Housing And Civil Enforcement Cases Documents

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF WASHINGTON
AT TACOMA



UNITED STATES,

NO. ______________

           Plaintiff,

v.

COMPLAINT

VANCOUVER HOUSING AUTHORITY;
DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL
AND HEALTH SERVICES
OF THE STATE OF WASHINGTON;
COLDWATER SPRINGS ASSISTED
LIVING COMMUNITY, LLC;
EMERITUS CORPORATION;
SUNWEST MANAGEMENT, INC.;
and JAMES D. REED

           Defendants.

The United States of America alleges:

1. This action is brought by the United States to enforce the Fair Housing Act, Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 as amended by the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 - 3619.

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

3. Venue is proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b) because the events and omissions giving rise to this claim occurred largely in this District and because the property that is the subject of the action is situated in this District.

4. Defendant Vancouver Housing Authority ("VHA") is an agency that provides housing for low-income families, elderly persons, and persons with handicaps in Vancouver, Washington, and Clark County, Washington, including housing that receives funding through the Department of Housing and Urban Development's Section 8 program. VHA is located in the Western District of Washington.

5. Defendant Department of Social and Health Services of the State of Washington ("DSHS") is a Washington State agency with primary responsibility for the licensing and oversight of boarding homes, the disbursement of Washington State's Medicaid program, and the administration of programs providing social and health services for elderly persons and persons with handicaps in Washington State.

6. Defendant VHA owns and operates Columbia House ("Columbia House"), a 152-unit apartment building at 130 West 24th Street, Vancouver, Washington, and Van Vista Plaza ("Van Vista"), a 100-unit apartment building at 410 West 13th Street, Vancouver, Washington. Columbia House and Van Vista are located in the Western District of Washington.

7. Columbia House, Van Vista, and all apartment units contained therein are "dwellings" within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 3602(b).

8. Defendant Coldwater Springs Assisted Living Community, LLC, ("Coldwater") is an Oregon limited liability company. Coldwater is registered to do business in Washington State and regularly conducts business, including the business activities described herein, in the Western District of Washington.

9. Defendant Emeritus Corporation ("Emeritus") is a Washington corporation. Emeritus regularly conducts business, including the business activities described herein, in the Western District of Washington.

10. Defendant Sunwest Management, Inc., ("Sunwest") is an Oregon corporation. Sunwest is registered to do business in Washington State and regularly conducts business, including the business activities described herein, in the Western District of Washington.

11. Defendant James D. Reed ("Reed") is an employee of Defendant Coldwater and/or Defendant Sunwest and a former employee of Defendant Emeritus. Reed works primarily and regularly conducts business, including the business activities described herein, in the Western District of Washington.

12. Defendant VHA operates Columbia House and Van Vista for the purpose of providing housing to low-income persons, elderly persons, and/or persons with handicaps. Van Vista and Columbia House each contains several apartment units specially configured to accommodate wheelchairs (hereinafter "wheelchair-accessible units" or "wheelchair-accessible apartments").

13. In 1997, Defendant VHA, working in cooperation with Defendant DSHS, initiated an assisted living program at Columbia House and Van Vista. Pursuant to this program, VHA entered into an agreement with a contractor, Columbia House, LLC, to provide assisted living services to qualifying residents of both Columbia House and Van Vista, including persons already living there and those who would move into these buildings in order to participate in the assisted living program. At approximately the same time, DSHS licensed Columbia House, LLC, to operate a "boarding home" at Van Vista and Columbia House. This license authorized Columbia House, LLC, to provide assisted living services on what is called a "patchwork" basis to qualifying residents. Under this "patchwork" arrangement, persons who received assisted living services lived in apartments dispersed throughout Van Vista and Columbia House and were not restricted to any particular floor, building, or portion thereof. DSHS evaluated and determined eligibility for persons interested in participating in the assisted living program.

14. For purposes of this complaint, an "assisted living program" and "assisted living services" refer to services including meals, housekeeping, assistance with medication, and help with daily tasks such as bathing and getting out of bed. Participants in the assisted living program are persons with physical or mental impairments that substantially limit one or more of their major life activities, including the ability to care for themselves, and for some, the ability to walk. All such individuals are persons with handicaps as defined by 42 U.S.C. § 3602(h)(1).

15. Columbia House, LLC, operated the assisted living program described above from 1997 until approximately July 1, 2001. During this time, the assisted living program grew to include approximately 100 residents, who lived in apartments dispersed on various floors of Columbia House and Van Vista, pursuant to the integrated or "patchwork" arrangement. Public housing tenants who were not receiving assisted living services continued to live in the remaining apartment units of both buildings. During this time, the assisted living program included persons who used wheelchairs and lived in the wheelchair-accessible apartments dispersed throughout Columbia House and Van Vista.

16. At some time after 1997, Defendant Emeritus began serving as a consultant to Columbia House, LLC, with respect to the assisted living program operated at Van Vista and Columbia House. Starting in or before March, 2001, Emeritus became the managing agent for Columbia House, LLC. From this time until approximately July, 2001, Emeritus effectively operated the program. Throughout this period, Defendant Reed worked as the Emeritus on-site administrator at Columbia House and Van Vista.

17. In approximately July, 2001, Columbia House, LLC, surrendered its DSHS boarding home license for Columbia House and Van Vista and thereby terminated its provision of assisted living services at both buildings.

18. At the time of or before the termination of assisted living services by Columbia House, LLC, described above, Defendants VHA, DSHS, and Coldwater (working in concert with Defendant Sunwest), entered into negotiations regarding the identification of a company or companies to replace Columbia House, LLC, in providing assisted living services at Van Vista and/or Columbia House. As part of these negotiations Coldwater, working in concert with Sunwest, proposed and/or required as a condition of any contract with VHA that the "patchwork" configuration of the program be eliminated and that Coldwater and Sunwest operate the program in a segregated manner - i.e., required that all persons receiving assisted living services live in a separate building or on separate floors in units specifically designated for assisted living, apart from other building tenants.

19. Defendant DSHS encouraged and/or required the segregation described above as a condition of licensing a new provider of assisted living services at Van Vista/Columbia House. 20. Defendant VHA encouraged or assented to the proposed segregation described above without actively seeking alternatives that would avoid or minimize segregation.

21. As a result of these negotiations, in approximately July, 2001, Defendants VHA and Coldwater entered into a contract whereby Coldwater would operate an assisted living program for approximately 60 residents only on floors two through six of Van Vista. These floors were to be - and are now - occupied exclusively by persons receiving assisted living services from Defendants. At approximately the same time, Defendant DSHS licensed Coldwater to operate the "boarding home" by providing assisted living services in the units on these floors. In addition, Defendant Sunwest agreed to act as the managing agent of Coldwater at Van Vista.

22. There are approximately ten wheelchair-accessible units at Columbia House. There are five wheelchair-accessible units at Van Vista - one each on floors five, six, seven, eight, and nine. Yet Defendants VHA, Coldwater, Sunwest, and DSHS chose to locate and/or license the segregated assisted living program at Van Vista, on floors two through six - where there are a total of only two wheelchair-accessible apartments. Defendants chose and/or agreed to this building and these floors with the knowledge that it would severely reduce the number of wheelchair-accessible units available to persons with handicaps receiving assisted living services.

23. Starting on or before May, 2001, Defendants Emeritus, Reed, and VHA effected the transition to the newly segregated assisted living program by, inter alia, (1) moving persons who were not participating in the assisted living program out of their apartments on Van Vista floors two through six; (2) moving persons who were participating in the assisted living program and who lived elsewhere in Columbia House and Van Vista into apartments on Van Vista floors two through six; (3) terminating the assisted living services of residents who, because of their handicaps, were not willing or able to move to Van Vista floors two through six; and (4) reducing the number of assisted living program participants in a manner that discriminated against persons with handicaps, by, inter alia, evicting or terminating the services of those residents with the most severe handicaps. These acts were taken with the knowledge of and/or on behalf of other Defendants.

24. During and/or immediately following the transition to the segregated assisted living program, Defendants VHA, Sunwest, and Coldwater, with knowledge and/or on behalf of other Defendant(s), furthered the segregation by closing the Van Vista dining room, which had previously been open to all residents, to all but assisted living program participants.

25. During the transition to the segregated assisted living program, Defendants Emeritus, Reed, and VHA, with knowledge and/or on behalf of other Defendants, required persons with handicaps in both buildings to choose between giving up their wheelchair-accessible apartments (or eligibility on a waiting list for such apartments) or giving up the assisted living services they received through Defendants' program. In addition, Emeritus, Reed, and VHA, with knowledge and/or on behalf of other Defendants, denied requests for reasonable accommodations by such persons, including requests to continue to provide assisted living services in the wheelchair-accessible units.

26. During and immediately following the transition to the segregated assisted living program, Defendants VHA, Reed, Coldwater and/or Sunwest constructively and actually evicted persons from Van Vista and Columbia House because of their handicaps, including particularly persons who used wheelchairs and those with the most severe handicaps. In addition, during and following this transition, VHA, Reed, Coldwater and/or Sunwest failed to provide assisted living services on an equal basis to persons using wheelchairs who were relocated to non-accessible apartment units.

27. In June 2001, Van Vista residents Leland Still and Anita Brennan, both persons with handicaps who participated in the assisted living program, filed separate complaints with the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3610, alleging discriminating on the basis of handicap. Mr. Still alleged, inter alia, discrimination regarding Defendants' notice to him that he would have to give up his wheelchair-accessible apartment unit at Van Vista to continue participation in the assisted living program. Ms. Brennan's complaint alleged that Defendants' ongoing transition to a segregated assisted living program had caused her to lose her eligibility for a wheelchair-accessible apartment unit on floor seven of Van Vista. Soon thereafter, Defendant Reed, acting on behalf of Defendant Emeritus, told Mr. Still, inter alia, that failure to withdraw his HUD complaint could lead to termination of assisted living services. He told Ms. Brennan that her HUD complaint could lead to termination of the entire assisted living program, and the involuntary relocation of numerous residents to nursing homes.

28. The actions of all Defendants described above constitute the following Fair Housing Act violations:

  1. Discrimination in the rental of a dwelling or otherwise making a dwelling unavailable because of handicap in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(1);
  2. Discrimination in the terms conditions, or privileges of rental of a dwelling, or in the provision of services or facilities in connection with such dwelling, because of handicap, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(2); and
  3. Discrimination by refusal to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services, when such accommodations may be necessary to afford persons with handicaps equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(3)(B).

29. The actions of Defendants VHA, Reed, and Emeritus described above also constitute discrimination by coercion, intimidation, threats, or interference with person(s) in the exercise or enjoyment of, or on account of exercising or enjoying, or on account of having aided or encouraged any other person in the exercise or enjoyment of, any right protected by the Fair Housing Act, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3617.

30. The actions of all Defendants as described above constitute:

  1. A pattern or practice of resistance to the full enjoyment of rights granted by the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 - 3619; and
  2. A denial to a group of persons of rights granted by the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 - 3619, which denial raises an issue of general public importance.

31. Persons have been victims of Defendants' discriminatory housing practices and have suffered damages as a result of Defendants' conduct described above. Such persons are aggrieved persons as defined in 42 U.S.C. § 3602(i).

32. Defendants' conduct described above was intentional, willful, and taken in reckless disregard for the rights of others.

PRAYER FOR RELIEF

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

1. Declares that the actions of all Defendants described herein constitute violations of the Fair Housing Act;

2. Enjoins Defendants from violating any provision of the Fair Housing Act, including:

  1. Discriminating in the rental of or otherwise making unavailable or denying a dwelling because of a person's handicap;
  2. Discriminating against any person in the terms, conditions, or privileges of rental of a dwelling, or in the provision of services or facilities in connection with such dwelling, because of a person's handicap;
  3. Refusing to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services, when such accommodations may be necessary to afford persons with handicaps equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling;
  4. Failing or refusing to notify the public that dwellings owned or operated by Defendants are available to all persons on a nondiscriminatory basis;
  5. Failing or refusing to take such affirmative steps as may be necessary to restore, as nearly as practicable, the victims of Defendants' unlawful practices to the position they would have been in but for the discriminatory conduct;
  6. Failing or refusing to take such affirmative steps as may be necessary to eliminate, to the extent practicable, the effects of Defendants' unlawful housing practices, including reducing or eliminating the unnecessary segregation of persons with handicaps; and
  7. Failing or refusing to take such affirmative steps as may be necessary to prevent the recurrence of any discriminatory conduct in the future.

3. Awards monetary relief to persons aggrieved by Defendants' pattern or practice of discrimination and/or denial of rights to a group of persons, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3614(d)(1)(B); and

4. Assesses a civil penalty against each Defendant in an amount authorized by 42 U.S.C. § 3614(d)(1)(C) and 28 C.F.R.§ 85.3(b)(3), in order to vindicate the public interest.

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



Dated this _______day of ________________, 200__ .



Respectfully submitted, JOHN ASHCROFT
Attorney General


JOHN MCKAY
United States Attorney





BRIAN KIPNIS
Civil Chief
Western District of Washington
601 Union St., Suite 5100
Seattle, WA 98101
(206) 553-7970
_________________________
R. ALEXANDER ACOSTA
Assistant Attorney General
Civil Rights Division


_________________________
STEVEN H. ROSENBAUM
Chief
Housing and Civil Enforcement Section

_________________________
TIMOTHY J. MORAN
Deputy Chief
ELIZABETH TUCCI
MARTA CAMPOS
Attorneys
U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
Housing and Civil Enforcement
Section
950 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.- G St.
Washington, D.C. 20530
(202) 353-9707
(202) 514-1116 (fax)
Elizabeth.Tucci@usdoj.gov


Document Filed: September 24, 2004 > >
Updated August 6, 2015

Was this page helpful?

Was this page helpful?
Yes No