United States v. City of Parma, Ohio

Decision Date05 June 1980
Docket NumberNo. C73-439.,C73-439.
Citation494 F. Supp. 1049
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff, v. CITY OF PARMA, OHIO, Defendant.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Ohio


James R. Williams, U. S. Atty., Cleveland, Ohio, Drew S. Days, III, Asst. Atty. Gen., Robert J. Reinstein, Brian F. Heffernan, Michael L. Barrett, Theodore M. Shaw, Dept. of Justice, Washington, D. C., for plaintiff.

Fredric E. Kramer, Cleveland, Ohio, Robert R. Soltis, Parma, Ohio, for defendant.

Avery S. Friedman, Cleveland, Ohio, for amicus curiae.


BATTISTI, Chief Judge.

On April 27, 1973, the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice filed a complaint in this Court, alleging that the City of Parma has engaged in a pattern and practice of racial discrimination in housing in violation of The Fair Housing Act, Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, 42 U.S.C. § 3601 et seq., and furthermore has denied rights granted by the Act to groups of persons.

The government's contention is that Parma, the largest suburb of Cleveland, with a population of more than 100,000, has had, and continues to follow, a long standing policy of excluding blacks from taking up residence in any substantial numbers. The government contends that this policy was manifested in a series of actions by officials of the City of Parma which were done with the purpose and had the effect of perpetuating Parma's virtually all-white character. Stark statistics show that Parma is well over 99.5% white while adjacent Cleveland has a 38% minority population.

The government's evidence focuses on five series of actions taken by Parma officials between 1968 and 1975, all of which are claimed to have inhibited or prevented blacks from moving into Parma and thereby implemented a policy of racial exclusion. The challenged actions include: 1) Parma's refusal to enact a fair housing resolution which would have welcomed "all persons of goodwill" as residents; 2) Parma's consistent opposition to all forms of public and low-income housing; 3) Parma's rejection of a federally-subsidized low-income housing development; 4) Parma's refusal to submit an adequate housing assistance plan in connection with its application for Community Development Block Grant funds; and 5) Parma's passage and application of four land-use ordinances which impose height, parking and voter-approval limitations on housing developments, with the purpose and effect of severely restricting low-income housing opportunities in the City. These actions, individually and collectively, are alleged to have been taken with the purpose and the effect of perpetuating a segregated community.

Parma denies that its conduct had the purpose or effect of discriminating against blacks. The City's basic defense is that its virtually all-white character is the natural outcome of free choice in the housing market. The City claims that the marked absence of blacks is the result of choice influenced by associational preferences, historical and economic factors, and is not the result of discrimination in housing. The challenged actions are defended by the City on the ground that they advance legitimate municipal interests and are within the discretion normally afforded to the community.

The issues of racially discriminatory motivation, racially discriminatory effect, and Fair Housing Act violations depend on the evaluation of often merged legal and factual questions. The findings which follow are made from a review of all evidence and applicable law, including judicial notice of certain historical facts found in earlier court decisions or in sources whose accuracy cannot reasonably be questioned. See Rule 201(b), Fed.R.Evid. For organizational purposes, the findings are grouped into four major areas:

I. Legal Standards for Determining Violations of the Fair Housing Act;
II. Racial Housing Discrimination in the Cleveland Metropolitan Area, and Parma;
III. Parma's Racially Exclusionary Policies and Practices; and
IV. Violations of the Fair Housing Act.

These findings follow a trial on the issue of liability at which twenty witnesses testified and the depositions of eleven witnesses and over 250 exhibits were admitted into evidence. The remedy issue was pretermitted for a subsequent proceeding if liability were found.


The Fair Housing Act was enacted by Congress in 1968. Pub.L. No. 90-284, Title VIII, 82 Stat. 81 (codified at 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 to 3631). Its purpose is "to provide, within constitutional limitations, for fair housing throughout the United States." 42 U.S.C. § 3601. Enacted pursuant to congressional power under the Thirteenth Amendment, the Act implements a policy of the highest priority — the replacement of ghettos with truly integrated living patterns. Trafficante v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., 409 U.S. 205, 211, 93 S.Ct. 364, 367, 34 L.Ed.2d 415 (1972). As the Supreme Court has noted, ". . . when racial discrimination herds men into ghettos and makes their ability to buy property turn on the color of their skin, then it too is a relic of slavery." Jones v. Mayer Co., 392 U.S. 409, 442-443, 88 S.Ct. 2186, 2205, 20 L.Ed.2d 1189 (1968).

Like Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., the Fair Housing Act was enacted to ensure the removal of artificial, arbitrary, and unnecessary barriers when the barriers operate invidiously to discriminate on the basis of impermissible characteristics. United States v. City of Black Jack, 508 F.2d 1179 (8th Cir. 1974), cert. denied, 422 U.S. 1042, 95 S.Ct. 2656, 45 L.Ed.2d 694 (1975); cf. Griggs v. Duke Power Co., 401 U.S. 424, 91 S.Ct. 849, 28 L.Ed.2d 158 (1971). Congress designed it to prohibit "all forms of discrimination, sophisticated as well as simpleminded." Williams v. Matthews Co., 499 F.2d 819, 826 (8th Cir. 1974). The Act, therefore, is to be construed generously to ensure the prompt and effective elimination of all traces of discrimination within the housing field. Trafficante v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., supra 409 U.S. at 211-212, 93 S.Ct. at 367-368; see also Gladstone Realtors v. Village of Bellwood, 441 U.S. 91, 99 S.Ct. 1601, 60 L.Ed.2d 66 (1979); Marr v. Rife, 503 F.2d 735 (6th Cir. 1974).

Section 804(a) of the Fair Housing Act prohibits all practices which make unavailable or deny housing to persons because of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. This broadly drafted section reaches every practice which has the effect of making housing more difficult to obtain on prohibited grounds. United States v. City of Parma, 1 EOHC § 13,616 (N.D.Ohio 1973); United States v. Youritan Constr. Corp., 370 F.Supp. 643 (N.D.Calif.1973), aff'd in relevant part, 509 F.2d 623 (9th Cir. 1975); Zuch v. Hussey, 394 F.Supp. 1028 (E.D. Mich.1975), aff'd in relevant part, 547 F.2d 1168 (6th Cir. 1977) (racial steering); Laufman v. Oakley Bldg. & Loan Co., 408 F.Supp. 489 (S.D.Ohio 1976) (mortgage red-lining); Dunn v. Midwestern Indemnity Co., 472 F.Supp. 1106 (S.D.Ohio 1979) (insurance red-lining); United States v. American Institute of Real Estate Appraisers, 442 F.Supp. 1072 (N.D.Ill.1977), appeal dismissed, 590 F.2d 242 (7th Cir. 1978) (discriminatory practices of appraisers). Even the discretion normally accorded to local zoning officials, see Village of Belle Terre v. Boraas, 416 U.S. 1, 94 S.Ct. 1536, 39 L.Ed.2d 797 (1974), is to be curbed where "the clear result of such discretion is the separation of low-income Blacks from all White neighborhoods." Banks v. Perk, 341 F.Supp. 1175, 1180 (N.D.Ohio 1972), aff'd in part and rev'd in part without opinion, 473 F.2d 910 (6th Cir. 1973). Thus, municipal land use practices which make housing unavailable on a prohibited basis violate the Fair Housing Act. United States v. City of Parma, supra; Accord, e. g., Metropolitan Housing Development Corp. v. Village of Arlington Heights, 558 F.2d 1283 (7th Cir. 1977), cert. denied, 434 U.S. 1025, 98 S.Ct. 752, 54 L.Ed.2d 772 (1978) (Arlington Heights II); Resident Advisory Board v. Rizzo, 564 F.2d 126 (3rd Cir. 1977), cert. denied, 435 U.S. 908, 98 S.Ct. 1457, 55 L.Ed.2d 499 (1978); United States v. City of Black Jack, supra.

Violations of the Fair Housing Act can be established under two different theories. First, policies and practices which are motivated by racial discrimination violate the Act. See, e. g., United States v. West Peachtree Tenth Corp., 437 F.2d 221 (5th Cir. 1971); United States v. Northside Realty Associates, 474 F.2d 1164 (5th Cir. 1973), cert. denied, 424 U.S. 977, 96 S.Ct. 1483, 47 L.Ed.2d 747 (1976). Second, policies and practices may violate the Act if there is a showing of a racially discriminatory effect, even absent evidence of a racially discriminatory motive. United States v. City of Parma, 471 F.Supp. 453 (N.D.Ohio 1979); Arlington Heights II, supra; Resident Advisory Board v. Rizzo, supra; United States v. City of Black Jack, supra; Robinson v. 12 Lofts Realty, Inc., 610 F.2d 1032 (2d Cir. 1979); Bishop v. Pecsok, 431 F.Supp. 34 (N.D.Ohio 1976).

Standards covering the scope and nature of the evidence needed to prove a violation under the first theory — racially discriminatory intent — have evolved not only in Fair Housing Act litigation, but also in cases involving alleged violations of the Equal Protection Clause. See, e. g., Washington v. Davis, 426 U.S. 229, 96 S.Ct. 2040, 48 L.Ed.2d 597 (1976); Village of Arlington Heights v. Metropolitan Housing Development Corp., 429 U.S. 252, 97 S.Ct. 555, 50 L.Ed.2d 450 (1977) (Arlington Heights I); Columbus Board of Education v. Penick, 443 U.S. 449, 99 S.Ct. 2941, 61 L.Ed.2d 666 (1979). It is clear that the determination of "whether invidious discriminatory purpose was a motivating factor demands a sensitive inquiry into such circumstantial and direct evidence of intent as may be available." Arlington Heights I, supra 429 U.S. at 266, 97 S.Ct. at 564. To find...

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