CFAH

175 Miraloma Drive

Willie Mays, the legendary Giant, had a hard time buying a house in San Francisco. But it wasn’t for lack of funds.

As recounted in San Francisco’s draft report intended to shed light on the development and evolution of the city’s African American communities and inform the future preservation of historic properties and other historic resources, the developer of the 3,200-square-foot house at 175 Miraloma Drive backed out of an agreement to sell Mays the new home in 1957, “claiming that his business would suffer if it became known that he had sold a property to a Black man.”

After the then Mayor of San Francisco, George Christopher, was forced to intervene, “mostly due to [Mays’] public stature and the political talents of his attorney, Terry Francois,” the developer reversed course and offered the home to Mays for $37,500. The price was $5,000 more than was asked of a potential White buyer, but Mays accepted and moved in to the Sherwood Forest home which last traded hands for $434,500 in 1988.

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by zig

    there was defacto segregation in these days in SF.

    Out this way the working middle class black area was Oceanview and I think part of Ingleside. White and some Hispanic working class was in Mission Terrace, Excelsior and of course the other side of Ocean Ave

    • Posted by JR "Bob" Dobbs

      Not just de facto segregated in the 50s – segregation was legally sanctioned. This led to, among other things, the broad consent decree to desegregate the schools in the early 80s.

      Today, San Francisco is de facto segregated.

      • Posted by moto mayhem

        san francisco is more than segregated. it has almost completely eliminated african americans

        • Posted by zig

          SF hardly has any working class whites either. Have they been eliminated?

        • Posted by Patrick

          Really, I am unaware of any purge of African-Americans in San Francisco. Maybe they decided to move out of San Francisco because they could buy or rent better homes that were closer to job opportunities. Ya think?

          • Posted by zig

            The native born working class of SF in general has been eliminated and replaced by immigrants for various reasons. There is a steady stream of new white transplants but there is no multi-generational white working class in SF.

            Not sure why we would expect something different with the black working class?

          • Posted by SFBuyer

            Zig, have you ever gone west of 19th Avenue? That is where you find white, working class adults who grew up in SF and still live here raising their own kids. And they all go to Catholic school.

          • Posted by OtherDan

            Good lord. The whole urban renewal of the Fillmore is just one example of this calculated change. If you were unaware before, be aware now.

          • Posted by Sean

            Umm… no. You’re ignorant. They were actually forced out of the city. Go read up on it.

  2. Posted by Observer

    You hear of this madness from times past but this is a brutal example of a country and city that hopefully is behind us.

    Not sure how Terry Francois Way made it into the Mission Bay Master Plan, that’s probably tomorrow’s headline (hint Ed) but perhaps the SF Gaints can have the last laugh as they develop Mission Rock and rename Terry Francois Way to be something more culturally inclusive…

    • Posted by Dan Redmond

      Your comment leaves questions. Terry Francois was a black attorney who also was the first black member of the BOS. Seems inclusive to me.

  3. Posted by zig

    “Not just de facto segregated in the 50s – segregation was legally sanctioned. This led to, among other things, the broad consent decree to desegregate the schools in the early 80s.”

    Are you saying schools were legally segregated in SF? My father went to Balboa in the 1950’s and his year book would appear to be about 40% black kids.

    • Posted by JR "Bob" Dobbs

      I was talking about segregation generally. But — yes. Doesn’t mean all schools were affected equally. Take a look at how many Asian or Latino students you see in the yearbook. Segregation was a black-white issue in much of the country, but it was (and is) much more complicated here.

      • Posted by RonMonster

        +1. My grandparents realtor wouldn’t show them homes in this neighborhood in the 1960s either. They were a white+non-white couple. My mom was also moved high schools because of how her name “sounded.”

      • Posted by zig

        You said it wasn’t defacto and was legally sanctioned and mentioned schools. I am vaguely aware of some legally sanctioned segregation directled at Asians way back in SF but not blacks as they arrived in SF rather abruptly during WW2.

        Hispanics have had an easier time in CA generally and in SF and were technically considered “white” in the state in the census. I am sure there was little segregation defacto or otherwise from working class whites here.

    • Posted by Notcom

      The answer to your question is “no, not by the 1950’s” (though they had been legally segregated earlier, and as is noted, it was much more than a “Black/white” issue, it was a “Black/white/Asian/Hispanic” issue).

      Schools – and other institutions – were de facto segregated b/c the neighborhoods they were in were de facto segregated, which in turn was often due to restrictive covenants …which were sanctioned, but not required (hence the different qualifications).

      • Posted by zig

        Until more recent history I am only sure this happened to Asians in SF. Hispanics went to the same schools as working class white and lived in North Beach and the Mission and many from the first groups moved post WW2 to the Excelsior and Daly City

        • Posted by Notcom

          Yes: with regard to Hispanics, I was really thinking more of Southern California; and even there I would guess it was more of a casual discrimination – along the lines of the famous restaurant scene in “Giant” – than formal restrictions.

    • Posted by curmudgeon

      Zig, if you read through the source report, you will learn that many SF neighborhoods had restrictive covenants; referring to the post-war period:

      “Restrictive covenants were in effect in much of the city, and approximately 90 percent of the new suburban developments springing up in fast-growing Marin and San Mateo counties excluded African Americans. Of the 75,000 building permits issued between 1949 and 1951 in the Bay Area, only six hundred were for units available for purchase by African Americans. Even where covenants were not in place, realtors, neighborhood “improvement” associations, and many White residents were not shy about discouraging African American residents. Most rehashed age-old stereotypes, but all worried about declining real estate values and “red-lining,” the practice by banks of denying loans to residents of neighborhoods housing people of color.”

      By the time Willie Mays tried to buy housing, restrictive covenants were illegal, but obviously steering by the real estate industry was still strong in force.

      • Posted by zig

        I stand corrected if we are consider racial covenants to be legally sanctioned at this time. I think they were legal but an agreement on the deeds to homes between private parties etc. I took the school comment and legally sanctioned to be more than this.

  4. Posted by soccermom

    Willie Mays has lived fairly comfortably in Atherton for decades.

  5. Posted by Some Guy

    Thanks for the obligatory daily dose of political correctness. This important information from 1957 is appreciated.

    • Posted by curmudgeon

      Understanding history is never a bad thing.

      • Posted by DM

        Didn’t the Giants move here from Brooklyn at that time? Mayor Christopher had to take a stand or look really bad. He was forced to do the right thing.

    • Posted by SocketSite

      You’re very welcome! You’d be surprised at how many people are too dense to understand the linkage between this piece and the linked report which, beyond being interesting history, has implications for the present day.

  6. Posted by Footie

    My god the architectural horrors that have been inflicted on the once-modern style house next door!

  7. Posted by Mark F.

    If you adjust for inflation, the $32,500 the developer was willing to sell the house for is about $275,000 in 2015 dollars.

  8. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    It always amazes me that just a half century ago people were denied a residence just because of race. There are people walking on the streets today who remember it!

    Then roll back another century when it is possible to own a human being.

    Amazing that our not so distant relatives experienced such an unjust world.

    • Posted by jack

      As a late 40’s guy, I now appreciate how much things can (or can not) change in a 25-year period.

  9. Posted by Mark F.

    I’d say slavery was many orders of magnitude worse than not being able to buy a home in the neighborhood you want to live in, but your point stands.

  10. Posted by GhostWriter

    This article is BS other than the fact that there were major problems with steering, redlining, and racial discrimination affecting the RE market across the country. There was a time when Mays didn’t have much money and his personal banker had to step in and put him on the right track, the same banker also helped him close on this house. George Christopher didn’t have anything to do with it… If you’re going to write a fluff piece get your facts right.

  11. Posted by escapee

    I remember when Paul Winfield, the actor, bought his house on Mt. Springs Road, there was a codicil stating that the property wouldn’t be sold to any black people. But it was ignored due to current laws. That was back in the late ’70’s.

  12. Posted by Donald

    When, in 1999, I bought my house in Miraloma, the title transfer document had a clause supposedly restricting me from reselling to black people. At least then, the covenant was still on the books.

  13. Posted by hopeman

    I’m pretty sure the developer was Standard Building Co, run by the Gellert Brothers. Anybody else recall?

    I’ve heard stories Willie Brown had the same issue trying to buy in Forest Knolls, another Standard Building development. Along with Midtown Terrace.

    The Gellerts bought the land that’s now Serramonte after WW2. It was a dairy before that. They guessed correctly that ex-military guys would come West, and post-war prosperity would create a housing boom. And boom it did.

    Many of the original sales guys for Standard Building are now multi-millionaires many times over. Well, the live ones anyway.

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