Blog Post

Liveblogging HASTAC II: Redlining California


Southeast San Diego in 2007


For our next act, David Theo Goldberg here at UCHRI and Chien-Yi Hou and Richard Marciano of the San Diego Supercomputer Center present work from the T-RACES project (Testbed for the Redlining Archives of California's Exclusionary Spaces), funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.  I've long been excited by the intersection of grid computing and urban studies, to enliven information that had long been archived in text format. Today we have a digital archive, a presentation format that expands not only the reach but also furthers the understanding of continuing residual discriminatory mortgage practices.  The UC humanities data grid houses the project.

San Diego, Los Angeles, Fresno, San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, Stockton, Santa Barbara are the eight cities with digitized maps created from this project. David points out that most of them also contain University of California campuses. Another interesting parallel: today's "threat alert levels" created by the United States' Department of Homeland Security that incorporate color into threat level map on to residential spaces, as highlighted by this project.  For example, "red" areas as classified by the Home Owners' Loan Corporation (HOLC) were considered "no-go," followed by the "yellow," "green," and so on. Also like the threat level system, these classifications rarely if ever changed.

Chien-Yi ventured to the National Archives in Washington to scan all of the relevant redlining materials (which were never available to the public) and convert them into .pdf documents.  The goal is a searchable database of all of these documents, along with GIS maps overlaid on Google Earth that are browsable by users.  And there will be corresponding searches between documents and maps.

Richard demonstrated the maps for us.  To begin, one would select a city from a drop-down box, then will get an overlay on a Google Map of the color overlays from the 1930s.  Each of the five colors can be turned on and off, to compare, for example, the "red" and the "yellow" areas, showing that redlined areas also were given buffer zones to ensure that the extant racial segregation of that time stayed that way.  Each area can also be clicked to reach the relevant, text-searchable .pdf documents, among other useful search toolls.  Scanned documents are also browsable by city, and contain loads and loads of information that has not been studied and is ripe for further research.  The downloadable format of maps in Google Earth allows a myriad of mashup possibilities with other datasets (sort of like a Swivel for maps).

For more information, take a look at the T-RACES website here.

Photo of Southeast San Diego by Flickr user Allan Ferguson



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