The Mark of History On Cities Aug 12, 2015 admin 0 Comment Educational Component
Our nation’s metropolitan areas have not always been the way they are today. The changes that urban areas have experienced over the past century or more have not occurred randomly either. There are layers of decisions, infrastructure investments, laws, market forces, and cultural movements that have had a cumulative impact. Indeed, each new wave of technological breakthroughs and the subsequent policy shifts has dramatically shaped our regions over time.
The urban landscape of Dayton, Ohio mirrors major cities across the country. Downtown commercial districts are home to high-rise office buildings. Neighborhoods surrounding the downtown core are segregated by race and income; pockets of poverty often lie adjacent to gentrifying or wealthy neighborhoods. Beyond the immediate city, there are a range of suburbs; some wealthy, some declining, all of which are accessed by a robust road and interstate network.
Although many regions across the country reflect similar patterns of development because of the role federal policy has played over the years, there are also unique histories in every community based on variations among state legislatures and the eras in which different communities began to grow. Dayton, Ohio reflects many of the historic patterns of urban development experienced by regions across the country, especially those in the rustbelt of the midwest. In fact, not only was Dayton one of the first major cities in the midwest to incorporate, it was also at the forefront of several significant development movements during the 20th Century, including flood control, government administration reform, and fair share housing.
When we think about the contemporary metropolitan landscapes in which stories like Free To Ride take place, it is important to recognize the history behind how such landscapes took their current shape. For example, there are reasons why geographic gaps exist between where people live and work, often resulting in long and complicated commutes, especially for low-income communities. This means asking not simply, “why were individuals walking over a dangerous highway overpass to get to work?”, but also “why did individuals have to walk such a dangerous stretch of roadway to get to work?” The Free to Ride story is about more than bus stops. It’s about access to opportunity. People are free to choose where they want to live, purchase a home and raise a family. For some more than others, that choice is guided by a complicated history of public policies both past and present. The following sections go on to explore these issues and explain why by the year 2011 a story like this was poised to unfold in the Dayton suburb of Beavercreek the way it did.
What is Structural Racism, and Why Can We Map It?
Decades of social science research demonstrate that poverty is linked to neighborhood conditions and limited access to a variety of opportunities that help lead to positive life outcomes. Not only does research demonstrate a link between life outcomes and place, but also with race. There has been strong connection between race, place, and access to opportunity in every community where the Kirwan Institute has conducted opportunity mapping over the past ten years, going back to the maps developed for the Thompson v HUD case, which showed that low-income housing in Baltimore was disproportionately located in highly racialized areas of poverty.
Despite these observations, the notion that racism amounts to anything more than personal views and discriminatory interactions with others is difficult to define. Structural and institutional racism are concepts which suggest that the biases each of us harbor have a tendency to be expressed not only in our personal interactions with one another, but also through the institutions, organizations, systems, and communities that we build.
The term structural racism refers to a system in which public policies, institutional practices, cultural representations, and other norms work in various, often reinforcing ways to perpetuate racial group identity. It identifies dimensions of our history and culture that have allowed privileges associated with “whiteness” and disadvantages associated with “color” to endure and adapt over time. Author and social scientist Douglas Massey has described the impact of structural racism this way: “Racial segregation is the institutional nexus that enables the transmission of poverty from person to person and generation to generation, and it is therefore a primary structural factor behind the perpetuation of the urban underclass.”
Profound levels of persistent segregation are why we can still map racialized life outcomes such as high rates of Black infant mortality, high blood-lead levels in Black and Latino children, and even the life expectancy gap that exists across the nation. Some regions are now more racially segregated than others based on historic demographic and economic patterns and when different cities began to grow. For example, Dayton was the third most segregated large metro in the late 1980s, and as of 2010 remains the 14th most segregated large metro in the nation, while each of Ohio’s large metros are also among the top 40 most segregated metros in the US. This spatial formation didn’t occur naturally. Dayton, along with other modern American cities, took shape as a result of the invisible hand of the free market, but also as a result of the invisible hand of institutional policies and racism. Understanding this relationship is critical to understanding Free to Ride.
How exactly did such a racially-distinct landscape take shape in our cities, and how have they survived the five decades since the passing of the Fair Housing Act? To answer that question, it is important to understand that at the very moment when US cities, including Dayton, were beginning to experience rapid growth, the ‘Separate But Equal’ doctrine that came out of the Supreme Court’s ruling on Plessy v. Ferguson set the stage for the way cities would develop throughout the 20th century, even decades after segregationist law was struck down through Brown v. Board of Education in 1954.
In the 50 years between 1890 and 1940, the African-American population of Dayton rose from 900 to 20,000. This migration of African-Americans to Dayton is hardly unique; many Northern cities experienced a significant influx of African-Americans looking for manufacturing jobs during both World Wars. But by 1960, 95% of Dayton’s black population lived in West Dayton. Why? “They, (blacks) moved where they felt comfortable, where they felt like they could afford it,” said former City Commissioner Lloyd Lewis. That choice for comfort and affordability was guided by a mix of public and private actions; both federal and local in scale. Restrictive housing covenants, redlining, highway construction and suburban zoning policies have all played a role in shaping Dayton and other cities for African-Americans.
What emerged therefore as Dayton and other cities developed throughout the 20th century were segregated housing markets, segregated financial markets, segregated school systems, segregated recreational amenities, and segregated economies– in other words, segregated societies. While personal agency and individual choices played a role, they took place in the context of specific policy initiatives that tremendously influenced the way Dayton and every other region across the country would grow. The following section provides an overview of the kinds of policies that have shaped our cities, while subsequent chapters further explore these deeply embedded issues found within the Free To Ride story.
The Policies That Shaped Our Cities
A lot was happening in cities across the country around the turn of the century. Immigration from various parts of Europe was shaking up growth patterns in urban centers throughout the East Coast and Great Lakes regions, and forcing many to wonder what it meant to belong in the increasingly crowded cultural landscape of American cities. At the same time, the United States was still struggling to fully recover as a nation from the Civil War, as courts everywhere were being challenged to make definitive rulings about the rights and privileges the Constitution really afforded the American Negro, along with other non-White persons such as Native Americans, Asian Americans, and Mexican Americans.
As this debate played out in courts, legislatures, and the press, one Supreme Court decision emerged to become one of the most influential rulings throughout 20th Century urban development. The ‘Separate But Equal’ decision in the Plessy v. Ferguson case to deny the right of a biracial man named Homer Plessy to ride in a White-designated interurban railway car in Louisiana set in motion over 70 years’ worth of segregated urban expansion, at precisely the moment when cities everywhere were beginning to explode with population growth, and as city planning movements were also beginning to take shape. Indeed, the 1890s saw not only the Plessy decision, but also the birth of the City Beautiful movement, along with technological advancements such as the elevator which were enabling cities to expand upward and increase in density as rapid immigration continued as well.
- Housing & Real Estate
- Development of Zoning, 1900–1926 (functioned as a legal system of division; initially designed to segregate city dwellers by race, but later to separate different types of land use and development, although it continued to have much of the effect of earlier forms of zoning, even into the late 20th century)
- Race Restrictive Covenants, 1910s–1960s (functioned as barriers to keep people of color out of places of White privilege)
- HOLC, 1935–1968 (functioned as a trap to keep people of color in places of disinvestment and diminishing opportunity)
- Blockbusting & Racial Steering, 1950s–1960s (functioned as an escape mechanism for White homeowners to vacate urban neighborhoods into which people of color were moving. These practices simultaneously served as profit schemes for realtors who were able to leverage fear to manipulate markets and profit tremendously at the expense of both White homeowners and Black homebuyers.)
- Urban Renewal, 1960s–1970s
As cities quickly became overcrowded, concerns about public health grew. Jacob Riis’ infamous effort to document ‘How the Other Half Lives’ through photography began raising awareness about the need to improve building and sanitation standards, and to decrease population density in tenement housing. Yet in the wake of the Plessy decision these new public health initiatives began to shape building and zoning codes throughout the nation’s cities with a particular view to the shifting racial and ethnic politics of the day. For example, in 1910 Baltimore became the first city to institute racial zoning, which divided the city into “white blocks” and “colored blocks” based on the population majority in each at that time. Although racial zoning was outlawed through the 1917 Buchanan v. Warley decision, city planners then turned their attention to how zoning laws could be crafted in ways that could legally divide cities.
The migration of African-Americans to Northern American cities in the early-to-mid 20th century resulted in competition with recently-arrived European immigrants and previously-settled residents for jobs, housing and public space. Some estimates suggest that a half a million African-Americans moved from the south to the north between 1916 and 1918, and a similar number arrived in a second wave between 1921 and 1922. Tensions and race riots ensued across the country, particularly between 1917 and 1921.
By the mid-1920s, zoning laws designed to separate land uses by defining how personal property could be developed became permissible as a result of the Euclid v. Ambler Realty decision. This form of zoning was perceived as a way to promote public health by creating legal separation between industrial and residential development, but it evolved to include ways to legally separate different types of housing, resulting in other ways to effectively segregate low-income minority communities from more affluent white communities by keeping clustered multi-family housing separated from single-family homes.
Despite the recourse that was called for in the Mount Laurel decision, the range of zoning ordinances put in place beforehand had already profoundly shaped American suburbs as bastions of the White middle class by restricting residential choice for African-Americans and others. Around the country, families have often been drawn to suburban communities because of larger property sizes and a sense of privacy far from the noise and density of the central city. In Free To Ride, former Beavercreek Mayor Scott Hadley echoes that sentiment as a major drawing point for Beavercreek:
“We had half-acre lots and they liked that space around them. It was unheard of. Houses were ten feet apart in Dayton. Out here, you live on a lot that’s 100 feet wide or close to it, between 80 and 100 feet, depends on how deep it goes, it’s a half an acre. And put your house in the middle of it and you’ve got space, you’ve got elbow room. So it works out and it’s what people wanted.” (Scott Hadley, interviewed by Matt Martin. 2014)
Currently, Beavercreek’s zoning code requires different minimum lot sizes, depending upon the zoning district. Many residential neighborhoods in Beavercreek have the zoning classification 1A. Single-family homes in zone 1A have a minimum lot requirement of 20,000 square feet, just under half an acre. Mandating larger lot sizes makes residential development more expensive in suburbs like Beavercreek.
Racially-Explicit Housing Discrimination
Perhaps among the most overtly-racial and influential forms of housing discrimination that emerged during this era of diverse urban growth were race-restrictive covenants and the residential security maps, more commonly known as ‘redlining maps’ that were produced in conjunction with the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation. These two forms of discrimination operated in tandem for three decades to reinforce Black’s inability to escape areas of disinvestment or move into places of White privilege and opportunity. Nearly the entire West side of Dayton was redlined, while virtually every other neighborhood throughout the city was restricted through the use of covenants, making it nearly impossible for Blacks to move out of West Dayton until the early 1970s.
Race-restrictive covenants, prevalent between 1910 and 1950, were clauses attached to the deeds of homes that prohibited selling or renting such properties to people of color, often including Jews and other stigmatized ethnic groups. During this period, even the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) required such covenants to be attached to the deed in order to qualify for financing. Though the covenants were outlawed in 1948, limited enforcement allowed the practice to persist in the private market until the late 1960s following passage of the Fair Housing Act. Coupled with the practice of racial steering, in which realtors neglected to show houses in desirable neighborhoods to Black families, these tenets of the private real estate market contributed to the fact that by 1950, nearly 90% of Dayton’s Black population lived west of the Great Miami River.
The Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC) was created in 1933 as part of New Deal policy intended to provide a boost to the construction trades, to help refinance homes at risk of foreclosure in the wake of the Great Depression, and to make homeownership more affordable. However, implementation of the policy included neighborhood risk assessments provided by local real estate professionals in over 200 cities nationwide, and while age and condition of structures were among the list of things considered, race and class proved to be as influential as any characteristic. The result of such assessments were color-coded residential security maps which carved cities into areas of lowest and highest risk. These maps not only reflected the conventional whims of local real estate markets, but also served to further cement race and ethnicity as risk factors in the mortgage finance industry, effectively barring Black neighborhoods and ethnic enclaves from accessing credit, participating in suburban growth, and building wealth through home equity. Though the HOLC was discontinued in 1951, the impact of disinvestment as a result of redlining is still evident in the geography of opportunity in many American cities today, including Dayton, Ohio.
Highways & Urban Renewal
Highway construction, most of which took place in the 1950s and 1960s, significantly altered the landscape of many cities, including Dayton. Though the nation’s interstate system was designed to serve as important national defense infrastructure by increasing the flow of goods and people across and within metropolitan regions, it had the simultaneous effect of improving suburban access to central business districts, thus intensifying the ongoing decline of urban neighborhoods that were divided in order to make room for the new roadway infrastructure. Preservation of property values and responsible use of public tax dollars were cited as justification for where highways were to be located, with the result in nearly every instance being that formerly ‘Redlined’ neighborhoods bore the brunt of the eminent domain and demolition in order to accommodate construction, while also worsening housing shortages among low-income residents.
- Highway construction, 1950s–1980s
- Designed to facilitate increased flow of travel and commerce across and within metropolitan regions, while also serving as important infrastructure for the purposes of national defense. Had the simultaneous effect of improving suburban access to central business districts while intensifying the ongoing decline of urban neighborhoods that were divided in order to make room for new roadway infrastructure. Preservation of property values and responsible use of public tax dollars were cited as justification for where highways were to be located, with the result in nearly every instance being that formerly ‘Redlined’ neighborhoods bore the brunt of the eminent domain and demolition in order to accommodate construction, while also worsening housing shortages among low-income residents.
- Due to a political battle that was waged over several decades, the construction of I-675 took place much later than most interstates. [refer to the impact study on what i-675 was expected to mean for Dayton’s central business district, and for the city’s minority populations]. Even before it was finally completed in the mid-1980s it began to draw investment attention and residents away from the urban core of Dayton. Although I-75 had the effect of reinforcing the divide between West Dayton and the rest of the city, the construction of I-675 attracted new development away from the center city, exacerbating the decline of urban areas.
Due to a political battle that was waged over several decades, the construction of Interstate-675 around the eastern edge of metropolitan Dayton took place much later than most interstates. Even before it was finally completed in the mid-1980s, it began to draw investment attention and residents away from the urban core of Dayton. Whatever economic energy wasn’t destroyed by interstate 75 construction through the heart of Dayton began to be diverted to the suburbs to the east and south through the construction of interstate 675.Whereas Interstate-75 had the effect of reinforcing the divide between West Dayton and the rest of the city, the construction of I-675 attracted new development away from the center city, further exacerbating the decline of urban areas. In Dayton, the construction of I-75 and U.S. Route 35 displaced many residents. By contrast, I-675 wasn’t completed until 1987, which had implications for how it would impact the region from that point in time. Perhaps drawing on lessons learned from previous interstate construction, the impending completion of I-675 worried some regional policymakers. Former Dayton Mayor James McGee expressed strong concern that the highway would spread regional job growth to the suburbs. “No one in the suburbs that needs a job hasn’t got one. The labor supply is here (in the city) and the need is here.” In 1979, the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission, (MVRPC) while supporting the construction of I-675, argued for the construction and development of affordable housing along the corridor. Both McGee and MVRPC implicitly recognized the power that highways possessed in moving people—and opportunity—to the suburbs.
The Battle Over Integration
The term ‘White Flight’ refers to the exodus of White, mostly middle-class households from urban neighborhoods to the suburbs, a phenomenon that began as early as the development of inner-ring suburbs along streetcar lines, but in much greater numbers in the wake of interstate highway construction and the turbulence of the civil rights era. During the ‘Great Migration’ decades of the first half of the 20th Century, Dayton’s African American population, like many northern industrial cities, grew by 500% so that by 1940 there were over 20,000 Blacks in Dayton, representing nearly 10% of the total population. Yet because of racialized zoning, restricted covenants, and the redlining practices of the early 1900s, cities like Dayton were hyper-segregated by WWII.
However, as court decisions of the 1950s began to strike down racial segregation in transportation and education which stemmed from Plessy and the Jim Crow era, a burgeoning civil rights movement began to take root amid growing racial tension in cities across the country. At the same time, the impact of highways began to facilitate suburban expansion and the undermining of integration efforts. New housing programs of the Urban Renewal era promoted ongoing racial segregation as public housing initiatives intended to improve mid-century slums often served to further concentrate poverty along racial lines. Indeed, in the years that followed the historic Brown v. Board decision, competing forces in policy and the economy acted simultaneously to integrate communities and further entrench regional segregation.
Blockbusting, yet another insidious practice in the private real estate market, became more common throughout 1950s–1960s as highways began to facilitate suburban growth. Blockbusting functioned as an escape mechanism for White homeowners to vacate urban neighborhoods into which people of color were moving. These practices simultaneously served as profit schemes for realtors who were able to trump up and leverage fear to manipulate markets, profiting tremendously at the expense of both White homeowners and Black homebuyers.
Emboldened by the mandate in the 1968 Fair Housing Act to “affirmatively further fair housing”, some planners and policy makers throughout the country began to think about housing and development at a more regional level. Under the leadership of Dale Bertsch, the founding director of the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission (MVRPC), Dayton became one of the leading examples of this new proactive regional approach to affordable housing, with the goals of reducing the concentration of poverty and ensuring true housing choice and equitable access to opportunity. Though building the political will to implement such a plan proved to be contentious, the Dayton Plan, dubbed the “Fair Share” plan by New York Times reporter John Herbers, was unanimously supported by all members of MVRPCs regional board. The plan showed signs of success, and became a national model for ensuring that no part of a region would bear a disproportionate amount of low-income housing, until it was weakened in the mid-1970s due to policy shifts in the Nixon administration. Local participation in the plan continued to dwindle throughout the decade once receiving federal transportation funding was no longer contingent upon compliance with the plan.
In its landmark 1954 ruling in Brown v. Board of Education the U.S. Supreme Court reversed its previous ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson, by stating that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal” and called for racial integration of public schools. Yet without clear direction on how to desegregate schools, districts across the U.S. were slow to respond to Brown. In a series of subsequent rulings between 1954 and 1974, the courts attempted to provide further clarity by calling on schools to desegregate “with all deliberate speed.” Nevertheless, most districts found ways to get around such rulings, and many regional housing markets and municipal governance patterns began to make it even more complicated for urban school districts to desegregate.
Despite the Milliken v. Bradley decision in 1974, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that suburban school districts would not be required to integrate with urban districts in order to achieve integration, many large districts throughout the country turned to busing as a strategy to integrate schools by combining students from different neighborhoods across the city. It was, after all, as a result of persisting segregation in housing and neighborhoods that school districts struggled to integrate following the initial decision in Brown. The Fair Housing Act wasn’t passed for another 14 years, and the necessary changes in credit market legislation wouldn’t occur until the 1970s, meaning that neighborhood schools were destined to be segregated until changes occurred in housing markets across the country.
As in cities across the country, Dayton public schools were among the districts attempting to solve the issue of segregation. Although busing was hotly contested in Dayton, to the extent that a professor tasked with developing the district’s integration plan was assassinated by a Dayton parent who opposed busing, the district began busing students all across the city in the fall of 1976 in an attempt to finally address school segregation. Despite tension in the community, implementation was successful and peaceful. However, while the majority of Black parents in Dayton continued to support the effort even a decade later, few White parents supported busing, and Census between 1960 and 2000 reflects the flight of White households out of Dayton and into the surrounding suburbs. By the time the Dayton Board of Education was legally released from its obligation to enforce integration in 2002, many African American leaders in the city no longer viewed the efforts as supportive of academic achievement for Black students, and some even suggested the measures caused White families to leave the district.
Conclusion: The [Un]natural Causes of Job Access Inequality
The stratified racial and economic landscape in which Free To Ride took place is not natural. It took shape over the course of a century of policy decisions that together created a compounding effect that resulted in the spatial mismatch of communities of color and communities of opportunity….
“Systems matter. You don’t just take everything out of a community and drain it and then say oh, look at those bums, they don’t take care of themselves.”
– Willie Righter, member of LEAD
In examining the list of institutional policies that may negatively impact certain races, it becomes difficult to isolate cause and effect. How important were the use of restrictive covenants to the layout of our modern cities? How significant are minimum lot standards in making suburbs more expensive to live in, relative to other factors? While not offering specific answers to these questions, a recognition of a relationship between historic and current policies is important. For example, we’ve shown that a history of housing discrimination has helped determine where families live. Where a family lives determines where their child attends public school. Public schools are largely funded by property taxes, so school districts with higher property values have more resources to spend on their students. The high cost of living in better school districts means children of poor families are less likely to attend better schools. This problem highlights the importance of analyzing race systematically.
Some historic policies that led to neighborhood disinvestment are difficult to identify in the built environment. Homes that once held restrictive covenants don’t have different mailboxes. Signs that mark municipal borders don’t declare: “Welcome to City X: A Redlined Community.”
Other public policies, past and present, are easier to identify, but their consequences remain difficult to pinpoint. We drive everyday on the massive interstate system, but don’t often think about the neighborhoods uprooted during construction. We may notice larger lot sizes in wealthier communities with well-funded public schools, but fail to recognize that larger lot sizes, governed through zoning codes, make accessing the opportunity in these communities unaffordable to some.
One of the underlying themes posed in Free to Ride is that the aforementioned policies have, intentionally and unintentionally, led to a geographic separation between people and opportunity. Stand on a downtown street corner in any major American city. You will notice people hustling to transfer buses, unable to efficiently travel across town for work in one trip. You may stand in line behind a woman loaded down with grocery bags because there is no place to get fresh food in her neighborhood and she can’t afford a car. This geographic separation is an involuntary reality for many low-income Americans and appears as an underlying narrative throughout Free to Ride. Subsequent posts will expand upon the themes mentioned here, with a specific focus on Ohio, Dayton and Beavercreek.
From Plessy to Ferguson
The Birth of Organized City Planning in the United States, 1909–1910
Jon A. Peterson
The Racial Origins of Zoning in American Cities
A River Runs Through It: Why Is Dayton So Segregated?
Kristen Wicker and Sara Farr
Reinventing Cities: Equity Planners Tell Their Stories
Norman Krumholz and Pierre Clavel
Preserving property values? Preserving proper homes? Preserving privilege? The pre-Euclid debate over zoning for exclusively private residential areas, 1916–1926
(Un)Equal Protection for the Poor: Exclusionary Zoning and the Need for Stricter Scrutiny
The Federal Home Loan Bank Board, Redlining, and the National Proliferation of Racial Lending Discrimination, 1921–1950
Louis Lee Woods, II
Redlining and the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation
Amy E. Hillier
Dayton HOLC Map & Description
Urban Renewal and Its Aftermath
Jon C. Teaford
Race in the Rust Belt: African Americans in Postwar Detroit and Cleveland
Can Cities Desegregate?
Carl H. Nightingale
Structural Racism: Building Upon the Insights of John Calmore
john a. powell
Structural Racism and Community Building
A History of Race Relations in the Miami Valley: A Brief Overview
By Marjorie E. Loyacano. Edited by Margaret Peters and Fred Bartenstein
 Aspen Institute Roundtable on Community Change. 2004. “Structural Racism and Community Building.” Keith Lawrence, Stacey Sutton, Anne Kubisch, Gretchen Susi and Karen Fulbright-Anderson, authors. Washington, D.C.: The Aspen Institute.
 Douglas Massey, ‘Residential Segregation and Persistent Urban Poverty’ on page 342 of Redress for Historical Injustices in the United States: On Reparations for Slavery, Jim Crow, and Their Legacies.
 Douglas Massey’s segregation research:
 Loyacano, Marjorie. A History of Race Relations in the Miami Valley: A Brief Overview
 Wicker, K., & Farr, S. pg. 8.
 DDN Undated
 Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission. (1979). Analysis of Impacts of I-675 East upon the City of Dayton, Minorities, Low and Moderate Income Persons and Urban Sprawl. pgs. 43-46.
 The trend of opportunity moving away from the city center was mirrored nationwide. Between 1980 and 2000, the top 10 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA’s) nationwide saw manual and entry-level jobs decrease in the city and increase in the suburbs. (Gobillon et. al, 2404)
 US Census; 1900-1940.
 Need citation
 Krumholz, Norman and Pierre Clavel. Reinventing Cities: Equity Planners Tell Their Stories. Temple University Press. 1994.
 Watras, Joseph. The Racial Desegregation of Dayton, Ohio, Public Schools, 1966-2008. Kent State University Press. 2010. Ohio History, Vol. 117.