L.A. Clippers Owner Accused of Housing Discrimination
- From: "WBC" <sendmenospam@xxxxxxx>
- Date: Tue, 08 Aug 2006 19:20:50 GMT
The real estate mogul's lawyer denies he favored Korean tenants and sought
to exclude black people from buildings.
By Myron Levin
Times Staff Writer
August 8, 2006
The Justice Department on Monday filed a discrimination suit against Los
Angeles Clippers owner and real estate mogul Donald Sterling, accusing him
of favoring Korean tenants while seeking to exclude African Americans and
families with children from his apartment buildings in Los Angeles County.
The suit, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, charged
Sterling with violating the Fair Housing Act, a part of the Civil Rights Act
of 1968, by engaging in "discrimination on the basis of race, national
origin and familial status." It also named Sterling's wife, Rochelle, and
three Sterling companies and trusts.
Sterling owns about 100 apartment buildings with thousands of rental units
in the county. In a prepared statement, Sterling's lawyer, Greg Garbacz,
called the charges baseless.
For the last year, Garbacz said, the Sterling Corp. had engaged in "open
dialogue" with the U.S. Department of Justice, which at no time identified
"any evidence, document or witness supporting its allegations of housing
Sterling and his companies "are committed to equal housing opportunities for
all," Garbacz said, and have "tenants of all races, religions, national
origins, gender, sexual orientation, disabilities, as well as families."
In the seven-page complaint, Justice Department lawyers said Sterling's
agents at various times have refused to rent to non-Koreans at their
buildings in Koreatown, and have been guilty of "creating, maintaining, and
perpetuating an environment that is hostile" to existing non-Korean tenants.
According to the lawsuit, the Sterling companies also have refused to rent
to African Americans at properties in Beverly Hills, and have misrepresented
the availability of units to blacks and families with children.
Prosecutors are seeking a court order that would bar future acts of
discrimination, along with monetary damages for alleged victims, none of
whom was identified.
"Here in Los Angeles, where housing is already at a premium, it is
imperative that no one be denied housing simply because of their skin color,
ethnic background or because they have children," said Debra Wong Yang, U.S.
attorney in Los Angeles. "The Justice Department is dedicated to ending all
discriminatory housing practices, along with every other type of civil
The case is an echo of a private lawsuit filed against the Sterlings in 2003
on behalf of about 20 mostly black and Latino tenants or prospective
tenants. According to that suit, filed by the Housing Rights Center, a Los
Angeles nonprofit group, Sterling had told members of his staff that he did
not like to rent to Latinos or African Americans because "Hispanics smoke,
drink and just hang around the building," and "black tenants smell and
Early in the case, U.S. District Judge A. Howard Matz ordered the Sterlings
to stop using such words as "Korean" and "Asian" in building names, as they
had done in changing the name of their "Mark Wilshire Towers" to "Korean
"Use of the word Korean in the names of residential buildings would indicate
to the 'ordinary reader' that the buildings' owner is not only receptive to
but actually prefers tenants of Korean national origin," the judge wrote.
"Uneasy relations among different racial and immigrant groups still prevail
in various sections of this city, and many residents would understandably
regard the decision to place the world 'Korean' in the name of a building in
a racially diverse neighborhood as a coded message: Koreans and Korean
Americans are welcome and preferred; others are not."
The lawsuit ended last year in a confidential settlement that another
federal judge described in an order as "one of the largest ever obtained in
this type of case." The settlement also involved "a significant and
wide-ranging nonmonetary component and public benefit," wrote U.S. District
Judge Dale S. Fischer, who did not elaborate.
Fischer ordered the Sterlings to reimburse more than $4.9 million in
plaintiffs' legal fees - the only part of the resolution made public.
The government complaint appears to be larger in scope than the private
lawsuit, which focused on rental properties in Koreatown.
"We're excited that the Department of Justice has filed such an important
case in Los Angeles County," said Frances A. Espinoza, executive director of
the Housing Rights Center.
She said the government case was broader than the one filed by her group "in
that it focuses on properties all over Los Angeles County."
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