North County Restrictive Covenants

Most people associate illegal housing discrimination with “redlining.” While that was a ubiquitous practice before it was outlawed, another common way of keeping a neighborhood “white” was through the use of restrictive covenants. The Fair Housing Center of Greater Boston has a good article on the use of covenants. As they point out, these agreements evolved in response to the Buchanan v. Warley Supreme Court decision in 1917, making municipally mandated racial zoning illegal.

North County San Diego was part of this history. Below is an example of a covenant issued in 1948 for transfer of land to the Cardiff School District.

Currently, only eight-tenths of one percent of Encinitas residents are Black. This demographic fact motivated E4E’s Housing Committee to research  whether racist covenant deeds existed in Encinitas, and to better understand the history of redlining throughout San Diego County.

We were deeply troubled to find examples of racist covenant deeds in Encinitas.  One deed from 1930 included the following language:

“…does hereby quit-claim to Cardiff School District the real property…of Cardiff Villa Trace…Provided, however, that this quit-claim is made upon the following express conditions, which are hereby made covenants running with the land:

That said premises shall not be sold, conveyed or leased to or occupied by any person not of the white or Caucasion race.

Upon the breach of the foregoing condition and restriction, the title to said premises shall immediately ipso facto revert to and vest in the Grantor herein….”

A second quit-claim deed from 1948 included a similar restriction:

“Neither the whole or any part of said premises shall be sold, conveyed, leased or rented to any person other than of the White or Caucasian race…unless such person be in the employ of the resident owner or resident tenant of said premises.”

In May 1948, in Shelley v. Kraemer, the Supreme Court struck down restrictive covenants altogether. Yet the Cardiff Quit Claim was executed in October 1948, begging the question: were these two public agencies, the irrigation district and the school district, just ignorant of the law or actually defiant?

Covenants and quit claims like these reinforced the segregation and discrimination against BIPOC people caused by redlining, another practice carried out in San Diego County. See the section on redlining in this site for more info.