Marin cities embrace project to review restrictive housing policies – Marin Independent Journal

Marin cities embrace project to review restrictive housing policies – Marin Independent Journal


Marin County cities say they will work with a county program educating residents about racially restrictive covenants that might exist in the deeds of their homes.

The Board of Supervisors adopted a program in May aimed at complying with federal and state requirements to affirm fair housing that would allow homeowners to file amendments to deeds that exclude people of color. The covenants, which are now illegal, were largely created by the Federal Housing Administration, and required developers to incorporate restrictive language barring sale of homes to people of color.

The county Assessor’s Office has identified more than 49,000 residences in Marin constructed before 1970 that may have ethnicity restrictive covenants in property deeds. Through the new program, residents are able to check real estate documents to see if discriminatory language exists, certify and affirm the illegal and racially restrictive covenants are unconstitutional and file a public statement protesting that language.

The county plans to create a website where residents who submit their deeds can share their personal stories and comments and will use the submitted deeds to create a map showing where restrictive covenants exist in Marin.

San Rafael City Manager Jim Schutz said, “San Rafael enthusiastically supports the county’s efforts on this project to raise awareness and understanding about racially restrictive covenants through our history.”

Mayor Kate Colin said San Rafael does not have the capacity to initiate more local city-level educational forums about housing policy such as covenants and redlining.

“The county has the resources, both people and funding, that cities just don’t have,” Colin said, adding she hopes discussions about pursuing more equity in development, with county support, will continue. San Rafael, like other cities and towns, is focused on new policies addressing racial justice and social equity, and will soon perform a new internal equity audit of city systems and practices.

In Novato, Community and Economic Development Director Vicki Parker said, “We have no plans to collect oral histories as a component of our housing element update, though we certainly hope the stories of Novato residents are captured through the county’s project.”

“We will be working on issues of segregation and equity during our update to ensure that we are knowledgeable of, and actively addressing, structural or programmatic conditions that are allowing segregation or lack of equity to occur or continue,” said Parker, who said the city will be working with a housing consultant later this summer.

In Mill Valley, “We have been very interested in this topic since June of last year,” Mayor John McCauley said.

“During a five-hour community meeting discussing issues of racial equity, council raised the restrictive covenant issue and directed staff to examine how we could partner with the county to educate our community about our local history of discriminatory housing and to make the process to refute the covenants less burdensome,” he said.

Mill Valley has a diversity, equity and inclusion work plan, and over the past several months city staff has reached out to the county offering assistance with the covenant program, city leaders said.

“We recognize that government agencies have played a role in the creation of racial inequities, especially around land use and housing,” City Manager Alan Piombo said, “Now it is time to have thoughtful conversations about our history and work together to find solutions that create equitable outcomes.”

The county is also using the program to educate people about the history of “redlining,” which drew boundaries to show where people of color were not allowed to live prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. At the May 25 meeting, several commenters told the supervisors they felt the move was not enough to lead to real action toward greater equity in housing.

Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California Executive Director Caroline Peattie said while she supports the project, “I will also say that to me it’s very much a first step.”

“I think it’s important for people to understand and be educated about why it’s important, that we need to do something in a substantive way around improving housing equity,” which is much more difficult, she said.



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