April 17, 2017 § 18 Comments
Part 9: Who is Robert Lewis Chapman, Jr.?
Last year when the bicycle protests in PV Estates got underway, a guy told me to “look out for Robert Chapman.”
“Who’s that?” I asked.
“He’s this anonymous Internet troll guy who lives in PV and is a complete ass.”
I didn’t pay much attention, since “anonymous Internet troll” always equates with “coward” and since I had other concerns than playing Billy Goat Gruff. Before long, though, this link on the Internet came up, and it won’t take you more than a few sentences to suspect what I did: The anonymous troll author of this web site is seriously deranged. I’m no fan of the PV Estates cops, the council, or the city manager, but these vile attacks on wives, ex-wives, and children are sick, and they’re the product of a sick mind.
Is the author of this junk Robert Chapman? I don’t know for sure, but the bizarre language of the web site is eerily reminiscent of the bizarre behavior in the following police reports, all of which were returned as part of a public records request for “Emails or any other documents in paper or electronic format pertaining to the following matters: Activities or complaints regarding or connected with Robert Chapman.”
Remember all those police reports where an anxious bedwetter in PV Estates consumed countless hours of police time to investigate dogs? Tip of the iceberg …
Hundreds and hundreds of pages were returned as a result of my public records request; some of the documentation is truly bizarre, and I’ll be publishing all of it shortly. I hope you like stories about bald, droopy, middle-aged men prancing around in hot tubs.
But my interest in Chapman is actually specific to cycling. Why is the author of the PVE PD hate web site, whether or not it is in fact Robert Chapman, so torqued about the police department?
I’m torqued about the police because they unfairly target cyclists and harass outsiders. But the hate web site’s author lists a slew of reasons that even a cursory inspection reveals as subterfuge. After a bit of reading, a bit of googling, and a whole bunch of time spent reviewing crazy-talk public and court records, I may have unearthed the reason for the author’s venom, and perhaps his hidden-in-plain-sight identity as well.
This matters to cyclists because the same web site that is going after the organization and the individuals who make up the PV Estates police department is the same person who’s going after cyclists. Perhaps a little sunlight will go a long way to disinfecting his rotten attitude and chickenboy attacks. If not, at least people will be able to pin a face and a name on the donkey who is too cowardly to sign his own name.
But first, a continuation of the police reports and the truly dyspeptic personalities involved. If you’re a cyclist, you should ask yourself again: Can a police department that responds to people and complaints like this ever be expected to treat cyclists fairly, when it’s these very bedwetters demanding that the police “enforce” the laws against cyclists?
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April 12, 2017 § 12 Comments
Part 8: The Interchickens
Anonymity is a powerful thing, and sometimes it’s a force for good. The Federalist Papers were written anonymously, and the numerous hacks that have exposed public and private corruption in our own century couldn’t have been done except under cloak of secrecy.
But anonymity’s power can be used for evil just as easily for good. Threats and harassment from nameless adversaries can punish the innocent and allow the person hiding behind the mask to behave in ways deserving the most extraordinary opprobrium. The most famous of these was probably the troll Michael Brutsch, who, despite his online bravado, became a whimpering sop when he learned he would be outed as a troll and purveyor of hate speech: “When Chen informed [Michael Brutsch] about the impending exposé, he pleaded with Chen not to publish it because he was concerned about the potential impact on his employment and finances, noting that his wife was disabled and he had a mortgage to pay. He also expressed concern that he would be falsely labeled a child pornographer or anti-Semite because of some of the subreddits he created.”
Using anonymity to push political agendas is time-honored, and it is under cover of anonymity that at least one of the major players is leading the charge against the PV Estates Police Department. This culture of secrecy and clandestine hate follow the trajectory of racism in PV Estates as well, where blacks have epithets painted on their homes under cover of darkness and racial insults are scrawled on cars at PV High by nameless vandals.
Who are these people so opposed to the PV Estates Police Department? Why are they so fearful of signing their name at the bottom of the screeds they write? How do they look at themselves in the mirror knowing that for all their keyboard bravado, they still lack the courage of a simple signature?
Answering this question takes us yet one more step along the journey of understanding law enforcement in Palos Verdes Estates. The police report linked below is disturbing in the nth degree. Read it for yourself, and imagine what would have happened if the antagonist had been black, rather than a well-known and infamous resident of PVE itself.
[Link here: Resident’s blatant obstruction_of_law_enforcement during a traffic stop.]
If you read the link, you will doubtless be wondering who this person is. Is it the same bedwetter who wastes countless hours of police time with barking dog complaints? Is it the same person who has launched attack after anonymous attack on cyclists who both live in and ride through the community?
More disturbingly, is this one whackjob all it takes to throw PV law enforcement off its game? A bizarre resident wielding a camera phone? What happened to those staples of law enforcement known as mace, handcuffs, radio, and baton?
The answer is simple: There are two penal codes in PV Estates. One for white, rich, spoiled, angry residents, and one for everyone else.
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April 11, 2017 § 15 Comments
Part 7: The delicate bedwetters on the Hill
When we turn to the PV Estates Police Department and try to compare it with the LA Sheriff’s Department, a number of problems arise. The first is that they are completely different organizations. One is a massive, multi-billion dollar police force that, like an aircraft carrier going off the edge of a cliff, is extremely hard to control. The other is a tiny, semi-private security service whose employees are easily manipulated by the taxpayers who pay their salaries.
The media and the rich love to paint the image of wealthy people as being super confident, strong, hard-to-rattle titans of industry. Sometimes they are. But just as often they can be thin-skinned, vain, petty little people whose financial security gives them little to do but whine, complain, and grouse about the minor annoyances of life that the rest of us shrug off without a moment’s concern.
It’s hard to grasp how infantile some of the PV Estates residents can actually be. There’s one particular area of the city located by Bluff Cove and dominated by a couple of streets, Paseo del Mar and Via Horcada, where there is an unbelievable concentration of events that can only be described as the anxieties of adult bedwetters.
It’s these people and their ilk who dominate much of the time and efforts of the PV Estates police, people who demand to be coddled, mollified, hand-held, and who require that their every damp didy be accompanied with a gentle butt-wiping by a steady hand. These people consume untold hours of the police department’s time, are often abusive, nasty, aggressive, and make endless calls to police dispatch complaining about everything from raccoons to imaginary sounds.
You think I’m making this up? Keep reading.
This matters because as police chief Kepley points to increased police department expenses specifically due to cyclists, he fails to mention the hundreds of man-hours burned through by one or two whiny bedwetters, and he fails to tell the city council that a lot of the city’s police expenses result from the fact that the police force behaves like a nanny rather than a police department. At the last city council meeting we were treated to a rogues’ gallery of brown and black arrestees, showing the residents how busy the police were controlling serious crime.
What they didn’t show were the stats and incident reports filed by short, balding, middle-aged tattletales that make policing PV Estates the law enforcement equivalent of a nursery school for spoiled brats.
So I’ve compiled the reports for them.
Below is a very small sampling of police reports from the Via Horcada/Paseo del Mar area, which seems to be ground zero for pee-pee in the pants, anxiety-ridden grown men. The names of the complainants have been redacted by the department, but it won’t take you much independent investigation to figure out who at least one of these infantile crybabies is. More importantly, it shows that the city isn’t necessarily overrun with bad people, it’s just that a handful of truly deplorable bedwetters with too much free time and too little maturity have made it a living hell for everyone else.
As you click on the links below, ask yourself a few questions:
- Are you fucking kidding me?
- Are these the same people who complain about cyclists?
- Can a police department slavishly obedient to people like this fairly enforce the law?
Also, note that virtually all of these “incidents” occur in the vicinity of the 700 block of Via Horcada and the 600 block of Paseo del Mar. I’ve highlighted the relevant items that the officers were called out to investigate, as well as the number of officers who responded to the call and wrote up the supplemental report. Apparently, the time clock at PVE PD gets ridden so hard it should have a saddle on it … and most hypocritically of all, the same people who complain about the cost and the overtime of the police don’t seem to mind at all when it’s their butt that’s being wiped at time-and-a-half.
So here ya go, with apologies to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle:
- Mystery of the Assault by the Baby-Stroller Jackanape (Link: assault_of_minor)
- Mystery of the Bedwetter Bothered by the Barking Dog (Link: barking_dog_1)
- Mystery of the Off and On Barking Dog (Link: barking_dog_2)
- Mystery of the 15-Minutes Barking Dog Causing Multiple Bedwettings (Link: barking_dog_3)
- Mystery of the Barking Dog So Mysterious That It Can’t Be Found (Link: barking_dog_4)
- Mystery of the Barking Dog Who Could Read Notices in the Mailbox (Link: barking_dog_5)
- Mystery of the Barking Dog Who Was Taken Inside (Link: barking_dog_6)
- Mystery of the Barking Dog Who Was Reading More Notices (Link: barking_dog_7)
- Mystery of the Multiple Bedwetters Upset by the Mysterious Barking Dog (Link: barking_dog_8)
- Mystery of the Family of Bedwetters Awoken by the Barking Dog (Link: barking_dog_9)
- Mystery of the Dog that Knew to Stop Barking When the Police Showed Up (Link: barking_dog_10)
- Mystery of the Not Excessively but Just Enough Barking Dog (Link: barking_dog_11)
- Mystery of the Two Dogs Night (Link: barking_dog_12)
- Mystery of the Non-Barking Dog Left Out in the Non-Rain (Link: barking_dog_13)
- Mystery of the Legally Barking Dogs in the Area (Link: barking_dog_14)
- Mystery of the Home Alone Dogs Who Didn’t Bark (Link: barking_dog_15)
- Mystery of the Complainant Who Wanted to Find Out About the Dog That Didn’t Bark (Link: barking_dogs_16)
- Mystery of the More Non-Barking Dogs (Link: barking_dog_17)
- Mystery of the Dogs Not Barking After Two Hours (Link: barking_dogs_18)
- Mystery of the Dog That Didn’t Bark for Ten Minutes (Link: barking_dog_19)
- Mystery of the Dog That Didn’t Bark for Over Ten Minutes (Link: barking_dog_20)
This is a tiny fraction of the complaints emanating from this very small area of a couple of blocks; most of the complaints I’ve obtained were either made by or involve the same bedwetter. Keep in mind that these complaints about noise are coming from a place where the lot sizes are massive and the homes are essentially walled compounds. How would these people even exist in normal society if the sound of an imaginary barking dog drives them nuts? Answer: They wouldn’t.
I’ve obtained hundreds and hundreds of pages of this crap from 2010 to 2017, mostly in this one neighborhood, covering everything from the Hound of the Baskervilles mystery above to even more unbelievable stuff–and yes, I’m going to post another batch of these high crimes and misdemeanors tomorrow. Hopefully when the city council meets on April 25 they’ll make an impassioned plea to save the police department so that it can continue preventing diaper rash from these pillars of the community.
From the looks of these reports, they’d better be buying their talcum powder by the barrel.
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April 10, 2017 § 49 Comments
Part 6: Trial by fire
“The twilight zone that lies between living memory and written history is one of the favorite breeding places of mythology.” C. Vann Woodward, The Strange Career of Jim Crow.
By now it should be pretty clear that PV Estates has a problem with racism, and has had one since it was established in 1923, regardless of whether current residents want to remember it. What is less clear is how that translates into harassment of cyclists by the city’s police department. But before I make that connection, it’s important to understand why the city’s decision to employ the LA Sheriff’s Department or to retain its municipal police force is so important for cyclists.
And to understand that, we need to jump up to the very recent past of January 27, 2017, when Deputy Castro of the LASD’s Lomita Substation pulled over thirteen cyclists and cited them for violating CVC 21201(a) while descending from the bottom of the Switchbacks to Portuguese Bend. The operation required Deputy Castro to call in three additional squad cars, and at one point a helicopter.
I suppose you never know when the underwear-clad crowd in clackety shoes will get unruly, turn into a violent mob, and hurt you with the legendary massive arms and fists of, uh, twigly bicycle riders. Thirteen citations later, the cyclists continued on their ride.
The first two of these citations were tried last Thursday in Torrance traffic court. The deputy showed up expecting a slam dunk win and was chagrined when the first case was dismissed and the the second was judged not guilty.
Deputy Castro’s claims were preposterous, and the judge didn’t believe that she had been able to see and identify each cyclist and locate their position while she was traveling 35 mph in the other direction across a median, and the cyclists were traveling at close to 30 mph in what she falsely called “a big mob.” On cross examination she admitted that she couldn’t identify the rider because she was, according to her own confused testimony, ten cars behind the group. When asked whether she had ID’d the cyclist by his calves and buttocks, she admitted she hadn’t.
It turns out that even in traffic court you can’t convict someone who you can’t identify.
But the bigger issue and by far the bigger problem was the court’s total resistance to the argument we made that the cyclists were not in violation of 21202(a) because the lane was of a substandard width, therefore releasing them from the “as far to the right as practicable” language of the statute. On cross examination, Deputy Castro freely admitted she was unfamiliar with the exception and in fact had never read it.
More disturbing, the judge was unfamiliar with and completely unmoved by the argument. We produced uncontroverted testimony by our expert, Dr. Gary Cziko, that the lane measured twelve feet at the most. Dr. Cziko produced measurements of the operational space needed by a bike (4 feet), the average width of a small car (6 feet), and the distance required for a car to pass a bike in California (3 feet). Even though the simple arithmetic showed that 13 feet can’t fit into a 12-foot lane–and that’s assuming zero operational room for the car–the judge was unimpressed with the law or the facts.
Similarly, the cyclist’s testimony regarding obstacles in the shoulder and against the fog line, though uncontroverted or even questioned, were ignored by the court. These two exceptions to 21202(a) are of course the backbone for vehicular cycling, or for what’s known as lane control when circumstances warrant. Having a court that was completely unwilling to countenance uncontroverted facts that demonstrated compliance with the law meant that the victory in this case was strictly a one-off ruling.
Cyclists who can’t defend themselves by showing that the officer failed to identify them, something that won’t happen when the rider is alone or in a group of two or three, will be unable to rely on the strongest argument for using the lane when necessary–at least in Torrance, and at least in front of this particular judge. Equally disturbing was the judge’s repeated apologies to the deputy for finding against the People. “I don’t fault you for citing them,” he said three or four times.
What was that supposed to mean, other than, “Keep writing bogus tickets.”
Deputy Castro took her cue and said, “I guess I’ll just have to up my game.”
Most disturbing is that despite the acquittal and dismissal of these two cases against cyclists lawfully controlling the lane, cyclists in PV are now more likely to be subject to harassment by Deputy Castro and her fellow deputies as they “up their game.” This is why education of the LASD deputies in this matter is imperative whether or not they take over PV Estates, since we already ride so much in Rancho PV.
With the exception of an event many years ago, PV Estates police have never ticketed an entire group for following the law, and at least the city’s web site makes mention of the right of cyclists to control the lane when circumstances warrant. Regardless of which way the city goes, cyclists who want to ride legally on the peninsula have their work cut out for them.
April 3, 2017 § 60 Comments
March 29, 2017 § 42 Comments
Part 5: Let the Past Speak for Today
If you had told me last July, when I participated in the first protest against the PV Estates police department and the city’s failure to seriously deal with cyclist safety, that I would be digging into old newspaper articles about the PV elite’s choice of Halloween costumes in the 1960s, I would have given you five dollars and suggested a shelter.
But here I am, doing exactly that, following the wicked strands that explain how PV Estates became what it is, and trying to figure out how that can inform someone trying to decide whether, as a rider, your fortunes are best with the local cops or with the county sheriff. Because racism in PV Estates didn’t simply begin in 1923, it is alive and well in the present.
Indeed, it never left, and in the words of the city’s own boosters, it was until recently something to be bragged and chortled about in the society section of the Palos Verdes News. This newsclip from 1965 tells you much of what you need to know.
And for those who think that 1965 is ancient history, that things have gotten so much better, there’s the memoir by Jennifer Baszile, who recounts the welcome her family received when it moved from “low-rent” RPV to toney PV Estates:
This bit of “ancient history” occurred in 1975. Still, some will argue that 1975 was more than forty years ago and that surely things have changed. Except that as of 2014, they hadn’t. At a Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration, one of the surfers alleged to be a member of the Lunada Bay Boys surfer gang purportedly donned blackface and an afro wig. Did I mention it was on MLK Day?
A year later, garden variety racism in PV Estates had blossomed into allegations of a full-on hate crime. On the September 11 anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York, PV Estates teens savagely attacked a Pakistani liquor shop owner in the city, beating him to a pulp and causing serious injuries. In this amazing bit of reporting by the Daily Breeze’s Larry Altman, readers are presented with the anguish and suffering… of the teens’ parents, who now find themselves being sued by the victim. Instead of focusing on the teens’ admissions that they almost beat the victim to death, the Daily Breeze makes sure that its readers know that defense counsel believes the victim is “looking for dollar signs.” Getting beaten with bats is a tough way to earn your payday, is all I can say to that.
And why stop in 2015? 2016 had this gem:
Finishing with a current racism update for 2017.
So there you have it, racism fans: A founding document enshrining segregation, and an unbroken string of hate crimes and racist activities stretching right up until three days ago. Does anyone doubt that PV Estates has a problem?
Department of Justice investigation, anyone? And yes, this has something to do with cycling. But even if it didn’t please tell me you’d still be appalled.
March 28, 2017 § 55 Comments
Part 4: White-out, Whites In
The PV Estates CCRs came in three booklets, one for each of the city’s three subdivided tracts: Margate, Lunada Bay (home of the racist surfer gang, and Valmonte. The beginning of each booklet is promotional copy designed to show new home owners how fortunate they are to own property in this exclusive, snowflake community. It’s all harmless stuff until you reach page 4. In each booklet the third paragraph from the bottom is whited out.
After finishing the ad copy I came to page 17, which lists the actual declarations setting forth the covenants and community regulations. Article I contains the basic property use restrictions, and Section 1 lets you know in no uncertain terms that if you wanted to erect a “columbarium” in PV Estates, well, you’d better take your funeral urns elsewhere. In the same vein of keeping the neighborhood Beaver Cleaver wholesome, landowners were barred from erecting institutions for the care of those “afflicted with tuberculosis,” the “mentally impaired,” and the “victims of drink or drugs.” This last prohibition might empty out much of the community, and especially the high school if ever enforced. A ban on the mentally impaired would take city council qualifications to a whole new level.
Section 1 then mysteriously skips to Section 3, and it’s not because the founders couldn’t count to 2. It’s because, as with the ad copy on page 4, the Palos Verdes Homes Association has meticulously gone through each and every CCR booklet and whited that section out.
I got a can of acetone, a pocket knife, a piece of Scotch Brite, and sat down with a cup of patience. Carefully sopping the Scotch Brite with acetone and gently rubbing it over the white-out, little by little the censored text appeared. On page 4, here’s what it said:
And on page 17, the cleaned up text read thus:
So my suspicion about Garrett Unno was borne out—not to mention other anti-cycling opponents active in PV Estates with non-Caucasian names like Zaragoza and Bianchi. They all live in a neighborhood whose CCRs specifically and legally stated that no one of “Asiatic descent” or not of the white “Caucasian race” may live there. Other names immediately came to mind: Council member Lin, new council member Kao … they all sounded pretty “Asiatic” to me.
After a bit more reflection it occurred to me that perhaps the offensive language had been whited out for an admirable reason. Perhaps the PV Homes Association had, after Shelley v. Kraemer and the passage of Civil Code 1352.5, voted to amend the declarations. Perhaps the homes association whited out the language because these odious racist restrictions had in fact been stricken from the CCRs and it was cheaper to use liquid paper than reprint a whole new set of books. Perhaps PV Estates wasn’t still living on its racist foundations after all.
That’s about the time the results from my title search came in. I’d run the search on the home in PV Estates I once rented, 1720 Via Zurita. With the exception of changes to property setback rules and alterations in the minimum housing prices, nothing else in the CCRs had ever been amended, at least according to the title search for this property. The racially restrictive language in PV Estates, as far as I could tell, was alive, well, and still breathing life into the prejudices of the people who lived there — regardless of whether or not they were legally enforceable.
And in case you wanted to know where the Palos Verdes Homes Association stood on the matter, well, look no farther than the white-out, because that’s the language assuring whites they will always be in. They’ve whited it out, but you know, wink wink nudge nudge, the real meaning is literally just below the surface. Of course it’s still possible that the CCRs have been amended and recorded with the county and my search simply failed to turn them up.
We all know about founding documents that don’t have the force of law but that nonetheless serve as moral and philosophical guiding lights. The most famous one is our Declaration of Independence, which had no force of law but whose aspirations to freedom for all people were the moral philosophy that abolitionists and those who believed in civil rights never lost sight of. The hopes and dreams of noble ideas can work their way down through the years to bring out the best in us.
But on the other hand, the foundational philosophy of racial hate that underpinned PV Estates has carried its noxious stench down to the present day. Harassment, violence, exclusion, corruption, and even death have been its spawn. And to make the irony perfect, that legacy is propagated by people in PV Estates, who in the technical terms of the CCRs that originally governed this special little snowflake on the hill, are still non-white, non-Causasian persona non grata.
March 27, 2017 § 28 Comments
Part 3: Under Their Thumb
As I slowly got sucked into the Biker Gang Imbroglio, a contest between people protesting the death of three cyclists on the PV Peninsula and a small coterie of outraged residents who hated cyclists, the bad people began coming out of the woodwork. In addition to the “everyone knows who he is” anonymous troll, a handful of PV Estates residents, rather than hiding behind anonymity, publicly decried the presence of cyclists in their city and strongly opposed any steps to erect signs or to enforce laws protecting them.
One of the city’s most committed opponents to signage was the husband-wife team of Garrett and Cynthia Unno. At first I concluded that they simply disliked cyclists, didn’t want outsiders (black people) in their city, and had zero concern for the recent victims, one of whom, John Bacon, may have been murdered.
But the more I listened to their implacable opposition to the basic safety steps recommended by the city’s traffic safety committee and approved by the city council – decisions later rescinded thanks to anti-cycling anger – the stranger it seemed. Of all people, Garrett Unno should have been advocating for cyclist safety. Of all people, Garrett Unno should have been on the side of the weak and the harassed. Of all people, Garrett Unno should have been fighting for justice.
Why? Because he is apparently of Japanese descent.
To answer that resounding “So?” I had to dig a little bit more into Supreme Court history, because the segregation of communities like PV Estates didn’t stop with Buchanan v. Warley, and it wasn’t limited to blacks. In fact, after Justice Day struck down city ordinances banning the sale of property to blacks, communities like PV Estates, far from throwing in the towel, approached the goal of segregation even more aggressively than before.
And in California, where the object of white hate was every bit as intensely directed at Chinese and Japanese as it was at blacks, newly forming communities had a brutally racist and segregationist tool at the ready: A device called the racially restrictive covenant.
Thanks to the single most destructive decision by the Supreme Court ever directed at civil rights, aptly named The Civil Rights Cases, the Fourteenth Amendment was held in 1883 to apply only to state action. Private discrimination and segregation were and are still legal. PV Estates and almost every new community in California used this carte blanche to write restrictions into their founding documents that forbade ownership by certain people.
“Certain” had a specific meaning: “Negro,” “Of African Descent,” and “Asiatic.” Racially restrictive covenants eventually ran aground in 1948, when the Supreme Court ruled that although racist restrictions were legal, the Fourteenth Amendment forbade their enforcement by the state. The case was Shelley v. Kraemer, but it had little effect on desegregation because by 1948 communities like PV Estates were already lily white and the Federal Housing Administration had already been redlining California communities for ten years, a practice that made it impossible for blacks to buy property in “white only” areas as designated by the federal government’s housing agency.
As I read the Supreme Court decisions and sifted through the copious online information about FHA redlining, I started wondering about PV Estates. What did its original covenants, conditions, and restrictions – its CCRs – actually say? Were they really racist? And if they were, had they ever been amended? In other words, were people like Garrett Unno the specific target of racist exclusion from PV Estates? Were people like Garrett Unno, non-whites, still living under CCRs in PV Estates that technically forbade them from living there, even though such bans were unenforceable?
I began to doubt whether such restrictions had ever even existed. The more I searched the less I found. So I hired a title company to do a search on a property in PV Estates, hoping that the search would come up with the original CCRs, as well as pull all of the amendments that would show me that even if PV Estates had originally been a racist-zoned community, at some point in the enlightened future the residents would have amended them to strike out the offensive language, enforceable or not.
Since CCRs were given to all new homeowners in the city by the PV Homes Association, it was inconceivable that along with your purchase you would receive a shiny copy of regulations banning all blacks.
Then I heard back from the title guy, who said “It’s gonna take a while. And in the meantime you might check with the city clerk to see if they have a copy.”
I did, and they didn’t. But they referred me to the Homes Association, which happened to office next door to city hall. I called. “Can I get a copy of the city’s CCRs?” I asked.
“Sure!” the cheery woman said. “Just come down and pick up a copy.”
The next day I was sitting on my couch with copies of the original CCRs. Almost a hundred years old, printed on the highest quality paper, yellowed from age but still sturdier than any new book you’ll find at Barnes and Noble, this was the founding document that governed your residency in the city when you joined the community as a property owner in 2017. And what I found in it was incredible.
March 23, 2017 § 32 Comments
Part 2: Red Cross Store Blues
When I was a kid there was a lot of empty time. My Dad had a set of Leadbelly’s Last Sessions and I’d put them on the record player when no one was home because if you were a little kid using the adult record player you would get an ass beating. Huddie Ledbetter was himself part of the great black exodus from the South, leaving Texas after serving a prison sentence in Louisiana.
Towns across America were viciously racist in the early 20th Century, and few protests capture the times better than Leadbelly’s Red Cross Store Blues, a song in which the protagonist refuses to be snookered by the Red Cross welfare stores to enlist in a war he has no intention of joining. The other giant of the early blues era and a World War I veteran, Bill Broonzy, was even more to the point with Black, Brown and White.
The work of great blues musicians may seem irrelevant to cyclists pedaling through a rich white town a century later, but the tools put in place to oppress blacks in PV Estates almost a hundred years ago have proven equally effective at harassing another group of undesirables: Bicyclists.
There is disagreement about why so many PV Estates residents so virulently oppose bicycling. My opinion is a minority one, but it has the advantage of being backed by over four hundred years of history: The city’s behavior is rooted in racism.
We don’t have to go back to the slave ships to understand how important racism was to the founding of PV Estates, as well as the founding and maintenance of its police force. The city’s founders spelled it out, quite literally, in black and in white. Their founding document? Racially restrictive deed covenants that forbade the sale of property to non-whites.
In this regard PV Estates was no different from hundreds of other communities across America, and its origins are indistinguishable from California’s other richest and whitest coastal communities. Of the 13,438 people who lived in PV Estates as of the last census, 161 were black. That’s 1.2 percent. This segregation of the races was inherent in the development of the community and countless others like it. Leadbelly and Broonzy would recognize PV Estates today at a glance for the “sundown town” that it is.
Even though we take vague comfort (as long as we’re white) that in some ways race relationships in America have changed since PV Estates was created as a subdivision in 1923, in some fundamental ways those relationships haven’t. I always assumed that PV Estates, like the urban Texas cities I grew up in, was racist. But it wasn’t until I got embroiled in the Great Bicycle Gang Imbroglio that I began to understand that PV Estates wasn’t casually, or accidentally, or coincidentally racist. It was methodically laid out, planned, and executed as a racist community. But as with so much else in our national fabric, to understand how important racial purity was for the founders of the city, you have to turn to law, and you have to understand that PV Estates’ desire to remain racially pure was not unique, special, or unusual. A look into PV Estate’s founding mythology of racial purity is a click away on the Supreme Court’s 1917 decision of Buchanan v. Warley.
Gazing back a century to 1917 it’s almost impossible to use the right lens. Rather than focusing on the future they didn’t yet know – computers, phones, air travel for the masses, television, video cameras, full carbon bikes that are 100% pure carbon, or even bicycles with gears – it’s a lot easier to focus on what their recent past was. The year 1917 was only fifty-two years after the Civil War. 1865 was to them as 1965 is to us: Recent history to most, living history to many, and still redolent with personal recollection and experience.
Americans were still struggling with the awesome weight of understanding the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution: Blacks were people, citizens, the equal of whites, and entitled to the same rights. Much of that “understanding” though involved a low-grade, unending war against implementing those guarantees, and no place was a more bitter battleground than the U.S. Supreme Court.
Joseph McKenna, Oliver Wendell Holmes, William Day, Edward Douglass White, Willis Van Devanter, Mahlon Pitney, James Clark McReynolds, and John Hessin Clark were on the U.S. Supreme Court when lawyers argued Buchanan v. Warley. All were northerners except for McReynolds (Kentucky), and White (Louisiana). Louis Brandeis had not yet been confirmed at the time of oral argument and was nominally from Kentucky, but raised in a Jewish family from Prague that valued German culture and that prized Schumann and Schiller as dinner time conversation topics, it’s safe to say that his childhood had little in common with the redneck state in which he was raised.
This constellation of justices, that included two of the greatest jurists to ever sit on the court, rendered the opinion in Buchanan v. Warley, which confronted a simple issue: Can a white man sell property to a black man even though the city of Louisville had an ordinance prohibiting it? It was a test case set up by the NAACP to fight the new wave of segregation that was crashing like a giant close-out over the cities that were absorbing the great black migration from south to north.
Justice William Day, writing for the majority, was no slouch. In his nineteen-year tenure on the court he penned over four hundred opinions, of which only eighteen were dissents. He was an enemy of large corporations and voted with antitrust majorities throughout his time as a justice. But it was nonetheless surprising when he ruled that ordinances prohibiting blacks from owning property in white neighborhoods were unconstitutional.
The decision sent shock waves through the nation. It was the first time in the prior thirty-eight cases that had come before the court regarding civil rights that the court had ruled in favor of blacks. And although the racist south was most deeply entrenched fighting the Fourteenth Amendment, few if any northern or western communities in America wanted to integrate either, and a quick review of PV Estates’ 2010 census data shows that for this enclave at least, little has changed. “If you’re black, oh brother, get back, get back, get back.”
But in those days when questions of race were still so close to the carnage of the Civil War, and the status of blacks had only been elevated in principle rather than in fact, racists felt no qualms about putting their bestial arguments into Supreme Court briefs. Justice Day noted “That there exists a serious and difficult problem arising from a feeling of race hostility which the law is powerless to control, and to which it must give a measure of consideration, may be freely admitted.” This is of course the mantra of the anti-politically correct, or the Trumpers of 2017, a hundred years later: We hate blacks and the law can’t stop us from hating them.
Yet Justice Day was not hobbled by this reality as he considered and then struck down the racist arguments supporting discrimination in housing sales: “It is the purpose of such enactments, and, it is frankly avowed, it will be their ultimate effect, to require by law, at least in residential districts, the compulsory separation of the races on account of color. Such action is said to be essential to the maintenance of the purity of the races, although it is to be noted in the ordinance under consideration that the employment of colored servants in white families is permitted, and nearby residences of colored persons not coming within the blocks, as defined in the ordinance, are not prohibited.” The racists wanted separation of the races but, apparently, not when it came to their servants. This parallel in PV Estates is evident any weekday on countless city streets, where Hispanic workers tend the yards on condition that they leave the city at day’s end. Justice Day made clear that the case was not one of maintaining racial purity, but a white man’s right to sell his property to a black man if he saw fit, and vice versa.
The appellants argued that the proposed segregation would promote the public peace by preventing race conflicts. “Desirable as this is, and important as is the preservation of the public peace, this aim cannot be accomplished by laws or ordinances which deny rights created or protected by the Federal Constitution,” was Day’s curt response.
Finally, Day rebutted the racists’ strongest suit, one that PV Estates residents still bandy about today — property values: “It is said that such acquisitions by colored persons depreciate property owned in the neighborhood by white persons. But property may be acquired by undesirable white neighbors or put to disagreeable though lawful uses with like results.”
And just like that, the constitutionality of these ordinances was tossed on the rubbish heap.
If only racism could have been tossed on the rubbish heap with it.
*Note: I’m cobbling this together in fits and starts and am only up to Part 2. The next three installments will be published next week. In the meantime, back to our regular bike racing programming nonesuch and whatnot and etcetera.
March 22, 2017 § 29 Comments
Part 1: The Tax Man Goeth
The mayor of Palos Verdes Estates, the city council, and over sixty percent of the voters in the last municipal election on March 7, 2017 voted for something so important and crucial to the community that it could only have been given the most anodyne name imaginable: Measure D.
This ballot item, if it had been forced to comply with the same rules of truthful disclosure that we require of foodstuffs, would have been called “City Fire Department and EMS Tax.” Because that’s what it was: A tax to continue paying for that least objectionable and most necessary of all city services – a fire department and its attendant emergency medical services.
Who could possibly vote against that?
The answer turned out to be “about forty percent of the people who voted in an election that had less than thirteen percent of all eligible voters show up to vote.” Normally that would be a crushing victory for the tax man, sixty to forty. But in PV Estates, tax proposals like this one had to be approved by two-thirds of the people who voted, and the end tally left the tax supporters about three hundred votes short. In other words, the people of PV Estates voted, incredibly, not to pay for their own fire and emergency medical services.
It might seem strange to think that a mostly older community with a large proportion of retirees would vote against a fire department. This is no henhouse filled with spring chickens; the city’s median age is a sun-wrinkled, HGH-assisted 50. PV Estates sits on a hilly slope that is highly susceptible to the wildfires that make California such a staple of national night-time summer weather news reports. Setting aside the conflagrations, the fire department is also the first responder when people wake up in the middle of the night with chest pains, when they fall and break a hip, or much more importantly, when their cat gets stuck in a tree.
But voting against the fire department and EMS wasn’t really a vote against either, and it certainly wasn’t a vote against cats. It was a vote against the PV Estates Police Department, an agency that of late had become the endless target of bad news, litigation, and virulent anonymous hate speech attacks.
To understand how a minority of voters could torpedo an entire police department, though, you have to go back to 1978, to Howard Jarvis, and to Proposition 13, the mother of all regressive tax laws. And to understand why the white voters in PV Estates were so staunchly behind regressive taxation, even to the detriment of their own community, you have to go all the way back to the city’s inception and the deed restrictions that marketed PV Estates as an ideal community that would bring together “the cream of the manhood and womanhood of the greatest nation that has ever lived, the Caucasian race and the American nation.” Those were the words of its founder, and his adherents are alive, well, and kicking like hell.