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Urban Studies Essay

A community is a group of people, consisting of families, who lived in a limited geographical area and interact in interdependent relationships. The members usually pursued common interest and work together to achieve common goals that benefited the community (Smith 2001). Both Elm Valley and Fillmore are communities that demonstrate the strengths and weaknesses characteristic of many existing urban communities. Both Elm Valley and Fillmore district are considered communities since groups of people lived there together who interacted with each other.

The residents performed specific differing functions that affected the whole. Elm valley, as a more thriving community, offered a more extensive selection of professionals such as doctors, dentists, teachers, politicians, businessmen and many others that performed skilled services. They are also blessed with a variety of amenities such as restaurants, grocery stores, clubs, public library, schools and hospitals that are vital to the development and sustenance of the residents.

As a whole both communities sought to achieve an economic and social stability. However, Elm Valley and Fillmore manifest themselves in differing ways. Elm Valley came into being when people of diverse backgrounds –local American, blacks, Latino refugees and more recently Asian refugees predominantly originating from countries of Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam decided to live together.

Because of diversity, the residents of Elm Valley had displayed differing attitudes-the local whites were shallow but they are interested in other people and the happenings of the world around them, the blacks were more concern of themselves and the Asian refugees tenaciously clung to their traditional cultures that at first they limited their contacts with other non-Asian residents of the community by utilizing only the lawns and benches near the Tower where they lived. Moreover, Elm valley residents have differing economic and social status.

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The rich were the white locals or new renters who can afford the high rent imposed on houses within the community. The poor were mostly the refugees who had to work as cooks and utility boys in hotel and accept cleaning jobs around the area. However, in recent years high income families had displaced low-income residents of the community as a result of massive displacements when the community won the status as a ‘historical’ district in 1986. The Fillmore district, on the other hand, is primarily a homogeneous community comprising mostly of African- Americans (black) who flocked to the area hoping to find jobs during the Second World War.

It is located in the neighborhood of Western Addition in the heart of San Francisco. As a community Fillmore has undergone changes in the nature of its residents. It was once a vibrant commercial center in 1906 dominated by the whites. Then it became a Japanese community and then finally the African-American took over vacant buildings during the Japanese internment in the 1940’s. In this period Fillmore was a progressive community with pharmacies, restaurants, barber/beauty shops, doctors, dentists and other amenities and professional services that characterizes a thriving community.

Surprisingly, in the 1940’s San Francisco government labeled the community as “blighted” based on supposed poor economic condition and dilapidated buildings. Since then the community had continued in its downward plight as the process of supposedly rehabilitation required the demolition of old buildings to be replaced by newer ones which had consequently displaced the residents. Today Fillmore is a complete opposite of Elm Valley. It is a ghost town community with lots of vacant buildings, there were no pedestrians and stores are generally empty.

There was a speculation that the redevelopment of Fillmore community was actually a case of racial discrimination. It seems ironic that Fillmore residents had to suffer this kind of treatment from fellow Americans unlike in the Elm valley where the refugees came all the way from far off Asia. As a community, Elm Valley had several strengths. First as a thriving community there is an easy access to medical, social and professional services. Hospitals, schools, restaurants, doctors, dentists are within reach. Second it is community that is free of any racial discrimination.

Refugees were warmly welcomed and efforts were made to integrate the varied cultural tradition of the residents. Elm valley also provides opportunities for others to learn and personally experience other cultures due to the diversity of its residents. From Asians they can learn about folk dancing and oriental cooking, form the blacks and Latinos they can learn jazz music, break dancing, collard greens and cornrows and from the locals they can learn about American cooking and gardening. Elm valley’s third strength is that it is a progressive community.

It boasts of attractive residential neighborhoods. There are lovely streetscapes, impressive scenery and beautifully designed buildings mixed together. The last strength is that it a community that is not dominated by violence. Its primary weakness is that due to its diversity it was inevitable that there are clashes of opinions that could hamper any move for progress and improvement. Example is the traditional Festival that was once organized to promote Elm valley as a community of lively, friendly residents who honored the cultural traditions of its diverse residents.

However, opposition came from different quarters, arguing that the community should concentrate their efforts in more important political matters like the military policy of America in South America and Asia. The organizers had tried to accommodate every criticism but as time wore on they simply give up due to exhaustion. Due to its depressed appearance, Fillmore community cannot boast of any strength except that it is easily accessible by public and private transport. Apart from that, in contrast to Elm Valley, Fillmore possesses two glaring weaknesses.

First it is a community that is suffering from extreme poverty as a result of “rehabilitation” . There is no businesses as buildings were demolished to clear the way for new construction. As result there is little employment opportunity in the area. Its downtown need continued improvement. The area still lacks other amenities that are needed for communities to function smoothly. Few commercial buildings are built years after it was demolished.


Smith, M. K. (2001) ‘Community’ in the encyclopedia of informal education, Retrieved August 15 ,2007, from http://www. infed. org/community/community. htm.

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