Report Details City’s Prior Methodology of Prejudice

Image courtesy city of Glendale
This 1939 map indicates which neighborhoods in Glendale, among other areas, were subject to the “redlining” that was often used to keep minorities from property ownership.

Councilman Ara Najarian didn’t mince words when it came time for his input at this week’s City Council discussion on the local history of racism.
“Glendale was a cruel place, I have to tell you,” he said. “Looking back, there was incredible disrespect and abuse of certain citizens and people of color that, I’m afraid to say, continues to this day.”
The council had just been briefed on a compendium of research by city staff that took them as far back as 1920, when the U.S. Census reported that Black people represented a mere 0.16% of Glendale’s population — and virtually all were likely live-in domestic workers, the research indicated. Since then, the percentage of Black residents in the city has increased tenfold, rising to 1.6%, a stark contrast with the figure for all of Los Angeles County — 9%.
A deeper dive into the city’s history confirmed what many public officials and community leaders have repeatedly said in recent months: that as an “organized jurisdiction that for decades kept African-Americans or other groups from living in it and was thus ‘all-white’ on purpose,” the Glendale of the past fit the definition of a sundown town offered by sociologist James Loewen. A resolution approved unanimously by the council this week formally censured that past as part of a broader effort to turn the page and promote a culture of equity moving forward.
“Our actions here tonight can’t fix the past, but they are certainly going to lift the consciousness of the community,” Councilman Ardy Kassakhian said.
The city dedicated time to this research in July because “we cannot contend with race today if we don’t understand and acknowledge racism from the past,” as city senior executive analyst Christine Powers said. Glendale, like many cities across the nation, was already taking part in the national conversation on race after the death of George Floyd, which occurred while he was being arrested for a nonviolent offense in Minneapolis.
Powers’ research, conducted with the help of the city’s planning and library departments and with input from a local anti-racism coalition, was compiled over the course of three months and cited dozens of historical records and documents. Although the research did not uncover a formal policy of racial discrimination by the city, it was Glendale’s myriad housing covenants that “most clearly represented” the discrimination efforts in the city, the city’s report said.
Racially restricted housing was advertised here in the 1910s and 1920s, and by the 1940s, Glendale was “noted as a model for other communities that wanted to racially restrict housing,” according to the report. In 1940, the California Real Estate Association cited Glendale as “being worthy of singular praise in its utilization of measures to keep it a ‘100% Caucasian Race Community,’” based on pledges signed by homeowners to not sell or rent to non-Caucasians. The Glendale chapter of the CREA formed a Race Restriction Committee in 1942 to further enhance these restrictions, and in the CREA’s 1949 annual directory, the Glendale delegation “proudly declared” the city to be a “100% Caucasian Race Community.”
According to the report, a collection of articles unearthed from Los Angeles-area newspapers throughout the years also noted a variety of hate crimes and intimidation against Black people and other minorities in Glendale.
“Contemporaneous accounts and oral histories from Black people who worked in or lived near Glendale consistently noted hostility and discrimination,” Powers told the council. “We also discovered that individuals who were not white were prohibited from being buried in Forest Lawn until the 1960s.”
The effects of these exclusionary housing covenants were exacerbated by the development of maps by entities like the Home Owner’s Loan Corporation and the Federal Housing Authority during the 1930s, which were used to determine risk level associated with lending or investment in neighborhoods.
The maps used color codes — in descending order, green, blue, yellow and red — to help lending firms determine risk for prospective clients, and although proximity to industry was a factor, the “primary determining factor for classification was racial composition,” according to the report. In other words, the “declining” (yellow) and “hazardous” (red) neighborhoods were labeled as such for their “high presence of minorities.”
A 1939 map showed ample evidence of this practice — known commonly as “redlining” — in south Glendale and the Montrose and La Crescenta areas. Though many of these deeds and covenants retain such language, they were rendered moot by the Fair Housing Act of 1968, as were the redlining maps.
“I’m shocked at seeing those redlinings on the map of Glendale,” Najarian said. “Some of the neighborhoods that I have been through and that I have thought about, I think about in a different way now.”
Judge Erskine Ross, namesake of the affluent Rossmoyne neighborhood, served the Confederacy during the Civil War before moving to California and becoming a judge, Najarian noted.
“I think he brought with him those racist beliefs from the Civil War and played a big role in redlining and preventing people of color — Jews, Blacks, etc. — as the covenants indicated, from living there,” Najarian said. “They are bright green, those neighborhoods.”
Given that these policies were active through 1968, the maps and covenants “[cemented] over three decades of economic and housing inequality,” with minorities excluded from the ability to “build and accumulate wealth through property ownership.” And as neighborhoods intended for minorities were often placed in proximity to industrial plants, this also created a disparity in public health.
Illustrating the long-term impacts of this redlining, the report noted that formerly green (best) and blue (desirable) neighborhoods are today more than 75% white in composition, while the formerly yellow and red neighborhoods remain majority-minority.
“While outlawed in the mid-20th century, redline maps created racial and economic division lines that have lasted through today,” the report read.
Additionally, the Ku Klux Klan established a presence in the city in the 1920s, and in 1922, it was noted in one newspaper that Glendale was known for a “strong organization including many of the business’ men of the suburban city as members of the masked brotherhoods.” The KKK’s activity in Glendale is documented as having lasted through the 1960s, and in 1967, a News-Press headline read: “Interracial Couple Gets KKK Warning.” The American Nazi Party also had established itself in Glendale in the 1960s and 1970s, followed by other white and Aryan nationalist groups as recently as the 1990s.
During the council discussion, some members recalled racist experiences within their lifetimes in the city.
Kassakhian, whose family moved here from New England, explained a recent conversation he had with a Black classmate from high school here.
“We recalled an incident when the campus was vandalized — graffiti was sprayed all over the campus with racial slurs at Glendale High School in the early ’90s — because our white principal had an adopted African-American child,” he said. “I can’t help but have this be personal to me knowing that Armenians have been discriminated against right alongside with Blacks and so many others.”
Kassakhian added that four years ago, when he was running for State Assembly, he twice shut down his campaign office after people called and threatened him and his family for their Armenian heritage.
Najarian, who is from Cleveland, recalled a similar experience from when he first ran for his City Council seat, and his wife, who had a distinctive Midwestern twang, was making phone calls for the campaign. He said one woman said to his wife, “Honey, why would you want to go and ruin your life by marrying one of those people?”
“This was 2005, folks,” Najarian said. “It’s still out there. That was to an Armenian. Some people say we pass as white. I’d like to preserve my ethnic identity. I can’t imagine what it’s like for people of ‘deeper’ color, if you will.”
Among other next steps, the city plans to craft a “historic context” statement with respect to how Black, Latino, East Asian and West Asian people were treated in Glendale throughout much of the city’s history.
“I think this historic context statement will be a start, but it can also be a tool to propel us forward in our thinking and in our healing process,” Councilwoman Paula Devine said. “It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon; we have begun our marathon, and we have to continue. We deeply regret the actions of those who came before us. There are no words, I don’t think, to express the pain caused by racism then and now.”
Kassakhian added that the city’s work should amount to more than “simple slogans or hashtags on social media.”
“This resolution is a small step toward that acknowledgement,” he added, “but the real work to fix that which ails us — whether it’s here in Glendale or across our nation — has to come from each one of us and requires us to not cast blame but to look to ourselves, reach out to one another with compassion and understanding to try and educate and learn.”

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