Housing And Civil Enforcement Cases Documents


UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
c/o United States Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
Housing and Civil Enforcement Section
950 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20530

Plaintiff,

Civil Action No.

v.

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA,
c/o Office of the Corporation Counsel
1350 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20004

Defendant.

____________________________________

COMPLAINT

1. This action is brought by the United States of America to enforce the provisions of the Fair Housing Act, as amended, 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). Venue is proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1391.

3. The District of Columbia is a municipal corporation within the District of Columbia.

4. The District of Columbia, acting through its Mayor, District Council, executive agencies, and commissions, exercises zoning and land use authority over land within its boundaries. The District's Municipal Regulations contain the District's zoning and land use regulations.

COUNT I:

DISCRIMINATION ON THE BASIS OF
DISABILITY IN VIOLATION OF 42 U.S.C. §§ 3604(f)(1) & (2)

5. On or about February 10, 2000, Father Flanagan's Girls & Boys Home, a charitable non-profit organization, ("Girls & Boys Town") purchased a tract of land on the 1300 block of Pennsylvania Avenue Southeast in the District of Columbia.

6. The Department of Consumer & Regulatory Affairs ("DCRA") is the agency of the District of Columbia government responsible for reviewing and issuing building permits.

7. On or about December 7, 2000, Girls & Boys Town submitted four building permit applications to DCRA to obtain a permit to construct four group homes for children who have one or more mental impairments which substantially limit them in the major life activities of working, learning, and caring for themselves.

8. Almost immediately after Girls & Boys Town filed the permit applications, District officials and the residents of the area surrounding the Pennsylvania Avenue property, including a District Council member and Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6B, began voicing opposition to the proposed homes, including disability-based statements regarding the children who intended to reside in the homes.

9. Each of the planned group homes was to serve six children. Under the District of Columbia's zoning regulations, a group home that serves no more than six children is a permitted use as a matter of right in the commercial area where the property is located.

10. The DCRA imposed conditions upon Girls & Boys Town in connection with the four building permit applications which have no basis in District of Columbia law and which are not required from developers of housing intended for persons without disabilities. Even though an Environmental Impact Screening Study is not required for single family residences under the District of Columbia's zoning regulations, the DCRA required that one be submitted for the proposed homes being built by Girls & Boys Town, causing unnecessary costs and delays. The DCRA ultimately determined that the group homes would not have a significant environmental impact. In addition, the DCRA requested that Girls & Boys Town submit to an archeological study before it issued building permits to determine whether any artifacts might be present on the site for the proposed homes, contrary to zoning regulations which require such studies only when property is considered a historic landmark or district, which the site in question was not.

11. On or about September 6, 2001, after an undue delay of approximately eight months and after the initiation of a federal lawsuit by Girls & Boys Town challenging actions taken to prevent the group homes from being built, the DCRA issued the building permits for the four proposed group homes and Girls & Boys Town began construction on the homes.

12. On or about September 12, 2001, Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6B and Southeast Citizens for Smart Development, an organization representing the residents of the area surrounding the Pennsylvania Avenue property, appealed the DCRA's decision to the Board of Zoning Adjustment of the District of Columbia ("BZA"). The BZA is authorized by the laws of the District of Columbia to review decisions made by the DCRA regarding land use. On or about June 21, 2002, the BZA reversed the decision of the DCRA to issue the four building permits requested by Girls & Boys Town and informed Girls & Boys Town that it must apply for a "special exception" to operate the four proposed group homes. Based on the BZA's decision, Girls & Boys Town halted construction on the proposed homes.

13. On or about June 28, 2002, in an attempt to avoid the significant costs associated with further delay in construction, Girls & Boys Town filed building permit applications to continue construction on the four homes on the same parcels of property changing only the proposed use from housing children with disabilities to using them as single family homes not housing such children. On or about July 28, 2002, the DCRA issued Girls & Boys Town the four building permits.

14. After the construction of the four homes was completed in January, 2003, and despite the fact that its intended use of the facilities should have been granted as a matter of right, Girls & Boys Town decided to submit a "reasonable accommodation" request to the District on October 11, 2002 instead of a "special exception" request, due to the disabilities of the proposed residents and to the low intensity of the proposed use. The Director of the DCRA denied this request on or about November 22, 2002, stating that the proposed residents of the homes do not qualify as persons with disabilities under the Fair Housing Act and that the Director of the DCRA does not have the authority to grant such an accommodation. The reasonable accommodation request was denied even though the District's municipal regulations specifically give the Director of the DCRA authority to grant or deny a reasonable accommodation request.

15. On or about July 10, 2003, Girls & Boys Town submitted a request for a reconsideration of the District's denial of its "reasonable accommodation" request, with additional information provided about the prospective residents' disabilities.

16. On or about September 18, 2003, approximately eight months after the four homes were constructed and over three weeks after it was required to make a determination under District law, the DCRA granted Girls & Boys Town a "reasonable accommodation" to the city's rules and regulations. The reasonable accommodation granted by the District allows certificates of occupancy to be issued for each group home intended to be operated for persons with disabilities, once all local zoning regulations related to side yards have been met. This decision is contrary to existing zoning regulations which require the four homes to be built and occupied as a matter of right not as a "special exception" or "reasonable accommodation," which imposes additional burdensome and unnecessary requirements on applicants.

17. On May 1, 2002, Girls & Boys Town submitted a building application for a short-term residence for 15 children with disabilities on the Potomac Avenue property. Over one year later on June 24, 2003, the District informed Girls & Boys Town that the application was expected to be approved shortly. However, almost five months later, on November 12, 2003, the District notified Girls & Boys Town that it would not issue a building permit until it was certain that the residence complied with certain spacing requirements. However, under the District of Columbia's zoning regulations, spacing requirements are not required for group homes serving persons with disabilities.

18. The proposed residents of the four homes and short-term residence are persons with disabilities within the meaning 42 U.S.C. § 3602(h). (The term "disability" has the same meaning as the term "handicap," as defined in 42 U.S.C. § 3602(h).)

19. The four proposed residential homes and short-term facility are dwellings within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 3602(b).

20. The District of Columbia's conduct of imposing conditions on Girls & Boys Town's building permit applications, delaying the issuance of the building permits, subsequently revoking the building permits, and then requiring that an application for a special exception or reasonable accommodation be submitted before the homes could be opened as CBRFs serving children with disabilities has no basis in District of Columbia law and delayed Girls & Boys Town from establishing and operating the proposed group homes at the Pennsylvania Avenue Southeast site.

21. The District's above-described conduct was taken on the basis of the disability of the prospective residents of the homes and the residence proposed by Girls & Boys Town, in violation of Sections 804(f)(1) and 804(f)(2) of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3604(f)(1) and 3604(f)(2).

22. The District of Columbia's conduct described herein was intentional, willful, and/or taken in disregard of the rights of others.

23. The District of Columbia's refusal to allow Girls & Boys Town to establish and operate the four group homes and a short-term residence at the Pennsylvania Avenue Southeast site as a matter of right constitutes a denial to a group of persons of rights granted by the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601-3619, that raises an issue of general public importance, 42 U.S.C. § 3614 (a).

24. Girls & Boys Town is an "aggrieved person" as defined in 42 U.S.C. § 3602(i) and has suffered damages as a result of the District of Columbia's discriminatory conduct.

COUNT II: THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA'S MUNICIPAL REGULATIONS
INCLUDE ZONING CLASSIFICATIONS ON THE BASIS OF
DISABILITY WHICH VIOLATE 42 U.S.C. §§ 3604(f)(1) & (2)

25. The District of Columbia zoning regulations define "Community Based Residential Facility" ("CBRF") as a "residential facility for persons who have a common need for treatment, rehabilitation, assistance, or supervision."

26. The persons who reside or are intended to reside in housing that the District of Columbia has classified or attempted to classify as CBRFs include persons with disabilities within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 3602(h).

27. Housing for persons with disabilities that the District of Columbia has classified or attempted to classify as CBRFs are dwellings within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 3602(b).

28. Housing that serves an equal or greater number of persons without disabilities is allowed without restriction in areas in which the District of Columbia's zoning regulations place conditions on and/or prohibit housing for persons with disabilities classified as CBRFs.

29. The conditions and prohibitions placed on housing for persons with disabilities classified as CBRFs that are not imposed on housing for an equal or greater number of persons without disabilities include, but are not limited to, the following:

  1. Requiring developers to obtain a "special exception" or "reasonable accommodation " to construct and operate housing for persons with disabilities;
  2. Prohibiting developers from constructing and operating housing for persons with disabilities within the same square or 500 feet from an existing CBRF; and
  3. Placing an absolute cap on the number of persons with disabilities who may reside in housing classified as a CBRF.

30. The District of Columbia's zoning regulations discussed above are classifications based on disability which on their face and as applied violate the Fair Housing Act by making dwellings unavailable on the basis of disability in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(1) and by imposing different terms, conditions, or privileges of housing on the basis of disability in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(2).

31. The conduct of the District of Columbia in enacting and enforcing its discriminatory zoning regulations constitutes a pattern or practice of resistance to the full enjoyment of rights granted by the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 et seq.

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

1. Declares that the actions of the District of Columbia described above constitute a violation of the Fair Housing Act;

2. Declares that the District of Columbia's zoning regulations described above are invalid insofar as they impose stricter requirements on housing for persons with disabilities that are not imposed on housing for persons without disabilities, in violation of the Fair Housing Act;

3. Enjoins the District of Columbia, its agents, employees, assigns, and all other persons in active concert or participation with it, from violating any provision of the Fair Housing Act by discriminating on the basis of disability;

4. Enjoins the District of Columbia, its agents, employees, assigns, and all other persons in active concert or participation with it, from enforcing any provision of the District of Columbia's zoning regulations that impose stricter requirements on housing for persons with disabilities that are not imposed on housing for persons without disabilities, in violation of the Fair Housing Act;

5. Requires such action by the District of Columbia as may be necessary to restore all persons aggrieved by the District's discriminatory housing practices to the position they would have occupied but for such discriminatory conduct;

6. Awards monetary damages to each person harmed by the District of Columbia's discriminatory housing practices pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3614(d)(1)(B); and

7. Assesses a civil penalty against the District of Columbia in an amount of money authorized by 42 U.S.C. § 3614(d)(1)(C), in order to vindicate the public interest.

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

John Ashcroft
Attorney General

Roscoe C. Howard, Jr.
United States Attorney
555 4th St, NW
Washington, DC 20530
__________________________
R. Alexander Acosta
Assistant Attorney General
Civil Rights Division

___________________________
Steven H. Rosenbaum
Chief, Housing and Civil
Enforcement Section
D.C. Bar No. 417585

___________________________
Michael S. Maurer
Deputy Chief
D.C. Bar No. 420908
Jennifer C. Cass
Trial Attorney
U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
Housing and Civil Enforcement
Section
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20530(202) 514-4713


Document Filed: April 20, 2004 > >
Updated August 6, 2015

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