L.A. Considers Honoring Civil Rights-Era Housing Activist by Making It Harder To Build Housing
Loren Miller was a crusading civil rights activist and lawyer who upended racist restrictions on black people owning homes. Los Angeles preservationists want to honor his legacy by preventing the redevelopment of a single-family home he once lived in.
On Thursday, Los Angeles’s Cultural Heritage Commission (CHC) voted to take up an application from preservationist Teresa Grimes to landmark a two-story, two-bedroom house in the city’s Silver Lake neighborhood that Miller lived in from 1940 until his death in 1967.
It was during that time, per the application, that Miller worked on a number of landmark civil rights lawsuits.
That includes his work successfully defending black homeowners in Los Angeles’ Sugar Hills neighborhood who’d been sued by their white neighbors for violating expired restrictive covenants that barred the sale of homes to non-whites. Later, Miller was a co-counsel, alongside future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, on the landmark 1948 Supreme Court case Shelley v Kraemer, in which the Court ruled that government enforcement of racially restrictive covenants was unconstitutional.
His work on housing issues earned Miller a reputation as a leading legal light of the civil rights movement. Curbed says he was dubbed “Mr. Civil Rights.” Less august is his modest Silver Lake home, a fact that commissioners candidly acknowledged at Thursday’s hearing.
“The architecture isn’t the governing factor. I don’t think any of us would say this is architecturally significant,” said CHC Commission President Barry Milofsky. Nevertheless, Milofsky said the history that happened inside the home “needs to be recognized, commemorated, and memorialized.”
Representatives of the L.A. Conservancy and the Silver Lake Heritage Trust both spoke in favor of landmarking Miller’s former home at the meeting as well.
Absent from the proceedings were Edgar and Eugenia Gonzalez, which commission documents list as the current owners of the house through a family tr
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