1964 California Proposition 14

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California Proposition 14 was a November 1964 initiative ballot measure that amended the California state constitution to nullify the 1963 Rumford Fair Housing Act, thereby allowing property sellers, landlords and their agents to openly discriminate on ethnic grounds when selling or letting accommodations, as they had been permitted to before 1963. The proposition became law after receiving support from 65% of voters.[1] In 1966, the California Supreme Court in a 5–2 split decision declared Proposition 14 unconstitutional under the equal protection clause of the United States Constitution (Fourteenth Amendment).[2] The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that decision in 1967 in Reitman v. Mulkey.[3]

Political science research has tied white support for Proposition 14 to racial threat theory, which holds that an increase in the racial minority population triggers a fearful and discriminatory response by the dominating racial majority.[4]

Circumstances Leading to Proposition 14[edit]

As early as 1927, the California Real Estate Association (the eventual sponsor of Proposition 14) began to advise its membership in ways to keep California communities all white.[5] This was part of a decades-long campaign by real estate interests to undercut the rights of minority groups in regard to housing facilities in California.[5] This also included the California Real Estate Association opposing the relocation of the evacuated Japanese (during World War II) in California or anywhere on the West Coast.[6]

California Real Estate Association Race Restriction Committee[edit]

In 1942, in response to the success of some Negroes in moving out of the Los Angeles ghetto and into traditionally all white neighborhoods, the California Real Estate Association formed its Race Restriction Committee. The purpose of the Committee was to establish perpetual race restrictions on parcels of property.[5]

U.S. Supreme Court Decision in Shelley v. Kraemer[edit]

In 1948, the United States Supreme Court in Shelley v. Kraemer precluded judicial enforcement of racially restrictive housing covenants.[7] Prior to 1948, the California Real Estate Association routinely promoted and enforced racially restrictive housing covenants to prevent family homes from ending up in the hands of minorities, particularly Negroes.[8]

Support of Federal Constitutional Amendment Allowing Racially Restrictive Covenants[edit]

Shortly following the 1948 court decision in Shelley, an item appeared in the California Real Estate magazine, a publication of the California Real Estate Association (the organization is currently named the California Association of Realtors) advocating an amendment to the United States Constitution that would overturn Shelley and constitutionally guarantee the legal enforcement of racially restrictive covenants throughout the United States.[9]

In advocating support for a federal constitutional amendment guaranteeing the legal enforcement of racially restrictive covenants, the California Real Estate Association publication stated that "millions of home owners of the Caucasian race have constructed or acquired homes in areas restricted against occupancy by Negroes. The practice of surrounding homes in such areas with the security of such restrictions has become a traditional element of value in home ownership throughout this nation."[10]

The publication further stated: "The recent decisions of the Supreme Court abovementioned have destroyed the values thus secured. The threat of occupancy by Negroes of property in such areas depreciates the value of all home properties and constitutes a direct deterrent to investment in the construction or acquisition of homes of superior quality whether large or small. The experience has been uniform that whenever and wherever Negroes have occupied homes in such areas this has not only depreciated values of the properties which they own, but has depreciated the values of all surrounding properties."[10]

In further support of the constitutional amendment, the publication stated: "Moreover, the prices of homes in such areas are well within the purchasing power of vast numbers of Negroes. These circumstances greatly aggravate the hazard to which such home owners are exposed. ... Additionally, the insistence of some Negroes upon moving into areas previously restricted exclusively to the occupancy of Caucasians will necessarily create racial tensions and antagonisms and do much harm to our national social structure."[10]

The federal constitutional amendment effort was unsuccessful,[11] but the reasons for pursuing such an amendment provided insight into the underlying reasons for pursuing a future and similar protective state constitutional amendment in California.[12]

California Real Estate Association Support of 1950 California Proposition 10[edit]

The California Real Estate Association also supported California Proposition 10 on the November 1950 election ballot (adding Article 34 to the California Constitution and known as the "Public Housing Project Law") which made it significantly more difficult to build low-rent housing projects in California communities.[13] Proposition 10 had been described as a means of legally handcuffing public housing that may be greatly needed for low-income renters, including minorities.[14]


Despite the court decision in Shelley, segregation in California continued. As an example, an insidious form of segregation known as blockbusting occurred in East Palo Alto. In 1954, a white resident sold his house to a black family. Almost immediately, agents of the California Real Estate Association, including the president of the statewide real estate Association himself,[15] began warning of a "Negro invasion" and even staged burglaries to panic white homeowners to sell at below-market prices. Those properties were then sold to Negroes at higher-than-market prices with real estate interests handsomely profiting from the transactions.[16] These East Palo Alto houses had been priced so much higher than similar properties for white homeowners that the black homeowners had difficulty making payments which created a slum in East Palo Alto.[15]

Rumford Fair Housing Act[edit]

The tipping point for the California Real Estate Association to pursue an initiative for a state constitutional amendment in California was the enactment of the Rumford Fair Housing Act in 1963. The Rumford Fair Housing Act was passed by the California Legislature to help end racial discrimination by property owners and landlords who refused to rent or sell their property to "colored" people.[17] It was drafted by William Byron Rumford, the first African American from Northern California to serve in the legislature. The Act provided that landlords could not deny people housing because of ethnicity, religion, or national origin (later the law would be extended to apply to sex, marital status, physical handicap, or familial status)[18] Future Governor Ronald Reagan opposed this and other legislative attempts to enact fair housing, but the Rumford Fair Housing Act was signed into law by Governor Pat Brown.[19]

The California Real Estate Association had fought the Rumford Fair Housing Act "every step of the way."[20] In the minds of California Real Estate Association leaders, the Rumford Fair Housing Act directly threatened the financial interests of the real estate industry who came to see "the promotion, preservation, and manipulation of racial segregation as central – rather than incidental or residual – components of their profit generating strategies."[21]

The California Real Estate Association also advised its member boards that speakers from the State Fair Employment Practice Commission, the agency which enforced the Rumford Fair Housing Act, should be prevented from talking to the general real estate membership about the new law. Instead, all questions about the interpretation of the new law would come from the real estate association itself.[22]

Following the assassination of President John Kennedy on November 22, 1963, tremendous pressure was placed on the California Real Estate Association to call off their initiative campaign to repeal the Rumford Fair Housing Act.[23] The Association instead decided to "delay a little while" to "let things simmer down."[23]

Proposition 14[edit]

In 1964, the California Real Estate Association (currently named the California Association of Realtors) sponsored an initiative constitutional amendment to counteract the effects of the Rumford Act.[24] A member of the State Fair Employment Practice Commission, the agency which enforced the Rumford Fair Housing Act, asserted that some members of the California Real Estate Association were promoting their initiative campaign to repeal the Rumford Fair Housing Act to continue blockbusting.[25]

The initiative, numbered Proposition 14 when it was certified for the ballot, was to add an amendment (Cal. Const. art. I, § 26) to the constitution of California. This amendment would provide, in part, as follows:

Neither the State nor any subdivision or agency thereof shall deny, limit or abridge, directly or indirectly, the right of any person, who is willing or desires to sell, lease or rent any part or all of his real property, to decline to sell, lease or rent such property to such person or persons as he, in his absolute discretion, chooses.[1]

In California, housing segregation was rampant as a result of decades of racially discriminatory housing policies explicitly aimed at keeping people of color confined to urban ghettos and out of the expanding suburbs.[26] Proposition 14 attempted to re-legalize discrimination and associational privacy by landlords and property owners.

Ballot Arguments[edit]

The ballot argument in favor of Proposition 14 stated that the constitutional amendment "will guarantee the right of all home and apartment owners to choose buyers and renters of their property as they wish, without interference by State or local government." The argument further stated that "most owners of such property in California lost this right through the Rumford Act of 1963. It says they may not refuse to sell or rent their property to anyone for reasons of race, color, religion, national origin, or ancestry."[27]

The ballot argument against Proposition 14 stated that Proposition 14 "would write hate and bigotry into the Constitution." The argument further stated that Proposition 14 "would legalize and incite bigotry. At a time when our nation is moving ahead on civil rights, it proposes to convert California into another Mississippi or Alabama and to create an atmosphere for violence and hate."[28]


Following much publicity the proposition gained the endorsement of many large conservative political groups, including the John Birch Society and the California Republican Assembly.[11] As these and other groups endorsed the proposal it became increasingly popular and the petition to have the proposition added to the ballot garnered over one million signatures. This was more than twice the 480,000 signatures that were required.[29]

Endorsements by Racist Groups[edit]

Other supporters of Proposition 14 included the American Nazi Party and local branches of the White Citizens' Councils, a network of white supremacist, segregationist organizations.[5] The National States' Rights Party, a white supremacist political party having the slogan "White Men Unite," also supported Proposition 14.[30]

The statewide director of the campaign against Proposition 14 asked the California Real Estate Association to repudiate the White Citizens' Council's support of Proposition 14, but the California Real Estate Association, acting through its president, refused to do so.[31] In response to this refusal, Rev. H. H. Brookins, chairman of the United Civil Rights Committee said: “It no longer is possible for proponents of Proposition 14 to hide their real intention, which is to legalize segregation in housing. By refusing to repudiate support of a local Mississippi-based racist group, the California Real Estate Association had admitted its concern is not with property rights – it is to destroy human rights.”[31]

Other opponents of Proposition 14, including the AFL-CIO Los Angeles County Labor Federation, also demanded that the California Real Estate Association fire its Southern California publicity director who had written extensively for the White Citizens’ Council magazine, and who stated during a campaign Town Hall meeting in Los Angeles: “The people have the right to discriminate if they want to.”[31] The president of the California Real Estate Association had recently claimed that realtors are against anything smacking of prejudice against minorities.[32]

Los Angeles Times Endorsement[edit]

In endorsing Proposition 14, the Los Angeles Times stated: “One of man’s most ancient rights in a free society is the privilege of using and disposing of his private property in whatever manner he deems appropriate.” The editorial further stated: “But we do feel, and strongly, that housing equality cannot safely be achieved at the expense of still another basic right.”[33][34][35] According to the Los Angeles Times, the ability to discriminate against home buyers or renters by race, color, and creed was considered a "basic property right."[26]

In a letter-to-the-editor response to the Times' endorsement of Proposition 14, then-California Attorney General Stanley Mosk stated: “I oppose the segregation initiative. I oppose it because it sugar-coats bigotry with an appeal to generalities we can accept, while ignoring the specific problem that confronts us.”[36]

Heated campaign[edit]

The Proposition 14 campaign was heated and included several controversial comments from Edmund Brown who was the Governor of California at the time. Governor Brown stated that passage of Proposition 14 would put into California's Constitution "a provision for discrimination of which not even Mississippi or Alabama can boast."[37] Previously, Governor Brown had likened the campaign for Proposition 14 to "another hate binge which began more than 30 years ago in a Munich beer hall."[38] In a letter to the editor response to several items published in the Los Angeles Times relating to Proposition 14, Governor Brown wrote: “I submit that it is not the Governor who is inflammatory. It is Proposition 14. And I submit that it is not the opponents of Proposition 14 who encourage the racists and bigots in this state, but those who support Proposition 14.”[39]

Martin Luther King Jr. visited California on multiple occasions to campaign against Proposition 14, saying its passage would be "one of the most shameful developments in our nation’s history."[40]

Election results[edit]

Proposition 14 appeared on the November 3, 1964, general election ballot in California. The ballot proposition passed with 65.39% support, receiving 4,526,460 votes in support and 2,395,747 votes against.[41]

Results by county[edit]

The final election results by county for Proposition 14 from the Statement of Vote were as follows:[41]

Alameda 253,380 164,736 418,116 60.60 Pass
Alpine 127 66 193 65.80 Pass
Amador 3,122 1,711 4,833 64.60 Pass
Butte 27,578 12,204 39,782 69.32 Pass
Calaveras 3,686 1,494 5,180 71.16 Pass
Colusa 2,699 1,696 4,395 61.41 Pass
Contra Costa 118,313 64,712 183,025 64.64 Pass
Del Norte 3,217 1,913 5,130 62.71 Pass
El Dorado 9,904 4,396 14,300 69.26 Pass
Fresno 86,636 45,748 132,384 65.44 Pass
Glenn 4,662 2,335 6,997 66.63 Pass
Humboldt 20,867 15,552 36,419 57.30 Pass
Imperial 13,723 6,319 20,042 68.47 Pass
Inyo 3,987 1,647 5,634 70.77 Pass
Kern 76,510 30,114 106,624 71.76 Pass
Kings 11,105 6,908 18,013 61.65 Pass
Lake 5,828 2,371 8,199 71.08 Pass
Lassen 3,412 2,457 5,869 58.14 Pass
Los Angeles 1,802,620 870,342 2,672,962 67.44 Pass
Madera 8,921 4,224 13,145 67.87 Pass
Marin 38,667 35,450 74,117 52.17 Pass
Mariposa 1,912 923 2,835 67.44 Pass
Mendocino 10,110 7,360 17,470 57.87 Pass
Merced 16,409 10,572 26,981 60.82 Pass
Modoc 1,536 1,555 3,091 49.69 Fail
Mono 1,117 312 1,429 78.17 Pass
Monterey 36,753 26,590 63,343 58.02 Pass
Napa 22,403 8,286 30,689 73.00 Pass
Nevada 7,668 3,334 11,002 69.70 Pass
Orange 312,933 89,190 402,123 77.82 Pass
Placer 17,053 10,027 27,080 62.97 Pass
Plumas 3,185 2,311 5,496 57.95 Pass
Riverside 95,734 43,861 139,595 68.58 Pass
Sacramento 139,018 86,777 225,795 61.57 Pass
San Benito 3,281 2,657 5,938 55.25 Pass
San Bernardino 150,680 59,787 210,467 71.59 Pass
San Diego 296,994 124,670 421,664 70.43 Pass
San Francisco 165,155 147,151 312,306 52.88 Pass
San Joaquin 60,601 32,460 93,061 65.12 Pass
San Luis Obispo 23,209 12,603 35,812 64.81 Pass
San Mateo 129,480 85,525 215,005 60.22 Pass
Santa Barbara 52,801 32,059 84,860 62.22 Pass
Santa Clara 168,684 149,153 317,837 53.07 Pass
Santa Cruz 26,146 18,518 44,664 58.54 Pass
Shasta 14,341 13,050 27,391 52.36 Pass
Sierra 694 466 1,160 59.83 Pass
Siskiyou 7,013 6,401 13,414 52.28 Pass
Solano 34,606 15,041 49,647 69.70 Pass
Sonoma 43,207 26,726 69,933 61.78 Pass
Stanislaus 39,510 23,578 63,088 62.63 Pass
Sutter 10,040 3,647 13,687 73.35 Pass
Tehama 6,370 4,668 11,038 57.71 Pass
Trinity 1,765 1,461 3,226 54.71 Pass
Tulare 35,704 18,664 54,368 65.67 Pass
Tuolumne 4,807 2,642 7,449 64.53 Pass
Ventura 63,964 32,983 96,947 65.98 Pass
Yolo 14,412 11,157 25,569 56.37 Pass
Yuba 8,201 3,187 11,388 72.01 Pass
TOTALS 4,526,460 2,395,747 6,922,207 65.39 PASS

Election aftermath[edit]

Shortly following the successful Proposition 14 election, the president of the National Association of Real Estate Boards declared that private property rights were more basic to human liberty than the civil rights of minority groups.[42]

Election analysis[edit]

A 2018 study in the American Political Science Review found that white voters in areas which experienced massive African-American population growth between 1940 and 1960 were more likely to vote for Proposition 14. Political scientists have taken this as evidence for "racial threat theory", which holds that the rapid increase in a minority population triggers fears among the majority race population, leading the majority to impose higher levels of social control on the subordinate race.[4]


Soon after Proposition 14 was passed, the federal government cut off all housing funds to California. Many also cited the proposition as one of the causes of the Watts Riots of 1965.[43]

With the federal housing funds cut off and with the support of Governor Pat Brown, the constitutionality of the measure was challenged soon afterward. In 1966, the California Supreme Court did not consider whether Proposition 14 was unconstitutional because it violated the equal protection and due process provisions of the California Constitution; instead, it held that Proposition 14 violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the federal Constitution.[44] Gov. Brown's stance proved controversial; later in 1966, he was defeated in his bid for re-election by Ronald Reagan. However, Reagan opposed both Proposition 14 and the Rumford Act, and stated that Proposition 14 was "not a wise measure."[45] Reagan labeled the Rumford Act as an attempt "to give one segment of our population a right at the expense of the basic rights of all our citizens."[46]

However, the case continued. The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the California Supreme Court's decision in Reitman v. Mulkey (1967), holding that Proposition 14 was invalid because it violated the equal protection clause. The proposition was repealed by Proposition 7 in the November 1974 election.[47]

Reitman established a significant precedent because it held that state assistance or encouragement of private discrimination violated the equal protection guarantee of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Even following the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Reitman, the California Real Estate Association was looking for ways to continue engaging in housing discrimination by evading the high court decision.[48]

Additional ballot measures by the real estate industry[edit]

Similar to Proposition 14, there have been subsequent efforts by the real estate industry to promote ballot measures in California to generate more profits at the alleged expense of minorities. Examples include the unsuccessful 2018 California Proposition 5[49] and 2020 California Proposition 19,[50] which has been criticized for not helping first-time homeowners who are disproportionately minorities[51] and for reinforcing racial inequity within California's tax system.[52]


  1. ^ a b Cal. Const. art. I, § 26 [adopted November 3, 1964, and repealed November 5, 1974].
  2. ^ Mulkey v. Reitman (1966) 64 Cal. 2d 529
  3. ^ Reitman v. Mulkey (1967) 387 U.S. 369
  4. ^ a b Reny, Tyler T.; Newman, Benjamin J. (2018). "Protecting the Right to Discriminate: The Second Great Migration and Racial Threat in the American West". American Political Science Review. 112 (4): 1104–1110. doi:10.1017/S0003055418000448. ISSN 0003-0554. S2CID 149560682.
  5. ^ a b c d Goodman, George (August 27, 1964). "Bigotry of Fair Housing Act Opponents Rooted in Past". Los Angeles Sentinel.
  6. ^ "Realty Association Backs Ban on Japs". Los Angeles Times. June 27, 1943.
  7. ^ Shelley v. Kraemer, 334 U.S. 1 (May 1948)
  8. ^ Reft, Ryan (September 2, 2014). "Structured Unrest: The Rumford Act, Proposition 14, and the Systematic Inequality that Created the Watts Riots". Tropics of Meta.
  9. ^ "Enforcement of Race Restrictions Through Constitutional Amendment Advocated". California Real Estate Magazine. September 1948.
  10. ^ a b c "Enforcement of Race Restrictions Through Constitutional Amendment Advocated". California Real Estate Magazine: 4. September 1948.
  11. ^ a b Turner, Wallace (May 10, 1964). "Rightists in West Fight Housing Act". The New York Times.
  12. ^ "CREA's Stand". Los Angeles Sentinel. March 19, 1964.
  13. ^ "Realty Group Urges 'Yes' Vote on Proposition 10". Los Angeles Times. October 7, 1950.
  14. ^ "Debaters Argue on Proposition 10". Los Angeles Times. October 10, 1950.
  15. ^ a b Rothstein, Richard (2017). The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America. New York, NY: Liveright Publishing Corporation.
  16. ^ Funabiki, Jon (November 2, 2017). "The myth and truth about housing segregation in the Bay Area". Renaissance Journalism.
  17. ^ Health & Saf. Code, §§ 35700-35744 [added by Stats. 1963, Ch. 1853, § 2].
  18. ^ Peniel E. Joseph (2006). The Black Power Movement: Rethinking the Civil Rights-Black Power Era. CRC Press. pp. 47–. ISBN 978-0-415-94596-7. Retrieved January 8, 2013.
  19. ^ Pillar of Fire, Taylor Branch, p. 242
  20. ^ Davies, Lawrence (July 20, 1963). "California Law on Bias Assailed". The New York Times.
  21. ^ Self, Robert (2003). American Babylon: Race and the Struggle for Postwar Oakland. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. p. 265.
  22. ^ "Negroes Unite To Save Fair Housing Bill". Los Angeles Sentinel. December 5, 1963.
  23. ^ a b "Kennedy's Death Slows Campaign to Repeal California's Fair Housing Act". The New York Times. December 1, 1963.
  24. ^ "Proposition 14". Time. September 25, 1964. Archived from the original on April 14, 2009. Retrieved January 15, 2008.
  25. ^ "Initiative Will Place Us In 'The Muck With Mississippi'". Los Angeles Sentinel. April 16, 1964.
  26. ^ a b Fleischer, Matthew (October 21, 2020). "How the L.A. Times helped write segregation into California's Constitution". Los Angeles Times.
  27. ^ Ballot Pamphlet, Proposed Amendments to California Constitution with arguments to voters, General Election (November 3, 1964). California Secretary of State. p. 18.
  28. ^ Ballot Pamphlet, Proposed Amendments to California Constitution with arguments to voters, General Election (November 3, 1964). California Secretary of State. p. 19.
  29. ^ Robert O. Self (2003). American Babylon: Race and the Struggle for Postwar Oakland. Princeton University Press. p. 168. ISBN 0-691-07026-1. proposition 14 california 1964.
  30. ^ "Anti-Fair Housing Kit Floods Area". Los Angeles Sentinel. June 11, 1964.
  31. ^ a b c "Realtors Aim To Legalize Segregation, Brookins Says". Los Angeles Sentinel. August 20, 1964.
  32. ^ "Realtors' Case for Prop. 14". San Francisco Examiner. August 1, 1964.
  33. ^ "Decision on Housing Initiative". Los Angeles Times. February 2, 1964. p. K6.
  34. ^ "Inflammatory Talk on Prop. 14". Los Angeles Times. August 31, 1964. p. A4.
  35. ^ "Why Prop. 14 Deserves a YES Vote". Los Angeles Times. October 18, 1964. p. F6.
  36. ^ "Atty. Gen. Mosk Letter to the Editor". Los Angeles Times. February 15, 1964. p. B4.
  37. ^ "Brown Assails Prop. 14 as 'Cudgel of Bigotry'". Los Angeles Times. October 8, 1964. p. 18.
  38. ^ "Brown Hit for Attacks on Prop. 14". Los Angeles Times. August 28, 1964. p. 20.
  39. ^ "Gov. Edmund Brown Letter to the Editor". Los Angeles Times. September 5, 1964. p. B4.
  40. ^ Theoharis, Jeanne (September 10, 2018). "A National Problem". Boston Review. Retrieved July 27, 2020.
  41. ^ a b California Secretary of State, Statement of Vote November 3, 1964, General Election, p. 25.
  42. ^ Fowler, Glenn (November 11, 1964). "President of Realtors Puts Property Rights First". The New York Times.
  43. ^ Alonso, Alex A. (1998). Rebuilding Los Angeles: A Lesson of Community Reconstruction (PDF). Los Angeles: University of Southern California.
  44. ^ 64 Cal. 2d 529 (1966)
  45. ^ "Prop. 14, Rumford Act Criticized by Reagan". Los Angeles Times. April 22, 1966. p. A8.
  46. ^ Skelton, George (May 7, 2014) "Thank you, Donald Sterling, for reminding us how far we've come" Los Angeles Times
  47. ^ "California Voter's Pamphlet, General Election, Nov. 5, 1974" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on August 11, 2014. Retrieved June 30, 2013.
  48. ^ "California Realtors Scout Ways To Evade High Court Housing Order". Chicago Daily Defender. June 17–23, 1967.
  49. ^ Official Voter Information Guide, California General Election (November 6, 2018), pp. 34–39.
  50. ^ Official Voter Information Guide, California General Election (November 3, 2020), pp. 38–43.
  51. ^ The Greenlining Institute, 2020 California Ballot Propositions Guide [Proposition 19] (September 16, 2020).
  52. ^ Kimberlin, Sara; Kitson, Kayla (September 2020). "Proposition 19: Creates a Complicated Property Tax Scheme and Reinforces Racial Inequities in California". California Budget & Policy Center. Retrieved October 1, 2020.