Dark Los Angeles : The Deed

I live in Studio City, which is a neighborhood of Los Angeles, California in the San Fernando Valley. 

Studio City got its name in 1927 when Mack Sennett built his studio next to a new neighborhood under construction so his studio employees could buy homes and live close to where they worked. That studio became Republic Pictures, where many B-movies and Gene Autry Westerns were shot, and eventually CBS bought the studio and now mostly TV shows are shot there on 18 different sound stages. Early episodes of Leave it To Beaver were shot there, along with most of the Mary Tyler Moore Show.

Most residents of Studio City don’t work at CBS Radford Studios, but many work in the Film, TV and Music Industries. There are a lot of old Hollywood touches in the neighborhood.

The Sportsmen’s Lodge on Ventura Boulevard has photos in the lobby of the different movie stars who drove out from Hollywood in the 1930s to stay there, ostensibly to hunt, but more often to have affairs.

At the end of my block are two wooden buildings built by Universal Studios in the 1940s that look like family homes, but when you look closer they actually hold studio and one-bedroom apartments each with its own private entrance, so young single women under contract could live together without scandal.

That’s the sunny side of Studio City, but like every neighborhood in Los Angeles we have a darker side too, often right in front of us.

Our home was a tract home built in 1939 and cost $4500 in construction costs. We are the third owners of the property and we have the original deed from 1940. A few pages into the dense legalese, you can find this clause:

i)That no lot in said tract shall at any time be lived upon by an person whose blood is not entirely that of the Caucasian race, and for the purposes of this paragraph, no Japanese, Chinese, Mexican, Hindu, or any person of the Ethiopian, Indian or Mongolian races shall be deemed to be Caucasian; but if persons not of the Caucasian race be kept thereon by such Caucasian occupant, strictly in the capacity of servants or employees of said occupant, such circumstances shall not constitute a violation of this condition.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 made this clause illegal half a century ago, but it’s still creepy to think that my home and neighborhood were first built to be for whites only.

It’s also strange how each race is singled out and described so carefully; you don’t often read Japanese, Chinese, Mexican, Hindu, Ethiopian, Indian and Mongolian people all being excluded by whites in the same sentence.

It’s probably a negative reaction to a positive California trait - California has always attracted immigrants from around the world, and in 1939 there were probably enough Japanese, Chinese, Mexican, Hindu, Ethiopian, Indians and Mongolians living here to strike fear into home developers trying to keep their new California neighborhoods lily-white.

I don’t think tract home developers in Alabama or Texas in 1939 put the same clause into their title documents; if anything, I suspect that those states would have excluded groups of people with the all-inclusive words “colored” and maybe “Jewish.”

I also wonder what groups of people they were trying to exclude by writing “Ethiopian” and “Mongolian.”

You don’t meet Ethiopians and Mongolians very often in the United States, so in their ignorance they must have been mislabeling some group of people -- maybe Native Americans?

Studio City is still predominately white. There are Asian and Hispanic residents, but Caucasian is still the majority. I wonder how that will change over the next few decades as California and the United States continues to change.

Keep reading the blog for more dark facts about sun-splashed Los Angeles.