I’m a lifelong resident of Charlottesville who grew up within the Vinegar Hill neighborhood earlier than it was destroyed. I’ve been disillusioned in latest weeks by reactions from Charlottesville residents to the proposed land use map. These reactions embrace Ruth Barolsky’s June 1, 2021, letter to the editor of The Daily Progress, which likened present proposals to permit reasonably priced housing in traditionally exclusionary neighborhoods to the razing of my childhood house, in addition to a joint assertion of predominately white Charlottesville neighborhood associations and a flyer that was distributed all through the Venable neighborhood. All of those communications have been put out by neighborhood members who profess a dedication to fairness, inclusion, and the significance of reasonably priced housing. However in all instances, the dedication stops at if it’d imply welcoming new neighbors to the author’s again yard.
Let’s begin with some native historical past. For many years earlier than its disgraceful destruction, Vinegar Hill was a thriving Black neighborhood, with many owner-occupied houses and Black-owned companies. It was a fantastic place to dwell. Town of Charlottesville paved over Vinegar Hill as a result of it didn’t need my neighborhood to get in the way in which of their plans to redevelop downtown. In consequence, many residents of Vinegar Hill, together with my household, have been displaced from the houses that almost all households owned to the general public housing growth at Hardy Drive, which was constructed across the identical time. Many descendants nonetheless dwell in public housing at this time, with out the intergenerational wealth that might have been theirs had their household houses not been destroyed.
I’ve seen the displacement of Black Charlottesvillians proceed all through my grownup life in additional refined methods. More and more, as rising property taxes power Black households out of their houses in traditionally Black neighborhoods, reminiscent of Fifeville and tenth and Web page, white households transfer in. As housing costs rise all through Charlottesville and reasonably priced housing stays briefly provide, Charlottesville is at risk of shedding its Black neighborhood fully.
It’s well-known that single-family zoning is a device of segregation. (Rothstein, Richard. The Colour of Legislation. Liveright Publishing Company, 2018, p. 52). Land use, zoning and concrete planning insurance policies have lengthy been utilized by white officers right here to try to management the place and the way Black residents dwell and work. In 1893, as the primary era of Black households got here out of Reconstruction amassing land and actual property, a gaggle of personal white builders inserted racist covenants into 140 properties in Locust Grove, stopping Black neighbors from shopping for them. Over the following 75 years, these covenants have been inserted into 1000’s of properties all through Charlottesville and Albemarle County.
In 1912, the Metropolis Council adopted Richmond and Baltimore — as meticulously detailed by Karen Waters-Wicks within the Journal of Albemarle County Historical past — and handed a citywide racial segregation ordinance prohibiting the sale, rental and building of housing to anybody of the alternative race in majority race blocks. Steadily the federal authorities declared these and different explicitly racist housing insurance policies unlawful (Buchanan v. Wharley; Shelley v. Kraemer, Civil Rights Act of 1968). However because it did, a nationwide city planning motion was additionally rising, creating different methods to discriminate towards Black residents via seemingly race-neutral means.
In 1922, Robert Whitten’s Atlanta Zone Plan created zones or codes for dividing housing: R-1 was the white residence district; R-2 was the coloured residence district. This, nevertheless, was challenged and never upheld in court docket, however in 1926, the U.S. Supreme Court docket (Euclid v. Ambler) opened the door for what we now know as zoning by declaring it authorized to ascribe a property’s use to it via zoning code or ordinance. From right here, mentions of “Single-family” use booms all through the nation, together with Charlottesville and Albemarle, immediately alongside racist covenants. On the middle of the dialog was a planner named Harland Bartholomew, who traveled the nation talking at planning conventions on his concepts for stop the “inva[sion] of Negroes [sic]” and “stop motion into ‘finer residential districts … by coloured individuals [sic].” (Colour of Legislation, p. 49.) Bartholomew made a cease in Charlottesville and created the land use map for this metropolis in 1959. The map has remained largely unchanged.