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Commission to Discuss Holding Future Presentation About Decades Old Hate Campaign

Published on Monday, April 1, 2024 | 4:00 am

The Human Relations Commission will consider requesting a local law firm hold a presentation on its work with local groups adversely impacted by a decades-old hate campaign aimed at preventing people of color from buying property in Pasadena.

In July, representatives from local law firm Hahn and Hahn told Pasadena Now that the firm has started a dialogue with local groups adversely impacted by a decades-old hate campaign aimed at preventing people of color from buying property in Pasadena. The campaign was led in part by one of Hahn & Hahn’s lead attorneys some 80 years ago.

Herbert L. Hahn and former Pasadena Mayor A.I. Stewart led the drive for white-only covenants in Pasadena real estate ownership.

“Since learning last year of one of our attorney’s involvement in the Pasadena Improvement Association during the 1930s and 1940s, Hahn & Hahn has sought to partner with affected stakeholder groups to find ways to address the damage done by the association’s advocacy for racially restrictive housing covenants,” the firm said in a statement to Pasadena Now last year.

The Pasadena Improvement Association was formed in 1939 two weeks after African Americans sued to desegregate the City of Pasadena municipal pool.

The stated goal of the Pasadena Improvement Association was to place “race restrictions on all of the Pasadena residential districts now occupied by Caucasians” to prevent non-whites, especially African Americans, from being able to buy most of the homes in Pasadena.

Stewart and Hahn’s cause became the primary mission of the Pasadena Improvement Association following the 1939 lawsuit by Black residents to desegregate Pasadena’s municipal pool, the Brookside Plunge.

African-American residents were allowed to use the pool one day a week. It was drained and refilled for white residents the next day.

“While we would have preferred that this reprehensible aspect of our history never happened, we have been grateful for the opportunity to connect with our community in a more meaningful way and to live more deeply into the values of the firm we have become,” Hahn said in its statement.

In the statement, the firm said the actions were “antithetical to the values of the firm we strive to be.”

The firm reportedly has brought together the existing Pasadena organizations that participated in the Pasadena Improvement Association and organizations representing the historically marginalized communities most adversely impacted by Pasadena’s housing policies and convened an ongoing dialogue.

“This group will likely develop and implement proactive measures which aim to alleviate the historical effects of housing discrimination in our community and support existing programs that address racial disparities in housing and home ownership.”

Those groups include the NAACP represented by Allen Edson and Juanita West Tillman, Latino Heritage, Kansha Pasadena, Chamber of Commerce / Paul Little, The Pasadena-Foothill Association of Realtors, Pasadena Jaycees and Civitan.

“Today, more than 85 percent of our personnel identify as female, BIPOC, and/or LGBTQ+,” Hahn & Hahn’s statement said. “As a certified women-owned and diverse law firm, we unreservedly condemn Pasadena’s history of racist housing policies and our firm’s participation.”

The law firm learned of Herbert Hahn’s involvement in 2022 after an email began circulating demanding Hahn be posthumously stripped of the coveted Arthur Noble award and his name be removed from a plaque at City Hall.

Last year, Pasadena’s Human Relations Commission voted to recommend the City Council remove portraits and plaques dedicated to former City leaders that took part in the hate campaign.

Shortly after that vote, the firm posted an undated statement announcing the dialogue.

“The City of Pasadena has recently initiated thoughtful conversations about our elected leadership’s role in the Pasadena Improvement Association, which advocated for the broad adoption of racially restrictive housing covenants in the 1930s and 1940s,” the firm posted on its website. “That meaningful dialogue led the attorneys of Hahn & Hahn to examine the role our firm played in this reprehensible part of Pasadena’s history. We learned that attorneys at our firm at that time were involved in advising the City and the Pasadena Improvement Association on implementing the restrictive covenants.”

The 2023 Pasadena Human Relations Commission resolution also recommended the Council publicly acknowledge that the historical establishment of racially restrictive housing covenants by Stewart and Hahn was unfair and continues to impact human relationships with residents of color in Pasadena to this day; that the Council honor truth in City Council Chambers by displaying the true historical account of Pasadena’s “campaign for racial segregation” and resulting its ripple effects; and open dialogue with all Pasadena residents to heal racially-motivated housing hurts in the past and present, identify short and long-term solutions, and promote racial unity and equity.

The group meets at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday at the Jackie Robinson Center, 1020 N. Fair Oaks Ave.

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