Open housing hearing

The Seattle Human Rights Commission drafted a strong ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on race, color, religion, ancestry or national origin in rental or sales of housing. The proposal included strong criminal penalties for violators, and contained an "emergency clause" which meant that it would not be subject to immediate overturn by referendum if passed by the City Council.

The City Council met on October 25, 1963 to consider adopting the ordinance, and the meeting included opportunities for the public to speak on the issue. During the meeting, the Council watered down the ordinance by greatly reducing penalties for violating it, and amended the ordinance to remove the emergency clause. The Council failed to pass even this version, instead putting it up for voter approval on a March 1964 ballot.

Candidates for Mayor and two City Council positions who campaigned against the open housing ordinance won handily in the March, 1964 election; the open housing ballot issue was defeated by a margin of 2 to 1. Here are some voices from that hearing.

Rev John H. Adams, chairman of Central Area Committee for Civil Rights
(1:08; 1.1 MB mp3 file; D 53, tracks 10-11)

Tak Kubota, Japanese American Citizens League
(2:52; 2.7 MB mp3 file; D 54, track 9)

Rabbi Norman Hirsch (excerpt)
(2:43; 2.5 MB mp3 file; D 54, track 11)

Robert Gans, regional vice president of The Institute of Real Estate Management (excerpt)
(1:09; 1.1 MB mp3 file; D 57, track 13; D 58 tracks 1-2)

Nancy McGhee, homeowner
(2:09; 2 MB mp3 file; D 57, track 11)

Eileen Meacham, property owner (excerpt)
(2:22; 2.2 MB mp3 file; D 55, tracks 11-12)

Rev. Thomas W. Miller, Calvary Bible Presbyterian Church, with questions from City Councilmember Wing Luke (excerpt)
(2:41; 2.5 MB mp3 file; D 58, tracks 10-11)

The entire meeting can be heard here. For more about the campaign for open housing in Seattle, see our online exhibit. 

Citation: Public Comment at Seattle City Council Committee of the Whole Meeting, October 25, 1963. Event ID 9, Seattle City Council Legislative Department Audio Recordings, 4601-03.