Towards a more inclusive (& competitive) economy - Part I

All San Diegans benefit when neighbors in every community have opportunity.  Our campaign's Opportunity4All plan is a vision for shared prosperity that will make the San Diego region safer and more affordable, allowing every neighborhood to thrive. As we release the elements of our plan, we have to take a brief look back at some of our community's failures so that together we can move forward productively.   

This is not a conversation about blame, it is a conversation about progress. And the conversation starts with an important explanation of what’s known as redlining. Figure 1 below provides a visual to start the conversation.

  Figure 1  - San Diego Redline Map 1936-1939

Figure 1 - San Diego Redline Map 1936-1939

Although this map is from the 1930s, it is important to understand the direct connection to the San Diego of today.

Redlining refers to a very specific practice of our federal government that began in the 1930s and had specific impacts in every major region in the country, including San Diego.  The federal government decided it would insure home loans only in certain communities using a color-coded system. The red areas of Figure 1 are communities in which the government would not insure loans (or for which the interest rate was significantly higher than others) based on the presence of African Americans or certain immigrants.

Fig 2 Current with Redline.png

Figure 2 is a modern map of San Diego with the same areas highlighted.

Although open redlining as a practice was made illegal in the 1970s, Figure 3 below helps explain why understanding this portion of our past is so important to moving San Diego’s economy toward being more inclusive. 

The map in Figure 3 reveals that in the very same communities that were barred from meaningful investment and wealth creation due to redlining, the current poverty and unemployment rates are two and three times higher than the regional average.

Fig 3 Current Effects.png

The communities in these maps represent far more than a collection of statistics. Like every community, there are vibrant cultures, hard-working community members, and rich histories. However, we must be more open about the need for change.

For our region to make progress toward a truly inclusive economy, it’s important to reiterate that this is not about blame. No one reading this post was alive to create the policies in question and many of us – of ALL backgrounds – have since benefited in various ways. Now we must address the results head on so that our whole economy is strong and every San Diegan has a real shot at a good quality of life.

As we turn to evaluating the leadership role the County government must play, we need to acknowledge that certain communities paid a heavy price from redlining – and in fact we ALL paid that price in an economy that is not as competitive and robust as it could be.

This week, our campaign will release our Opportunity4All plan. It will call for, among other things, revisiting how our County buys goods and services.  We need to look inward and create more opportunities for entrepreneurs and service providers in the communities that were intentionally held back from  wealth creation.  The County of San Diego spends $1 Billion every year and it has the buying power to obtain high quality goods and services that also spur economic growth in areas that have struggled under the weight of generational discrimination.  San Diego leads in many ways and this is an opportunity to blaze a path toward the type of inclusive regional economy that fully and finally lays to rest the impacts of our past choices.


Our campaign is built on our values, on substance, and on a commitment to every San Diegan.  Help us succeed and contribute today! 

Omar Passons