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Does Your Home Have A Racially Restrictive Covenant? Share Your Story With KPBS

Racial covenant written in 1914 for a property in Point Loma is pictured at t...

Photo by Cristina Kim

Above: Racial covenant written in 1914 for a property in Point Loma is pictured at the San Diego Historical Center in this undated photo.

For years people who weren’t white were legally prohibited from living in certain areas and homes in San Diego.

Long before the 1930s when the Federal Home Owners Loan corporation carved up San Diego into racially segregated areas with redlining, most of the homes in San Diego had racially restrictive covenants attached to them.

In a sample of San Diego housing deeds from 1910 through 1950, Leroy Harris, a doctoral student at Carnegie-Mellon University, found every single one of them had racial covenants.

So what exactly is a racially restrictive covenant?

Racial covenants are legal documents attached to parcels of land, subdivisions and individual homes that explicitly detail who can and cannot live there.

A 1914 price list for a development called Loma Portal, located in Point Loma and advertised by the San Diego Securities company, stated:

“Property in Loma Portal shall never be sold to any except members of the Caucasian race.”

Others were more explicit on who couldn’t live in certain places. Rancho Santa Fe’s protective covenant written in 1928 and amended in 1937 said:

“No part of said property shall be used or occupied or permitted to be used or occupied in whole or in part by any person of African or Asiatic descent or by any person not of the white or Caucasian race, except that domestic servants, chauffeurs, or gardeners…”

The past lingers

Racially restrictive covenants existed nationwide until the U.S. Supreme Court deemed them illegal and unenforceable in 1948 with the landmark decision in Shelley v. Kraemer.

Although no longer legal, many homes across San Diego County built before 1950 still contain racially restrictive language in their original deeds.

And despite fair and equal housing laws, such as the 1968 Fair Housing Act that made housing discrimination illegal, the effects of these long defunct covenants continue to linger. San Diego is more segregated today than it was thirty years ago.

Help KPBS document the past to understand the present

KPBS is partnering with NPR and inewsource to document the stories behind these racial covenants and understand how they shaped San Diego’s many communities, and we need your help.

If you live in a home built before 1950, check to see if you have your original bill of sale. If not, check with your title company and ask them to send you a copy of the original deed and specifically the “Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions” of your house. If your home has a racial covenant, it should have language restricting ownership to Caucausian.

Have you heard stories from your family about not being able to live in certain neighborhoods in San Diego due to racism?

We want to hear from you.

Share your stories and original deeds in the form below or email KPBS Race and Equity reporter Cristina Kim directly at chkim@kpbs.org.

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