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It's been a good month (self indulgent post)(14 posts)

It's been a good month (self indulgent post)Dog
Nov 13, 2001 1:44 PM
So ecstatic about this, I just have to share:

Press Release

AHDC v. City of Fresno

In May 1997, a local developer and a general contractor brought a case in Federal court against the City of Fresno and others captioned: A.H.D.C., a California corporation doing business as AFFORDABLE HOUSING DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION; and ASHWOOD CONSTRUCTION, a California corporation, Plaintiffs, v. CITY OF FRESNO, CALIFORNIA, a municipal corporation, et al., United States District Court, Eastern District of California Civil Case No. CV F-97-5498 OWW SMS. The defendants also included the Fresno City Council, Councilmembers Sal Quintero, Garry Bredefeld, Henry Perea, Daniel Ronquillo, and Chris Mathys, as well as several Fresno citizens.

The claims by the two Plaintiffs were largely focused on allegations of discrimination based upon the Federal Fair Housing Act, the State of California FEHA, as well as other discrimination statutes under 42 U.S.C. sections 1982, 1983, 1985, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and state fraud and interference with contract claims.

AHDC, a local developer, along with a general contractor co-Plaintiff, sued the City of Fresno, certain Councilmembers, and several City residents because the residents and a Councilmember vocally opposed a low income residential development, and the City then denied the developer approval for financing of the project in northwest Fresno in 1996. In August, 2000, the Court granted a motion of the City, and all of the Councilmembers were dismissed except for Councilmember Mathys.

On November 13, 2001, the Court issued a 62 page Order granting the City's and the citizens' motions for summary judgment, asking that the case be dismissed, on the grounds that the First Amendment supercedes claims under the Fair Housing Acts and other discrimination statutes. The Court essentially followed United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decisions rendered in September of 2000, holding that as long as persons do not directly threaten others, rights of free speech guaranteed in the First Amendment permit government officials, as well as private citizens, to voice opposition to a housing project, despite an argument that Fair Housing statutes forbid such opposition.

This case has been fought extremely hard on all sides. Damages claimed by the Plaintiffs exceeded Ten Million Dollars, with additional claims for injunctive relief and punitive damages.

The Fresno City Attorney's Office handled the case on behalf of the City for the first year, after which time the case was primarily handled by private attorney Douglas Taft Sloan, with the Fresno firm of Dowling, Aaron, & Keeler.

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This is incredible, a huge victory for the City. Sorry for the self-indulgent post, but I suppose this does give an idea of what I do for a living (no threats of harm, yet, Dino).

Doug
You've been a very busy pup pop. Where did you find time forMB1
Nov 13, 2001 2:25 PM
the rest of life?
re: It's been a good month (self indulgent post)DINOSAUR
Nov 13, 2001 6:35 PM
Good job indeed!! We are having the same problem up here with low income housing. If you are familar with the Bowman area (Lincoln Way between Foresthill Rd and Bowman U/C Rd) there is a section set aside for low income apartments. However there is a big fight as everyone agrees that there is a need low income housing but no one wants them in their neighborhood. I guess this problem is everywhere.
We need good attorney's and some of the best I've met were on the opposite side of the law. Hate to say it, but in layman's terms some D.A.'s are boneheads. But I'm a bonehead so I guess it takes one to know one. Oh well, at least I'm a retired bonehead...
FresnoDog
Nov 14, 2001 7:43 AM
The situation was a little different here in Fresno, in that there was an excess of housing at the time (see long post below).

This was simply a matter of a rich developer wanting to use public funds to line his pockets. He sues anyone who speaks out against him. Big First Amendment problem.

Doug
Keep up the good work!(NM)ACE-
Nov 13, 2001 10:39 PM
nm
So how did you have time to...PaulCL
Nov 14, 2001 5:51 AM
..train for a 508 mile race?
..take time off for the 508 mile race?
..eat, sleep, and most of all
..make your own person?? (your recent fatherhood announcement)

by the way, congratualtions on the win and the impending fatherhood.
Do I understand this correctly?Sintesi
Nov 14, 2001 7:17 AM
The contractor/developers sued the city and citizens for voicing opinions against low income housing? That seems meritless from the get go. What were their grounds?
yupDog
Nov 14, 2001 7:40 AM
This is a rich developer that has an m.o. of intimidating cities into getting what he wants. He threatens lawsuits from the begining. The grounds for the suit were that the opposition was designed to exclude minorities and families with children from their neighborhood, and that the city sought to keep minorities in one area of town.

This claim belied the fact that half the city council are minorities, they voted against the project, as at the time there was already a 15% vacancy rate in rental housing in the city. More housing would have meant more vacancies, more foreclosures, more run-down projects, etc.

This guy attempts these projects to pull out a $1.2 million developer fee off the top, erect a project, and then sell it off. Not exactly philanthropic.

The opposition became very vocal, including one council member, who wasn't always very diplomatic or appropriate in how he spoke. The Fair Housing Act prohibits acts of threats and intimidation to interfere with members of protected classes obtaining housing. The judge for a few years kept stating that "the First Amendment does not trump Fair Housing law." Well, it does. The U.S. Court of Appeals last year made it perfectly clear that the Constitution trumps statutes -- what we had been arguing all along.

Keep in mind that the developer wanted the city to approve use of public funds to finance the project - this was not a vote on the project itself, only the financing. The council simply decided not to approve additional expenditure of taxpayer money for more housing when there was excess all ready.

Doug
Is the opinion reported?hms
Nov 14, 2001 10:54 AM
Your case sounds interesting. I have represented city officials in Section 1983 cases where the First Amendment was being used as a sword instead of as a shield. Is the opinion reported anywhere?
not yetDog
Nov 14, 2001 11:06 AM
It was as Federal District Court decision. If you want to check RACER, Lexis or Westlaw, here is the info:

Affordable Housing Development Corp. et al. v. City of Fresno et al., case no. 1:97-CV-5498 USDC Calif. Eastern; order dated November 9, 2001.
It's available on RACER nowhms
Nov 19, 2001 6:36 AM
I read the opinion on RACER. It sounds like it was an interesting and hard fought case. Congratulations.
let's not forgetxyz
Nov 14, 2001 1:41 PM
The billable hrs and the law firm's take of the settlement. Nobody works for free.
let's not forgetDog
Nov 14, 2001 1:53 PM
No settlement; judge threw out case; all the lawyers did get paid for their time, though.

Doug
AREN'T THEY ALL? (self indulgent)nfm
Nov 19, 2001 9:59 AM
nfm