FAIRVIEW — When Lavinia and Nathaniel Bornor spotted an ad for bargain-rate tract homes in South Hayward in 1960, the married couple took a Sunday drive from Oakland to visit the new neighborhood.

"We went in, looked at the models, and the salesman said, 'You know, you can look but I can't sell you the house,'" Lavinia recalled. "He said, 'It's not me, but the developer says we can't sell to Negroes or Mexicans.'"

It was a rude awakening for the pair of young educators. Both in their early 20s, they were hoping to find a quiet suburban home near the schools where they worked.

"My husband was irate," Lavinia said. "He said, 'I just got back from Korea. I was over there fighting for our freedom and democracy.' The salesman said, 'It's not me, sir. It really isn't me.'"

What happened next to the Bornors became a common experience for African-American families looking to live south of Oakland after World War II. Denied housing in Hayward, which according to population records had only 60 black residents in 1960, they moved just across the border to the hilly, semirural unincorporated community of Fairview.

"It was a very supportive community. You had African Americans representing all walks of life, all situations," Lavinia said. "I felt very, very fortunate to have landed in that particular community at that particular time. ... I tell everyone, it was the kind of community you dream about."

Rows of carefully manicured houses.


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Big trees and open spaces. Neighbors who watched out for each other. In a time of racial turmoil elsewhere in the country, it was a tranquil place to raise a family.

"It was like the Brady Bunch or the Cosby kids or something like that. It was pretty nice," said James Moss, whose parents moved his family to Fairview in 1961. "From a teenage point of view, it was real nice."

The Moss family still occupies five houses in the same few blocks, all in the particular section of Fairview known as Kelly Hill.

Before the passage of California's Rumford Fair Housing Act in 1963, and for years later, many black couples found that Realtors "steered them" away from predominantly white Hayward area neighborhoods and toward places such as Kelly Hill.

The discrimination also applied to other minority groups.

Maria Ochoa, a social science lecturer at San Jose State University, said her Mexican immigrant family faced obstacles when they tried to move from Oakland to Hayward in the late 1950s.

"The Realtors started showing them homes in the Kelly Hill area. By that time, (my father) had caught on," said Ochoa, who is the wife of Hayward Mayor Mike Sweeney. "That's when my family first got introduced to this de facto segregation."

Others landed on Kelly Hill because they were relocated there from another predominantly African-American and Latino unincorporated community, Russell City, after that shoreline town was redeveloped into a Hayward industrial park.

And still others just liked the place. Floyd O'Connor was one of Kelly Hill's African-American pioneers and, at 87, still lives there.

In 1941, he bought an apricot orchard on the hill where Lakeridge Park and new homes now stand. But he didn't move in until the late 1950s, when a black developer, Ted Hardeman, built a row of tract homes off of Kelly Street and sold it to African-American and Filipino families looking for an affordable home.

Ronald Moss, 44, James' younger brother, said he enjoyed growing up in a community where he could go fish, swim or barbecue at the Don Castro reservoir, or play with friends at what he calls the "legendary" recreation room behind Fairview Elementary School.

"I loved it," he said. "We didn't have the police harassment like in Hayward. Less crime up here. It was more country, less houses."

But as the civil rights movement brought racial discrimination to the forefront of national politics, the overt and subtle segregation that transformed Kelly Hill into a non-white neighborhood increasingly was seen as unacceptable.

Nascent human rights commissions, one run by Alameda County and the other by Hayward City Hall, launched a joint investigation into the purposeful "ghettoization" of the area. 

The speedy influx of African-American families to Fairview was also "disarming" to some white families living there, said Richard Bay, who grew up on Valley View Drive.

As a white 13-year-old who liked to wear cowboy boots and ride his horse through the hills, Bay admits the changing demographics came as a culture shock. His parents resented the influx of African-American families. Fearing for their safety, they began locking their doors and bought a Doberman pinscher.

And during boyhood fights on Kelly Street, Bay said black boys called him "whitey." They threw rocks at each other and sent pet dogs against pet dogs.

"A lot of changes were happening at that time," Bay said. "I look back on it and I'm like, you know, I don't know how I let myself fall into that."

Bay said the passage of time, and growing up, healed the tensions.

"It all kind of settled down, and it's been settled down since," he said. "It's a hodgepodge of people now."

Arthur Nelson, 49, said he was part of the majority at Fairview Elementary when it was "99 percent" African American. Local officials eventually intervened, shipping him and classmates to schools in Castro Valley in the 1960s in an attempt to integrate an increasingly divided school system.

"I got to learn how other races were because of that mixture," said Nelson, a lifelong resident of Northview Drive. "You learn how to deal with different people."

Charles Snipes, who lives on Rafahi Way in Fairview, just outside Kelly Hill, said housing discrimination also caused him and his wife Ruby, both African Americans, to move there. He wanted to buy another house elsewhere but when he showed up in person, agents told him it was sold.

But once he got to Fairview, he found paradise. Snipes has been on the board of the Fairview Fire Protection District since 1967, and has been frequently dubbed the unofficial "Mayor of Fairview," bringing a bus line to the district but also fiercely preserving the district's low-density atmosphere of single-family homes.

"I didn't want to live in Oakland, but Hayward, at that time, was a small little place. I called it a one-horse town. But things have changed. The city has grown," Snipes said. "South County is one of the better-integrated communities that you have in Alameda County."

Credell Carter said he moved to Kelly Hill as a 27-year-old in the 1960s because "you're always trying to work within the system and do your very best to have the very best. The best thing life has to offer. You're driven by that."

He said he has seen neighbors come and go over the years, and his street evolve from "100 percent Afro-American" to a variety of people.

"It's inevitable when you cross cultures, when you come together, you have this conflict," Carter said. "But through time, you're able to resolve it. You've got no choice. You're tied together. You sink or swim."

Reach Matt O'Brien at 510-293-2473 or mattobrien@bayareanewsgroup.com.