The racist history of Tampa's city planning and housing policy

Ben Montgomery
·2 min read

A new report presented recently by staff at the Metropolitan Planning Organization details 70 years of racist housing policy, road construction and city planning in Tampa and Hillsborough County.

The big picture: The study, which looked at development policy from 1900 to the 1970s, found widespread evidence of racially restrictive deed covenants, segregationist public-housing development and highway construction that purposefully destroyed Black, Latino and low-income neighborhoods.

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Details: Tampa's first big city plan in 1941 showed the future construction of I-275 and stated it aimed to "do much towards clearing up a blighted slum north of Cass Street on both sides of Central," the Black section of town.

  • A zoning plan the following year issued this directive: "There are several other, smaller areas, occupied now by colored people that should be eliminated and moved to other areas."

The master highway transportation plan of 1957 shows the proposed route of I-275 through West Tampa, home to mostly Black and Latino residents. Credit: State Archives of Florida

The 1945 comprehensive plan called the Scrub, once the center of the city's Black community, "a cancerous infection ripe for a major operation to transform it into something economically sound and worthwhile from a civic standpoint."

  • "As a source of crimes, immorality, delinquency and other evil influences the 'Scrub' is an unnecessary and excess burden of expense to the taxpayers."

The bottom line: By the 1960s, swaths of neighborhoods like Dobyville, Roberts City, the Scrub and Ybor City had been destroyed.

  • "The legacy of the policies ... continues to be readily apparent in our maps today," said Joshua Barber, one of the study's authors.

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