The terms "redlining" and "racial covenant" are part of the country's sad history of race and the housing industries. In pre-World War II Los Angeles, segregation and discriminatory lending practices were not just tolerated, they were virtually mandated by the federal government, particularly in the creation of neighborhood subdivisions. In observation of Black History Month, a new digital exhibit in the Gerth Archives & Special Collections illustrates how developers of a small West Los Angeles subdivision were forced to become essentially the weaponized arm of the government's racist attitudes.
During the Great Depression, the government founded the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) to help people enter the home ownership market by insuring the loans banks made to the new buyers. Thousands of people become homeowners in new neighborhoods were developed, but there was a catch: the FHA would support a neighborhood only if they were White-only, and only if there were protections to keep them that way.
The small, picturesque Tract 11556 was purchased in 1938 by the Francis Land Company (one of the Dominguez family companies growing out of the Rancho San Pedro). The development of Tract 11556 into the Cheviot Knolls subdivision is told through original documents in the Rancho San Pedro Collection, as well as other primary and secondary sources. At the center of the story is the developer's drive to gain FHA approval -- the only thing that could guarantee the subdivision's success. Viewers will have a better idea of the government's policies of segregation and housing discrimination, and will better understand how the harm the FHA and other government agencies inflicted on communities of color continue to be felt today.
The exhibit can be found on the Gerth Archives & Special Collection Exhibitions page, or viewers may visit the exhibit directly by clicking here.