West v. Palo Alto Hous. Corp., Case No. 17-CV-00238-LHK

CourtUnited States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
Writing for the CourtLUCY H. KOH United States District Judge
PartiesJAMES WEST, Plaintiff, v. PALO ALTO HOUSING CORPORATION, et al., Defendants.
Docket NumberCase No. 17-CV-00238-LHK
Decision Date20 June 2019

JAMES WEST, Plaintiff,
v.
PALO ALTO HOUSING CORPORATION, et al., Defendants.

Case No. 17-CV-00238-LHK

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA SAN JOSE DIVISION

June 20, 2019


ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Re: Dkt. Nos. 180, 202, 203

Plaintiff James West ("Plaintiff"), proceeding pro se, brings suit against Defendants Palo Alto Housing Corporation ("PAHC"), PAHC Management and Services Corporation ("PAHC Management"), PAHC Apartments Inc. ("Barker Hotel"), Alma Place Associates LP ("Alma Place"), Candice Gonzalez, Georgina Mascarenhas, April Fields, James Quinn, Jocelyn Harrison, and Evangeline Granadosin (collectively, "Defendants"). Plaintiff's causes of action arise from his tenancies at the Barker Hotel and Alma Place, two apartments that provide low-income housing. Before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff filed a late, two-page opposition to Defendants' motion that cites no evidence. Having considered the submissions of the parties, the relevant law, and the record in this case, the Court hereby GRANTS Defendants' motion for summary judgment.

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I. BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background

Plaintiff is an African-American male who resided at the Barker Hotel between December 2008 and July 2011 and at Alma Place between July 2011 and April 2015. ECF No. 77 ("TAC") at ¶ 4. Both the Barker Hotel and Alma Place are low-income housing complexes in Palo Alto, California. Id.

Defendant PAHC is a private California non-profit corporation. ECF No. 180-12, Declaration of Georgina Mascarenhas ("Mascarenhas Decl."),¶ 2. Defendant PAHC Management is a private California non-profit corporation that managed both the Barker Hotel and Alma Place, and is affiliated with Defendant PAHC. Id. at ¶ 3; ECF No. 181-1, Ex. A at 6. Defendant Mascarenhas is currently Vice President of Property Management for PAHC Management. Masacarenhas Decl. at ¶ 1.

Defendant Barker Hotel owned the Barker Hotel while Plaintiff was a tenant there from 2008 to 2011, and Defendant Barker Hotel leased Plaintiff his apartment unit. Id. Mascarenhas Decl. at ¶ 4. Defendant Quinn was a site manager at the Barker Hotel during Plaintiff's tenancy. ECF No. 181, Ex. B, Deposition of James West ("West Depo.") at 137:5-22; see also TAC at ¶ 15.

Defendant Alma Place is a California limited partnership that owned Alma Place while Plaintiff was a resident at Alma Place, and that leased Plaintiff his unit. Mascarenhas Decl. at ¶ 5. Defendant Harrison was assistant property manager at Alma Place, id. at ¶ 12, and Defendant Fields was property manager at Alma Place, id. at ¶ 13. Defendant Granadosin was Defendant Fields' supervisor. ECF No. 181-1, Ex. D. Defendant Gonzalez worked at PAHC Management. Mascarenhas Decl. at ¶ 4. Defendants Barker Hotel and Alma Place are subsidiaries of Defendant PAHC. ECF No. 181-1, Ex. A at 6.

1. Plaintiff's Tenancy at the Barker Hotel from 2008 to 2011

Plaintiff resided at the Barker Hotel from December 2008 to July 2011. TAC ¶ 4. There is little information in the record about Plaintiff's tenancy at the Barker Hotel. Defendants' submissions with their motion for summary judgment focus largely on Plaintiff's tenancy at Alma

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Place, and Plaintiff attached no evidence to his late opposition. Accordingly, to provide some background on Plaintiff's Barker Hotel tenancy, the Court discusses the allegations in Plaintiff's TAC, although the Court does not assume their truth. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e) (in opposing a motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party must go beyond the pleadings and, by its own affidavits or discovery, "set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial").

In Plaintiff's TAC, Plaintiff alleges that when Plaintiff inquired about renting a unit at the Barker Hotel, Defendant Quinn "informed Plaintiff that there was very little criminal activity in this area of Palo Alto and only mentioned the occasional noise from a restaurant across the street." TAC at ¶ 21. Plaintiff also alleges that Defendant Quinn only permitted Plaintiff to view units on the second floor of the Barker Hotel, whereas "[t]he first floor unit were all occupied by white tenants." Id. at ¶ 75.

Plaintiff moved into Unit 19 at the Barker Hotel on December 16, 2008. Id. at ¶ 33. Plaintiff alleges that when he met with Defendant Quinn on December 24, 2008 to sign his lease, "Defendant [Quinn] became impatient and began to yell at Plaintiff and insisted that Plaintiff sign the rental agreement." Id. at ¶ 37. Plaintiff alleges that he called the PAHC main number and spoke to Defendant Granadosin about Defendant Quinn's behavior. Id. at ¶ 40. Plaintiff alleges that his relationship with Defendant Quinn became increasingly hostile, and that on one occasion in July 2009 Defendant Quinn "intentionally assault [sic] me by kicking me in the leg." Id. at ¶ 46.

Across the street from the Barker Hotel was the B412 nightclub, which, according to Plaintiff, "attracted a large loud and rowdy ground [sic] of night club goers." Id. at ¶ 56. In July 2009, Plaintiff attended a Palo Alto City Council meeting to complain about the noise from B412. Id. at ¶ 59. After the meeting, a Palo Alto police officer visited Plaintiff to discuss Palo Alto's noise ordinance and told Plaintiff that the police department "was not going to do anything about the noise." Id. at ¶ 61. Eventually, the B412 nightclub closed. Id. at ¶ 64.

Plaintiff also alleges that Defendant Barker Hotel and Defendant Quinn withheld tenant mail on occasion. Id. at ¶ 77. In February 2011, Plaintiff complained to his congressional

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representative about the mail issues. Id.

Sometime before July 2011, when a unit became available at Alma Place, Plaintiff inquired about moving to Alma Place. Mascarenhas Decl. at ¶ 7. Plaintiff asked if he could move into Alma Place by the end of July 2011, but maintain tenancy at the Barker Hotel into August without paying rent at the Barker Hotel, so that Plaintiff could gradually move his possessions from the Barker Hotel to Alma Place. Id. Defendant Mascarenhas denied Plaintiff's request to remain at the Barker Hotel without paying August rent, but permitted Plaintiff to stay in his Barker Hotel unit until August 3, 2011. Id.

2. Tenancy at Alma Place from 2011 to 2015

Plaintiff moved into Alma Place on July 30, 2011. ECF No. 181-1, Mascarenhas Decl., Ex. B (Plaintiff's resident ledger). Plaintiff leased Unit 221 at Alma Place in exchange for monthly rent of $485. Id.; see also Glaessner Decl., Ex. J (lease agreement between Plaintiff and Defendant Alma Place). Plaintiff resided at Alma Place until April 2015. Mascarenhas Decl. ¶ 5.

a. After Plaintiff Complained About Noise in 2014, Defendants Offered to Move Plaintiff to a Different Unit, but Plaintiff Did Not Accept the Offer

During his tenancy at Alma Place, Plaintiff complained several times about noise from various other tenants. First, Plaintiff testified that he complained several times that the tenant living below Plaintiff in Unit 121 made excessive noise: "I know I complained multiple times. My best estimate would be six, seven." West Depo. 251:1-9. That tenant moved out of Unit 121 approximately a year and a half before Plaintiff left Alma Place. Id. at 251:21-252:7.

Second, Plaintiff testified that at one point an unidentified tenant in the building was yelling racial slurs. Id. at 171:18-24. After Plaintiff reported the incident to Defendant Harrison, Defendant Alma Place issued a lease violation to the tenant: "[Defendant Harrison] told me that she knew who it was, and that I think they had issued a lease violation, that other tenants had heard these comments and statements, and that they were addressing it." Id. at 174:20-24.

Third, Plaintiff testified that he made two complaints about noise from an upstairs tenant. On one afternoon in September 2014, Plaintiff testified, the tenant in the unit above Plaintiff's

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"had his window open, and he had his television up very loudly. And I could hear it as though as I was in the room with him." West Depo. at 159:20-23. Plaintiff conceded that the incident did not occur during Alma Place's quiet hours, which ran from the late evening to early morning. Id. at 160:7-9. Plaintiff reported the noise to Defendant Harrison, who said that she would not investigate because quiet hours were not in effect. Id. at 160:10-13.

On another occasion, the tenant in the unit above Plaintiff's made noise because, according to Plaintiff, "I believe [the tenant] was disassembling the bed and constructing his own bed in the unit." Id. at 258:23-259:3. Plaintiff testified that Defendant Harrison "issued a lease violation and had given instructions for the - for the tenant in 321 to not wear shoes when he was in the unit." Id. at 285:9-13.

At some point later, Defendant Fields offered to move Plaintiff to a unit on the third floor to address Plaintiff's complaints about overhead noise: "[A]t some point I did make a decision about whether I wanted to move into or transfer into the unit that I was showed in the lower 300s." Id. at 267:3-5. Plaintiff "decided I did not want to move into that unit." Id. at 267:12-14. Plaintiff testified that the unit "was not in completed repair form, and it was very hot. And so it had all these undesirable features to it that was - made it of no interest to me." Id. at 269:9-11.

Later in 2014, Defendants made further transfer offers to Plaintiff. On September 8, 2014, Defendant Fields wrote that Defendant Fields wished to offer Plaintiff an opportunity to move to a renovated unit to address Plaintiff's complaints about overhead noise:

Dear Mr. West,

I would like to speak with you in person about a possible transfer of units from 221 to the next available remodeled unit on the third floor. I offer it to you as a second opportunity for a transfer both as a solution to your problem with noise in the unit above you and as an opportunity for you to enjoy the
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