Letter to the Editor | Magazine ad recalls Piedmont’s redlining past

We read with concern a recent advertisement placed by a Piedmont realtor in the November 2021 edition of the Nob Hill Gazette. Although apparently much of the language came from the Gazette and not the realtor and both have issued apologies, the ad reinforced outdated, ugly stereotypes that do not reflect the contemporary values of our community:

[Piedmont] is surrounded by Oakland but is worlds apart. Among its 11,270 residents, 74.5 percent are white, the median household income is $224,659, the median home price is above $2 million and nearly 88 percent of homes are owner-occupied. Should you find a rental, plan to pay in the neighborhood of $4,000 or more per month.

The message is clear: Piedmont’s high percentage of wealthy, white residents is a desirable feature of the city. Such language may be a result of careless copywriting, but by mirroring the language of real estate ads and underwriting documents from the twentieth century that routinely associated Piedmont’s high proportion of white residents with high property values, the 2021 ad recalls an ugly period of the city’s past. It also carries this legacy into the present, reinforcing mostly unspoken yet deeply entrenched ideas about who belongs in the Piedmont community and who does not. 

We can see this history reflected in a redlining report (seen below) from the 1930’s which describes the “favorable influences” in Piedmont as follows: “Mansions set on large, park-like, tree and shrub covered homesites. Zoned to single-family residences. Restricted to Caucasians.” Such reports were used to keep people of color from owning homes in neighborhoods such as Piedmont.  

A concerted effort is necessary to examine current real estate practices and identify a plan for change. Gov. Gavin Newsom recently signed SB 263, a new law requiring that realtors take courses on implicit bias. This is a positive step in the right direction. We encourage realtors in Piedmont to take additional measures that might include: participating in a community meeting on the subject of realtor practices in Piedmont, reviewing the language of all advertising for bias, recruiting and hiring realtors of color, reviewing practices such as pocket listings to understand whether these are consistent with fair housing laws, and supporting the City’s current efforts to create more inclusive and diverse housing opportunities in Piedmont. 

Realtors have enormous power as ambassadors who represent our city to prospective residents. PREC welcomes the opportunity to work with the local realtor community to find ways to make Piedmont more inclusive and welcoming to all.


Zeena Batliwalla | Chris Bennett | Meghan Bennett | Jessica Berg | Tam Bui | Jessica Burke | Irene Cheng | David Cole | Elise Marie Collins | Frances Fisher | Carol Galante | Issie Gotto | Leslie Gray | Ellen Greenberg | Amy Griffith | Russ Griffith | Sarah Karlinsky | Sara Kerrest | Diana Lee | Deborah Leland | Jill Lindenbaum | Arthur Liou | Andy Madeira | Claire Parisa | Andy Peay | Megan Pillsbury | Andrea Ruiz-Esquide | Susy Struble | Alice Talcott | Roger Tsai | Arjun Varma  | Randy Wu | Ami Scheiss | Matthew Zapruder

One thought on “Letter to the Editor | Magazine ad recalls Piedmont’s redlining past

  1. Thanks to members of the Piedmont Racial Equity Campaign for continuing to elevate the conversation and encouraging our community to reflect on our history and present actions through the lens of racial equity and social justice. We have more work to do to become our best version of ourselves. I’m encouraged to see how many members of our community have raised their hands to be a part of the solution.

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