Gautreaux remediation may end soon in Chicago

Filed in the 1960s, decided in the 1970s, and with remediation lasting decades, a case involving a class-action lawsuit charging racial discrimination in public housing in Chicago may end in 2024:

The Chicago Housing Authority and lawyers representing CHA residents have asked U.S. District Judge Marvin Aspen to approve the agreement creating a road map for the CHA to complete its obligations under the so-called Gautreaux litigation.

Under the plan, the nearly 53-year-old case would come to a close by July 2024, marking an end to a landmark chapter in the national civil rights movement.

The settlement agreement provides a detailed timeline for the CHA to complete all planned mixed-income units and strengthen its housing voucher program to better enable families to move to more affluent areas if they choose to do so…

The lawsuit changed the face of public housing by instituting “scattered site” projects built on a small scale and dispersed in neighborhoods throughout the city — a stark contrast to the high-rise buildings constructed in the 1950s and 1960s.

This important lawsuit and ruling has both had significant effects on how policymakers have addressed concentrated poverty (more emphasis on scattering poor residents) as well as likely had limited effects because of the limited number of poor residents who have had and taken advantage of new opportunities to live in wealthier communities.

What is also striking about this is that the era of large-scale public housing and its associations with concentrated poverty are likely over. Hopefully, this does not mean less attention is paid to residential segregation and affordable housing issues but it is easier for the general public to ignore problems that are less visible.

“Armchair sociology” accusation in DraftKings, FanDuel case in New York

The recent case in New York involving the Attorney General and two fantasy sports sites included the accusation of “armchair sociology” this week:

“Rather than identify the concrete and immediate harms necessary to support a preliminary injunction, the NYAG instead resorts to smear tactics and speculation stretching to tie DFS contests to everything from child-abuse to over-eating, among other things,” reads DraftKing’s motion.

“The Attorney General’s armchair sociology would not pass muster on a daytime talk show,” continues the filing, which urges a panel of appellate judges to allow the online companies to continue operating in New York while the case works its way through the courts.

Schneiderman first filed suit in November, and was granted a temporary injunction on Dec. 11 to stop the sports giants from operating in New York. But that decision wasoverturned just hours later, and now the companies are operating under an emergency stay as the Appellate Division decides their fate in an expedited ruling.

Armchair sociology is a derogatory term here implying a false understanding of how people and/or society work. Additionally, there is a reference to daytime talk shows with the idea that the explanations given there for human behavior don’t match reality. Perhaps DraftKings and FanDuel would prefer more rigorous social scientific examinations of their practices and users? It would be interesting to see whether the “armchair sociology” claim has any influence or it is just PR posturing.

Just out of curiosity, I checked where I have seen the term armchair sociology before: see this earlier post where George Will accuses liberals of wrong ideas about how society works. There, the term is used to link sociology and liberal ideas, a thought that many conservatives may share.

Suing Bay Area suburbs to provide denser housing

Changed plans for a new development in Lafayette, California have housing advocates looking to sue the suburb:

The California Renters Legal Advocacy & Education Fund has launched the website Sue the Suburbs to bring attention to the situation in Lafayette. The site is also set up to find people who could have rented one of the 315 apartments from the original housing plan, had it been approved. If the group can successfully find plaintiffs, this could be the opening salvo for potential legal action against other Bay Area cities to force them to kick in to help house the region’s explosive population growth…

Lafayette is a “semi-rural” town looking to stay that way. It actually lost 15 residents between 2000 and 2010. During that period, the number of renter-occupied housing units dropped significantly from 2,128 to 1,186 units. Meanwhile, Lafayette’s white population also dropped, from 86.8 percent to 84.7 percent, while its Latino population rose from 4 percent to 5.8 percent. The black population was mostly static at less than 1 percent over the 10-year period.

In 2013, the city outlined a number of reasons for its opposition to the apartments based on its general plan for land use. One of those: “The character and pattern of the proposed development is unprecedented in Lafayette and not compatible with the residential neighborhoods in the vicinity of the project, which are characterized by one-and-two story residences fronting on a network of residential streets.”…

Those amenities will fulfill Lafayette’s needs, but they leave the Bay and San Francisco hanging. The Association of Bay Area Governments set goals for new housing production for each municipality in the region, called the Regional Housing Needs Allocation, to accomodate population growth. Lafayette built just 65 percent of its goal between 2007 and 2014. Actually, none of the Bay Area counties are pulling their weight in the housing plan.

This highlights how affordable housing is an issue for all of metropolitan regions to address. Many wealthier areas, whether neighborhoods in large cities or suburban communities, are unlikely to promote affordable housing on their own. Even when studies suggest affordable housing won’t lower property values, these communities are worried about their quality of life – which also can be seen as code for not wanting certain racial/ethnic groups or poorer residents to move in.

Yet, most regions do not have effective mechanisms for compelling metropolitan wide action. Lawsuits are one route to go with a long history: see the Gautreaux case in Chicago or the Mount Laurel case in New Jersey as notable examples. Other options including combining city and county governments and developing metropolitan wide bodies with the ability to enforce regulations. None of these routes are particularly easy as many residents of wealthier areas did so in order to retain local control.

And if all the Bay Area counties are behind in promoting affordable housing, perhaps this lawsuit is only the beginning…

Another chance for DuPage County Board to review proposed mosque near West Chicago

A federal court has given DuPage County officials another chance to review a proposal for a mosque near West Chicago:

Islamic Center of Western Suburbs in August filed the lawsuit claiming that DuPage discriminated against the group by rejecting its request to use a house at 28W774 Army Trail Road as a religious institution. The legal action was taken after DuPage County Board members on May 8, 2012, voted 15-3 to deny a conditional-use permit.

Then in March, DuPage lost a similar lawsuit filed by another religious organization. That prompted a federal judge to give the county and Islamic Center of Western Suburbs a chance to resolve their dispute.

The neighbors to the property are still not happy about the proposal:

Still, neighbors remain strongly opposed to the conditional-use request. About 50 of them attended Monday night’s public hearing.

Several of the neighbors voiced concerns about the possibility of flooding, increased traffic and lower property values. They say the house should remain a single-family home.

“We have a right to enjoy our properties without the intrusion of a commercial property butting into our neighborhood,” said Laura Wiley, who lives adjacent to the property. “It is changing the landscape of our neighborhood. It is going to inhibit our personal enjoyment of our property.”

Sounds like a typical NIMBY situation: the neighbors say the property will harm their quality of life while studies by the group bringing the proposal suggest there will be few issues. I’ve just been reading Colored Property: State Policy and White Racial Politics in Suburban America and there seem to be some parallels here. Suburbanites continue to make an economic, rather than racial, argument that they should be able to defend the value of their hard-earned property versus what they view as intrusions.

What happens if the DuPage County Board rejects the proposal again? The article suggests the Board can’t really do that as a similar case in Naperville (see here) has moved forward and the Islamic learning center will be built. So, it will be interesting to watch this upcoming vote…

Behind the suburban scenes: Warrenville asks Naperville School District 203 to stop expensive lawsuit

I posted last November about a Warrenville newsletter where the mayor expressed his displeasure that a new Cantera business had invited the mayor of Naperville to its opening but not the mayor of Warrenville. I was surprised at the reaction, which was quite unusual to see in a newsletter to the whole community, but I wonder it might be tied to a eight-year expensive lawsuit over tax revenue from Cantera:

Warrenville officials are campaigning to end an eight-year court battle over taxes with a Naperville school district.

The case returns to court Thursday, two days after leaders of five government bodies in Warrenville presented the Naperville Unit District 203 school board with a letter saying the lawsuit concerning a special taxing district has cost all parties involved more than $803,000 since 2005…

The lawsuit was filed by the district in March 2005 over the use of funds from the Cantera tax increment financing district. The Cantera development now includes a theater, shops, restaurants and corporate offices and provides about $3.2 million a year in revenue to District 203. Dave Zager, the district’s chief financial officer, said the Naperville district will continue to collect property tax revenue from the development into the future, but the amount will vary.

However, the school district alleges in the suit it is owed more than it has received. Brummel maintains the funds from the TIF district have been distributed legally and at the advice of attorneys.

The case has been dismissed twice, but the school district appealed twice, and litigation has continued.

Warrenville, its park district, fire protection district, Wheaton-Warrenville School District 200 and the public library district have spent a combined $357,000 defending the case. Naperville Unit District 203 has spent about $446,000. Part of the Cantera site is in District 203, and part is in District 200.

On one hand, this sounds like a lot of money to spend on a lawsuit that has still not concluded, but, on the other hand, tax revenue is hard to come by these days and lots of school districts could use this kind of money. I wonder if the length of the lawsuit is also tied to the economic crisis of recent years; in better times, District 203 might be better able to lose this revenue.

This is the first time I’ve heard of this lawsuit. Large battles between suburbs or suburban governmental bodies are fairly rare.

83 year old Hamptons resident sues for demolition of McMansions in her neighborhood

The McMansion battles continue, this time in the Hamptons as an 83 year old resident takes on the newer big houses in her neighborhood:

Evelyn Konrad claims in a new federal lawsuit that her high-powered neighbors — many of them finance honchos — have turned her subdivision into an overcrowded “Queens by the sea” because of an improperly adopted zoning code.

The suit doesn’t seek money — it seeks demolition.

Undeterred by her wealthy opponents, the brassy Stanford law graduate once skewered the supersized digs as “multimillion-dollar penis enlargements,” in a letter to a local newspaper…

In addition to Southampton Village Mayor Mark Epley, the suit names a host of cash-flush neighbors, including former Merrill Lynch honcho Donald Quintin and Manhattan attorney Denis Guerin.

Not your typical octogenarian, the yoga-practicing, bikini-wearing former NBC business reporter said that her modest, 2,200-square-foot colonial, purchased in 1984, has been slowly encircled by ballooning buildings ever since a new zoning code was adopted in 2005…

Konrad has demanded a jury trial and will argue the case herself, thank you very much.

I wonder what a jury would do…

It sounds like the zoning change from 2005 that is really at issue. I have no idea how often zoning regulations are overturned in court but I suspect they are infrequently challenged and even more rarely overturned.

Ebooks looking for a class (action) of their own

Ars Technica is reporting a new class action lawsuit in the ebook market:

The essence of the claim is that these publishers [HarperCollins, Hachette Book Group, Macmillan, Penguin Group Inc., and Simon & Schuster Inc.], in coordination with Apple, conspired to nix the low price e-books that Amazon launched in 2007.…

The accusation is that the publishers and Apple fixed prices via two means. First, the publishers embraced an "agency model" arrangement with Apple in which Apple would act as an agent for the publishers, accepting their pricing and simply taking a cut of the proceeds. (Compare this to a model where a company agrees to "buy" each e-book at a set price, but it can then offer those e-books at any price it chooses. Amazon, in fact, was widely believed to be taking a loss on many e-books in order to encourage adoption of e-readers like the Kindle and e-books at the $9.99 price.)

Second, the publishers allegedly agreed not to sell books to any other online venue (like Amazon) at prices lower than those offered to Apple (a "most favored nation" agreement).

It’s far too early to tell whether the Hagens Berman litigation group will able to prove any of this.  Each publisher had the incentive to raise their own prices, and that’s not illegal.  The question thus becomes whether they colluded with Apple and/or the other publishers to do so.  Only time (and very expensive discovery) will tell…