Diego Mesa College

Read Transcript

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'm Maureen Cavanaugh and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. The new Census numbers have confirmed a lot of what we were already seeing when it comes to changing demographics in San Diego. Our Latino population is growing and changing the traditional ethnic makeup of some neighborhoods. But change even when we see it coming can be disconcerting for some. Here to tell us about two areas of San Diego that are dealing with shifting demographics are our guests Ruxandra Guidi, KPBS frontiers desk reporter, good morning.

RUXANDRA GUIDI: Good morning.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Morning and Adrian Florido is a reporter for for San Diego Voice. Welcome back.

ADRIAN FLORIDO: Thanks.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now Ruxandra, what was the population in the city of Oceanside because that's where you focused your report how has that changed in the last 10 years?

RUXANDRA GUIDI: Sure. We've seen an increase from year 2000 from 160,000 people to 173,000 in 2010 is not that drastic increase but within that we've seen a doubling of the Latino population and a decrease by 10% of the Caucasian community in Oceanside. So those are pretty drastic changes if you look at specific demographics.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Yes, absolutely. You focused on a wonderful place to give us an example of how things are shifting and Oceanside. You took us to Grandma's restaurant. It's a little bit of a microcosm of how the city is changing, tell us about Grandma's restaurant.

RUXANDRA GUIDI: Sure. Where it actually started here in the newsroom which is pretty funny we got the census numbers and noticed there is a little area within Oceanside that has been mostly a retirement community that had changed drastically where we saw the trans-doubling of the Latino community and 10% decrease in the Caucasian committee so I looked on Google maps and found this little area and they look for a specific business and actually I started looking at all businesses and found Grandma's right there started making calls and I found this little mom and pop restaurant that had been opened in 1985 and owned by a series of white Caucasian couples until 2006 when it was Sold to a Mexican couple, a young Mexican couple and I thought wow, this is kind of the perfect encapsulation of those changes, different demographic changes and Oceanside so I went and visited Grandma's folks had essentially run like I mentioned by this young couple in their 30s. The entire kitchen is run by Mexican workers which is true for a lot of Mexican restaurants, but in this case it is Mexican owned and it still keeps a lot of its own charm and still serves a lot of American or comfort, southern food dishes, but it's now a Latino business which is an increase, we are seeing an increase of having Oceanside.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Then you spoke to some of the long-time patrons of this restaurant who seem to be aware that things are changing in their community.

RUXANDRA GUIDI: Sure. Grandma's not specifically but mostly caters to the retiree community that lives in the area and I spoke to a couple of folks you know they are in their 70s or 80s that has been coming to Grandma's for 20 years and they all said that they are seeing obviously a lot more Latinos moving into the neighborhood. They are seeing this community diversify from just being mostly eight retirement community to welcoming a lot of young families and young Latino families and their hearing more Spanish, they are seeing a lot more Latinos running businesses so they say a couple of the folks I spoke to the welcome the change and save a lot of Latino owned businesses typically immigrants or decades of immigrants are very hard working and they want to fulfill the American dream and they run good businesses so that's what I heard.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I think you actually have a little sound clip that of someone that you spoke with at the Grandma's restaurant and we can play that now.

NEW SPEAKER: My neighborhood has definitely changed Hispanically-wise. I mean when I moved into my neighborhood it predominantly Caucasian. I was the only black person and then it was a sort of semi-retired neighborhood and they wanted to keep it that way, you know. I said I think I'm the one that caused my neighborhood to change.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You visited Oceanside and what other sites were there that things were changing demographically?

RUXANDRA GUIDI: I just want to mention how Mr. (Grissom) said we just heard he calls it, he says it is changing Hispanically-wise, so that is the main change we are seeing in Oceanside but we are seeing a lot more taco stands and shops. We see a lot more signs in Spanish, we hear Spanish wherever we go, we see kids going and coming from school that are Latino or of Latino descent. So it is a pretty remarkable diversification of the community that not too long ago was primarily white.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Later in the report they talk about the shift in southeast San Diego that is a shift but that's a different kind of shift from the traditionally white Caucasian as Ruxandra says in Oceanside in southeast, the minority populations are actually shifting and one is getting bigger and the other is getting smaller. Tell us about it.

ADRIAN FLORIDO: Southeastern San Diego is also changing Hispanically wise, but also changing from a different plurality population. Historically southeastern San Diego, we are talking about the neighborhoods east of Interstate 15 which essentially state Route 15 in that part of town south of 94, historically going way back to the early 20th century, made the 20th century was largely white population, white American population. That became as demographic shift in the middle of last century, kind of the center of the African-American community in San Diego. And those neighborhoods traditionally were populated by African-American residents. Over the last several decades they've also been turning into largely Latino communities. 20 years ago in 1990 the African-American community who still was a majority community within the fourth Council district there was about 40% the Latino community was already growing up was about 20% then. Since then those Latinos numbers have shifted in out of largest population in southeastern San Diego is Latino community by a pretty wide margin followed in second by Asian communities in the black community is now the third largest community in the fourth Council district.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So what neighbors are we talking about, did you look at specifically.

ADRIAN FLORIDO: We are talking about neighborhoods like Chollas View, neighborhoods (inaudible) to San Diego, Valencia Park, Lincoln Park, neighborhoods that were once the kind of center of a lot of the manufacturing, the aerospace manufacturing industry that was much stronger in San Diego a few decades ago. When those businesses changed, those businesses that provided a lot of jobs for the African-American residents of the community, the neighborhood started just kind of see a decline, violence increased. There was a big drug problem starting in the 80s and 90s. And they became sort of more impoverished communities. A lot of African-American residents who had been there for a long time to leave and they've been replaced slowly by Latinos in the series and we are seeing a lot of these shifts and you really can see it the way you see it in Oceanside just kind of on a street level like Ruxandra said there are some taco shops, a lot of the parks and that sort of thing are named for African-American historical figures, the Martin Luther King Park, the Malcolm X. library, you see increasingly larger and larger numbers of Latino residents there and again this is not a new shift. It's something that has been happening for decades but the latest census figures really should confirms that the shift has been dramatic.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: One of the things you point out in a subsequent article Adrian I think is important to talk about it when we get to the third guest Carl Luna talks about the political ramifications of some of these changes and becomes even larger but southeastern San Diego is thought of in this community as a predominantly African-American part of town because it was in the past just about the only part of town where the black community could buy homes and basically form a community.

ADRIAN FLORIDO: We published a story this morning kind of looking at some of the historical reasons that the African-American community was concentrated their happen for a number of reasons partner was it was once a white community as the housing market going up as manufacturing it became a less desirable place to live quote, unquote, emulating a lot of the white families to newer parts of towns in creating this vacuum for African American and other minority, ethnic minorities to fill. But there was also very sort of imported kind of more systematic sort of reason for this was that San Diego has historically also a segregated place and there were in a lot of neighborhoods from blogger to Hillcrest to even places as diverse today is that he hides what are called racially restrictive covenants or it was language in property deeds that was written by developers have basically said that no one who isn't white can buy a house in this community or even reside in one unless in a lot of cases they were servants or maids were kind of help around the house. So I created a kind of very real restriction on where black residents could list. These restrictions were actually also in place in parts of southeastern San Diego but for a number of reasons that kind of work as strictly enforced. Ultimately black families were able to move in. That's a big part of the reason that it's a historically black community because it was one of the places where there weren't a lot of cases it is legally allowed to move in.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'm speaking with Ruxandra Guidi and Adrian Florido, reporter for voice of San Diego.org. Ruxandra Guidi is from the KPBS frontiers desk and I would like to welcome a new guest to our conversation. Carl Luna is a political science professor at San Diego Mesa College who frequently writes about politics and San Diego good morning Carl.

CARL LUNA: Good morning.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So we've been talking about shifting demographics in the County of San Diego within the city of San Diego. What are the political ramifications? Let's focus for a moment on the city of San Diego.

CARL LUNA: It's the 2011 US census and you have seven redistricting commissioners to make sense of it all and (inaudible) alliance for the council districts.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So therefore not only are they going to draw new lines for the council districts they are going to add a Council District?

CARL LUNA: We've got to go to number nine so you have to factor that into the population shifts.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: As Adrian was telling us in the fourth District there are now African-American community is now basically the third most populous behind Asian community members and the Latino community. So what do you think that does to the fourth District?

CARL LUNA: It could change the dynamics in the fourth to extend that if you redraw the lines the African-American community to be redistributed into other districts and you lose the ability to elect a more reliably African-American member to the city Council or you could end up with the district because you will be having with the ninth District added the district might be able to maintain a degree of continuity and stay in African-American district. It could go either way.

ADRIAN FLORIDO: An important part of this too, Maureen, you have to look at it was actually registered to vote in the district. A lot of the Latino communities nevertheless established in the African community which in the mid-60s and 70s really kind of became politically active and engaged and registered a lot of black voters. So even though these demographics have been shifting in southeastern San Diego and become a much larger Latino community, African-Americans still kind of a lot of the seats of power within the community the city Council member has been historically African-American and continues to be the president of the redevelopment agency for the community is also black and he was just hired by the mayor a couple of months ago. So that is an important part of it. There are some efforts underway with members of the black leadership within the community to really look at the way this redistricting could sort of coupled with these demographic shifts to sort of diminish the African-American influence politically with the community. So I've got some leaders that are actually looking at how do we draw the district lines as part of the city redistricting process to ensure that some of the sort of neighborhoods where there are still large is ethically engaged black populations to ensure that they remain part of the fourth Council District so that as these demographics continue to shift we can ensure that the black voice politically is still represented in City Hall.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And Carl Luna, I would imagine that some of that same kind type of study is going on within the Asian community because for a long time this new city Council District, this might city Council District there have been rumblings that that will be the Asian district.

CARL LUNA: Yes and where the line will actually be it's not like there is a territory that we will throw a lasso around, the ninth is going to be how you put a new district. It could go and look like between the first (inaudible) which is kind of where you see the big Asian San Diego population that you might want two districts to form a new district out of. So you might end up squeezing it into portions of the district into more Asian representative district and then you end up pushing other demographic groups into other surrounding districts, kind of like squeezing on a ball of clay.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Break, exactly, into different shapes.

CARL LUNA: Multicolored play-dough.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: It's the same kind of clay. When we talk about the ramifications to larger San Diego County, Ruxandra told us about the shift in demographics in Oceanside. And I'm wondering given this change, Carl do you think that the days of this totally white non-Hispanic County Board of Supervisors are numbered?

CARL LUNA: I think it probably is going to be the case depending on the Board of Supervisors which is depending on district still is going to respond to this. If you look at the north and south of the County has become increasingly Latino American and East County is rising and (inaudible) and that is going to effect the first district in the south it will affect Gray (inaudible) and in the North Bill Orenthal. North County is starting to look like a quesadilla. We've got more of a Latino Californian north-south and you've got the white cheese in the middle.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I see, interesting analogy there, Carl, and I think some people listening to this might be a little put off by the idea that a community has to have a certain ethnic group representing it. You know? I mean, is there a chance that we are past that, or are we not at a point where we can move past that and we need to see an Asian face on the city Council. We need to see a black face, a Latino face in the County Board of Supervisors?

CARL LUNA: You know on the one hand it's nice to think that anyone ever various color create and represent anyone of any race, creed but there's a reason we have representational democracy. We like our representatives to be like ourselves is what you want Americans to represent Americans are supposed to Russians or Chinese representing Americans. To that extent I teach a maxim which in my group is called Luna's maximum people make decisions to benefit people like themselves is not that they are selfishly looking after themselves but they use their values and experience in making the decisions that if you come from an Italian-American community became a number about what Italian Americans need and feel that if you come from an Asian-American committee or a Polish-American community so it does make a difference when you have an all white or all black or all Latino Council people are going to feel left out and some of their experience will not be factored into the public discussion.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Ruxandra, a wild card in all of this may be some of the census data that we have seen the rising number of people do not classify themselves one race or the other. They classify themselves as a tool race. Or of multiple races. And when that, tell us a little bit more about that because I know you have been looking for census data and that is a number that's racing here in San Diego.

RUXANDRA GUIDI: Sure. We are increasingly multicultural in America and especially in California so I just spoke to a colleague the other day who was one fourth Basque, one fourth Mexican American and African-American and white and he identifies with all four of those identities. I suppose. And he did not want to mark in a census form that he was Latino necessarily. And Latino is not a race. It's also that the definitions are very confusing for a lot of folks and sometimes it's easier to say other because of your identity or you simply do not understand the forms or what they are being used for a lot of folks in the Latino community I spoke to, they simply do not trust government and do not trust the gathering of data. So some folks I suspect that the Latino population depending on how we identify a Latino is larger than what the numbers show was for that reason.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: That could very well be. Carl can you give us an update, I know that I'm throwing this at you but let me see if you know, is there any kind of timeline of where or when we should have these new city Council districts?

CARL LUNA: As I understand I'm probably wrong, by summer they are supposed to have the plans formalized going to the city Council for final review and selection sometime in the fall because they need to get these in line before next year's primaries and whether that will be in February or June the state still has to decide.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We want to thank you so much for taking time out of your day and speaking with us, Carl.

CARL LUNA: Thank you so much for having me on.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Carl Luna is a political science professor at San Diego Mesa College and my guests still in the studio are Ruxandra Guidi and Adrian Florido. Adrian you spoke a little while about about the fact that there is an organized community within the fourth district of African-Americans who have been organizing for a long time. And there is this rising number of Latinos in the fourth district but there's a lack of leadership?

ADRIAN FLORIDO: One of the fascinating things I've found over the last couple years I've been getting to know southeastern San Diego is that the Latino leaders are very hard to identify. There are plenty of African-American leaders both institutionally and kind of in neighborhoods that have taken kind of the lead in getting the black voice represented in southeastern San Diego but there are very few kind of formal Latino leaders, that seems to be changing. And I think it's happening subtly and very quietly and one of the places where I think that's changing in one of the places a lot of the black leaders in the community were also kind of formalized historically was in the churches. In southeastern San Diego's neighborhoods there are hundreds, literally hundreds of churches. Some estimates between three and 500 churches just within the southeastern San Diego communities a lot of them are led by black pastors that have traditionally served the black community. And because they have such a large audience have become politically influential in that community. So the black pastors cultivate relationships with the elected officials and other officials within the community and have a lot of sway over decisions there. They are starting to cater a lot more to the Latino community there and I've spoken to a lot of pastors who have said yes we are changing our pastoral stuff to try and attract more Latino congregants. We are attracting Latino preachers to come and actually preach in our churches. Because we recognize that as our communities are changing if we want to remain relevant to the community we have to start looking more like the community that we serve. And so there is kind of a nascent group kind of coalition of Latino pastors that is forming within southeastern San Diego called reunion of pastors and it is about 100 strong at this point and this is coalition similar to a lot of the pastors groups that existed in the black community which are trying to organize Latino community to become more of kind of a unified voice to represent it and I think is going to be really fascinating to watch over the coming years how Latino pastors begin to take on a similar role to the pastors to the role that black pastors have played in kind of coalescing the Latino voice in that part of town because as of yet there are still very few places where you can go to get the Latino voice if that's what you are looking for from kind of a political perspective.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: That's fascinating and it means that things are changing. Kind of the way the menu is at Grandma's restaurant. If you could, can you give us an idea of what the menu has become

RUXANDRA GUIDI: You know I really deeply regret that I did not try every one of their dishes. But you know Grandma's started out like I said as a mom and pop restaurant that would serve chicken fried steak and grits, Southern comfort fruit so and that's what drew there because he said it's the only place you can get good Southern food but as the stores changed hands they started adding Italian dishes to the menu and huevos rancheros, flautas and tacos and all sorts of Mexican foods and there's a bit of Mexican of both, of two different types of foods in a single dish they would find in t he menu as well that are questionable, but it's a great little place and I think I really lucked out as a reporter you how to find the one place I could kind of encapsulates some of the trends you see out there and Grandma's pretty much embodies the changes that we are seeing demographically and much of San Diego.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: This has been fascinating I want to thank you so much for speaking with us Adrian Florido.

ADRIAN FLORIDO: Thank you.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And Ruxandra Guidi, thank you.

RUXANDRA GUIDI: Thanks, Maureen.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I want to tell everyone if you would like to go online and comment please do it at KPBS.org/These Days. Stay with us for hour two of These Days coming up in just a few minutes right here on KPBS.

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