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.