Symposium Kicks off “Undesign the Red Line” Exhibit Thursday

Redlining, the practice of denying loans to communities of color in the 1930s, was one of many ways segregation was embedded in the DNA of cities and continues to shape their growth and development today. Source: HOLC
Redlining, the practice of denying loans to communities of color in the 1930s, was one of many ways segregation was embedded in the DNA of cities and continues to shape their growth and development today. Source: HOLC

Tomorrow, February 7, an interactive traveling exhibit called Undesign the Redline kicks off its Los Angeles residency at L.A. Trade Tech College (LATTC) with a day-long symposium featuring local housing advocates, academics, and representatives from the public sector. [See the full program.]

Photographer Leroy Hamilton posted a preview of what folks can expect to see.

The exhibit was created by design studio Designing the WE and sponsored by Enterprise (an umbrella nonprofit that partners with national and local groups to finance and build affordable housing) to encourage communities to engage the segregationist policies that still shape the development of their cities.

As L.A. searches for ways out of the current housing crisis and the longer-running affordability crisis in lower-income communities of color, a deeper understanding of the legacy of redlining has become all the more urgent.

The early 20th century practice of denying housing loans to borrowers in communities populated with groups labeled as “subversive racial elements” didn’t just deny Black and Latino communities wealth or mobility for generations to come. It also incentivized white families to participate in oppressing those communities.

Snapshot of Boyle Heights as seen by the Federal Home Owner's Loan Corporation in 1939. Source:
A 1939 assessment of Boyle Heights. It was redlined by the Federal Home Owner’s Loan Corporation for being home to an increasing number of “subversive racial elements.” Source:

White residents fire-bombed the homes of Black families, protested the integration of schools, signed contracts agreeing never to sell their homes to African Americans, found creative ways to zone their communities, sued their neighbors for selling to Black families, formed roving gangs to harass and beat up folks of color, chased Black people out of sundown towns and denied them services, and lobbied to protect their own communities from environmental harm, to name a few.

These practices helped embed white-centered narratives and policies in our planning infrastructure, allowing segregationist frameworks to persist long after segregation was officially outlawed.

Redlining implicates all of us, in other words – the communities that were discriminated against and the communities that participated in and reaped the benefits from that discrimination.

Tomorrow's schedule. Click to visit full program.
Tomorrow’s schedule. Click to visit full program.

Tomorrow’s symposium will explore what that means in practice and how we can address that legacy of harm (see agenda, at right).

County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas will offer opening remarks at 10:30 a.m., but participants are invited to arrive at 9 a.m. for a guided tour of the exhibit.

The exhibit will remain at LATTC through March 31. It will feature a special lecture with The Color of Law author Richard Rothstein on February 27, and offer guided tours by appointment. [Click here for more details.]

Find the exhibit in the Magnolia Hall Atrium on the LATTC campus (400 W. Washington Blvd.). The symposium will be held in the South Tent (next to Aspen Hall) from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Exhibit hours through March 31 are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday.


*This article was updated on 2/11/2019 at 11:22 a.m. to make clear the exhibit was created by Designing the WE and sponsored by Enterprise, not the other way around.

  • spijim

    Most of the redlined neighborhoods in the map above weren’t “communities of color” in 1930. They were mostly white. In 1930 African- Americans made up 2% of the population of LA. Latinos were around 10%. Those neighborhoods were redlined because the housing stock was old and/or obsolete. Many became majority black or Latino later because of the disinvestment. I.E., they were cheap and because white people were already moving out. But we see this in Seattle, Minneapolis, Boston, etc – cities that were 95-97% white in 1930 where most if not all of the redlining happened to neighborhoods that were majority to entirely white.

    You’re narrative is conventional wisdom at this point but at best it’s anecdotal and calling it backwards would still be charitable. In any case it’s not very well grounded in any data on the topic.

  • sahra

    I should not waste time on this comment because it denies basic facts. But if there is anything that can be counted on in this world, it is death, taxes, and urbanists of privilege who jump onto anything related to race to deny its significance. So, because it’s Black History Month, I say: F*ck that noise.

    Immigrant communities or “ethnic enclaves,” as they were labeled, were indeed considered communities of color, with Jewish folks not being considered “white” here or free to move to the Westside until the after the Great Migration boosted the Black population from 75,000 to 650,000 between 1940 and 1960 and whites needed to shore up their numbers. You can see how a redlined community was assessed in the 1939 HOLC doc I posted an image of. And the extent to which Black and brown populations remained within redlined borders is all very easily verifiable with population data. See this great visualization of the data over time:

    And the poor housing conditions you speak of, as well as the “concerns” about “sanitation,” were codes used as excuses to raze ethnic enclaves to the ground, something which is also extremely well documented, as detailed in this look at redlining in Boyle Heights:

    But wait, there’s more!

    No one made the case that these areas were not once white. The yellow areas, in particular, absolutely were majority white and whites actively firebombed the occasional Black family that moved two blocks outside a red zone into a yellow zone. Said zones were marked yellow b/c of the potential for folks of color to move in (in South Central, for ex, folks of color moved through those nbhds to get to jobs). Again, that is all well documented (well, at least as well documented as it could be. Police refused to investigate most of the firebombings and assaults). I even describe some of that history here in this look at white flight/disinvestment: and here, in this look at the Vermont/Manchester neighborhood!


    All my best,


  • Matt

    That explaination really falls apart when looking at the huge areas of the Westside that were redlined. Large parts of Venice, Santa Monica, Brentwood, Sawtelle, and Marina Del Rey. Those areas had some people of color, but no where near a majority even if we are suddenly counting Jews as people of color. Not even close.

    By the way, the tone of the response to a fair comment is really awful and well below the standards of a semi professional blog.

  • sahra

    so glad you’ve chimed in to deny the existence of segregationist practices, Matt. things just wouldn’t feel right if you didn’t.

    have a great weekend!

  • Matt

    I’m sure race had some role in instances of red lining, but you never addressed the original owner’s point that many red lined areas were majority white neighborhoods when these maps were drawn.

    You really think that major swaths of Santa Monica, Venice, Sawtelle and even sone of Brentwood were home to large populations of blacks and Latinos in the 1930’s. Sure the Westside has always been much more diverse than people like you give credit for it, but these were by and large white areas with a few exceptions in micro neighborhoods.

    I’m sure you’ll retort without addressing the question and with another childish rampage and name calling, but Streetsblog readers deserve a little better from the writers on the site.

  • sahra

    You clearly don’t know how redlining worked and yet you assume I must be wrong or not answering. You can look above where I explain why white areas were given yellow ratings, if need be. And you can check one of the many articles I posted for a more detailed history than this simple promo for an event was ever intended to offer. And you can use the google to learn about areas of Venice, etc. that did indeed have Black populations as well as other reasons that those areas were considered undesirable (areas I have not specifically written about but which also have well-documented histories).

    The idea that I’m wrong and childish just because you are unfamiliar with history is very… well, it’s become very you of late. You were never kind or thoughtful when engaging, but this nastiness has really reached a new level over the last year.

    I’m sorry that’s how you feel compelled to spend your time.

    All my best!

  • Matt

    Bottom line is that Spijim was correct in that most people redlined in this map in the 1930’s were in fact white not only in Los Angeles but in many other cities. Nothing you have said has refuted that as you have no evidence to back that up and the demographics of the City at that time make any other argument impossible. You have gone off on other tangents but never came close to showing anything he said nor myself is incorrect.

    Overall, your response to him was rude, unprofessional, and well below the standards of Streetsblog. You owe him and the remaining readers of the Blog an apology. Otherwise if this is how you respond to factually correct well communicsted comments you need to consider anger management therapy.

  • sahra

    This was so scoldy it made me laugh out loud. I appreciate you!

    Look, I’m not going to get dragged into defending arguments you think I made because you don’t know the history of redlining. Save yourself the embarrassment of letting us all know how unfamiliar you are with history or how antagonistic you are towards the needs of people of color and just send me hate mail directly. It’s win-win for you – you won’t have to strain your brain hate-reading me or pretending you know something about these topics just to let me know how much you hate me!

    All my best!

  • Matt

    When you respond to the original comment –

    “Most of the redlined neighborhoods in the map above weren’t “communities of color” in 1930. They were mostly white.”

    Let us know.

    The readers of the blog deserve an answer instead of your usual “I’m the expert and you aren’t” comment with nothing behind it.

    You continue to shout down commenters and facts that don’t fit neatly into your narrow articles. If an issue is more nuanced, you simply can’t or won’t deal with it. Diversity is certainly your enemy. Your non-response to Spijim mostly just referenced your own articles and didn’t touch on his point. Too bad you continue to turn off the few remaining Streetsblog readers with your poor attitude, lack of professionalism, and narrow reporting.


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