California Has Been in Upheaval for Centuries

The Silicon Valley tech boom is behind a massive population upheaval in Northern California that has been going on for decades. Gentrification, soaring real estate costs and changes in workforce patterns are reshaping the demographics of that region—in many cases for the worse, punishing people of color and poor people. This pattern is sadly typical of California's history.


"California's complicated history is an endless story of displacement and change," Jenni Olson, director of the new documentary The Royal Road told AlterNet. "In the film I offer a few thoughts about this. I also recognize my own culpability in this gentrification."

Watch the trailer for The Royal Road:

Four years after moving to San Francisco from Minneapolis, Olson became one of the founders of PlanetOut.com, an LGBT web portal. Two years later, she turned to filmmaking. 

"The original catalyst for my filmmaking in 1997 was the awareness that the San Francisco urban landscape was undergoing an unusually rapid change as the pace of development was speeding up. The gentrification and development of these past few years though has been exponentially much greater than it had been in the ‘90s," Olson said. 

Today, "the things that spell San Francisco to me are disappearing fast," Olson told AlterNet.

But native Californians have always been uprooted, and glorfying imperialism only glosses over this reality.

"I also observe that the tendency of the conquerors over the centuries is to obscure the violent histories of displacement, from Junipero Serra’s Spanish colonization of California which decimated the state’s Native inhabitants, to President Polk’s subsequent provocation of war with Mexico as a method of taking by force from them the state of California and the entire American Southwest," explained Olson.

In the land of pioneers, and the City of Angels, there are cultural artifacts pointing to a less than fairy tale founding. And one by one, Olson hopes to shed light on them. 

The Royal Road premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. The film will be available on DVD and digial September 6. 

Watch an exclusive clip from The Royal Road

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