Exploring Racial Segregation in Holly Hills

De facto racial segregation is a common practice in the United States today. The civil right movement fought to abolish this practice. Winning its first of many legal victories in 1952 with the Brown vs. Board of Education Case, the Supreme Court’s ruling required the segregation of schools to be phased out “with all deliberate speed”. (Desmond, & Emirbayer, 2010) This Vague suggestion allowed public schools to take their time carrying out the court order. This in turn caused a backlash that can still be felt today. Due to property covenants and the discriminatory practice of redlining minority populations are currently severely concentrated in almost every city in America. According to the King county census (http://www5.kingcounty.gov/KCCensus/), Washington state is home to 5,894,121 people, 1,737,034 of those people live in King County and 75.7% are Caucasian, only 5.5% of those people are of Hispanic/Latino descent. I have gone looking for them and found the largest concentration of our Hispanic population in census tract 218.0.The block group that contains tract 218.0 consists of a 36.1% to 41.5% Hispanic population. Tract 218.0 runs along the king county/Snohomish county border, between NE Bothell and NW Woodinville. In the middle of this tract is a neighborhood named Holly Hills. I will explore this neighborhood and as a comparison I will explore a neighborhood that the 2000 census finds to contain a pradomately Caucasian population but first let’s explore Holly hills.

As I walked through the Holly Hills community I quickly realized it was a neighborhood that consisted of entirely manufactured homes. I started my expedition at the community club house. This was a modest building in the center of the neighborhood that the residents, or anyone for that matter, could rent out for events and the homeowners association used it for events, like the pot luck they are going to be having next week. On one side of the club house is a gated pool and on the other is a large grass field and a diminutive playground with mix matched play systems. You could tell some of the structures where recently upgraded while others were relatively older. The playground was occupied by what appeared to be a family, possibly a biracial couple, playing with their children. Aside from than this family, I saw about twenty other people, of many different races, on my walk through this neighborhood on a bright and sunny Sunday afternoon. The residents that I did see seemed to be middle class, although on the lower end of the middle class, economic spectrum. I would say seven of the twenty people I saw appeared to be of Hispanic descent, about 8 were Caucasian, three were Asian, and one was native American and semmed friendly and some even waved as I strolled through their neighborhood taking pictures.

While walking a snaking route through this community’s pot hole riddled streets I noticed that there were a lot of homes for sale, at least one on each block. This is one of the few manufactured home communities where you own the land as well as the home. The median price of homes here is $202,375 and the average home is 1393 sq. ft. that is a cost of $124 per sq. ft. (Reed A. May 16, 2010) As far as I can tell this area appears to be in the process of gentrification, wealthier individuals are beginning to move in to this neighborhood that was previously only inhabited by lower income families (Desmond, & Emirbayer, 2010), with this abundance of homes for sale at such reasonable prices I wonder what this neighborhood will look like in a year from now.

The closest school to this neighborhood is the K-6 school, Woodin Elementary. Woodin is in the Northshore School District and is the only school in the district that offers a bilingual educational program. According to Jill Crivello, the principal at Woodin elementary, the dual language program is open to both native English speaking students and native Spanish speaking students. This program is beneficial to both types of students in three ways. First, it helps develop cognitive abilities due to the fact that bilingual students execute better divergent thinking, pattern recognition, and problem solving skills. It also benefits the students in a socio-cultural aspect since adeptness in two languages allows students to widen their world views by interacting with peers who are fluent in the “target” language, and students are exposed to apposite social convections of language. Lastly this program opens up economic opportunities as bilingual individuals are in a higher demand in the employment arena. (Crivello J. 2010 May 14) This program was also the reason that Northshore School District won the 2005 Diversity award during the WSSDA annual conference in Seattle. (http://wssda.org/wssda/WebForms/ EnUs/News /2005/20051122_divawards.asp) This elementary school is the only school in this district with a large enough Hispanic population to execute the dual language program properly.
As a comparison I also researched another school in this district, Hollywood Hill elementary, this schools population is predominantly, 84.4%, Caucasian, and located in the affluent neighborhood where the school gets its name from, Hollywood Hills. When comparing schools there is not much of a difference in WASL test scores yet poignant differences can be seen on almost every other aspect of the schools dynamics. Hollywood Hill elementary has a much smaller student base, resulting in a smaller teacher/student ratio and 64.4% of the teachers hold a master’s degree. (http://reportcard.ospi.k12.wa.us/SideBySide.aspx?schoolId=1631&Org Typed=4&reportLevel=School&orgLinkId=)

As I explored the surrounding Neighborhood I noticed obvious differences between this neighborhood and the Holly Hills neighborhood. Let me elaborate, The Hollywood Hills neighborhood is in census tract 323.2 and the residents here are 92.6% Caucasian. (http://www5.kingcounty.gov/KCCensus/), Unlike the previous neighborhood I could not walk around to explore Hollywood Hills due to the fact that the houses in this neighborhood are on extremely large lots of land surrounded by woods and there were few sidewalks and no safe way to walk on the street. The houses where very large and the yards where meticulously landscaped. I noticed a few houses that were for sale and discovered that the median price of a home in this area is $875,492 with the average sq. footage of a home being 3,282, that equals out to $235.84 per Sq. ft. (Reed A. May 16, 2010) I did not see any people on the street, walking around, or any children playing on the playground. I cannot say for sure if their where no children present at, what appeared to be, the community park, I was unable to tell due to the fact that the park was behind a locked iron fence and the play equipment was far enough from the street that recognizing individuals was nearly impossible. During a time when most families would be home eating dinner I noticed an absence of cars in driveways or on the streets. Everything seemed very sterile, devoid of all neighborly interaction, and to be completely honest I was extremely uncomfortable driving around this community. On the outskirts of this neighborhood I did come across an equestrian center that was offering riding lessons to the public. The individuals present in front of the welcoming center where friendly and cordial. They were willing to talk to me about the neighborhood and described it as a pleasant place to live, where everyone minded their own business.

As I wandered through out the two neighborhoods I noticed divergences, other than the exceedingly obvious economic differences. Disparate from the Holly Hills neighborhood, Hollywood Hills showed no displays promoting community events and was lacking the appearance of what I would consider social interactions. I also noticed that the Holly Hills neighborhood had access to public transit, King County Metro stops where prevalent, where the Hollywood Hills neighborhood lacked any form of public transportation. This can be explained by the need for public transit if one was to assume that the residents in Hollywood Hills probably do not need to take the bus. In both neighborhoods I observed vehicles driving on the residential roads and noticed a minor difference in the quality of personal transportation. In Holly Hills the vehicles were slightly older, less expensive models that where considerably more economically friendly like Honda, Toyota, and Mitsubishi. Whereas in Hollywood Hills they were newer luxury models like Porsche, Lexus, and Mercedes they were also predominately SUV’s and therefore less eco-friendly.
As I look back on my exploration into racial segregation I am left with many questions. I don’t understand why anyone would chose to live in a neighborhood that was entirely lacking any sense of community. With wealth do you also acquire a taste for social isolation? If so, I don’t think I will aspire to obtain the title of affluent. I enjoy the friendly relations I have with my neighbors and if given the choice would rather have that then a huge home and an overabundance of resources any day. The Hollywood Hills housing development is an unequivocal example of how racial segregation makes close-knit communities and any true sense of humanity impossible. The residents in the Holly Hills community seemed to have achieved a reasonable form of racial integration, a melding of separate cultural elements into a balanced community. America’s racial segregation is still exceedingly prevalent, however I am hopeful that one day will overcome the misery that racial domination perpetuates, it is an unnecessary wall put up between neighbors and the loss of a piece of our humanity.

Crivello, J. (2010 May 14) Personal Interview. Principal of Woodin Elementary
Desmond, M, & Emirbayer, M. (2010) Racial domination, racial progress: the sociology of race in America. New York, NY: McGraw Hill.
King County (2000) King County Census Data: Tracts and Blocks. Retrieved May 15, 2010, from http://www5.kingcounty.gov/KCCensus/

OSPI (2009) Office of superintendent of public instruction Washington state report card. Retrieved May 18, 2010 from http://reportcard.ospi.k12.wa.us/SideBySide.aspx? schoolId=1631&OrgTypeId=4&reportLevel=School&orgLinkId=

Reed, A. (2010, May 16) Personal Interview. Windermere real estate agent of Redmond.
WSSDA (2010) Northshore and Shelton school districts receive WSSDA Diversity Awards. Retrieved May 18, 2010, from http://wssda.org/wssda/WebForms/En-Us/News/2005/20051122_divawards.asp