Gregg Fishman and his wife moved into Sacramento’s upscale Arden Park neighborhood in 2001, enchanted by the shady Modesto ash, lush parks, large lots and friendly atmosphere.
They didn’t realize that along with their 1950s-era California ranch-style home they were buying a piece of America’s racist past.
Tucked into their property records, in tiny type, is the “Racial Occupancy” clause:
“No persons of any race other than White Caucasian race shall use or occupy any building or any lot except . . . by domestic servants of a different race domiciled with an owner or tenant . . . ”
The language is contained in the “covenants, conditions and restrictions” originally developed for the neighborhood, and is similar to restrictions imposed on millions of homes nationwide, dating back to the 1700s, when property first was recorded by cities and counties.
The “CC&Rs,” approved by local governments, were enforceable by law until 1948. Although a series of laws since have made them illegal, the offensive language persists, affixed to thousands of homes built in segregated neighborhoods before the civil rights era of the 1960s.
When Fishman and other members of the Arden Park Homeowners Association learned that many of the homes in the neighborhood still had the racist restrictions in their paperwork, they resolved to get the language removed. That turned out to be easier said than done.