Restrictive Covenant Project

Overview

The Restrictive Covenant Project aims to inform and educate Marin County residents of the history and significance of government policies and programs that were intentionally discriminatory and helped create segregated communities in Marin. The use of racially restrictive covenants prohibited the purchase, lease, or occupation of a piece of property to a particular group of people, primarily Black and African Americans. And while those covenants are illegal today, many continue to remain in property deeds throughout Marin.

Through the collaboration of the Community Development Agency, the County’s Office of Equity and the Assessor-Recorder’s Office, residents of Marin are able to certify and affirm that illegal and racially restrictive covenants are unconstitutional and violate current laws and County values. Residents, former residents, and families who currently or formerly lived in Marin are encouraged to share personal stories about their lived experiences beginning with the Marinship years, to help create a narrative history of our County.

Index

About the Project

Homeowners can identify any illegal or unlawful restrictive covenant and have the language acknowledged in their property deeds. Illegal and unlawful language may be submitted to the County’s Community Development Agency for review and to certify such covenants cannot be enforced, are illegal, and are inconsistent with Marin County laws and values. This certified document can be placed on top of the homeowner’s title report for future and potential buyers.

In addition, State law authorizes a person who holds an ownership interest of record in a property that is the subject of a racially or otherwise unlawfully restrictive covenant, to record a Restrictive Covenant Modification document to have the illegal language stricken. Homeowners can record a Restrictive Covenant Modification with the Assessor- Recorder’s office.

You are invited to share stories, photos, or experiences about the impact of racial covenants in Marin and how it has affected your life and the lives of those you know and love. Sharing will help us learn collectively as a County.

 Learn more about how all residents can participate.

History

A covenant is a legally enforceable contract imposed in a deed upon the buyer of property. Racially restrictive covenants refer to legal agreements that prohibit the purchase, lease, or occupation of a piece of property by a particular group of people and that prohibit the homeowner from selling or renting to anybody of a specific race or ethnic background.

“...hereafter no part of said property or any portion thereof shall be…occupied by any person not of the Caucasian race, it being intended hereby to restrict the use of said property…against occupancy as owners or tenants of any portion of said property for resident or other purposes by people of the Negro or Mongolian race.”

Restrictive covenants were an effective way to segregate neighborhoods and stabilize the property values of white families, and beginning in 1934, the Federal Housing Authority recommended the inclusion of restrictive covenants in the deeds of homes it insured. These racially restrictive covenants made it illegal for African Americans to purchase, lease or rent homes in white communities. In a landmark 1948 ruling, the Supreme Court deemed all racial restrictive covenants unenforceable. While Titles VIII and IX of the 1968 Civil Rights Act, also known as the Fair Housing Act, prohibited discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing in housing-related transactions based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, marital status, and familial status, many restrictive covenants continue to remain in property deeds throughout Marin.

For any questions about the project, please reach out to Liz Darby.

Contact

For any questions about the project, please reach out to Liz Darby.