On January 10, 2002 a group of low income residents and Metro Ministry filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California. The plaintiff sued the City of Stockton and the Stockton Redevelopment Agency under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiffs, represented by lawyers from the Public Interest Law Project and Western Center on Law and Poverty, alleged that the defendants shirked their duties under the Housing and Community Development Act (HCDA) and the California Community Redevelopment Law (CRL) by acquiring and demolishing low-income housing to implement their renewal and development projects. The plaintiffs contend that the defendants accomplished this task through an aggressive, zero-tolerance enforcement of code violations, and that defendants failed to provide a replacement or relocation assistance plan. The plaintiffs sought injunctive relief.
On February 28, 2002 plaintiffs filed a motion for preliminary injunction, which was granted on May 2, 2002. Judge Lawrence K. Karlton granted the motion, restricting the defendants from demolishing or converting low-income property in the city until they adopted an acceptable replacement plan in accordance with the HCDA. Judge Karlton also held that the strict code enforcement was purposively carried out for the benefit of the city’s redevelopment plan.
On May 31, 2002 the defendants filed an interlocutory appeal on the court’s order for preliminary injunction in favor of the plaintiffs. On December 6, 2004, The 9th Circuit affirmed in part and denied in part, remanding it back to the district court. 390 F.3d 1105 (2004). The per curiam decision focused on the rights of the plaintiffs under the HCDA. The court first established that the Housing and Community Development Act had an enforceable right of action under 42 U.S.C. §1983. The court concluded that there were aspects of the law that provided benefits for individuals displaced by renewal projects that granted the plaintiffs a right of action, and that the replacement benefits and plans were a condition for the city to receive federal money for their developments under the HCDA. The court then held that the other provisions of HCDA focused on broad implications for relocation plans, and did not create private rights of action. The court ultimately affirmed the preliminary injunction, finding that the plaintiffs will likely succeed on the merits for relocation benefits, but that certain aspects of the preliminary injunction needed to be tailored more closely to the actual people being displaced.
In response, Judge Karlton ordered an amendment to the preliminary injunction. 394 F.Supp.2d 1256 (2005).
In it, the court addressed the plaintiffs concerns that the city had not complied with the stipulations of the California Community Redevelopment Law (CRL) on replacement plans and assistance. Since the 9th Circuit’s decision held that the plaintiffs could not sue for a relocation plan under the HDCA, the plaintiffs focused on the requirements of the CRL. The CRL requires that, prior to ridding the market of low-income housing, an agency must adopt replacement plants to ensure the units are replaced. The court held that the CRL applied. Furthermore, the court reasserted the holdings that had been made in the original order and affirmed on appeal – that the code violation enforcement was purposively conducted to obtain housing for development, and that homelessness is an extreme hardship for the plaintiffs. The court further held that the plaintiffs’ contention that they did not have replacement plans for the property that they already demolished and had vacated was undisputed. In conclusion, Judge Karlton amended the prior injunction to prevent the defendants from demolishing or converting the low-income housing in question until they produce a replacement and relocation plan under the CRL.
On August 30, 2005 defendants again filed an interlocutory appeal while continuing with discovery and entering settlement negotiations.
The parties ultimately agreed to a settlement agreement, filed on January 11, 2006 and signed by Judge Karlton on January 13, 2006. The agreement was extensive, and it replaced the previous orders from the court. The City of Stockton had to provide a Relocation Assistance Fund of over $1.4 million dollars. The city was required to provide assistance to displaced people, build 340 units of low-income housing in Stockton (giving priority to displaced people), and pay $1.5 million in attorneys’ fees and over $67,000 in costs to the plaintiffs’ attorneys. The case closed on January 13, 2006. Salvatore Mancina - 09/27/2016