January 6, 2013

A New Mapping Tool that is Completely Useless in the RBA

We love real estate tools.  Maps are awesome.  Here’s a new one with the cute name Rich Blocks Poor Blocks that Burbed readers wahnny and Divasm both sent in this week when someone posted about it in Redfin Forums.  (No link, Redfin, until you resume trackbacks to our featured homes.  Neener neener.)

It’s a fairly good idea: take ACS income data for each official Census tract and show graphically how much they vary.  As they say on their main page, “See how much money people make in every neighborhood in every city in America.”  In theory you could use it to see how Special each part of the city is.  Here’s what it looks like when it’s working as the authors intended.


Each state uses its own scale, applying the color key to its own income range.  In the case of Illinois, above, the deep red, lowest income is under $23,120 and the deep green, highest income is over $106,503.  There appear to be 20 different segments in the color key, although we think there’s far too much green and not enough in the red, orange, and yellow. 


Since these are Google Map tools, you can zoom in and out to your heart’s delight, but you can only map one state at a time.As you can see in in the case of New Jersey, above, this tool isn’t that useful with metros that span multiple states.  Fortunately, that’s not an issue even in the furthest exurbs of the Bay Area.

No, the Bay area has different issues.  See what happens when we map the core RBA.


Too. Much. Dark. Green.

The California income scale ranges from $28,183.65 to $122,762.90.  We hope you’re beginning to see the problem: the top 5% income for all of California seems to apply to an awful lot of Census tracts in the RBA.  Or even places that are NOT in the RBA. Like this part of Santa Clara with the Oracle campus:


Contrast with an RBA tract we know is loaded: Los Altos Hills.


It’s the exact same shade of green, because the danged scale tops off far too early for the RBA.  According to this map, there is no difference between northeast Santa Clara and Los Altos Hills even though the latter’s median household income is 72% higher.

If a tract in the Triangle of Lost Equity can have median household income above 95% of California, Rich Blocks Poor Blocks in the Real Bay Area might as well be called Five Red Tracts of Suck Amidst A Sea of Deep Green Money.

Comments (17) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:04 am

March 12, 2011

Palo Alto is the New Cupertino

And now, some local news from one of our favorite location, location, locations.

Census: Big spike in Palo Alto’s Asian population

City’s Asian population increased by 73 percent over the past decade, fueling overall population growth of 9.9 percent

by Gennady Sheyner, Palo Alto Online Staff

Palo Alto’s population spiked by almost 10 percent over the past decade, fueled in large part by a growing Asian community, new data from the U.S. Census Bureau show.

The data, which the bureau released Tuesday afternoon, indicate that Palo Alto’s Asian population jumped from 10,090 in 2000 to 17,461 in 2010 — a 73 percent increase. While Asian Americans made up 17.2 percent of the city’s population 11 years ago, the proportion spiked to 27.1 percent last year, according to the census numbers.

Statewide, the Asian population went up by 31.5 percent over the past decade, census data indicate.
The new data confirm what many Palo Alto officials have publicly acknowledged in recent meetings: The city’s population is growing and become more diverse. The city’s listed total population grew from 58,598 in the 2000 census to 64,403 in the new one — an increase of 9.9 percent. At the same time, the city’s population of white residents dropped from 44,391 to 41,359 over the past decade — a 6.8 percent decline.

Well, isn’t that special?  Seems whatever made Palo Alto so different than its neighbors is less and less the case every day.  Yes, they knew they were rich, but they could also say they were white.  Oh, where are those restrictive covenants when you need them?

Time for a little history, then.

California used to have the Alien Land Law which prohibited non-citizens from purchasing land, but was used primarily to prevent Asians from purchasing property.  The law was found constitutional in 1923 and upheld in 1946, despite the repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1943 (which grew out of wartime diplomacy rather than any concern for civil rights).

When the Supreme Court overruled themselves and barred restrictive covenants in 1948, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) quickly came to the aid of racial separatists with this delightful item added to their ethics code:

“A realtor should not be instrumental in introducing into a neighborhood a character of property or use which clearly will be detrimental to property values in that neighborhood.”

California law also permitted school districts to set up different schools for Asian students, and if such a school was set up, all Asian students must attend that school.  San Francisco had such a school and triggered an international incident in 1906 when they required Japanese-American children to attend this hitherto Chinese-American school.  Yet California never specifically set up schools for black students, as was typical in the Southeast.  Racially segregated schooling, at least by statute, ended in 1954 after Brown v. Board of Education.

Also look out for the legal phrase “alien ineligible to citizenship” when reading these old laws and statutes.  That’s code for Asians again, and which Asians was spelled out in terms of longitude and latitude.  It sure didn’t apply to Russians and Middle Easterners.  It wasn’t until 1952 that racial restrictions to naturalization were done away with.

And now, in 2011, Palo Alto is getting a little bit more diverse than it has been.  Formerly a city for wealthy, high-achieving white people, Palo Alto will become a city of wealthy and upper-middle class high-achievers, of both European and Asian ancestry.  Diversity rocks!

Meanwhile, we can celebrate the return of de jure segregation, as the article mentions Hoover Elementary School has 78 percent of their students with Asian ancestry.  The photo at left shows what Hoover classes looked like back in 1951.

Check out the highly-charged comments in the online story, the editors of Palo Alto Online are yanking quite a number of them.  Seems there’s a few longtime (or not so longtime) residents who don’t appreciate any changes coming to Palo Alto, because, after all, It’s Special Here.

Comments (37) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:34 am

March 28, 2010

Bay Area to have the best census takers in the world!

A wealth of qualified census-takers

by Chris Kenrick
Palo Alto Online Staff

The U.S. Census-taker who knocks on your door this spring just might have an M.B.A., or even a Ph.D.

Silicon Valley’s high jobless rate has created a wealth of talent to staff the 2010 Census, which is now on final countdown to Census Day April 1.

By that date, every U.S. resident should have returned the 10-question form they’ll receive sometime in mid-March. If one hasn’t mailed back the form, one of those ultra-qualified census workers will be knocking on the door.

Jim Kamenelis, a longtime Silicon Valley IT director, is one of those with ample qualifications. An experienced IT manager who was looking for work after a failed startup, Kamenelis was hired by the Census Bureau in the summer of 2008 to help ramp-up to the big count. He expects his job to end this September, he said.

Kamenelis said he has tested about 15,000 local applicants for census jobs, which are on-again-off-again depending on tasks at hand. He has also managed a variety of preparations, such as updating addresses and maps, required for the upcoming count.

"There’s an incredible pool of capable people available right now," Kamenelis said.

"It’s amazing how many talented people we hire — we have lawyers, business executives, a lot of retired military, and one lady here is a Ph.D. in computer science.

"These are a lot of accomplished folks who, for whatever reason, are unemployed and this is the best thing available to them."

You heard it here first folks. Another reason why the Bay Area is special? Another reason why the next decade is going to rock for this fine valley?

We’ve got the best census takers and workers in the WORLD! Just think of all the innovation these PhD’s, JDs, MBAs, and military folks will be able to add to the census process. I bet all the other cities in America are just drooling with envy as to how lucky we have it.

Without a doubt, we are surely going to have the best counted census in the world right here in the Valley. Congrats!

Comments (89) -- Posted by: burbed @ 5:01 am