Guest Opinion: The “West Davis Active Adult Community” Naming Is Misguided and Probably Illegal


Statement by the No on Measure L Campaign

The following letter was just received from the Fair Housing Council of Orange County advising the City of Davis of the wrongful naming of the West Davis Active Adult Community senior housing project:

the term ‘active adult community’ is very much misguided and needs to be changed…rather than moving forward with a name that readily implies that the community is not welcoming of individuals who have a right to choose to live within in its borders.” (excerpted from letter)

Eric Gelber, a Davis resident with 26 years experience as an attorney with disability rights advocacy experience – including fair housing advocacy – made the following statement in response to this letter:

The Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 (FHAA) added disability and families with children as protected classes under the federal Fair Housing Act. A concession to seniors was also enacted to allow for senior housing developments, which could continue to utilize age restrictions if specified conditions were met. One of the conditions is that 20 percent of the housing in such developments must not be age-restricted, and must be available to younger households, including families with children.

Some of the earliest cases under the FHAA focused on advertising for developments, which marketed themselves as communities for “active adults.” Such advertising was determined to be a not so subtle way of discriminating against people with disabilities who were not traditionally “active.” Similarly, advertising a senior housing development as an “adult” community, gives the impression that families with children are not welcome in even the 20 percent of homes that are not age-restricted. (emphasis added)

On October 23rd, the City received a letter from the Fair Housing Council of Orange County expressing concerns with the name of the proposed development known as the “West Davis Active Adult Community”—the subject of Measure L on the November 6th ballot. The name characterizes the development not only as a community for “adults,” thereby sending the message that families with children are not welcome in even the non-age-restricted homes, but also as a community for “active” adults, implying that persons with disabilities, including seniors with disabilities, are likewise not welcome. (emphasis added)

Opponents of Measure L have focused on the exclusionary and discriminatory character of WDAAC. The letter from the Orange County Fair Housing Council validates that analysis. Changing the name of WDAAC, as the Fair Housing Council recommends, however, may address the messaging concerns with WDAAC, but it will not change the fundamental purpose and intent underlying this exclusionary housing proposal. Changing the name would not change the fact that housing based on exclusion is not good policy and is wrong for Davis.(emphasis added)

In 2017, Doug Chasick, President of The Fair Housing Institute, Inc., stated the following about the naming, identifying, and advertising of senior housing projects: :

Some state and local enforcement agencies claim that using phrases such as “Adult Living” or “Adult Community” are illegal as the terms are not in agreement with the exempt requirement and could potentially open you up to fair housing complaints. Additionally, HUD has cautioned properties to avoid terms like “active adult” for the same reasons….Here’s a list of recommended terms to … avoid when promoting senior housing properties: (emphasis added)


– “Adult” – It has been illegal to have an adults-only community since the addition of the Fair Housing Amendments Act in 1988.

– “Active” – Every senior should be welcome, whether active or not active. The Housing for Older Persons Act (HOPA) specifically addresses housing for persons over the age of 55 and/or 62 and the best way to identify those folks is the word “Senior.”

– “Empty nester” – the exemption is based upon age of occupants, not familial status.

– “Adult Living” or ”Adult Community” – Some state and local enforcement agencies claim these phrases are illegal as the terms are incompatible with the requirement.” (emphasis Added)

It is apparent that this grievous – and possibly illegal – fundamental problem in the simple naming of the West Davis Active Adult Community senior project calls into question the overall competency of the entire project management team (David & Jason Taormino and Neighborhood Partners LLC) to manage such a complicated real estate endeavor. At minimum, there is going to have to be another apology to the community and some very quick rebranding to comply with legal marketing requirements.

The WDAAC project has so many layers of exclusion and discrimination it is difficult to keep track of them all. Combined with the project’s recent apologies and rebranding for the offensively-named “Taking Care of Our Own- Davis-Based Buyer’s Program”; along with the civil rights lawsuit recently filed against the project alleging that its Davis-Based Buyer’s Program “will perpetuate racial imbalance and discriminate against minorities by restricting sales to residents of Davis” and that it would lead to “the continuation of a racially imbalanced community and the exclusion of minority would-be purchasers in violation of the Federal Fair Housing Act”, this letter from the Fair Housing Council of Orange County leads to the obvious questions: “Will voters even know what they are voting for anymore?” and “What else are the project proponents doing wrong that we will find out about later?

From the No on Measure L – No on West Davis Active Adult Community (oops! – we are not quite sure what to call it anymore!) Campaign

Read the letter here: Fair Housing Council of Orange Co Letter re West Davis Active Adult Community

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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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58 thoughts on “Guest Opinion: The “West Davis Active Adult Community” Naming Is Misguided and Probably Illegal”

      1. Craig Ross

        You guys have completely lost it.  This reminds me of some of half-baked arguments of Colin Walsh during the Nishi campaign. Do you not have a filter that tells you when you’ve gone too far?  You guys are in danger of becoming laughing stocks?  It’s hard to take this stuff seriously.

    1. Ken A

      I was surprised that they didn’t complain that just saying “west” (not “northwest”) was misleading and probably a trick to send families with children to the far western edge of town in the hope they keep driving to Winters…

        1. Ken A

          When I search for “Active Adult” I get 4.7 MILLION hits including Wikipedia that says:

          “Active adult housing refers to either an age-targeted or an Age-restricted community designed for people aged 55 or older (sometimes 50 or older). Homes for active adults tend to be single family detached homes, and typically range from 1500 to 2,000 square feet (190 m2), and lots tend to be less than a quarter of an acre.”

          The No on L team may be surprised that there is no mention the “long-standing governmental regulations” they seem to feel all these places violate

          P.S. If anyone on the No on L teal really cares about stopping the discrimination in “active adult” communities (vs. just pretending they care to stop development in Davis) there are hundreds of them listed on the 55 places dot com site (including many within a short drive of Davis)…

        2. Craig Ross

          You guys have completely lost it.  This reminds me of some of half-baked arguments of Colin Walsh during the Nishi campaign. Do you not have a filter that tells you when you’ve gone too far?  You guys are in danger of becoming laughing stocks?  It’s hard to take this stuff seriously.

  1. Craig Ross

    Truly bizarre on so many different levels.  I’d be embarrassed to have my name associated with this.  I’m sure a lot of people had to double check that they weren’t reading the onion this morning.

    1. Ken A

      Maybe tomorrow we will get an article on how the name of Davis AYSO is also “misguided and needs to be changed”  since using the term “youth” might scare away older kids and it is racist for not only having American in the name but using the American name for “football” (in a obvious racist attempt to trick people of color in to thinking the organization plays a totally different sport)…

  2. Don Shor

    There are hundreds of  ‘active adult’ communities in the United States.

    What prompted this non-profit in Orange County to write this letter? Were they contacted by the No on L campaign? Is that why the letter was cc’ed to Alan Pryor?

    Are they in the habit of intervening in local elections in this manner? Have they contacted the many ‘active adult’ communities in the U.S. to inform them that their names are illegal? Or have they suddenly just taken a special interest in the Davis case?

    The letter is nonsense. The tactic reeks of last-minute desperation.

    1. Eric Gelber

      I agree that it is somewhat surprising that an Orange County-based fair housing organization would weigh in on a Yolo County fair housing issue. However, the points they make are in no way “bizarre” or “nonsense” to anyone who is familiar with fair housing law–particularly the law related to discrimination based on familial status or disability. Here, for example, are a couple of industry web postings specifically advising housing providers to avoid using terminology like “active adult” for the very reasons discussed in the Orange County Fair Housing Council’s letter:

        1. Eric Gelber

          Even far left liberals can be unfamiliar with fair housing law issues or the many forms housing discrimination can take. Advertising/marketing has frequently been the focus of housing discrimination actions. Other examples have been marketing brochures and advertising for housing developments that depict only white families. You can call it PCism, but not all housing discrimination is blatant and overt. It can can be far subtler.

      1. Don Shor

        The implication I get reading those articles is to avoid using the term because of the risk of litigation.

        I assume that you know there are plenty of active disabled people? That ‘active’ and ‘disabled’ are not mutually exclusive? The risk of lawsuits aside, do you believe that the term ‘active adult’ discriminates against disabled individuals?

        1. Eric Gelber

          Of course not all people with disabilities are limited in their abilities to be active. We’re talking about the message being sent to those who do have disabilities that restrict or limit their mobility or physical activities, for whom the term “active adults” suggests this is not a community that welcomes them. What purpose do you believe is served by use of the term “active adults” as opposed to just saying “adults” (or, more appropriately, “seniors”)?

      2. Rik Keller

        Eric: are you saying that Don Shor’s “I’m not a fair housing lawyer or have any knowledge about the issue, but here is a generic Google search summary” routine is not credible? 😉

    2. Alan Pryor

      I did NOT contact the Fair Housing Council and have no idea how they got my name. They may have heard of the Merin lawsuit and looked up the ballot arguments and my name is listed first on the No argument which is exactly as I was identified in the letter.

      HEY DAVID – WHY DON’T YOU PRINT THE FAIR HOUSING LETTER ALSO AND LET READERS ACTUALLY READ WHAT THEY ARE GRIPING ABOUT? It was sent to you with the campaign statement by No on L. Supressing the letter itself by only noting its availability only through a small , less visible click-through link at the end of the is pretty transparently obvious that you want this story to be about the No on WDAAC side reaction instead of about the letter itself.

      C’mon David, it’s not like you are wasting column inches of paper by printing it. Hiding it this way is biased journalism. Tell the whole story please and print the Fair Housing Council letter itself.

        1. Rik Keller

          David: Why are you trying to hide the letter? Put the three page letter in images at the bottom (or the top if you prefer). The Davisite managed to figure out how to do just that.

        2. Rik Keller

          Don Shor: the point is that, as Alan clearly stated, the Vanguard has chosen to bury the letter in a small link at the very bottom of the article rather than including it in the article itself. You could fix that bias immediately if you wanted to.

          1. Don Shor

            You could fix that bias immediately if you wanted to.

            No, that’s not one of my functions on the Vanguard. I don’t edit content of articles. Just FYI.

      1. Craig Ross

        The letter is nonsense.  You’re actually not only harming your own campaign, but you’re setting back the cause of racial justice in this community by at least a decade.  The next time someone has a racial claim, it will be that much easier to dismiss.  I know you don’t care because it’s not going to impact you personally, for people of color this is a big deal and it’s why you don’t see many of us joining you in support.

        1. Eric Gelber

          Craig – I’m not sure you are qualified to characterize the substance of the letter as nonsense. In any event, it has nothing to do with race issues. The focus is on the use of language that relates to familial status and disability discrimination.

  3. Rik Keller

    it is notable that even your average mom-&-pop landlord is more savvy about fair housing law and marketing than the West Davis Active Adult Community/ “Taking Care of Our Own project.*

    * deleted language because exclusionary/discriminatory/offensive/illegal

    1. Ken A

      I’m wondering if anyone opposed to the new “Active Adult Communities” in Davis has done anything to try and stop any of the hundreds of other “Active Adult Communities” in the country.  I can’t believe that the developers missed the chance to call it an “Active Adult Solar Community” (like the one on the link below in Sacramento):

  4. Sharla C.

    What it is named doesn’t matter.  Slogans don’t matter.  It is not illegal any more than “Make America Great Again” is public policy.   Davis voters are not stupid.


  5. Rik Keller

    Sharla C. says “slogans don’t matter.” In contrast, David Taormino recently penned an apology op-ed with the headline “Words Matter” for their offensive Trumpist “Taking Care Of Our Own” slogan. I agree that words matter. The question is: why are his words so bad?

    Why has he ignored several decades of fair housing precedent and practice? Why is he using marketing language that, at best, goes against all fair housing guidelines, and is possibly illegal?

    1. Sharla C.

      There is a difference between offending someone and being illegal, Rik.  An apology for offending someone doesn’t signal an opportunity for a lawsuit in my world.  Your world is obviously different.  It is not immoral to try to provide housing for seniors with local connections who are struggling with large houses that can be difficult to maintain on a fixed income, with isolation away from support from friends or family, or with finding a place they can afford that is safe and offers the support that they need as they age.   You would have us believe that this is illegal.

      1. Ron

        It sure seems illegal to me, to bar those who don’t meet the requirements of the Davis Buyers’ program.

        It might not be a good political argument, though.

        Anyone who believes they will save money by moving out of their existing house to a nearby smaller, but still-expensive house (along with all of the closing and moving costs associated with that) has been listening to too many salesmen.

        When folks retire (and are still “active”), they might want bigger houses – not smaller ones. They’ll be home a lot more often (with their significant other, as well). I’ve repeatedly hears that this is quite an adjustment, for many people to make. Probably a lot more difficult, when simultaneously moving into a smaller house. (Which might not even be much smaller, to begin with. The proposed WDAAC houses are up to 1,800 square feet in size.)

      2. Rik Keller

        Sharla C: words matter. And marketing language matters. And discriminatory housing programs with offensive words matter. They just don’t matter to you.

      3. Ken A

        Rik may want to click the link below:

        Yes, Age-Restricted Communities Are Legal. When the subject of active adult communities comes up, people commonly wonder whether age-restricted communities are actually legal. The Fair Housing Act protects homebuyers and renters from discrimination based on several factors, so it seems like it should keep developers from closing their doors to residents under a certain age. However, as long as they meet certain requirements, these communities are not breaking any laws.

        P.S. I’m not a fan of ANY housing restrictions (I would not have a problem with a senior renting a UCD dorm room or a college kid renting a room at the University Retirement Community) but let’s not pretend that the name is breaking any laws (since hundreds of places have similar names)…


        1. Eric Gelber

          Ken – Please give an example of any statement by me or other opponents of Measure L who have suggested that senior housing is illegal. It is, by definition, discriminatory, but under the law it’s permissible discrimination under specified conditions. I have said repeatedly that merely because age-restricted housing is legal doesn’t mean it’s good policy. Sorry you wasted your time researching the obvious.

        2. Ken A

          Rik is the one that posted today that the WDAAC is “possibly illegal” (so I mentioned him by name when posting the link).  I’m pretty sure that Eric knows to laws because of his profession (but I’m still surprised he got dragged in to this bizarre senior housing is “possibly illegal” last minute attempt to sway some more voters by the No on L gang).

        3. Eric Gelber

          “Rik is the one that posted today that the WDAAC is “possibly illegal” (so I mentioned him by name when posting the link)”

          Ken – No he didn’t. Nothing posted by Rik suggested that WDAAC is possibly illegal, and certainly not due to its being age-restricted. What he said is “possibly illegal” is the marketing language and project name designating WDAAC as an “active adult” community–which is the opinion of the Fair Housing Council of Orange County.

      4. Rik Keller

        Sharla C.: to quote Eric Gelber (26 years experience as an attorney with a nonprofit disability rights advocacy organization, including fair housing advocacy):

        Council Member Partida was right to point out that the phrase “Taking Care of Our Own” has a Trumpian ring to it. But she missed the point that it’s not just the tagline that is Trumpian; it’s the policy itself. The Davis-Based Buyers Program is explicitly intended to prohibit those deemed to be outsiders from purchasing 90% of the homes in WDAAC. Intended or not, because of the demographics of Davis vs. the more diverse population of the region and the state, excluding outsiders would have the effect of perpetuating Davis’ comparative racial imbalance. The policy, not just the tagline, is the philosophical equivalent of “America First” and it is the functional equivalent of Trump’s proposed border wall.”

        1. Sharla C.

          OK, but this is a discussion about the illegality of the words “Active Adult Community,” isn’t it?  I’ve tried to engage you before, but you just repeat the same stuff.  I feel that this campaign is really damaging to the community by labeling voters who vote Yes as racists, etc.  The No campaign seems to be hoping that voters will find the development immoral, much like the Nishi campaign which focused on poisoning student renters and their future offspring by forcing them to breathe “toxic soup.”  My own concerns are focused more on financial issues regarding relocating homeowners new to Davis bringing their low property tax rates with them and the City not realizing the revenue it should for a new development, but no one is talking about that, even though I’ve asked about it several times.  I find referencing an opinion letter from people from Orange County in Southern CA regarding a local measure for a housing development bizarre.   I wonder what they would think about the long history of all of the campaigns and lawsuits waged to fight the building of housing of any kind in Davis.  Maybe we should ask them?

        2. Rik Keller

          Sharla C. You made a general statement that “slogans don’t matter.” This is further evidence that they actually matter very much (and do the policies that those words are advertising).

  6. Matt Williams

    I’m not sure why David does not want to publish the letter itself, but as a neutral observer of this cat fight, I’ve taken a moment to convert the letter into an image and publish it below … without editorial comment.

  7. Ron

    Sharla:  “My own concerns are focused more on financial issues regarding relocating homeowners new to Davis bringing their low property tax rates with them and the City not realizing the revenue it should for a new development, but no one is talking about that, even though I’ve asked about it several times.”

    I’ve mentioned this a number of times.  Also, see Proposition 5, which would facilitate this problem.  I understand that this is expected to be approved:,_Property_Tax_Transfer_Initiative_(2018)

    I expect that approval of this proposition will encourage WDAAC-type developments, statewide. And, will have a negative fiscal impact on the communities that approve them.

    There’s also a likelihood of school district parcel tax waivers, for seniors occupying such developments.

    1. Sharla C.

      But if their former Davis houses were purchased by younger families, then we would see property taxes rise and these younger homeowners would also pay the school parcel taxes.

      1. Matt Williams

        That is true Sharla, but only if the former house is actually sold.  If the senior’s family chooses to retain ownership of the former house and convert it into a rental, it is quite possible that the assessed value of the house will not rise due to a loop hole in the language of Prop 13.

        The proportion of homes in Davis owned by the families of their prior senior occupants that have taken advantage of the Prop 13 loophole to avoid increased property taxes is unknown.

  8. Ken A

    Ron may be surprised to find out that guy that owns this house:,pf_pt/16542719_zpid/51659_rid/globalrelevanceex_sort/38.667149,-121.591874,38.442161,-121.960946_rect/11_zm/

    Will be able to sell it and not only buy a smaller home in the WDAAC but another home in Davis that he can rent for ~$2,500/month/~$30K/year that will cover the cost of moving and closing costs in no time at all…

    P.S. I don’t think that Ron will accept my bet that if the WDAAC is built that the schools will get WAY more in parcel taxes per year than they are getting today from the vacant parcel…

    1. Ron

      Cripes – that’s one expensive house for its size. Well, so much for the theory that WDAAC will free-up housing for local families in need.

      From what I understand, it doesn’t matter what property owners pay in taxes (in regard to schools only, since that’s distributed by the state).  However, it matters regarding the school district parcel taxes that seniors would be exempt from.

      And, it matters regarding the other “normal” property taxes that actually flow to the city, directly from property owners.  Presumably, to help cover the costs of serving a development.

      Regarding the taxes collected from the vacant parcel, that should be compared to the amount that it “costs” the city.

      If residents believe that the parcel should be developed, the best approach might be to compare the expected revenues and costs from various possibilities, including a development with a commercial component.  (There aren’t a lot of properties right next to non-impacted freeway access points and UCD.) There’s reasons that this same property had previously been proposed to be incorporated into an innovation center.

    2. Ron

      Just in case readers don’t click on Ken’s link, that house is listed for $1,225,000!  And, it’s not even that large.

      That guy/gal is probably headed to Tahoe, or at least somewhere other than WDAAC.

    3. Ron

      Regarding funds for the school district, I understand that this is based upon the number of students, as well as demographic factors (including household income, I believe).

      So, for those who are hoping to increase funding for local schools by increasing enrollment, I can’t imagine that WDAAC would be of much help (e.g., compared to alternatives). Same thing holds for those who believe that the city should increase the amount of housing for local workers, etc.

      If “too many seniors” (with low property taxes) is already a problem – according to some, I can’t imagine that purposefully increasing this population is a solution. (I don’t expect the Davis buyers program to survive.)

        1. Matt Williams

          Good point Sharla.  The question it begs is what proportion of the WDFAAC buyers will be between 55 and 65 (note: it is the age of the oldest resident that determines the opt-out qualification).  Last week I went to Kendal at Longwood to tour their facilities, and one of the questions I asked our tour guide was what was the average age of new residents at the time they were/are moving in.  Their answer was “between 75 and 76 years old.”  I don’t know what the average age is at URC or Atria Covell Gardens or Eleanor Roosevelt Circle, but I suspect it is closer to “between 75 and 76” than it is to “between 55 and 65.”

          Of course, many Davis seniors who qualify for the opt-out exemption choose not to opt-out, and pay their parcel taxes rather than avoid paying them.

        2. Matt Williams

          Actually URC is a very good comparison … for the individual personal decision comparison that was intended.  The vast majority of the people who have moved to URC have done so in order to downsize their residence … leaving that residence behind for one form or another of subsequent use.

          Thus the average age of the people moving into URC is more than likely to a very reasonable proxy for the average age of the seniors downsizing into the WDAAC community.

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