'Dog whistle': East Bay residents upset over language in SF's 'Nob Hill Gazette' real estate ad

The ad compared the community's demographics to that of Oakland's, in a manner many say was distasteful.

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ByKate Larsen KGO logo
Friday, November 19, 2021
East Bay residents upset over language in SF's 'Nob Hill Gazette'
An ad in San Francisco's "Nob Hill Gazette" has many Piedmont residents hurt and wanting answers. Here's what it said about their community.

PIEDMONT, Calif. (KGO) -- A magazine ad for real estate in Piedmont has members of the community hurt and wanting answers. The ad draws attention to the community's demographics, comparing it to neighboring cities.

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For 43 years, the Nob Hill Gazette has served as San Francisco's society pages. It's a monthly staple on city doorsteps.

But, the real estate advertising section of November's issue came with some problematic language.

"I was like, 'is this fake? Is this really real, that this would be happening in 2021, after everything we've been through?'" asked Piedmont homeowner, Carole Porter.

Porter saw the Piedmont section posted on social media. In a paragraph describing the East Bay community, it said, "The city is surrounded by Oakland but is worlds apart. Among it's 11,270 residents, 74.5 percent are white."

The magazine's publisher confirmed to ABC7 those words were published.

"For me this is kind of coded language," said Porter, who raised her children in Piedmont and was shocked. "It's a dog whistle to keep other people out, people that aren't white."

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The Austin family sunk $400,000 into renovating their home, but were stunned when they barely gained any value during the appraisal process. When they had a white woman pose as the homeowner, that all changed.

Porter is childhood friends with Vice President Kamala Harris. They grew up together in West Berkeley, where they desegregated schools together in the 70's.

About the Gazette ad Porter said, "this is just so reminiscent of the challenges we've been through in the 60's and 70's. Me personally, with my family growing up in an inter-racial family and seeing and learning as I've gotten older how hard it was for my parent's to find housing as an inter-racial couple."

Directly under the Piedmont write-up, is a half page ad with Piedmont realtors Anian Tunney and Adrienne Krumins. The magazine confirmed neither of the women or The Grubb Company had anything to do with the article.

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In a statement, the mother-daughter team told ABC7, "We are appalled by the editorial copy written by the Nob Hill Gazette. We had nothing to do with creating the copy. As long time Piedmont residents we are deeply committed to all members of our community. This newspaper has disrespected the citizens of Piedmont and Oakland."

ABC7 News Reporter, Kate Larsen, spoke to Nob Hill Gazette's publisher, Clint Reilly, on the phone Thursday night. He apologized and confessed the piece was not edited appropriately. The online version has now been changed.

He said, "I grew up in the East Bay and I think it's very unfortunate that wording appeared in the publication. It's inappropriate and wrong. It does not reflect the values of the Gazette or my own family."

Reilly explained the Piedmont advertorial was written by a freelance contract writer, who will not be hired again.