Letter: Measure L Discriminates against Blacks and Latinos

The Fair Housing Problem With Measure L

by Molly Current

Project Sentinel is a full-service non-profit Fair Housing agency serving the Bay Area and portions of Central California, including all of Sacramento County and West Sacramento in Yolo County. We have been fighting discrimination in housing through education, advocacy and enforcement in Northern California for more than 40 years. We believe that a proposal on the November 6 ballot, Measure L, has serious Fair Housing implications. Its passage will raise a serious barrier to an important housing opportunity for non-white individuals living in the area, and will promote further segregation of an already segregated community. Therefore, we urge City of Davis voters to vote “NO” on Measure L.

Measure L, in essence, asks voters to approve the West Davis Active Adult Community (WDAAC), a senior housing development with 325 proposed for-sale units and 150 affordable apartment units. All of the apartment units and 80% of the for-sale units would be age restricted. Moreover, 90% of the units to be sold would be reserved for buyers who either live in Davis or have some other specified connection to Davis, such as working in Davis.

While such a new housing development may seem appealing at first glance, Measure L poses a serious problem under Federal and State Fair Housing laws. Even the name of the project is troubling: would a severely disabled senior feel welcome at a development that calls itself an “Active Adult Community”? But perhaps the bigger problem is that by limiting the sale of such a high percentage of the units to buyers with a Davis connection, a city that is overwhelmingly White, Measure L would have the effect of discriminating against Blacks and Latinos and reinforcing the historical and still extant segregation of the community around Davis. Because the percentage of Blacks and Latinos living and working in the areas outside of Davis is generally much higher than the percentage of Blacks and Latinos living and working in the City of Davis, a policy that gives a purchase preference to people with a Davis connection is, in essence, a policy that gives a purchase preference to White buyers vis-à-vis Black or Latino buyers. Such a preference is likely to violate Federal and State Fair Housing laws because it can only further entrench City’s existing ethnic and racial imbalance.

Molly Current
Director of Strategic Initiatives
Project Sentinel
mcurrent@housing.org


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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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19 Comments

  1. Rik Keller

    David Greenwald of the Davis Vanguard recently posted an article about another HUD-sponsored, long-standing fair housing organization—who also wrote a letter discussing fair housing issues with the WDAAC project—claiming that they were “not an official group”.  He also wrote an article that the fair housing and discrimination complaints about the WDAAC project constituted a “dangerous playing of the race card”.

    One can easily anticipate the attempted smears Greenwald will post against this letter.

     

  2. Tia Will

    Since I have come out against the WDAAC project, I want to make clear my position on the “use of race card”. First, based on private conversations with two of the developers and attendance at the CivEnergy forum, I do not believe that the developers intended their project to be racially biased.

    However, that does not mean that it could not unintentionally have that effect. It is my belief that once one is aware of a possible adverse consequence of one’s actions, it is incumbent upon the proponent to acknowledge the possibility and to take remedial action. I never see it as good practice to denigrate the legitimate concerns of others.

    I also want to make clear my position on the obvious fact that this project is deliberately discriminatory….by age. I do not favor this approach except for cases of exceptional need which I do not believe this project meets given its focus on “active seniors”, a group that I do not believe ( even as a member) need special help in our community.

  3. David Thompson

    What keeps getting overlooked in all of this is that the “race card” is being used to defeat a project that contains 150 apartments for low income seniors of which 37% will be minorities.

    David J. Thompson

    Neighborhood Partners, LLC.

     

    1. Eric Gelber

      What keeps getting overlooked, and dismissed as “playing the race card,” is that there will be racially biased criteria for who is eligible to purchase 90% of the 350 for-sale homes in the development.

      1. Craig Ross

        “racially biased criteria ”

        Allegedly racially biased criteria.  That’s assuming a court agrees with your analysis rather than that of the city or the developer’s attorney.

        1. Eric Gelber

          Yes, allegedly, as with any claim of discrimination. In this instance, however, I don’t think there can be much dispute, statistically, that there are more than de minimis racial biases, given the pool from which eligible purchasers will be drawn compared to the general population of the area. I believe the legal outcome will turn on whether that bias is significant enough to constitute a violation of fair housing law. My educated guess is the answer is yes, given the Davis-Based Buyers’ Program as currently proposed in the Development Agreement.

          However, the question remains as to whether the developer should utilize, the City should sanction, and the voters should approve buyer selection criteria with a built-in racial bias, legal or not. What’s legal is not the only factor in determining what’s right.

        2. Craig Ross

          In this case, the target population of having attended UC Davis is extremely broad.  Is that population is any more restrict than the population that would be able to afford to move in the first place?  The city also attached the get out of jail free card in their written description, must adhere to fair housing laws.

    2. Rik Keller

      David Thompson: you are making a very specific claim about the projected demographics of the project. What studies have you done to support this?

      Also, if your number is correct and the affordable component of the WDAAC project would be 63% white, this would mean that the diversity would be even less than in Davis overall in 2016 (55.6% “white only, not Hispanic or Latino). See Table 1 in: https://www.davisite.org/2018/09/how-white-is-davis-anyway-a-comparative-demographic-analysis.html

      What are your projected demographics specifically for Hispanics/Latinos who make up just 14% of the total population in Davis–which is an extremely low figure compared to California, Woodland, and Yolo County–and only make up 4% of the total population in the 55 to 64 year and 65+ year age groups in Davis, more than 3 times less than their share in the overall Davis population.

    3. Rik Keller

      David Thompson: there are disparate impacts–discriminatory effects and civil rights violations against racial/ethnic minorities–being alleged against the project in a lawsuit and now in letters from two California fair housing organizations. And you are claiming that these allegations that are firmly based on decades of fair housing case law and legal precedent consist of playing the “race card”? Davis deserves better than your cynical rhetoric.

      The project developers themselves said that discriminating by “zip code” would be illegal and their legal team agreed, specifically because of the racial disparities that it would perpetuate.

      [Jason Taormino, 9/14/2018; Davis Vanguard]: “…I did not see any methodology to provide preferences based upon being a current Davis resident or being related to a current Davis resident because the demographics of Davis are not reflective of the regional averages. Our legal counsel agreed with this opinion.”

       

      [Jason Taormino, 10/9/2017, Project FAQs document on the City of Davis project website]: “…we all recognize that the legality of discriminating based upon zip code is questionable…”

      1. Craig Ross

        “The project developers themselves said that discriminating by “zip code” would be illegal and their legal team agreed, specifically because of the racial disparities that it would perpetuate.”

        That’s not what he said.  Did say they couldn’t restrict it to zip code, but he never explained why.  You’ve taken liberties here.[Jason Taormino, 9/14/2018; Davis Vanguard]: “…I did not see any methodology to provide preferences based upon being a current Davis resident or being related to a current Davis resident because the demographics of Davis are not reflective of the regional averages. Our legal counsel agreed with this opinion.”

        I’ve pointed this out before and you’ve never responded – you’ve taken this quote completely out of context.

  4. David Thompson

    Rik:

    I am using the demographics we have from the breakdown of the residents living at Eleanor Roosevelt Circle.

    Jim Hoch:

    There are no quotas those are the outcomes.

    By the various agreements, especially with the City, WDAAC must meet Fair Housing laws and standards. It will!

    David J Thompson

    Neighborhood Partners, LLC.

    1. Rik Keller

      David Thompson: so you are saying that the residents living at Eleanor Roosevelt Circle are less diverse than the current city of Davis population overall? Have you done any kind of demographic analysis of the projected residents of WDAAC?

      What is your definition of playing the “race card”? Is this your general response to legal actions against civil rights violations, or do you have specific criteria for employing this?

       

    2. Jim Hoch

      “Past performance is no guarantee of future results.”

      This seems to a foreign concept to you.

      BTW

      Definition of outcome 

      : something that follows as a result or consequencea surprising outcomepatient outcomes of bypass surgeryWe are still awaiting the final outcome of the trial.

  5. Robin W.

    These buyer restrictions are a lawsuit (or, more likely, multiple lawsuits) waiting to happen. The question is how much it is going to cost the City (all of us) when it is named as a co-defendant for approving this project.

      1. Howard P

        To be clear… you are both correct, to a point… the city can be sued… the developer has a “indemnification and hold harmless” clause, whereby the developer has the obligation to pay for the defense of the City… if the developer is bankrupt, or if the /city was exceeding its legal bounds, ‘damages’/injunctions may be awarded against the City… and anyone  with a black robe can ignore that, but appeals would likely be successful.

        So, you are both correct, but Craig is more correct.  Craig is 95-98% correct… perhaps a practicing attorney who specializes in this area of law can add.  I am not (not an attorney, much less one with SME), but have seen a lot of such agreements, and have followed outcomes in the courts….

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