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Redlining History Brought To Life In La Jolla And Kensington

A volunteer, part of a group that staged a redlining public art project in La Jolla, marks with red washable paint on Sept. 10, 2020, the areas once labeled as “servants quarters” where the so-called “serving class” lived.
Tania Thorne
A volunteer, part of a group that staged a redlining public art project in La Jolla, marks with red washable paint on Sept. 10, 2020, the areas once labeled as “servants quarters” where the so-called “serving class” lived.

Organizations working to improve the lives of people living in poverty set out to draw red lines on streets and sidewalks in La Jolla and Kensington on Thursday to call attention to San Diego’s legacy of residential redlining.

Redlining maps were a form of discrimination used by banks and realtors to prevent home buying by minority groups in some neighborhoods. Red lines were also drawn to determine where poor people were allowed to live.

Redlining History Brought To Life In La Jolla And Kensington
Listen to this story by Tania Thorne.

With red washable paint in hand, volunteers marked an area in La Jolla once labeled as “servants quarters” where the so-called “serving class” lived.

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The "public art project” outlined a theme of mapping inequality in San Diego with a pamphlet detailing the city’s history of redlining back to the 1930s.

“You'll notice that the federal government was very explicit in telling lenders and others these are good places to invest: Kensington, Talmadge, Mission Hills, La Jolla,” said Ricardo Flores, executive director of Local Initiatives Support Corporation. “These are good places to invest because there is single family zoning and that that zoning essentially allows for those communities to stay exclusively white.”

In Kensington, volunteers were able to paint the historic red lines and pass out the pamphlets to the public. In La Jolla, volunteers were confronted by security from The Bishop’s School, who threatened to call police.

Out of concern over legal action, the volunteer stopped the art project.

The Bishop’s School, which is a KPBS supporter, later issued a statement saying, “The situation today, in which the police were called on a woman painting red lines adjacent to our campus, was one of misunderstanding. The school's security team mistakenly assessed the situation as vandalism. The Bishop's School is committed to supporting diversity ... Members of the community ... do not intentionally stand in the way of social justice practices or demonstration.”

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It was unknown Thursday whether the volunteers will be going back to finish the public art project.

Corrected: April 23, 2024 at 5:22 PM PDT
This story was produced with support from the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.