Culver City prides itself as a progressive town with tree-lined streets, great schools, and a diverse and friendly population. But few people know that Culver City was initially founded for whites only. In 1915, Harry Culver and his associate Guy Rush advertised their new town as a “model little white city”, with “lots restricted to Caucasian race.”
With Buchanan v Wareley in 1917, the Supreme Court declared explicit racial zoning unconstitutional. So like many towns, Culver City opted to exclude people of color via other means: redlining, deed restrictions and something called Exclusionary Zoning.
Exclusionary Zoning is a system of land-use policies intended to make housing deliberately more expensive. Multi-family housing bans, plot size minimums, floor-area ratio limits… they were all designed to serve the same racist purpose: to ensure that only people who are wealthy and “suitable” (read: white) could live in certain Culver City neighborhoods, and to exclude poor and “incompatible” (read: black) families from desirable areas with good schools and better economic opportunity.
Culver City neighborhood description (1939) describing "1000 sq. ft. minimums", touting protection against "racial hazards"
Unfortunately, Exclusionary Zoning lives on to this day in Culver City. In the majority of our residential areas, it’s still illegal to build multi-plexes, townhomes, apartments, and other more affordable multi-family options, while lot minimums and other Exclusionary Zoning practices continue to serve their original purpose: to keep out poor people, working folks, and people of color. Small wonder the Washington Post declared: "'Snob zoning’ is racial housing segregation by another name.”
As the percentage of single-family zoning increases, the percentage of residents who are of color decreases.
Culver City today is no longer the “Little Mississippi” or “Little Texas” that it was 100 years ago. But we still haven’t made the connection between our personal views on racial, social, and economic justice and the zoning policies that dictate who can and cannot be our neighbors.
BLM protest at Culver City Hall (credit: Culver City Crossroads)
Most of us in Culver City were rightly disgusted by the bigotry of former-president Donald Trump. But we willfully refused to see ourselves in the barely-veiled racism of Trump’s warning that Democrats want to “eliminate single-family zoning, bringing who knows into your suburbs, so your communities will be unsafe and your housing values will go down.”
In November of 2020, Culver City got rid of a racist president. Now, in 2021, let’s do the same to racist Exclusionary Zoning.
Join on May 10th, when we demand that our City Council finally bring an end to the racist practice of Exclusionary Zoning.
Subscribe to the CC4MH & POC4CHANGE email lists to get more info on how you can participate in the future.
Send an email to our City Council, declaring that Exclusionary Zoning is not consistent with Culver City’s values of equality and diversity.