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SG-W:/ Fwd: 1930s Program Drew Map for City Woes

I found this article about city planning to be interesting.  From the 
Conservation Law Foundation.

>Subject: 1930s Program Drew Map for City Woes
>Date: Wed, 12 Jan 2000 18:56:09 -0500
>One morning last week, Emanuel Carter showed me how the federal
>government colorcoded the future of Syracuse 60 years ago.
>It's a revelation.
>And it was for Emanuel when he discovered the U.S. Horne Owners
>Corp. maps and neighborhood evaluations in a book about
>Philadelphia two years ago.
>"I think this program almost guaranteed the demise of our
>cities." he
>According to this expert. and others who've studied the federally
>guaranteed mortgage program that began in 1936, the program set
>up a
>system that discouraged city living and "opened the floodgates"
>to the
>Emanuel's a city planner, once employed by Syracuse, now an
>professor of landscape architecture at the state College of
>Science and Forestry and a director of a national design program
>"Your Town.
>This expert's disturbed about what he and his students found out
>our town. It's an interesting lesson in American history.
>Franklin Roosevelt swept into the presidency in the 1930s and
>began to
>legislate reforms to get us out of the Depression. One of his
>reforms was
>the Home Owners Loan Corp., a program to provide federal
>guarantees for
>home mortgages. It opened up the possibility of owning a home for
>millions of Americans and created the long-term, guaranteed
>mortgages we know today.
>To accomplish this, neighborhoods of all American cities had to
>be mapped
>and evaluated. They had to be rated as loan risks.
>This was done in a massive inventory started in 1936 and
>completed the
>next year by teams of assessors - real estate people, mostly - to
>take the
>lay of the land, literally. Surveyors filled their forms with
>data on
>population density. age of buildings and ethnicity, among other
>Then maps were drawn, over laying new data on existing maps. In
>for instance, surveyors used city engineer Sergei Grimm's 1936
>map that
>included close-in suburbs.
>Neighborhoods were rated A through D and assigned colors: green,
>yellow and red descending by grades, by the "consultants"
>These are samples of phrases they used:
>* Grade A neighborhood: Up and coming. In demand. Wellplanned.
>Color it
>* Grade B: Completely developed. Still good but not what people
>who can
>afford more are buying. Blue.
>* Grade C: Buildings aged and obsolete. "Infiltration of lower
>populations." Experts say "lower grade',' citizens were blacks
>"Negroes" by surveyors), Jews and foreignborn whites.  C
>neighborhoods "lack homogeneity."  Color them yellow.
>* Grade D: Detrimental influences. Undesirable population. Mostly
>homes with poor maintenance, vandalism, unstable families. This
>is the
>red area.
>Once the so-called "residential security" maps and text were
>copies were distributed to banks, where residents would go for
>According to Emanuel Carter' residents of green and blue
>districts would
>have no trouble getting loans. In yellow areas, federal officials
>"lower loan commitments."
>If you lived in a red zone the feds put it this way: "possible
>of a federal guarantee. In other words, forget it.
>Emanuel has been a student of city planning since he was at
>Ithaca 30
>years ago. Until he read "A Prayer for the City" by Buzz
>Bissinger two
>years ago, he knew nothing about the significance of the
>Roosevelt loan
>"I have a Cornell degree in city planning but this was never
>not even in planning circles," he said while standing next to a
>table in Marshall Hall on the ESF campus. Light pours through
>that 1936
>Syracuse map, catching greens, blues, yellows and reds.
>One description of a Philadelphia red district said "it is now
>approaching obsolescence, with its population almost entirely
>Another mentioned concentrations of "Polish, Italian, Jewish and
>This hits home for Emanuel Carter. He grew up on a street in
>Philadelphia's Germantown that's coded red in the 1937 map.
>"People who had the money and means weren't going to build in
>neighborhoods the federal government said were not desirable. The
>veterans who returned after World War II were paid off with
>low-cost mortgages for new housing and they chose the suburbs.
>That began the process of emptying the cities."
>- Emanuel Carter, former Syracuse city planner
>"I could never figure out why England, Canada, France and Spain
>cities that work and ours don't. I'd ask, what am I missing? We
>neighborhoods that worked. What happened? Then I found the book."
>The book, "Prayer for the City," is about Philadelphia when
>Rendell was mayor this decade. The author recounts what the mayor
>told Bill Clinton during a visit; he shared his theory about the
>loan program's
>impact on cities such as Philadelphia.
>Rendell had been shocked by the insight "that the reasons the
>city had seemed destined to fail may be found as far back as the
>He also mentioned the survey's use of blatantly racist language
>describe poor neighborhoods.
>Another book, "Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the
>States" by Kenneth Jackson, evaluated the federal loan program in
>context of how it opened the suburbs to development at the
>expense of
>"People who had the money and means weren't going to build in
>neighborhoods the federal government said were not desirable,"
>explains. "The veterans who returned after World War 11 were paid
>with low-cost mortgages for new housing and they chose the
>suburbs. That began the process of emptying the cities."
>He believes, as well, that the loan program set standards for
>that continued until 1965, when HUD stepped in and presumably
>loan discrimination and the practice of "red-lining" invented by
>Roosevelt program.
>Emanuel admits discovering the impact of the Home Owners Loan
>changed his perception of Franklin Roosevelt as the president who
>"He did a good job of saving the nation but it seems now that he
>that big cities were basically unsound and that poor people
>couldn't think for themselves," he said.
>"Not only did this splinter the old neighborhoods where people of
>different backgrounds got along, but gave us, now, a second and
>generation of people in the suburbs who think cities are unsound
>and the
>people who live here are to be stayed away from."
>The revelation for this Syracusan in the Philadelphia book
>provoked a
>study of the Syracuse survey by some of his graduate students.
>They were
>able to locate the city's 1936 "residential security map" and a
>descriptions done for the study in the National Archives.
>When we looked at the map the other day, it was easy to see that
>color codes of the '30s predicted our Syracuse neighborhoods of
>the '90s:
>DeWitt, East Genesee Street, Strathmore and Sedgwick remained
>while the red areas stayed that way and spread into the yellows.
>In fact, more than half of Syracuse in 1936 is either red or
>yellow, with
>red dominating the map south of downtown. Galeville, Mattydale,
>East Syracuse and Solvay were yellow.
>Emanuel scowls at what he saw. He calls it "an act of bloodless
>Dick Case writes Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.
>Reach him at 470-2254, or by e-mail, citynews@syracuse.com.
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