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Documents of racial discrimination

Racially restrictive covenants in Hillsdale

[Posted June 22, 2020]

In the first half of the 20th century, covenants restricting uses of real estate were often attached to property deeds by developers or sellers explicitly limiting residence to white residents. This practice, declared unenforceable in 1948 and then made illegal in 1968, played a part in shaping demographics of neighborhoods around the country.

Hillsdale is just one of many neighborhoods in Portland formerly subject to restrictions based on race. An online interactive map of covenants with racial restrictions includes two swaths of land in Hillsdale that were later developed. Slavin's Addition, Plat #2, covers a large area extending from Martha St. north all the way to the radio broadcast towers in Healy Heights. Ferncrest, another tract with the same restrictions covers a smaller area south of Sunset and includes parts of 26th Dr., Richardson St. and Mitchell St.

Racially restrictive covenants have not been systematically recorded, including another example for the “Delmar Heights” area between Martha St. and Sunset Blvd. found in the files of a Hillsdale homeowner.

Until 2018 with the passage of HB 4134, which created a new procedure for property owners to petition the court to amend real property title documents, there was no provision to remove discriminatory restrictions from deed covenants.

"Historical Context of Racist Planning" published by the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability in September, 2019, outlines racist outcomes in Portland housing due to urban planning practices. The map above shows Slavin's Addition, Plat #2, and Ferncrest, areas of Hillsdale subject to racially restrictive covenants. The source is "Portland Racial Covenants," an interactive map created in 2018 by PSU graduate student Greta Smith.

The Slavin's Addition, Plat #2, covenant to the property deed recorded in 1941 specifies that "No persons except persons who shall be entirely of the Caucasian race shall be allowed to use or occupy said property or any part thereof except in the capacity of domestic servants or employees of the occupant thereof." The Ferncrest covenant contains the same language.

A map of the "Del-Mar Heights" sub-development was recorded as part of the covenant in 1947. This language is different, specifying that "No part of said premises shall be used or occupied in any manner by Asiatics or Negroes, except that persons of said races may be employed thereon as servants."

--Valeurie Friedman



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