By KENNETH ZAK | Uptown News
I’ve enjoyed living in four different Mission Hills homes over the past 20 years. Meandering past so many well-preserved, historic homes is a cherished benefit of our neighborhood. So, as the centennial of our 1920 craftsman bungalow approached, Kyona and I wanted to celebrate its history and contribute to its preservation. We repainted our home in historically accurate colors, repaired the original iron spot brick fireplace, fixed the roof, commissioned beveled glass windows to compliment the original stained glass, and reproduced two handcrafted Westport Plank chairs for our covered porch.
But in reviewing the title to our home, we also uncovered a grant deed recorded in 1912 from the Mission Hills Company. That grant deed included a restrictive covenant that “runs with the land” upon which our home was built and provides “[t]hat no part of the premises hereby conveyed shall be conveyed, transferred or demised to any person other than the White or Caucasian race.” This racist restrictive covenant, now clearly illegal and unenforceable, had nonetheless been part of the title documents for every sale of the property over the past 100 years.
Rather than ignore the offensive language, we decided to face this ugly history and take action.
Research revealed that California property owners may file with the County Recorder a Restrictive Covenant Modification eliminating such provisions. California Government Code Section 12956.2 specifically allows eliminating any property restrictive covenant based on race, color, religion, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, familial status, disability, veteran or military status, genetic information, national origin, or source of income or ancestry in violation of state and federal fair housing laws.
Following the statute to eliminate the offensive provision was simple and inexpensive.
First, we obtained a full copy of the grant deed containing the restrictive covenant from the San Diego County Administration Building at 1600 Pacific Highway. The clerk was extremely helpful. Copies of those two pages cost only $2.05.
Second, we prepared the Restrictive Covenant Modification document and had it notarized. A full copy of the grant deed was attached with the offensive restrictive covenant language stricken through (but still legible so the County Counsel could confirm the language fell within the statute).
Finally, we recorded the modification document in a second trip to the County Administration Building, again assisted by a very helpful clerk. While the statute provides the County Recorder may waive the filing fee, they declined to do so. The recording fee was $95.
We had already spent a lot of time and effort preserving the structure and appearance of our home for its centennial. But forever purging the racist restrictive covenant language from its title felt even better. We cannot change history, we can only make it. We hope that removing such language preserved something much more significant for the present and future of Mission Hills: our humanity.