by Matthew Pera | Marin IJ
San Anselmo, Ross and Belvedere are the least racially diverse cities and towns in the Bay Area, new census data show.
With a few exceptions, many of Marin’s communities rank among the region’s least diverse, according to the Association of Bay Area Governments. The association ranked communities using data from the American Community Survey, which was most recently conducted in 2017 by the U.S. Census Bureau.
A total of 109 cities, towns and unincorporated county areas throughout the Bay Area were included in the data. San Anselmo ranked No. 1 as the least diverse, with 89.7 percent of the population white; neighboring Ross was No. 2, with 89.5 percent white; and Belvedere No. 3, with 87.6 percent white.
“We live in an increasingly diverse country, we live in a very diverse Bay Area, and, by contrast, we’re kind of out of it,” said Ford Greene, San Anselmo’s vice mayor.
“I think we lose out,” he said. “We don’t have the benefit of as rich a social and cultural environment as if we were commensurately diverse. When you have a homogenous population, it can tend to reflect and reinforce its own biases and its own weaknesses, because there aren’t comparing and contrasting experiences.”
A few pockets of Marin, however, are more diverse than others. Marin City, the county’s most diverse neighborhood, was lumped in with the rest of the unincorporated parts of the county in census surveys. Unincorporated Marin ranked 24th on the list of least diverse. Novato ranked 51st and San Rafael 56th.
John Goodwin, a spokesman for the association, said the data need to be analyzed in context.
“As you analyze the numbers, keep in mind that we’re looking at populations of different sizes,” he said.
Vallejo, the most diverse city in the Bay Area, has a population of over 122,100 residents. San Anselmo’s population is roughly 12,500.
“What I take away from this, broadly speaking, is that communities with comparatively less expensive housing tend to be more diverse,” he said. “Conversely, communities with comparatively more expensive housing tend to be less diverse.”
Marin was named the most racially unequal county in the state in 2017, according to a report by Advancement Project California, a Los Angeles-based civil rights organization.
The report examined California counties’ performance in seven key areas: democracy, economic opportunity, crime and justice, access to health care, healthy built environments, education and housing.
For Veda Florez, a Novato resident, the data are no surprise. But comparing the numbers, for her, is disheartening.
“It really makes my heart sink to think that, after all these years, we still are not a diverse community in Marin,” she said.
Florez, the public member on the IJ editorial board, has chaired Novato’s multicultural advisory commission, which was created in 1995 in response to a hate crime committed against a Chinese resident. Commissioners are tasked with planning an annual festival that celebrates diversity. Florez successfully fought to retain the commission last year when City Council members considered merging it with another group for efficiency’s sake.
She said the commission is vital in Novato, where diversity has increased in recent years, according to census data.
“It takes a lot of effort to embrace diversity and really incorporate it into Novato’s framework,” she said.
Douglas Mundo, founder and executive director of the Multicultural Center of Marin in San Rafael’s Canal neighborhood, said he works to foster a sense of inclusiveness within the county’s more diverse communities.
“We are not at the same level as other cities in the Bay Area, but there is some diversity,” he said. “So how can we create inclusion in Marin as well? That, I would say, is crucial.”
WHITE POPULATION IN MARIN
• San Anselmo, 89.7 percent
• Ross, 89.5 percent
• Belvedere, 87.6 percent
• Sausalito, 84.9 percent
• Mill Valley, 83.4 percent
• Fairfax, 81.8 percent
• Tiburon, 83.1 percent
• Larkspur, 79.9 percent
• Corte Madera, 78.9 percent
• Novato, 64.4 percent
• San Rafael, 56.3 percent
• Unincorporated Marin County, 76.6 percent