These readers have clear memories of L.A.'s racist housing practices

·3 min read
Aerial photograph of the San Fernando Valley in 1953
An aerial photo, taken in 1953, shows a housing tract in Panorama City, a neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley. (USC Libraries / Corbis via Getty Images)

To the editor: Thanks to Gene Slater for his op-ed article on the history of housing segregation in Los Angeles. It brought back memories of my shock and revulsion when my husband and I bought our first house in Westchester in 1955 and we unwittingly became part of the "Kentwood Home Guardians."

This was an organization established by the Superior Oil Company in 1943, whose Declaration of Protective Restrictions included the provision that only members of the white race could live in the Kentwood area of Westchester. Anyone living in that part of Westchester was automatically a member.

This was enforced until passage of the Fair Housing Act in 1968, and even after then it was the unwritten policy of realtors to steer Black home-seekers away from Westchester. Furthermore, it was well known that any realtor who sold to a Black buyer would never again sell another property in that area.

Thank goodness those days are over, but they should not be forgotten.

Jean Koch, Los Angeles

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To the editor: The aerial photo of the San Fernando Valley in 1953 caught my attention. That was the year our family moved from Cleveland to Sun Valley, buying a new tract home for $11,000.

My elementary school in Cleveland in the late 1940s and early ’50s was integrated. My new elementary school in the San Fernando Valley was not; it was mostly white, with some Asian students.

One day in 1954, a neighbor knocked on our door with a petition he wanted Dad to sign. Apparently, an Asian family was planning on moving in down the street, and this had to be stopped. With language I cannot use here, Dad told the man he could go to hell, and besides, we would rather have the Asian family as neighbors than that bigot.

It was an awakening moment for me. I was very proud of my dad that day.

Jerry Lasnik, Thousand Oaks

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To the editor: I lived in the Windsor Hills/View Park area of Los Angeles in the 1950s and ’60s with my parents. I remember "block busting," which was not mentioned in the op-ed article.

Block busting was an effort to get white people to list their homes for sale because, they were being told, people from South L.A. were coming to the area to buy, and owners should sell while they could get a good price.

When the Fair Housing Act was passed, we became aware of how African Americans could "legally" be shut out of housing. "Redlining" practices by lenders existed until at least the 1990s.

I became a realtor in 1980 in Orange County. Fair Housing rules were emphasized then and have been to this day. It's correct to teach about past discrimination over and over, because otherwise we will forget or fail to learn about it in the first place.

Jane Olinger, Irvine

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To the editor: Los Angeles' realtors might have led the way on residential segregation, but they were certainly not alone. When we bought our house in Sacramento in 1993, there was a provision in the boilerplate purchase agreement that stipulated that people of color could not buy in the neighborhood.

After finding this, I brought it to the attention of our realtor. "Oh, that's not in effect anymore," she said, "because it is superseded by federal law."

I was aghast and struck out the section with a Sharpie pen. I could not, would not agree to such a contract, regardless of racist intent being rendered moot. The fact that it was still there indicated a lack of concern, which I hope does not hold true today.

David Comden, Ventura

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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