By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
Just in time for Thanksgiving, U.S. District Judge William Alsup has awarded a substantial class action settlement in a high profile fair housing, civil rights lawsuit. An $800,000 award has been ordered in favor of hundreds of current and former residents and tenants of the Silvertree Mojave Homeowners Association located on Sequim Common, Fremont, California.
Readers may recall the reason for the lawsuit: the HOA severely restricted the rights of children to play in the common areas of the community.
Plaintiff Domenica Lewis sued Silvertree Mohave HOA in 2016, in response to threats of fines for allowing her children (7 and 10 years old at the time) to play on the grassy common areas of the community. Lewis and her family ultimately moved out of Silvertree to escape what she describes as harassments from the HOA board and manager.
Lewis filed her complaint with a local housing nonprofit, Project Sentinel. Eight civil rights attorneys from two legal firms provided legal services at no charge to Lewis. Project Sentinel’s investigation revealed that hundreds of tenants had been affected over a 5-year period.
Therefore, attorneys proceeded to file a Class Action, which was approved in July 2017. The plaintiff class is officially defined as follows:
All persons who currently live or have lived at the Silvertree-Mohave Condominium Complex in Fremont, California, at any time from January 1, 2011, through the present, and lived there with children under the age of 14, or who were themselves minor children under the age of 14.
According to Judge Asup’s settlement order, the plaintiff class consists of approximately 334 current and former residents. The parties agreed to settle the case shortly after the class action was approved.
Alsup awarded $800,000, which amounts to roughly $2,300 per plaintiff member of the class. (Each member of a family household affected is entitled to recovery of approximately $2,300) Lewis is to receive $35,000, and Project Sentinel has been awarded $19,000.
The settlement order also requires HOA board members attend Fair Housing training. Notably, two board members must resign – Carol Adams and Marilyn Black – and the HOA must make arrangements for play area somewhere on the common property.
Although counsel acted pro bono on the class action, they did request reimbursement for attorney fees in a separate legal action, not directly tied to the settlement for the Plaintiff class.
Alsup awarded both law firms representing Plaintiffs, Winston & Strawn and Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, a total of approximately $269,000 for attorney fees.
Thus, the total liability to Silvertree Mojave HOA, its board members, as well as Donald Murphy and his management company, exceeds $1 million. According to a 2017 Silvertree Mojave newsletter, Farmers Insurance has agreed to cover legal exposure for the HOA. (Scroll down to page 18)
Silvertree Mohave HOA is one of 19 association-governed communities managed by Management Solutions of Newark, CA. According to its website, Management Solutions is a member of the California Association of Community Managers (CACM), a trade group founded in 1991.
Fremont Condo That Didn’t Allow Kids To Play Outside Must Rescind Rule, Pay Tenants $800K
November 20, 2017 11:44 PM
FREMONT (KPIX) – Families in Fremont have scored a huge legal victory after they sued their condo complex because it wouldn’t let their kids play outside.
For years, kids were not allowed to play outside in the gated complex located on Sequim Common, home to dozens of families. The homeowners association, Silvertree Mohave HOA, had set up the rules, but now an $800,000 settlement is forcing management to pay up.
Things got so bad for one homeowner in the complex, she decided to move her family to Brentwood.
Read more (Video):