Program 22 of the 2021-2029 Housing Element

The City of La Cañada Flintridge is committed to being an inclusive city, making housing available to people of all races, ethnicities, abilities, and backgrounds.

In response, Program 22 of the City’s Housing Element provides homeowners with the following instructions on how to remove antiquated, unlawful, and discriminatory restrictions that may still appear in older property records, titles, and grant deeds.

What are racially restrictive covenants?

“Covenants” are private contracts or conditions that appear in support of property grant deeds and titles. Not all covenants are bad – they typically regulate the use, access, or ongoing maintenance of a property, such as a shared driveway or utility line.

However, during the 1920s with the rise of segregation in the United States, property owners and real estate entities began inserting “racially restrictive covenants” (also known as “racial covenants”) into property deeds to exclude minority groups from ownership or living in certain communities. These racial covenants would sometimes use subtle and veiled language promoting “exclusive” or “elite” residential communities. Other times, the language would be very direct and derogatory, listing specific people groups to be excluded. Sadly, these practices were once commonplace in California, including in La Cañada Flintridge, and sometimes, racial covenants still appear in property records.

What is the legal history?

In 1948, the U.S. Supreme Court (Shelley v. Kraemer) unanimously ruled that racial covenants were no longer legally enforceable, even if they were written into property deeds.

In 1968, the Federal Fair Housing Act formally classified all forms of discrimination in housing based on race, religion, national origin, sex, or familial status to be unconstitutional – further nullifying all racially restrictive covenants.

Today, all jurisdictions in California are responsible for working with their constituents to remove any racial covenant.

How do I remove a racial covenant from my property?

In September 2021, California enacted Assembly Bill (AB) 1466, authorizing property owners, title and escrow companies, county recorders, and real estate professionals to process a Restrictive Covenant Modification to remove racially restrictive covenants from property records.

Steps to remove a racial covenant:

  1. Request a copy of your Grant Deed from the Los Angeles County Recorder’s website – requests can be made online, via mail, or in-person with an appointment.
  2. Determine if your property has a racially restrictive covenant? Review your grant deed for any discriminatory language and exclusions (race, color, religion, age, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, familial status, marital status, disability, veteran or military status, genetic information, national origin, source of income). If you find restrictions but are not clear if they are lawful or not, please consult with the City’s Planning Division.
  3. If a racial covenant or similar restriction is found:
    • Highlight or underline the unlawful provision on the recorded document.
    • Complete this Restrictive Covenant Modifications Form – may be completed and signed digitally.
    • Submit the Restrictive Covenant Modification Form and the highlighted document to the LA County Recorder.

Submission Options:

  1. How long will it take to process?
    Submissions will be reviewed by the LA County Counsel to determine if the language in the original document contains an unlawful restriction. If present, the County Counsel will sign the form and return it to the Recorder’s office to complete the recording and indexing process.
    The original recorded document will be returned to the submitting party listed in the top left corner of the Restrictive Covenant Modification Form.
    No payment is required as these documents are free to revise and record.

Interested in further reading on this topic?

If you are interested to learn more about this topic and how the larger region is addressing past racial inequities, please see the County of Los Angeles Racial Equity Strategic Plan.