County Takes Aim at Restrictive Covenants that Discriminate Against Ethnic Groups

Thousands of Santa Clara County property records include restrictions on the use, lease or purchase of property by particular groups of people, often minorities. Many of these restrictions date back to the 19th century.

Using a new state law, the county Clerk-Recorder’s Office this week announced a plan to remove discriminatory language from an estimated 24 million county property records, some dating to 1850.

The target, according to the county, will be restrictive covenants – contractual agreements, like those found in Homeowners’ Association (HOA) contracts, that were used to prohibit the purchase or lease of property by a particular group of people.

“Restrictive covenants continue to be an insidious form of discrimination,” said County Supervisor Joe Simitian. “When I was a child, my family bought a home here in Santa Clara County. It was then that I learned from my father, at a young age, that not everyone had the same opportunity to buy property due to racial covenants.”

“While the courts have since stated that these documents are unenforceable, I’m pleased the State Legislature took this action and that the county is moving to redact offensive language in any of these documents.”

The California Fair Employment and Housing Act bans discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, ancestry, familial status, source of income, disability, veteran or military status, or genetic information. Assembly Bill 1466, which was signed in July 2022, requires counties in California to remove discriminatory language on any deed or other recorded instrument.

“Even before the Legislature passed this law, the county had already started to go through covenants to determine the scope of the problem,” said County Clerk-Recorder Regina Alcomendras. “We have been proactively combing through documents that go back to 1848. The process to go through the millions of documents will be labor intensive and time consuming but our office is poised for the challenge.”

The County Clerk-Recorder’s Office has already met its first set of benchmarks laid out by the Legislature in the first year. It is hiring two additional dedicated staff members and is looking to contract with a vendor to expedite the process and correct the documents in a shorter amount of time. Volunteers and student interns are also helping with the effort.

Anyone who has a property that may be the subject of an unlawful restrictive covenant can submit a Restrictive Covenant Modification document cover page to correct the record.

If people believe a property deed is subject to unlawful language, they may fill out a Restrictive Covenant Modification Document request form.

The County’s implementation plan can be found here.



  1. What about age? Is it still o.k. to discriminate by age?
    If it is (and it is), then we are just choosing which discrimination’s are in vogue today, which of course will change tomorrow. So spare us us the virtue signaling B.S. if you please.

  2. With so many problems in this state, trash & graffiti everywhere, highest poverty rate and rampant vagrancy, electricity,energy, gas and water woes and CA officials focus and spend tax money on this?

    “a plan to remove discriminatory language from an estimated 24 million county property records, some dating to 1850.”

    Get real California – inflation, recession and crime are real concerns for residents.

    This virtue signaling wasted effort can be fixed in the normal process of when property records change hands or when an actual case of discriminatory impact arises.

  3. wait, are there any actual instances of such discrimination enforced recently?

    why not just let someone try to discriminate and get sued? Maybe some minority will get a free home out of it

    but as far as virtue signaling goes, this is a huge waste of bureaucratic machinery money and time

  4. The above report intimates that such race-based restrictive housing covenants were somehow a relic of the 19th century when in fact they continued to be included in contracts and bylaws well into the 2000s. Restrictive covenants concocted by Homeowners’ Association (HOA) were ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1948 but state and local governments–including California and Santa Clara County municipalities–would not enforce the law of the land (so much for law and order).

    HOAs were the invention of property developers whose sales contracts stipulated that homes in specific developments could not be sold to non-whites. This was common practice all over the Bay Area. While unenforceable by law, these practices were coupled with incitement, intimidation and vigilantism on the part of HOA members against any real estate agents who might represent non-whites in trying to purchase a home on behalf of non-whites. Official negligence on the part of politicians and police, combined with vigilantism in maintaining housing segregation in San Jose was as effective as Ku Klux Klan vigilantism in preventing Blacks from voting in the Jim Crow southern states.

    For those who are serious about learning more about our history that is not taught in the schools, I highly recommend “Roots, Race, and Place: A History of Racially Exclusionary Housing in the San Francisco Bay Area” published by the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society, University of California, Berkeley, October 2019. The link for a free PDF copy is: In addition, these sources are useful in understanding the long history of segregationist housing in the Bay Area:;;

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