Huynh v. Sanchez, Case No.: 5:14-CV-02367 LHK

CourtUnited States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
Writing for the CourtLUCY H. KOH
Decision Date02 September 2014
PartiesTHANH HUYNH, Plaintiff, v. ALEX SANCHEZ, in his official capacity as Executive Director of the HOUSING AUTHORITY OF THE COUNTY OF SANTA CLARA; HOUSING AUTHORITY OF THE COUNTY OF SANTA CLARA, and DOES 1 through 100, inclusive, Defendants.
Docket NumberCase No.: 5:14-CV-02367 LHK

THANH HUYNH, Plaintiff,
ALEX SANCHEZ, in his official capacity as Executive Director of the HOUSING AUTHORITY
and DOES 1 through 100, inclusive, Defendants.

Case No.: 5:14-CV-02367 LHK


September 2, 2014


Plaintiff Thanh Huynh brings this civil action against the Housing Authority of the County of Santa Clara and its Executive Director, Alex Sanchez, in his official capacity (collectively, "Defendants"). Defendants now move to dismiss Huynh's Complaint in its entirety on various grounds. See ECF No. 8 ("Mot."). Huynh filed an Opposition, ECF No. 12 ("Opp'n"), and Defendants filed a Reply, ECF No. 13 ("Reply"). Pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7-1(b), the Court finds Defendants' Motion appropriate for determination without oral argument, and hereby VACATES the hearing scheduled for September 4, 2014. Having considered the briefing, the record in this case, and applicable law, the Court hereby GRANTS IN PART AND DENIES IN PART Defendants' motion to dismiss.

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Except where otherwise noted, the Court draws the following facts, taken as true for purposes of a motion to dismiss, from Huynh's Complaint. ECF No. 1-1 ("Compl.").

A. Factual Background

1. The HACSC and Section 8

Defendant Housing Authority of the County of Santa Clara ("HACSC") is a governmental entity, created under California state law, that participates in the federal Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program. Compl. ¶ 9. HACSC is a Public Housing Agency ("PHA") that administers the Section 8 program in Santa Clara County, California. Id. Defendant Alex Sanchez is the Executive Director of HACSC and is sued in his official capacity. Id. ¶ 8.

The Section 8 program is a federally funded program governed by federal regulation and administered by various state municipal entities. See Mot. at 3. 24 C.F.R. § 982 guides administration of Section 8 Housing. 24 C.F.R. § 982.402(a) requires that a PHA "establish subsidy standards that determine the number of bedrooms needed for families of different sizes and compositions." Federal regulations also provide guidelines for determining the number of bedrooms that families receiving Section 8 vouchers may need, requiring that PHA subsidy standards:

(1) . . . provide for the smallest number of bedrooms needed to house a family without overcrowding.

(2) . . . be consistent with space requirements under the housing quality standards.

(3) . . . be applied consistently for all families of like size and composition. . . .

(8) In determining family unit size for a particular family, the PHA may grant an exception to its established subsidy standards if the PHA determines that the exception is justified by the age, sex, health, handicap, or relationship of family members or other personal circumstances.

24 C.F.R. § 982.402(b)(1)-(3), (8). A dwelling is considered unacceptable unless it has "at least one bedroom or living / sleeping room for each two persons. Children of opposite sex, other than very young children, may not be required to occupy the same bedroom or living/sleeping room." Id. § 982.401(d)(2)(ii).

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Pursuant to federal regulations, HACSC maintains an Administrative Plan with voucher issuance guidelines and subsidy standards. Compl. ¶¶ 32-33. Under this Plan, HACSC allocates bedrooms according to the following rubric:

one room for the head of household (with spouse, co-head, Registered Domestic Partner, or boyfriend/girlfriend if any) and one additional room for every two persons regardless of age or gender.

Id. ¶ 33 (quoting HACSC Administrative Plan § 6.4).

2. Plaintiff Huynh

Huynh is a resident of Santa Clara County, California, who receives a Section 8 housing voucher from HACSC. See id. ¶¶ 3, 7. According to the Complaint, Huynh fought for the South Vietnam Army during the Vietnam War, and was then imprisoned in an internment camp in Vietnam for a decade. Id. ¶ 1. After receiving political asylum in 1992 and coming to the United States, Huynh was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder ("PTSD") and major depression. Id. ¶ 2. As a result of these disorders, Huynh "suffers from anxiety, depression and severe night terrors which cause him to fear that he is being attacked," causing him to often scream at night and lock his bedroom door for security. Id. ¶ 14.

Huynh currently lives with his wife, adult son (age 25), and adult daughter (age 20) in a three-bedroom apartment. Id. ¶ 13. The family partially pays for their apartment using a Section 8 housing voucher, which they have used for the last 14 years. Id. ¶ 15. Huynh alleges that as a result of his disorders and accompanying symptoms, he is unable to share a bedroom with anyone else. At night, Huynh sleeps alone in a single room, his wife and daughter share a room, and his son stays in the third room alone. Id. ¶ 14. Tao Nguyen, M.D., Huynh's long-time psychiatrist, has provided medical documentation supporting Huynh's need for a separate bedroom. Id. ¶ 17.

Prior to September 2013, HACSC provided Huynh's family with a three-bedroom housing voucher, which accommodated Huynh's need to have a single bedroom. However, in 2013, HACSC changed several policies related to the Section 8 program due to a reduction in federal funding. Id. ¶ 25. As a result, HACSC reduced Huynh's housing voucher from a three-bedroom unit to a two-bedroom unit. Id. ¶ 16. HACSC simultaneously increased the share of the family's

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gross income used to calculate their tenant rent obligation from 30% to 35%. As a result, Huynh's responsibility for monthly rent increased from $734 to $1,160. Id.

On October 2, 2013, Huynh submitted a request to increase his housing voucher back to a three-bedroom unit to accommodate his disability. Id. ¶ 17. With his request, Huynh submitted a form completed by Dr. Nguyen, which stated that Huynh has a permanent disability limiting his life activities. Dr. Nguyen stated that Huynh's condition causes him to be paranoid, fearful, and to lock himself in his bedroom at night for fear of being attacked, and that Huynh needs a private space to accommodate these episodes. Id.

On October 21, 2013, HACSC denied Huynh's request for an increase in his housing voucher to add a bedroom. HACSC relied on its guidelines that allocate one bedroom for the head of household and spouse, and one additional room for every two persons. The letter denying Huynh's request stated that a two-bedroom voucher met his family's needs without overcrowding, and was therefore the largest size necessary based on family size. Id. ¶ 18.

In response to the denial, Huynh submitted a request for an administrative hearing. On December 12, 2013, HACSC officer Karen Goodman held a hearing on Huynh's case. Id. ¶ 19. On January 14, 2014, Officer Goodman upheld the denial of Huynh's request, but determined that Plaintiff: (1) was a person with a disability, and (2) needed a separate bedroom to accommodate his disability. However, Officer Goodman wrote that "[Huynh's] approved voucher size does provide [him] with a separate bedroom," noting that the Section 8 program only allows subsidization of the smallest number of bedrooms needed to house a family without overcrowding. Id. ¶ 20.

On January 27, 2014, Huynh wrote to Sanchez, asking for a reversal of the hearing officer's decision. Sanchez responded on March 5, 2014, declining Huynh's request. Id. ¶¶ 21-22.

B. Procedural History

On April 14, 2014, Huynh filed this action against HACSC and Sanchez in California Superior Court for the County of Santa Clara. See Compl. Huynh alleged that his two-bedroom voucher did not account for his disability because, taking into account his disability, he should be afforded three bedrooms (one for himself, and two additional bedrooms under the "one additional room for every two persons regardless of age or gender" portion of the guidelines). Huynh alleged

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that this failure violates multiple federal and California state laws. Huynh's federal causes of action are based on: (1) the Fair Housing Amendments Act ("FHAA"), 42 U.S.C. § 3601; (2) Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794(a); (3) the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101; and 4) the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Huynh's California state law claims included: (1) the California Fair Employment and Housing Act ("FEHA"), Cal. Gov't Code § 12955, and (2) the California Disabled Persons Act ("CDPA"), Cal. Civ. Code § 54.1.

On May 22, 2014, Defendants removed this case from California Superior Court to this Court under federal question jurisdiction, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a), based on Huynh's federal causes of action. See ECF No. 1. On May 29, 2014, Defendants filed this motion to dismiss all of Huynh's claims. ECF No. 8. On June 13, 2014, Huynh filed an Opposition. ECF No. 12. On June 23, 2014, Defendants filed a Reply. ECF No. 13.

Defendants move to dismiss all of Huynh's claims under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). See generally Mot. Defendants also move under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(f) to strike Huynh's demand for punitive damages against HACSC. See id. at 17-18. In his Opposition, Huynh agrees to dismiss his § 1983 claims and his demand for punitive damages...

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