Borum v. Brentwood Vill., LLC

Decision Date21 November 2016
Docket NumberCivil Action No.: 16-1723 (RC)
Citation218 F.Supp.3d 1
Parties Adriann BORUM, et al., Plaintiffs, v. BRENTWOOD VILLAGE, LLC, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Columbia

Maureen Frances Browne, Covington & Burling LLP, Matthew K. Handley, Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights & Urban Affairs, Washington, DC, for Plaintiffs.

Richard W. Luchs, William C. Casano, Greenstein Delorme & Luchs, PC, Washington, DC, for Defendants.



RUDOLPH CONTRERAS, United States District Judge


At first glance, this case places the Court in the unenviable position of either standing in the way of residential redevelopment or jeopardizing the homes of families who depend on the status quo. Defendants are several companies planning to redevelop their existing apartment complex into a more modern development with many more one– and two-bedroom units. Plaintiffs are a nonprofit organization and two tenants, purporting to represent a class, who contend that Defendants' elimination of many three-, four-, and five-bedroom apartments in the process will disproportionately impact families in violation of the Federal Fair Housing Act and a comparable District of Columbia statute. Plaintiffs seek preliminary injunctive relief on the grounds that they face imminent irreparable harm if Defendants proceed with their redevelopment plan. Defendants counter that any of the alleged injuries would not occur until years down the road. They also move to dismiss on several procedural grounds, and because Plaintiffs "cherry-pick" a narrow demographic—"large families"—from the entirety of the class protected under the FHA—families—and focus only on the destruction of certain apartments and not the construction of many more. Because Defendants' procedural arguments are flawed and Plaintiffs do not cherry-pick data, the Court will deny the Motion to Dismiss. Because Plaintiffs do not adequately show that the threatened injuries are imminent, the Court will deny the Motion for a Preliminary Injunction.

A. Complaint1

Defendants Brentwood Associates, L.P.,2 Mid-City Financial Corporation, and Edgewood Management Corporation are owners of an affordable housing development located in Northeast D.C. See Compl.

¶ 3, ECF No. 2. They are in the process of redeveloping their deteriorating 75-year-old buildings, in part by increasing the total number of units but decreasing the number of larger-sized apartments. See District of Columbia Zoning Commission, Order No. 14–18, Case No. 14–18 at 33 (Mid-City Fin. Corp.) (Sept. 10, 2015), available at ECF No. 4-18 [hereinafter Mid-City Fin. Corp. , Z.C. Case 14-18];3 Compl. ¶¶ 4–5. Their redevelopment plan calls for the elimination of 113 four-bedroom and 21 five-bedroom apartment units. See Compl. ¶¶ 32, 46. In light of social, economic, and practical considerations, the D.C. Zoning Commission agreed with Defendants that, like in other developments nationwide, it would not be economical to build four– and five-bedroom units. See Mid-City Fin. Corp. , Z.C. Case 14-18, at 52, 56. The plan also calls for the decrease of three-bedroom apartments from 75 to 64 units. Compl. ¶ 47. In all, the redevelopment would decrease the number of three-, four-, and five-bedroom apartments from 209 to 64. Id. ¶ 5. It would also displace at least 119 households—the majority of which are families—currently residing at Brookland Manor. Id. ¶¶ 50–53, 75. Even the remaining three-bedroom apartments might not be affordable, "further reducing the available housing for larger families." Id. ¶ 52. Defendant Mid-City's Vice President Michael Meers testified before the D.C. Zoning Commission that "all residents in good standing shall have the opportunity to return to the redeveloped property ... [a]nd when relocations do occur[,] ownership will pay for all packing and moving expenses." Id. ¶ 54.

Plaintiffs allege that the redevelopment plan would have a disparate impact on families. See id. ¶¶ 69–79. Among the 486 occupied units at Brookland Manor, 253 (52%) are occupied by "families" that Plaintiffs claim are within the relevant statutory definitions, which the Complaint defines as "those who have one or more minor children living in the household."See id. ¶ 72. Of the 303 one– and two– bedroom apartments, only 104 (34%) are occupied by families, as defined by Plaintiffs. Id. ¶ 74. Of the 183 three-, four-, and five-bedroom units, 149 (81%) are occupied by families. Id. Taken together, 149 families—comprising 59% of families overall—are at risk of displacement because of the development, compared to only 34 nonfamilies—15% overall. Id. ¶ 77. The new development would contain about 1,760 units, including 1,646 apartments. Id. ¶¶ 48. There are currently around 535 apartment units at Brookland. See Mid-City Fin. Corp. , Z.C. Case 14-18, at 7.

Individual PlaintiffsMs. Adriann Borum and Ms. Loretta Holloman—allege that redevelopment would force them out of their homes and subject them to multiple forms of injury. See Compl. ¶¶ 80–107. Ms. Borum lives in a four-bedroom apartment unit with her five children, who range in age from 7 to 21. Id. ¶¶ 94–95. She and her children depend on the local community for academic, religious, and recreational support. Id. ¶¶ 97–101. If the family is involuntarily displaced, "Ms. Borum will have an extremely difficult time finding an adequately[-]sized apartment in D.C. for her family because of the scarcity of affordable housing of her unit type." Id. ¶ 105. Ms. Holloman lives with her mother, brother, and three school-aged children in a four-bedroom Brookland Manor apartment. Id. ¶¶ 80–81. Her brother and one of her children are both autistic and attend a special-needs programs—one for children and one for adults—in the community. Id. ¶ 82–83. She too will have a difficult time finding a replacement apartment for her family, may have to move outside of D.C., and will lose the irreplaceable community on which she and her family depend. See id. ¶¶ 82–91.

Individual Plaintiffs bring this case on behalf of themselves and "all others similarly situated" including "[a]ll households who reside or have resided at Brookland Manor in a three-, four-, or five-bedroom unit with one or more minor child," and who have either been displaced or are at risk of being displaced by Defendants' proposed redevelopment project. See id. ¶ 122. Plaintiffs allege that at least 149 families are in the Proposed Class, and that the redevelopment will have "the same impact on all class members." Id. ¶¶ 125–27. According to Plaintiffs, all members of the Proposed Class are interested in the case because the redevelopment project significantly decreases the amount of available housing suitable for families, would have a disparate impact on families, and may have been motivated by a discriminatory purpose. See id. ¶ 127. Moreover, Plaintiffs argue, a single injunction would afford the primary relief that members of the Proposed Class seek. Id. ¶ 137.

The final Plaintiff, community organization ONE DC, is "comprised of members who include tenants of affordable housing properties that are seeking to avoid displacement, preserve affordable housing, ensure fair housing, and further equitable development in D.C." Id. ¶ 108. ONE DC seeks this injunction "on its own behalf and as a representatives of its members, including members who are residents of Brookland Manor and have minor children." Id. ¶ 109. It further asserts that Defendants' conduct has directly "damaged ONE DC by frustrating its mission of creating and preserving racial and economic equity in D.C. for all and by causing ONE DC to divert scarce organizational resources," particularly given that the organization has only two fulltime staff members. See id. ¶¶ 111–12. As a result of Defendants' actions, ONE DC diverted its resources from its mission to "crisis organizing" through "identifying, investigating, and combating Defendants' discriminatory policies and practices, and to counseling, organizing, and reassuring tenants who have been forcibly moved or have feared imminent displacement under Defendants' proposed redevelopment plan." Id. ¶ 113, 118. For example, after hearing about the proposed redevelopment, ONE DC organized a series of "Outreach Days." Id. ¶¶ 114–16. In all, ONE DC alleges that, as of July 28, 2016, it had spent 640 staff-hours on "combat[ing] Defendants' discriminatory conduct." Id. ¶ 121.

To implement their redevelopment, Defendants have petitioned the D.C. Zoning Commission through the "planned unit development (PUD) process." See id. ¶ 43; D.C. Mun. Regs. tit. 11–X, § 300. In October, 2014, Defendants submitted an application for a First-Stage PUD and Related Zoning Map Amendment ("First-Stage PUD") with the D.C. Zoning Commission. Compl. ¶ 44; see generally D.C. Mun. Regs. tit. 11–X, § 302. The Zoning Commission approved the First-Stage PUD application in June, 2015, and its order became final on November 6, 2015. Compl. ¶ 56. Now, Defendants have filed a Second-Stage PUD application, the approval of which would allow Defendants to begin redevelopment and destruction of Plaintiffs' apartments. See Pl. Reply Mem. in Supp. of Mot. for Prelim. Inj., at 17–18, ECF No. 20; Compl. ¶ 57.

During the course of the redevelopment process, Defendants made comments that Plaintiffs allege are discriminatory. See Compl. ¶ 59. In a December 2014 letter to the Brookland Manor Residents Association, Defendant Mid-City stated that four– and five-bedroom apartments are "not an ideal housing type for larger families and there are adverse impacts on the remainder of the community." Id. ¶ 61. The following month, Mid-City said that there would not be four– or five-bedroom units because they are "not consistent with the creation of a vibrant new community." Id. ¶ 62. Then, in an April 2015 hearing in front of the ...

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