City Council eagerly moved forward with a plan to study discriminatory housing practices against the Black community in WeHo’s past, a first step in a potential program to provide reparations for systemic racism.
The agenda item was written by Mayor Pro Tem Sepi Shyne and Councilmember John Erickson, who defended the proposal in the face of objections by the public.
Shyne pointed out that a reparations program could provide far more than simple cash payouts.
“People say reparations, you think it’s just gonna be cash,” she said. “However, being a creative city, we can do many things such as land use policies, home ownership loans. We didn’t wait for the federal government to give us marriage equality. We created domestic partnerships. We just had a discussion about expanding OutZones. There was not even a blink from anyone. We rushed to it excitedly. We’ve given $1.6 million to our businesses and we’re continuing to give because they’re important to us. That three percent of the Black residents of our city — they need to be just as important to us.”
“There was so much desire to burst out of the 20th century, and it ached in me for the 10 years I’ve been here, and we’re just finally doing it and I’m really super thankful,” said Councilmember John D’Amico. “There have been four council members who owned a house and all of us have in our deeds (antiquated) deed restrictions that are frightening. The deed restriction on our house says if you’re brown or black you have to leave the city, you cannot spend the night, you cannot live in that place. It’s horrible.”
Mayor Lauren Meister was supportive of the overall idea but cautious about spending $100,000 on the study.
“I just think that we’re barely six months into into our fiscal year and we’ve spent well over about 115% of our budget and we have other ways that we can start going about this,” she said, including tapping into the resources of the Southern California Association of Governments, which the city already pays for.
Councilmember Lindsey Horvath bemoaned the negative response from some in the public.
“I’m heartbroken to hear people be angry about the fact that this community would have this conversation and that we would take time to reflect acknowledge and try to do something because as was said in the comments whatever we do will not adequately address compounded generations of of racism and discrimination and exclusion, but hopefully we can do something meaningful that creates inclusion creates more opportunity.”
The agenda item was passed unanimously, and the city will proceed with the study and other measures contained in the proposal.