1966 Denial of a Conditional Use for 11339 Dronfield, Pacoima, for Yoshito R. and Michiko Matsuda

I’m clearing out my father’s hoard, and sometimes you find something interesting. This was a denial of a zoning variance for a church. Given that my father collected a lot of stuff from work, and one of his interests was racial discrimination (because he faced it), I thought, maybe, this was an instance. It’s impossible to know, but here’s the letter.

This couple wanted to turn a house into a church. They were denied. The reasoning was that the area was developing into a suburb, and this conversion to a church didn’t fit in.

I had to find out what was there now:


It looks like that could be the same house. Zillow says it was built in 1947.  It’s set back, and I could see why they wanted to convert this house – it has a lot of parking. The lot extends all the way back to the other street.  What’s that over there on the right?

It’s a charter school. The previous use was a 3br3ba house 3500+ sqft, built in 1946. The lot extends back the same distance.

That’s too bad that they didn’t get the variance back then. Maybe it was different. Let’s see what’s there today:


Well, look at that. There’s two other churches right in there.  The JW place is found online as a 5000+ sqft house built in 2011.  The church at Broment and Pierce was built in 1950, and is a large church at 6500+ sqft.  So it’s definitely an area with churches.

Looking at the rest of the block, I think it hasn’t changed since 1966, and is still “rural” in character, meaning that people store cars on the property.  Look at this map:


It’s not too far off of Van Nuys, and the city saw fit to turn most of the areas into large scale uses, and more churches are around there.

This smells of discrimination.  I don’t know the Matsudas, or who they were, or what really happened here… but I can speculate. I suspect they were Buddhist, and they were denied a pretty reasonable variance because they were Buddhist and not white. Christians ran the system, and run the system, and can use their personal biases to help stop the practice of other religions.

My guess is that there was a push to make Pacoima more middle class.  The freeway was in, and VN Blvd was being redeveloped. The pattern with suburbanization was to turn communities of color into less poor, places. Pacoima was a blended community.

It’s an old community, and all the old communities tended to be integrated, mainly because they lacked contracts that constructed white supremacy.  White-only communities arose from around 1910 to the early 1960s, and it was promoted by government redlining.  It started before the government intervention, but was propelled by it when it was instituted.  Pacoima was a redlined community.






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