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La Canada Flintridge Was A Sundown Town

Sundown towns, also known as sunset towns, gray towns, or sundowner towns, are all-white municipalities or neighborhoods in the United States that practice a form of racial segregation by excluding non-whites via some combination of discriminatory local laws, intimidation, or violence. This page details some initial research that indicates that our community was a sundown town. Please consider signing-on to support the passing of a resolution acknowledging our racially-exclusionary past so that we can make La Canada a more inclusive and welcoming place for all.

 

Redlining In La Canada Flintridge

It is fairly easy for us to look around and see how the demographics of La Canada do not reflect the diversity of LA County, but it takes a little more searching to understand how we got here. This page will hopefully provide a glimpse into how the development of our city was profoundly shaped by racist legislation and attitudes and how this impacts our community today. 


The first image on this page depicts a billboard advertising the “Protective restrictions on all lots” referring to the racially restrictive covenants that prohibited the sale of a property to non-white people in Flintridge. While these types of restrictions had been in place since the late 19th century they became more popularized in the 1910s. And in 1939 a map made by the Homeowners Loan Corporation (HOLC) formalized the practice of what we refer to today as redlining. This map defined each neighborhood with a color. 
Green = "Best"
Blue = "Still Desirable"
Yellow = "Definitely Declining"
Red = "Hazardous"

It was not until 1953 that the supreme court invalidated the practice of racial covenants, but while this allowed for Jewish, Latino, and Asian families to begin moving to new areas in the San Fernando valley in the 1950s and 60s Black families were often met with more hostility from the predominantly white suburbs long after the practice of redlining was abolished. Systemic housing discrimination continued as did hostility and violence towards non-white home buyers which resulted in the passing of the Rumford Fair Housing Act in 1963 which allowed the state to intervene if racial discrimination was reported. The Rumford Act was quickly overturned two years later when prop 14 (which sought to roll back fair housing provisions) passed with 70% approval from LA. It took another Supreme Court ruling in 1967 to defeat prop 14, but the legacy of decades of discrimination is still blatantly visible today.

 
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HOLC Map In La Canada

As you can expect, the Homeowners Loan Corporation gave the La Canada and Flintridge neighborhoods the high ratings of blue and green respectively. As demonstrated by the map above the rating of an area directly correlated with the presence of deed restrictions which were said to be in place in perpetuity in Flintridge. And in La Canada the map blatantly states the presence of “protections from racial hazards''. In comparison the neighborhood in Pasadena (bottom right) serves as an example of a community that was redlined. You can see how explicit and derogatory the language was using phrases such as “subversive racial elements” to describe the area. View the full area descriptions for La Canada and Flintridge linked below.

 

La Canadians Support of Redlining 1941

“We are confronted with a serious situation in La Cañada Valley. A colored family is negotiating for the purchase of a home in this locality; a certain property owner is urging the lifting of race restrictions; and prospective restrictions either have lapsed or are on the point of lapsing. Be it understood that La Cañada Valley Chamber of Commerce holds no brief for race discrimination; but we do feel strongly that we are privileged to choose our own neighbors. There is one thing to do: we must get together and work out a program of mutual protection.”

- Frank Lanterman, 1941

 

The Incorporation of La Canada in 1976

While the decision to incorporate La Canada Flintridge as a new city in Los Angeles County was obviously multifaceted, oral and written history suggests that a desire to maintain a predominately White community was a factor for some. The excerpt below is from a Los Angeles Times article from 1986.

"Privately, some residents say that the incorporation drive had racist overtones. Some residents were afraid that a court would order busing among school districts--La Canada has had its own school district since 1960--that would send inner city students their way. That fear was an impetus for formation of a city, which would be able to oppose busing more successfully than an unincorporated territory, they said.

But city officials say busing was never a real issue." 

 

The Legacy of Redlining

In 1980, four years after our incorporation, the U.S. Census reported that the Black or African American

population of La Canada Flintridge was 0.0026% and in 2010 was 0.54% and 2019 estimates place it at just 0.8%.

 

Black Residents Still Face Discrimination In La Canada Today

“When the cops in your neighborhood are telling you that they could’ve pulled a gun on you, that just instills more and more fear in you,” he said. “It just gives me more reason not to go on a jog in the neighborhood; all it does is give me one more reason to not feel a part of La Cañada, which is tough, because I feel like I’m an upstanding citizen. I’m doing the furthest thing from attempted murder, you know? I’m a Black kid at Princeton.


- LCF resident who has been stopped by LASD deputies in La Canada 7 times

In response, then Crescenta Valley Sheriff Station Captain Bill Song suggested that he, “get to know a lot of the neighbors.”

 

Racism Today

The legacy of racial discrimination is clearly displayed in the culture of our local schools.

If you just take a look at the past year, students at St Francis, Prep, FSHA, and LCHS all took it upon themselves to begin sharing dozens of quotes about their experiences with racism in our community. These are just a small selection of the quotes being shared by these students on social media that indicate the presence of a larger issue in which students of color continue to face discrimination and overt racism in our community while others including teachers and faculty turn a blind eye.

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Fortunately, the La Canada Unified School District has begun to address the issues of discrimination within our community by creating a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) commitment. While this is a great first step, we cannot pretend that our community's history of racism started with our schools and should not leave it up to the schools to fix it. It is time for every member of our community to begin working towards a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive La Canada Flintridge.

 

Black and POC residents should not have to publicly post their trauma on instagram or "get to know a lot of neighbors" in order to feel safe and not be threatened by deputies in our own community! It is clear that La Canada has a long road towards dismantling our legacy of racial discrimination. We need to come together as a community to reckon with our City's past to ensure a safe and welcoming community for all.

 

Racial Covenant Modification Guide

How to check if the deed to your house includes racial restrictions.

While the Supreme Court ruled racial covenants unenforceable in 1948 and illegal in 1968, many deeds in the United States still contain the original restrictions. California recently passed

 

#AllAreWelcomeLA

Reckoning with our past to create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive Los Angeles.

Our impact goes beyond the boarders of our community. Both Glendale and Burbank have already passed similar resolutions, it's time we do the same. Click the button below to read more about how redlining impacted communities around LA and how you can help.