Correcting the Past: Removing Racially Restrictive Covenants From Marin Property Records

Marin is known for its vast open spaces, health-conscious residents, and high-ranking schools, but an ugly truth is spelled out on real estate documents throughout the County.

According to the 2020 census, Marin County is 84.7% white. Many factors play into this lack of diversity, including a series of racially restrictive covenants that prohibited the sale of homes to people of color that were enforced roughly from 1926 to 1968. The County of Marin investigated how to legally remove this language for years, and got a boost when Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 1466 — requiring all county recorders in the state to establish programs to remove racially restrictive covenants from property records — into law in 2021.

Many students volunteered to help the project find old newspaper clippings showing evidence of redlining and racial segregation. These materials are being used to develop a curriculum that can be used in schools to educate about Marin’s redlining history.

Thus, the Marin County Restrictive Covenants Project was launched. While the project aims to wipe out racist illegalities, it also seeks to go beyond the requirements by “finding assessor parcel numbers that were affected by discriminatory restrictions and working with specialists in the County’s Information Systems and Technology department to create and publish an interactive map,” says Jodi Olson, Marin Chief Deputy Recorder-County Clerk. “The map identifies parcels that were once affected by restrictions, provides residents with the illegal verbiage included in the original recordings, and lets them know if a modification document has been recorded to date,” Olson adds.

Still from Marin County Restrictive Covenants Project video.

Until AB 1466, altering the language in official legal documents was illegal. As of late 2022, the County is recording corrections that include redacted copies of original documents. “We hope residents understand that segregation didn’t just happen in the southern United States. It happened right here in Marin, too,” Olson says.

Marin Racist Covenants
Old advertisement for Marin City. Still from Marin County Restrictive Covenants Project video.

While this project is making huge strides, there are other ways that racial inequality in housing is still seen in Marin today. Read about the discrimination struggle faced by Marin City resident Paul Austin and his family.

Watch the below video for more details on the project or click here to learn more.