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The neighborhoods of Greater Logan Heights, southeast of downtown, have become synonymous with San Diego’s Mexican community. Advocates are even trying to brand the area with a hip new Latino-flared moniker to combat its association with poverty and crime. They’re calling it the Historic Barrio District.
But take a walk through Logan Heights and you’ll see the remnants of the large black community that once called the area home: businesses like the House of Charm beauty salon or Bethel AME Church not far away. Stroll down Commercial Street toward downtown and you’ll encounter a faded storefront that houses the Improved Benevolent Protective Order of Elks of the World, a black fraternal organization where aging African-American men still stop by for drinks.
The Eighth District, home to Logan Heights and Barrio Logan, reliably elects Latinos to the council. And it may offer a window into what the future holds for the neighboring Fourth District, which has continued electing African-Americans to the City Council despite the dramatic decrease of its black population over the decades.
The ethnic transformation underway in the neighborhoods of the City Council’s Fourth District in southeastern San Diego, which I wrote about in my story Monday, is nothing new. A growing Latino population and a shrinking black population has been evident there for decades, starting in the neighborhoods close to downtown and spreading east.*
Historical Census data shows that Latinos have been the largest ethnic group in the Fourth District since at least 2000. In fact, Latinos were on the verge of becoming the largest ethnic group there as early as 1990.
Back then, they made up roughly 28 percent of the population, while African-Americans were about 30 percent of the population, according to data compiled by the San Diego Association of Governments. By 2000, the numbers had flipped. About 36 percent of the population was Latino and 25 percent black. The Asian community, which continued to grow, made up 23 percent of the population.
Data for 2010 released last week showed that the disparity continued to grow in Census tracts covering the Fourth District, which includes neighborhoods like Emerald Hills and Valencia Park, stretching from Interstate 15 to Lemon Grove.
- African-Americans decreased by about 9,000 people from roughly 40,000 in 2000.
- Asians decreased by about 2,000, from roughly 38,000 in 2000.
- The Latino population soared by about 16,000 people, to more than 72,000 residents.
An important caveat: Those Census tracts don’t perfectly line up with council district boundaries, and those boundaries have shifted a little every decade because of redistricting. But the numbers illustrate a clear trend: every decade, the fourth district has become more and more Latino.
It’s looking more and more like the communities of Greater Logan Heights, at least on the street level. In positions of power, it’s still represented by African-Americans. Its councilman, Tony Young, is African-American. And Mayor Jerry Sanders recently hired an African-American, Jerry Groomes, to fill the community’s other major government post as president of the community’s redevelopment agency.
The reasons for black-concentrated power there are historical, Young said. African-Americans organized politically in the mid-20th century to secure their representative voice. But he also said he believed many of the Latino residents of his district have supported him (given that he’s won).
Whether or not his district starts to look more like its neighbor to the west not only in church halls but also in City Hall will depend on its political organization and voter registration numbers as its population continues to grow — something that could be complicated by many factors particular to the Latino community, including immigration status.
In the comments section of my story, UCSD doctoral candidate (and former voiceofsandiego.org reporter) Vladimir Kogan, offered this:
“The important question is what percent of the Latino residents are actually registered (and turnout once registered) relative to the black residents.”
That’s something I haven’t looked into, but plan to in the days to come. If you have thoughts or suggestions, please send them along.
* We’ve swapped the third and fourth paragraphs of this story since we originally published it for clarity’s sake.