Letters to the Editor: Roll back single-family zoning, the legacy of racist housing covenants

GRANADA HILLS, CALIF. -- TUESDAY, MAY 21, 2019: Aerial photographs of homes in California State Senate Majority Leader Robert Hertzberg's 18th district in Granada Hills, Calif., on May 21, 2019. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
An aerial view of a neighborhood of single-family homes in Granada Hills in 2019. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: It's good that Los Angeles County is working to clear the remnants of old, outdated racial housing covenants from the documentary record. But we perpetuate the effects of those explicitly racist covenants when we hold on to implicitly racist land-use rules, especially single-family zoning.

As documented by historian Richard Rothstein in his book "The Color of Law," communities nationwide, including here in L.A., turned to exclusionary residential zoning in direct response to court decisions barring race-based covenants.

The effect was the same: Wealthier (and disproportionately white) single-family home owners would be given exclusive access to certain neighborhoods, shielded from the poorer apartment renters (disproportionately people of color) who would be packed into buildings elsewhere.

That effect was 100% intentional. And it continues today, even here in liberal Los Angeles.

As long as 75% of this region's residential land is reserved for wealthier, disproportionately whiter single-family home owners, L.A. will remain racially segregated — no matter how hard we scrub the historical record.

Patrick Meighan, Culver City


To the editor: As a Holocaust survivor, I am often asked to speak at the Museum of Tolerance. Recently, I was asked during a discussion, "When you came to America, did you experience any antisemitism?"

It took me back to the time when I was chased home after school by children throwing rocks, calling me "dirty Jew." And to a fistfight I had in the schoolyard with a girl who called me her friend, until she learned the J-word.

Your article about racist covenants and restrictions in housing reminded me that Jews were not accepted in the new San Fernando housing developments. Newspapers and magazines looking for clients and employees often added the words "Christian clientele" or, more directly, "Jews need not apply."

The seeds of antisemitism were sown back then. They are blooming still today. What else must we do to make my childhood dreams of tolerance and brotherhood come true?

Sonia Levitin, Los Angeles


To the editor: "Redacting" racist language from old real estate records and covenants sounds to me like whitewashing history. It's like rewriting "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" to pretend that white people were polite to enslaved people.

Patrick Mauer, Pasadena

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.