Efforts Begin to Remove Embedded Bias in Housing Documents
The legacy of discriminatory housing practices lingers in Los Angeles County property records, revealing a troubling history of racial restrictions that were once legally enforced. While legislation has long prohibited such discriminatory practices, the remnants of this dark era persist in housing agreements and records, impacting new buyers. The Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk has begun a project to remove this language in property records to change that as reported by ABC 7 News.
The passage of Assembly Bill 1466 (AB 1466). AB 1466 extends the current law and will allow the RR/CC to identify and redact discriminatory and restrictive language on any and all historical public records, pre-dating the current law. Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Dean Logan said in a press release in 2022, “Our services and programs must reflect our county’s ideals and philosophies on race and equity. This legislation aligns with our direction to adopt antiracist practices and design programs that promote equity, diversity, and inclusion.”
Dean Logan, Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk of Los Angeles County, highlighted the extensive challenge ahead, stating, “We have over 130 million property records that we maintain in perpetuity, equating to 460 million pages of text.” In response to AB 1466, the county is embarking on a comprehensive process to identify and eliminate racially discriminatory language from “restrictive covenants,” also known as CCRs, which were private contracts outlining various property restrictions as quoted by ABC 7 News.
Historical research conducted by Laura Redford, a visiting assistant professor at Brigham Young University, sheds light on the insidious nature of these agreements. Racial restrictions were often cleverly woven into seemingly innocuous clauses, effectively segregating communities based on class and race. Redford’s findings reveal that by 1939, nearly half (47%) of all residential neighborhoods in Los Angeles County were subject to restrictive covenants forbidding certain racial groups.
Some agreements dictated specific spending requirements for building homes, while others imposed restrictions on property use, such as prohibiting stores or distilleries. Advertisements from that era openly promoted these discriminatory practices, with one Culver City housing development, for instance, explicitly offering “lots and presents restricted to Caucasian race.” as quoted by ABC 7 News.
To address this deeply rooted issue, L.A. County has initiated a roughly 10-year redaction project, funded by a new $2 document recording fee. The process begins with digital records, but Logan noted, “We still have 40 million records maintained on microfilm or in their original paper form.” This initiative marks a significant step toward dismantling the last vestiges of racial discrimination embedded in the region’s housing records, as quoted by ABC 7 News.