The San Diego Housing Commission’s False Claims of Solidarity

June 12, 2020

With almost surgical precision, the San Diego Housing Commission (SDHC) has implemented policies and practices that perpetuate racial segregation and discriminate against communities of color. SDHC is a prime example of government-sponsored discrimination, racism, and segregation. Yet, SDHC CEO Rick Gentry just issued a statement purporting to stand with communities of color in grieving the loss of George Floyd.

SDHC purports to stand with African Americans and communities of color, yet actively enforces discriminatory policies and practices like steering, that have been unlawful since the civil rights movement. 

“It’s abhorrent and extremely opportunistic for SDHC CEO Rick Gentry to release a solidarity statement at a time when we are suing SDHC for perpetuating segregation and racial inequality. Gentry’s claim that SDHC provides families ‘opportunities to choose to live in any areas of the City that make the most sense for their families’ is contradicted by SDHC’s own data. Gentry and SDHC have already decided where families should live – in segregated neighborhoods,” says Rafael Bautista, San Diego Tenants Union.

A pending lawsuit against SDHC filed by NAACP San Diego Branch and San Diego Tenant Union uses SDHC’s own data, policies, and statements to illustrate how SDHC has intentionally discriminates against communities of color and perpetuates racial segregation in violation of federal law, state law, and its own contractual obligations. The lawsuit aims to correct San Diego’s largest subsidized housing program which serves 60,000 low-income women, men, and children.

“An unequal society fosters inequality. SDHC and other governmental entities have unlawfully discriminated against African Americans with impunity for decades. Not only is it unacceptable, it is unlawful. We have sued SDHC for intentionally perpetuating segregated housing patterns. Despite any statements put out by SDHC, SDHC’s own data shows SDHC’s policies and practices disproportionately harm African Americans who are evicted and incarcerated at a far higher rate than white individuals,” says Francine Maxwell, NAACP San Diego. 

After SDTU and NAACP San Diego Branch sued SDHC in March 2019, SDHC claimed that Rick Gentry’s repeated use of “social engineering” to derisively describe an Obama-era desegregation policy could not be used in the lawsuit to show discriminatory intent. SDHC claimed that its CEO’s statements were protected speech. SDHC, which is a government entity, claimed that if the lawsuit was allowed to move forward, it would “chill” SDHC’s “valid exercise of the constitutional rights of freedom of speech and petition.” 

SDHC also alleged that the lawsuit was not brought “solely in the public interest” because the relief the lawsuit seeks – to enjoin SDHC from perpetuating racial segregation – will not benefit the public but will benefit only non-white Section 8 recipients. SDHC’s position reflected a disturbing misunderstanding of how segregation adversely impacts all members of the community, not just racial minorities. SDHC’s position also reflected a flagrant misunderstanding of how its own program works since the relief sought will benefit all voucher recipients, not only racial minorities.

The state court rejected SDHC’s free speech arguments, finding that the lawsuit is brought in the public interest, and the statute protecting free speech does not apply to SDHC’s actions. The Court gave NAACP San Diego and SDTU the opportunity to include additional facts (data) regarding how SDHC’s policy disproportionately adversely impacts racial minorities. NAACP San Diego immediately requested the data from SDHC, but SDHC is still refusing to provide its data. NAACP San Diego Branch and SDTU filed a second lawsuit against SDHC to obtain the data. That lawsuit is also pending. 

The case is currently pending in federal court. SDHC removed the case to federal court in January 2020. This was procedurally late (over six months late) and a veiled attempt to re-litigate the same issues that were already decided by the state court judge on November 1, 2019. SDHC is again trying to exclude as evidence statements SDHC’s CEO Richard Gentry’s made referring to an Obama-era desegregation policy as “social engineering.” SDHC is trying to get a second bite at the apple, which delays the case. NAACP San Diego and SDTU filed a motion to remand, which is pending. 

Rafael Bautista
Francine Maxwell, President
NAACP San Diego Branch
Rafael Bautista
San Diego Tenant Union
P.O. Box 152086 • San Diego, CA • 92195
619-431-1633 • [email protected]
[email protected] • 619-709-0942
Founded in 1919 after a visit by renowned author, activist and NAACP co-founder, W.E.B. DuBois, the NAACP San Diego Branch is celebrating a century of standing sentry over the civil rights of the people of San Diego. If you need more information about the NAACP San Diego Branch, please visit sandiegonaacp.org/presskitThe San Diego Tenants Union is committed to fight displacement and gentrification. We organize tenants to fight against rent hikes and fight for improvements. join us!

District-Only SDUSD Elections Need to Comply with 2001 CVRA

May 13, 2020

TO: San Diego City Council Rules Committee

Council President Georgette Gomez, Rules Committee Chair
Councilmember Barbara Bry, Rules Committee Vice Chair
Councilmember Chris Ward, District 3
Councilmember Monica Montgomery, District 4

FROM: Brian Bonner, First Vice President, NAACP San Diego Branch

SUBJECT: DISTRICT-ONLY ELECTIONS FOR SAN DIEGO UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD ELECTIONS

The NAACP San Diego Branch strongly supports the proposal to ask the voters to amend the City Charter to require district-only elections for members of the San Diego Unified School District Board of Education. Enactment of this proposal would bring the San Diego Unified School District into compliance with California state law commonly called The California Voter Rights Act. This act requires local elected bodies to hold district elections when certain conditions are met.  Although the city of San Diego is a charter city, a 2017 opinion by the California Attorney General found that “The California Voter Participation Rights Act applies to charter cities, and to local school districts whose elections are governed by city charters.”  

At its core, the NAACP has championed civil rights, especially the right to vote, throughout its history. The NAACP took direct action and participated in legislative and judicial efforts to obtain and protect the right to vote. Congress and President Johnson enacted the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in response to the years of oppression and in response action by the NAACP and its partners in the fight for civil rights. That fight continues as voter suppression efforts continue unabated.

The California Voting Rights Act responded to conditions in California that denied civil and voting rights to protected classes.  As recently as 2017, the NAACP California-Hawaii State/State Area Conference recognized the importance of improving the education system for the African-American community by working with elected officials, policy makers, superintendents, school board members and community leaders.  It adopted a resolution that included the following statement “Resolved that the California NAACP communicates this resolution to the California legislature to urge them to create policy that would make school boards in the state to be a better representation of the students and citizens in the state.

Article VI of the San Diego city charter provides that voters in each of the five sub-districts choose the top two candidates for a runoff that includes all of the voters within SDUSD boundaries. Candidates in sub-districts must reside in those sub-districts. All other matters regarding SDUSD are subject to state law.

Several events and trends have converged to raise the issue of changing the manner in which SDUSD elections are conducted. In May 2017, the San Diego County Grand Jury issued a report recommending that the San Diego City Council place measures on the ballot to amend the City Charter to provide for district-only elections, and make other changes.

In addition, school districts across the state, including school districts in San Diego County, have moved to elect school board trustees in district-only elections in response to the requirements of the California Voting Rights Act of 2001 (CVRA). Rather than go to the expense of defending lawsuits they would likely lose, these districts move forward to change from at-large elections to district elections. For the most part, these school districts are governed by the general laws of the State of California. As noted above, In July 2017, the California Attorney General issued an opinion that CVRA applies to charter cities and school districts whose elections are governed by city charters.

The time has come for elections to the San Diego Unified School District Board of Education to become district-only elections. The NAACP San Diego Branch proudly joins with other organizations seeking to change the City Charter to create district-only elections for school board trustees. Again, we ask you to place this proposal on the ballot in November.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. Please contact me if you have any questions.

Brian Bonner, First Vice President
NAACP San Diego Branch

COVID-19 and Educational Civil Rights

10am May 7th

Welcome! You are invited to join a webinar: COVID-19 and Educational Civil Rights: A Rising Tide of Litigation Issues. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email about joining the webinar.

COVID-19 has wreaked unprecedented havoc on families, schools and school districts across the nation. Above all, it has magnified racial and ethnic inequities not just in schools, but also across communities and states. While states and school districts have physically closed many schools, they still have duties to deliver a quality education to every child and to deliver that education in an equitable and meaningful manner.

Section 8 Lawsuit April Update

When is the next hearing for NAACP San Diego Branch’s lawsuit against San Diego Housing Commission?

On Thursday, April 9, 2020, the federal court will consider our request to remand the case to state court. The federal court will also consider San Diego Housing Commission’s (SDHC) request to dismiss the state court claims, and SDHC’s request that we provide more detail on the federal and state fair housing claims.   

Why is the case in federal court? (I thought it was in state court.)

As we shared in last month’s update, SDHC removed the case to federal court in January 2020. This was procedurally late (over six months late) and a veiled attempt to re-litigate the same issues that were already decided by the state court judge on November 1, 2019. 

SDHC is trying to get a second bite at the apple, which delays the case. Justice delayed is justice denied, and SDHC is actively trying to delay justice in this case. 

To summarize, SDHC is again trying to exclude as evidence statements SDHC’s CEO Richard Gentry’s made referring to an Obama-era desegregation policy as “social engineering.” SDHC is also trying to dismiss our state-law based claims pertaining to discrimination and the perpetuation of racial segregation. These are all arguments that the state court already rejected. 

What is going on with the separate Public Records Act lawsuit against SDHC?

Over six months ago, we requested 2019 Section 8 data from SDHC through a California Public Records Act request. But we have yet to receive the data. We filed a separate lawsuit in January to compel SDHC to provide this data.

Why is the 2019 data needed?

On November 1, 2019, the state court held a hearing on SDHC’s request that the court dismiss the case and SDHC’s argument that its actions were protected as free speech. 

The court reviewed our briefs, evidence, and expert declarations, and heard oral argument by our attorneys. The court ruled and issued an order. The Court gave us the opportunity to allege additional information and facts, including 2019 data, to support our claims. (The court also rejected SDHC’s argument that its discriminatory actions are protected as ‘free speech.’)

The court gave us 10 days to file an amended complaint, but our attorneys asked for more time in order to obtain the 2019 data from SDHC through a Public Records Act request. The judge granted our attorneys’ request for additional time (60 days). Less than a week after the hearing, our attorneys requested the 2019 data from SDHC. Over six months have passed and we have yet to receive the data. 

How can I help as a member of NAACP San Diego?

You can chair the active Housing Committee! There is an opening. 

As the chair, you will receive updates about the lawsuit and related issues from our attorneys, and you will help decide what information would be helpful for fellow members. 

You will also be the first to hear about upcoming hearings and case-related events. While you are under no obligation to attend any hearings or events, you will play a helpful role in receiving information. 

You will also get to help guide the future of the Housing Committee! You have likely heard about the injustices occurring at the city and county level, including the new development with separate rules for low-income individuals and intentional discrimination by a county housing agency employee. 

To be eligible for this role, all you need is passion for civil rights and justice. Apply here.

Section 8 Lawsuit Year-End Update


In 2020, NAACP San Diego continues fighting racial segregation through its lawsuit against San Diego Housing Commission. 

The lawsuit challenges SDHC’s discriminatory and segregationist policy of setting the Section 8 voucher levels prohibitively low in predominantly white neighborhoods. SDHC’s policy effectively steers families with Section 8 – disproportionately racial minorities – to segregated, high poverty neighborhoods with lower performing schools and fewer employment opportunities.

SDHC initially responded to the lawsuit with a claim that its setting of payment standards is “protected activity” made in furtherance of SDHC’s “right of free speech or petition.” SDHC, which is a government entity, claimed that if NAACP San Diego’s lawsuit was allowed to move forward, it would “chill” SDHC’s “valid exercise of the constitutional rights of freedom of speech and petition.” 

In its initial response, SDHC also alleged that the lawsuit was not brought “solely in the public interest” because the relief the lawsuit seeks – to enjoin SDHC from perpetuating racial segregation – will not benefit the public but will benefit only non-white Section 8 recipients. SDHC’s position reflected a disturbing misunderstanding of how segregation adversely impacts all members of the community, not just racial minorities. SDHC’s position also reflected a flagrant misunderstanding of how its own program works since the relief sought will benefit all voucher recipients, not only racial minorities.

In addition, in its initial response, SDHC claimed that its CEO’s repeated use of “social engineering” to derisively describe an Obama-era desegregation policy could not be used in the lawsuit to show discriminatory intent. SDHC claimed that its CEO’s statements were protected speech. 

In November, the court held a hearing on SDHC’s free speech defense and a demurrer it had filed. The court rejected SDHC’s free speech arguments, finding that NAACP San Diego’s lawsuit is brought in the public interest, and the statute protecting free speech does not apply to SDHC’s actions. The Court also rejected the vast majority of SDHC’s arguments regarding whether the lawsuit could move forward based on state and federal fair housing and civil rights law. The Court gave NAACP San Diego the opportunity to include additional facts (data) regarding how SDHC’s policy disproportionately adversely impacts racial minorities. NAACP San Diego immediately requested the data from SDHC, but SDHC is still refusing to provide its data.

November 1st Section 8 Lawsuit Hearing

As you know, the NAACP San Diego Branch is involved in a lawsuit to fight the San Diego Housing Commission’s discriminatory and segregationist practice of setting Section 8 voucher levels too low to allow access to all areas of our city.

There will be a hearing on November 1st at 9:00 a.m. in Department 66 at 330 W. Broadway (the Hall of Justice). Please attend and show that the public supports our cause! The Court will be hearing SDHC’s claim that its setting of payment standards is “protected activity” made in furtherance of SDHC’s “right of free speech or petition.” SDHC, which is a government entity, has alleged that if this lawsuit is allowed to move forward, it will “chill” SDHC’s “valid exercise of the constitutional rights of freedom of speech and petition.”

The Court will also be hearing SDHC’s allegation that this lawsuit was not brought “solely in the public interest” because the relief we seek – to enjoin SDHC from perpetuating racial segregation – will not benefit the public but will benefit only non-white Section 8 recipients. SDHC’s position reflects a disturbing misunderstanding of how segregation adversely impacts all members of the community, not just racial minorities. SDHC’s position also reflects a flagrant misunderstanding of how its own program works since the relief we seek will benefit all voucher recipients, not only racial minorities. 

In addition, the Court will be hearing SDHC’s request to have the case dismissed, and SDHC’s claim that its CEO’s repeated use of “social engineering” to describe an Obama-era desegregation policy cannot be used in the lawsuit to show discriminatory intent.

We were also joined by our Assistant Treasurer, Wanda Rogers and NAACP members Abdul Waliullah Muhammad and Bro. Charles 3X, as well as at least one Section 8 client. 

The Court has directed the San Diego Housing Commission to share the documents we have been requesting for four months now and that is a win, the Housing Commission is not allowed to withhold this evidence and we feel this evidence will further demonstrate the extent to which the Section 8 payment standards perpetuate racial segregation. 

Overall, we had some gains and some setbacks, but we are still moving forward. There is a lot of information that the Commission has not given us that we need for our case and the judge  authorized us to get as least some of it from the Commission. We will be doing that as well as working to get everything we need to prevail in this case. Our extraordinary attorneys, Paraja Ijadi-Maghsoodi, Bryan Pease and James Crosby are putting in incredible hours and doing an incredible job for the people and for the NAACP. 

This will be a long case but we are in it to win it. We will keep you posted on developments. It appears clear that we will need to go beyond the courtroom to other methods of persuasion to achieve our goal of equity in housing in San Diego. Stay tuned.  Thanks to those who came out and supported us in the courtroom. 

September 13th Section 8 Lawsuit Hearing

Bryan Pease, Carol Spong, Parisa Ijadi-Maghsoodi and Clovis Honoré

Our President joined our Housing Chair, Carol Spong at the hearing on September 13th regarding our lawsuit against the San Diego Housing Commission, alleging that the way the Commission sets Section 8 voucher values, and its impact on people of color and low-income San Diego Residents, should be changed to be more equitable.

We were also joined by our Assistant Treasurer, Wanda Rogers and NAACP members Abdul Waliullah Muhammad and Bro. Charles 3X, as well as at least one Section 8 client. 

The Court has directed the San Diego Housing Commission to share the documents we have been requesting for four months now and that is a win, the Housing Commission is not allowed to withhold this evidence and we feel this evidence will further demonstrate the extent to which the Section 8 payment standards perpetuate racial segregation. 

Overall, we had some gains and some setbacks, but we are still moving forward. There is a lot of information that the Commission has not given us that we need for our case and the judge  authorized us to get as least some of it from the Commission. We will be doing that as well as working to get everything we need to prevail in this case. Our extraordinary attorneys, Paraja Ijadi-Maghsoodi, Bryan Pease and James Crosby are putting in incredible hours and doing an incredible job for the people and for the NAACP. 

This will be a long case but we are in it to win it. We will keep you posted on developments. It appears clear that we will need to go beyond the courtroom to other methods of persuasion to achieve our goal of equity in housing in San Diego. Stay tuned.  Thanks to those who came out and supported us in the courtroom.