Single-family zoning, a legacy of racist housing agreements, must end

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editor: It's a good thing that Los Angeles County is working to remove from the documentary record the remnants of old, outdated racial housing covenants.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

As historian Richard Rothstein documents in his book “The Color of Law,” communities across the country, including here in Los Angeles, turned to exclusionary residential zoning in direct response to court decisions prohibiting covenants based on in the race.

The effect was the same: Wealthier (and disproportionately white) single-family homeowners would have exclusive access to certain neighborhoods, protected from poorer apartment renters (disproportionately people of color) who would be crammed 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 and disproportionately whiter single-family homeowners, Los Angeles will remain racially segregated, no matter how much we clean up the historical record.

Patrick Meighan, Culver City

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To the editor: As a Holocaust survivor, I am often asked to speak at the Museum of Tolerance. Recently, during a discussion I was asked: “When you came to the United States, did you experience any anti-Semitism?”

It reminded me of the time when kids would chase me home after school, throw rocks at me, and call me a “dirty Jew.” And to a fight I had in the schoolyard with a girl who called me her friend, until she learned the F-word.

Your article on racist pacts and housing restrictions reminded me that Jews were not accepted in the new housing developments in San Fernando. Newspapers and magazines seeking clients and employees often added the words “Christian clientele” or, more directly, “Jews need not apply.”

At that time the seeds of anti-Semitism were sown. They still flourish today. What more must we do to make my childhood dreams of tolerance and brotherhood come true?

Sonia Levitin, Los Angeles

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

Patrick Mauer, Pasadena

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