"perpetual and binding forever"
Race and the Creation of a
Los Angeles Subdivision

Tract 11556

Tract 11556, now known as Cheviot Knolls, is one of several tracts comprising the Cheviot Hills area in West Los Angeles. Bounded by streets such as Pico Boulevard, Overland Avenue and Exposition Boulevard, the hilly and picturesque area includes such subdivisions as Castle Heights, The Palms, Hillcrest View Estates, Castle Heights, the Country Club Highland Tract, the California Country Club Estates, Cheviot Hills itself, and Cheviot Knolls.  Development of the area began in the 1920s and, after a slowdown in the early years of the Depression, resumed in the mid 1930s. The focus of this exhibit is specifically the Cheviot Knolls tract. However, please take a look at Jonathan Weiss’s excellent Cheviot Hills History website for a detailed history and overview of the development of the Cheviot Hills region and all the tracts (including Cheviot Knolls). It is a great and growing website that is the best way to become familiar with the Cheviot Hills area and its development, and it is very useful in putting this exhibit in its proper context.

While the color coded maps provided a quick way to assess the perceived merits of any one neighborhood, the maps were backed up by Area Descriptions that detailed the factors that determined the HOLC rating.  These reports are not generally as well known as the maps, but they make the federal government’s attitudes unmistakable.  This Area Description collectively covers all the tracts of the Cheviot Hills area.
The Area Description is from 1939. 

Even a cursory glance of the document says a great deal about how the HOLC views the population. The first section of the Area Description has room to note the percentage of Foreign Families, and to describe the presence of Nationalities, and any trends of Shifting population or Infiltration (emphasis mine). In the case of Cheviot Hills, the appraiser sees only a "(S)light infiltration of American Jewish families noted." In other tracts around Los Angeles, this is an area where appraisers have noted the presence of Russian immigrants or Japanese Americans, for example, often calculating their percentage in the general population. Most telling of all, of course is field 1d, in which the appraiser notes the percentage of Negro residents. It is the only field on the Area Description in which a specific race is named. The 0% the appraiser lists on the form makes the tract of Cheviot Hills eligible for it highest rating, and that is what it received, listed in the narrative section as a "hot spot," worthy of its "medial green" color on the HOLC map, adding that deed restrictions are in place that "protects (it) in perpetuity against subversive racial elements."

In addition to assessing the value of the those tracts already developed in the Cheviot Hills area, the Area Description makes an observation of a coming attraction: "Plans are under way for immediate development of a section between National Blvd., Motor Ave., Exposition Blvd. & Manning Ave., to be known as Cheviot Knolls. This is immediately adjacent to the area and it is thought will, in time, become a part of it."

The period in which this Area Description was written coincides with the with the most important period in Tract 11556’s history, when the empty tract indeed became a fully-developed neighborhood, one that fit in perfectly with its "medial green" neighbors.

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