Borum v. Brentwood Vill., LLC, Civil Action No.: 16-1723 (RC)

CourtUnited States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
Writing for the CourtRUDOLPH CONTRERAS United States District Judge
PartiesADRIANN BORUM, et al., Plaintiffs, v. BRENTWOOD VILLAGE, LLC, et al., Defendants.
Docket NumberCivil Action No.: 16-1723 (RC)
Decision Date30 March 2020

ADRIANN BORUM, et al., Plaintiffs,
BRENTWOOD VILLAGE, LLC, et al., Defendants.

Civil Action No.: 16-1723 (RC)


March 30, 2020

Re Document Nos.: 141, 143, 145, 146, 147, 148, 149, 150, 165, 166, 170, 175, 177




This long-running class action litigation pits a class of current residents of a housing development in the Northeast quadrant of Washington, D.C., against the companies seeking to redevelop the apartment complex. Plaintiffs allege that Defendants' planned redevelopment will disparately impact families, in violation of both the Fair Housing Act ("FHA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601-19 (2018), and the D.C. Human Rights Act ("DCHRA"), D.C. Code §§ 2-1401 to 2-1404 (2020), and further contend that Defendants made actionably discriminatory statements against families that contravene these same two statutes.1 After nearly two years of discovery,

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Defendants have moved for summary judgment. As set forth below, because Plaintiffs have provided no evidence of a discriminatory disparate impact on the basis of "familial status," as defined by the controlling statutes, the Court grants Defendants' motion for summary judgment on Plaintiffs' disparate impact claims. Moreover, because Plaintiff ONE DC has not established standing to pursue the discriminatory statement claim, the court grants Defendants' motion for summary judgment on that claim, too.


A. Procedural History

This Court's earlier opinions in this case have detailed the facts underlying Plaintiffs' class claims. See Borum v. Brentwood Village, LLC (Borum I), 218 F. Supp. 2d 1 (D.D.C. 2016); Borum v. Brentwood Village, LLC (Borum II). 324 F.R.D. 1 (D.D.C. 2018); Borum v. Brentwood Assocs., L.P. (Borum III), 329 F.R.D. 90 (D.D.C. 2019), Borum IV, 2019 WL 2437686; Borum v. Brentwood Vill., LLC (Borum V), 332 F.R.D. 38 (D.D.C. 2019). The Court assumes familiarity with these dispositions and briefly reviews portions of the procedural history to contextualize the pending motion for summary judgment.

On August 25, 2016, original plaintiffs Adriann Borum, Loretta Holloman, and ONE DC filed suit against defendants Brentwood Village, LLC, Mid-City Financial Corporation, and Edgewood Management Corporation alleging disparate impact discrimination and discriminatory statements in violation of the FHA and DCHRA. Borum IV, 2019 WL 2437686, at *1.2

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Plaintiffs initially alleged that the proposed redevelopment of the Brookland Manor apartment complex would reduce the number of three-bedroom apartments and eliminate four- and five-bedroom apartments in a way that discriminated against families. Borum IV, 2019 WL 2437686, at *1; see also Am. Compl. ¶¶ 1-10, ECF No. 139. Plaintiffs also alleged that Defendants had made statements that discriminated against families. Borum IV, 2019 WL 2437686, at *1; see also Am. Compl. ¶¶ 163-78. On Plaintiffs' motion, this Court certified the following class of Brookland Manor plaintiffs to pursue both sets of claims under the FHA and DCHRA, respectively:

All individuals who reside at Brookland Manor in a three-, four-, or five-bedroom unit that houses one or more minor child and his or her guardian, and are at risk of being displaced from a three-, four-, or five-bedroom unit at Brookland Manor as a direct result of the proposed redevelopment.

Borum IV, 2019 WL 2437686 at *2 (quoting Borum II, 324 F.R.D. at 20). Thereafter, Defendants moved to decertify the class, contending that the named representative, Ms. Borum,3 could no longer adequately represent the interests of the class because she had been issued a notice to vacate and faced possible eviction. Id. at *2 (discussing Borum III, 329 F.R.D. at 92-93). The Court agreed that these developments with Ms. Borum created a conflict and made her an inadequate class representative, yet declined to decertify the class and instead granted

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Plaintiffs the opportunity to substitute another representative. Id. (citing Borum III, 329 F.R.D. at 100-01).

On February 6, 2019, Plaintiffs moved to substitute Marita Moore as the class representative. Id. This Court approved Ms. Moore to represent the class's disparate impact claim and decertified the class with respect to Plaintiffs' discriminatory statements claim. Id. at *12. Thus, only the individual named plaintiffs and organizational plaintiff ONE DC continued to press the discriminatory statements claim. Id. Plaintiffs then filed an amended class action complaint, see Am. Compl., ECF No. 139, and the parties completed discovery. Contending that Plaintiffs have not established any viable claim for relief, Defendants now move for summary judgment on all claims.

B. Plaintiffs' Disparate Impact Claim4

In their discriminatory disparate impact claim, Plaintiffs contest Defendants' plan to redevelop the approximately 465 apartment units that residents presently occupy at Brookland Manor. Pls.' Response to Defs.' SUMF 3. This apartment complex, located in Ward 5, Northeast, in Washington, D.C., id.; see also id. at 52, was home to 193 households with minor children as of February 12, 2018, id. at 52. Many of these households include larger families, most of whom reside in three-, four-, and five-bedroom apartment flats. Id. at 52. Defendants' initial application to the D.C. Zoning Commission indicated plans to replace the existing

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apartment structures with approximately 1,646 to 2,200 new residential units. Id. at 54. The final Zoning Commission Order reflected plans to construct 1,646 new units, id. at 96-97 (citing Zoning Commission Order ¶ 52, ECF No. 141-4), without any stated plans to construct four- or five-bedroom apartments at the redeveloped Brookland Manor, id. at 55.5 Plaintiffs also state that Defendants proposed reducing the number of three-bedroom units, id. at 55, a charge that Defendants contest on the basis that they never specified the maximum number of three-bedroom units that would be constructed, Defs.' SMF 98 ("Defendants . . . committed to the Zoning Commission on April 10, 2015 to build at least 64 three[-]bedroom units." (emphasis removed)). The final unit mix for the community remains undetermined. Pls.' Response to Defs.' SUMF 8. Notwithstanding the fact that the unit mix could change, Plaintiffs urge that the initially proposed changes in unit size, and especially the elimination of four- and five-bedroom flats, will disparately impact the large families who have made Brookland Manor home. See id. at 40, 44-45, 52. Plaintiffs' references to "families" invoke families in the colloquial sense, as opposed to tracking "familial status" as defined by the FHA and DCHRA.6 Thus, Plaintiffs discuss families as households with minor children, id. at 45, potentially including multiple generations under the same roof, id. at 53-54 (suggesting benefits where multigenerational families reside together).7

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C. Plaintiffs' Discriminatory Statements Claim

Plaintiffs also bring discriminatory statements claims based on certain statements that Defendants made about the planned community while obtaining approval from the D.C. Zoning Commission and while communicating with the residents of Brookland Manor. First, Defendant Mid-City8 told the Zoning Commission that it "does not propose to construct four[-] or five[-] bedroom units" because "housing very large families in apartment complexes is significantly impactful upon the quality of life of households as well as their surrounding neighbors." Pls.' Response to Defs.' SUMF 55-56 (quoting Apr. 10, 2015 Letter to D.C. Zoning Commission ("Apr. 10, 2015 Letter") 6, ECF No. 4-13). This same letter, as Defendants note, indicated elsewhere that Mid-City was "committed to allow all households that reside at Brookland Manor at the commencement of the redevelopment in early 2018 with the right to return to the new Brentwood Village community." Defs.' SMF 100 (quoting Apr. 10, 2015 Letter 4).

Similar statements were also made in two communications with residents. In November 2014, Defendant Mid-City informed the Brookland Manor/Brentwood Village Residents Association ("BM/BV RA") that it did not propose constructing four- or five-bedroom units because its "practical experience has demonstrated that it is not an ideal housing type for larger families and there are adverse impacts on the remainder of the community." Nov. 19, 2014 Letter to BM/BV RA ("Nov. 19, 2014 Letter") 8, ECF No. 4-19.9 This same letter, as Defendants emphasize, also stated that Defendants' "objective will be to assist large families that

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currently reside in four and five bedroom apartments by preparing them for homeownership opportunities in the new townhomes," and that the "renewed community" would be "family friendly." Defs.' SMF 141-42 (quoting Nov. 19, 2014 Letter 3, 7). Later, in a letter written directly to residents of Brookland Manor, Defendant Mid-City stated that the "new community will not include new 4BR and 5BR apartment units as these large units are not consistent with the creation of a vibrant new community." Id. at 141 (quoting Jan. 20, 2015 Letter to Brookland Manor Residents ("Jan. 20, 2015 Letter") 1, ECF No. 4-20). Defendants again emphasize that this letter reiterated a commitment to assist residents by "work[ing] through their personal objectives and options[,] which may include housing qualified multi-generational families in two units, down-sizing into a 3BR unit, or being provided the opportunity to acquire one of the 'for sale' townhomes." Id. at 142 (quoting Jan. 20, 2015 Letter 1-2). No other specific statements by Defendants are described in Plaintiffs'...

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