Mike Miller and the San Francisco Area-2 Redevelopment community project


What was going on in San Francisco?


The history of "urban renewal" in San Francisco is a complex and controversial one, one that is too difficult for me to full research and describe in a few sentences.  I have included a few photographs I took in the Western Addition area to serve as a placeholder for further investigation both those who want to know more about the history of redevelopment in the area.. 


"Blight" in the black community


As I understand it, the City of San Francisco undertook to create new housing to reduce "urban blight" in almost 400 acres of the city, where many low-income residents lived in predominantly black neighborhoods.  "The Fillmore," as it was, and still is called, provided some of the only housing available to the historic enclaves of black residents and those who were the result of the great wartime and postwar migration out of the South to find work in the North. 


Was redevelopment the answer to the white power structure's creation of segregated housing?

Restrictive practices by property owners and real estate interests limited available housing for blacks to a few areas in the City, where rents were high and landlords neglected their properties.  The result was that many Fillmore  households were overcrowded with family members and friends who pooled their income to pay the rent. The redevelopment process was a long and protracted battle in which City government, developers, residents and a host of committees and community organizations vied for control of the redevelopment plans.  What actually happened was the widespread razing of buildings in the Fillmore, followed by the displacement of thousands, then years of empty lots and conflict over plans to build new housing. 


Areas A-1 and A-2


The San Francisco Redevelopment Authority (SFRA) divided the Western Addition (Fillmore) nto two projects:  A-1, which was in the heart of the Fillmore, and A-2, a larger area encircling A-1.  To resettle some displaced residents, the SFRA chief Hermann arranged for the rehabbing of 1,300 units of temporary wartime housing in Hunters Point that had been previously declared unfit. Nonetheless, hundreds of families were still resettled in substandard housing, something the SFRA was legally required to remedy.

When I took these photographs in 1964, attempts were being made by community organizers to bring together young black people in the Fillmore to try to get the SFRA to modify it's plans by slowing down the pace of housing demolition, while increasing the number and affordability of new and rehabbed units.  The community also wanted to avoid "throwing out the baby with the dishwater," by retaining parts of the community that were valued by the residents. 


Mike Miller


Mike Miller, a UC Sociologist, UCB graduate, early SLATE leader and SNCC organizer, led a small group of white organizers and local black youth in forming "Freedom House," a Fillmore institution devoted to helping organize the community in it's own interest.  Miller's efforts were heavily influenced by having worked with Saul Alinsky, a Chicago sociologist/community organizer, who mounted successful urban change movements in Chicago, based on the principles of "confrontation and compromise," and advocating short and innovative community-based campaigns that kept participants interested and involved.


Lessons learned


By the end of A-1, much of San Francisco had come to share Fillmore residents' weariness and mistrust of urban renewal. In the intervening years, community activists successfully raised awareness about how widespread demolition, displacement and lengthy construction delays had degraded the quality of life in the Western Addition.  


A-2, the second phase of the Western Addition's redevelopment encompassed 277 acres and fully encircled Area A-1.  One of the SFRA's final urban renewal projects, the A-2 plan was amended 8 times by the Board of Supervisors, partially to give the redevelopment agency more time to replace the housing it had destroyed.


By the agency's own reckoning, 883 businesses and 4,729 households were displaced and 2,500 Victorians were demolished during A-1 and A-2.

San Francisco housing today


Today, there is considerable ongoing debate about the results of redevelopment and other factors on the present critical lack of affordable housing in the City, now one of the most expensive places to live in the US.  

I welcome input from those who know more about the work of Mike Miller and his associates in helping bring the Fillmore Community's concerns into the development of the redevelopment process in San Francisco




The Fillmore District in San Francisco, not just the home of Bill Graham's counterculture night club and dance venue, but the vital heart of the City's black community.


Mike Miller and an Area-2 meeting of local people in the Fillmore (was this at the Freedom House?)


Black youth in the Fillmore got involved in neighborhood revitalization projects, like this painting of a dilapidated sheet metal wall


Do you know this man's name?  He had a lot of ideas for the meeting


In the male-dominated culture of the movement at the time, men did the talking and deciding and women did the clerical work


Another long, tiring meeting.

Who were these Area-2 activists? Do you know?  Tell me if you do/


Fillmore neighborhood plumbing store, offering innovative solutions common household problems.