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R. ALEXANDER ACOSTA
Assistant Attorney General
Civil Rights Division
STEVEN H. ROSENBAUM
Chief, Housing and Civil Enforcement Section
JEANINE M. WORDEN
Deputy Chief
KEISHA DAWN BELL
Deputy Chief
NANCY F. LANGWORTHY
Trial Attorney
Civil Rights Division
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20530
Telephone: (202) 305-0835
Fax: (202) 514-1116

McGREGOR W. SCOTT
United States Attorney
KRISTI C. KAPETAN
Assistant United States Attorney
1130 O Street, Room 3654
Fresno, CA 93721
Telephone: (559) 498-7440

Attorneys for Plaintiff United States of America



UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA
FRESNO DIVISION

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,

Case No.

           Plaintiff,

Complaint

v.

CITY OF HANFORD, CALIFORNIA

            Defendant.

______________________________________

The United States of America alleges:

1. This action is brought by the United States to enforce the provisions of Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 (the Fair Housing Act), as amended by the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 et seq.

2. This Court has jurisdiction over this action under 28 U.S.C. § 1345 and 42 U.S.C. § 3614(a).

3. The Defendant City of Hanford ("the City") is located in Kings County, California and exercises zoning control and authority over the properties located within Hanford's municipal borders. Such authority is carried out by the City through enactment and implementation of the Hanford Municipal Code.

4. The Omega Trust operates a group home for persons with mental disabilities located at 558 West Birch Court in Hanford. Domitilla Aville is the primary beneficiary of the Omega Trust. Prior to the establishment of the Omega Trust, the Peanut Village Trust owned the home at 558 West Birch Court.

5. The group home at 558 West Birch Court in Hanford is a dwelling within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 3602(b).

6. During all times relevant to this action, the group home at 558 West Birch Court has housed up to seven residents with various mental disabilities, including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. These disabilities are "handicaps" within the meaning of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3602(h). In addition to the residents with disabilities, a caretaker, her husband, and their young child live at the home.

7. The Hanford Municipal Code specifies what types of structures may be used in its zoning districts. The Code allows single family dwellings in single family districts, but prohibits boarding and rooming houses in those districts. Hanford Municipal Code §§ 17.16.011, 17.16.020, 17.18.011, & 17.18.020.

8. In January 2000, Domitilla Aville began operating the home at 558 West Birch Court as a group home for persons with mental disabilities. The home does not need a state license to operate, and the State of California does not provide a licensing scheme for facilities like the West Birch Court home that provide a basic level of support services for persons with mental disabilities.

9. In late January 2000, after the 558 West Birch Court home opened, the City notified Ms. Aville that offering rooms for rent at the home was not a permitted use in the single family district in which the home is located and ordered Ms. Aville to cease use of the home.

10. In April 2000, Hanford City Attorney Michael Noland wrote to Ms. Aville and stated that the home at 558 West Birch Court was a boarding house that cannot be operated in a residential zoning district.

11. On or about April 28, 2000, David Jacobs, a trustee for the Peanut Village Trust, wrote to the City Attorney and stated that the residents of the 558 West Birch Court home were handicapped and asked the City for a reasonable accommodation under the Fair Housing Act to allow the group home to continue operating despite its presence in a single-family residential zone. The City did not respond to this particular request, and instead continued to insist that the group home was operating illegally as a boarding house and must close.

12. On August 23, 2000, the City filed a lawsuit in state court against Ms. Aville and Mr. Jacobs alleging that they had created a public nuisance by operating a room and board facility in a single family residential zone in violation of the Hanford Municipal Code. The City subsequently obtained summary judgment on this claim and attempted to enforce judgment by seeking to have the 558 West Birch Court home closed.

13. On or about February 19, 2002, Sharlene Roberts-Caudle, an attorney for four tenants of the 558 West Birch Court home, wrote to the Hanford City Council and requested a reasonable accommodation to permit the tenants to continue to live in their home as an accommodation of their mental disabilities.

14. The City never responded to the requests for reasonable accommodation by Mr. Jacobs and Ms. Roberts-Caudle and implicitly denied these requests by continuing its efforts to close the home.

15. Defendant, through the actions referred to in paragraphs 7 through 14, has made a dwelling unavailable by refusing to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies or practices when such accommodations are necessary to afford handicapped persons an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(3)(B).

16. Defendant, through the actions referred to in paragraphs 7 through 14, has denied to a group of persons rights granted by the Fair Housing Act, a denial which raises an issue of general public importance, within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 3614(a).

17. The Omega Trust and the group home residents have been injured by the City's discriminatory practices. These persons may have suffered damages as a result of the City of Hanford's conduct.

18. The discriminatory actions of Defendant were intentional, willful and taken in reckless disregard for the rights of others.

WHEREFORE, the United States prays that the Court enter an ORDER that:

1. Declares that the discriminatory housing practices of the Defendant as set forth above violate the Fair Housing Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 etseq.;

2. Enjoins the Defendant, its agents, employees and all other persons in active concert or participation with them from making a dwelling unavailable by refusing to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies or practices when such accommodations are necessary to afford handicapped persons an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling; and

3. Awards such damages as would fully compensate each person aggrieved by the City of Hanford's discriminatory housing practices for their injuries caused by such discriminatory conduct, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3614(d)(1)(B).



The United States further prays for such additional relief as the interests of justice may require.

Respectfully submitted,

JOHN ASHCROFT
Attorney General


McGREGOR W. SCOTT
United States Attorney


____________________________
KRISTI C. KAPETAN
Assistant United States Attorney
____________________________
R. ALEXANDER ACOSTA
Assistant Attorney General

____________________________
STEVEN H. ROSENBAUM
Chief, Housing and Civil
Enforcement Section
JEANINE M. WORDEN
Deputy Chief
KEISHA DAWN BELL
Deputy Chief
NANCY F. LANGWORTHY
Trial Attorney
Civil Rights Division
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20530
Telephone: (202) 305-0835
Fax: (202) 514-1116


Document Filed: September 30, 2004
General Information Housing and Civil Enforcement Section
 
Leadership
Steven H. Rosenbaum
Chief
Contact
Housing & Civil
Enforcement Section
(202) 514-4713
TTY - 202-305-1882
FAX - (202) 514-1116
To Report an Incident of Housing Discrimination:
1-800-896-7743
Mailing Contact
U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Housing and Civil Enforcement Section, NWB
Washington, D.C. 20530

Email: fairhousing@usdoj.gov

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