A south Napa apartment complex, River Park Manor, has reached a financial settlement brokered by federal housing regulators after being accused of discriminating against tenants and intimidating children.
Seven Hispanic families living at the South Jefferson Street development filed complaints last year with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. They alleged the apartment manager, Jimmy Keenan, violated federal law over the course of three months when he restricted the activities of children, saying they could only play in groups of three outside their homes.
“Discrimination and intimidation against familial status and race” took place at River Park Manor, according to a discrimination complaint filed by Fair Housing Napa Valley, a local nonprofit that assisted the families.
Keenan also was accused of yelling profanities at the children and coercing them to perform chores around the complex, including cleaning toilets. He threatened to evict the families of the children if they didn’t comply with his orders, the families alleged.
“Keenan cursed at Complainants’ children when finding them playing outside,” the complaint said.
He “ordered them to his office instructing them to sit on the floor, required the children to clean the office toilet and pick up trash around the complex, and then threatened the children that their families could be evicted for the children failing to follow his instructions,” according to the complaint.
River Park Manor resolved the case, according to HUD, agreeing to a settlement totaling nearly $30,000.
It agreed to waive four months of rent for five of the families, valued at $19,000. It also agreed to pay two former tenants $7,000.
Fair Housing Napa Valley will be paid $3,750. The money will be used to assist other residents in the community, according to Nicole Collier, executive director for the organization.
Further, the complex will cease limiting pool usage by children during the day. Management also will undergo training provided by HUD on fair housing laws, per the settlement.
“The training is so management has a better understanding of what fair housing laws are so they don’t violate them in the future,” said Collier, who expressed satisfaction with the deal.
“We’re in a good place. We’re going to move forward,” she said. “Ultimately, the case did what it needed to do which was to send a message that it was not OK” for the manager “to threaten to evict a family and tell a child, ‘I’m going to evict your family unless you do X, Y, Z.’”
Calls to River Park Manor seeking comment from Keenan were not returned.
Fair Housing Napa Valley contended in the complaints that Keenan’s actions constituted violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 and the Fair Housing Act of 1988.
The Fair Housing Act bars discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, family status and disability.
Gustavo Velasquez, HUD assistant secretary for fair housing and equal opportunity, said in announcing the settlement: “Placing special rules on families with children unfairly singles them out and creates a hostile living environment that is authoritarian and unequal.”
He added that the Fair Housing Act “protects the rights of families with children to enjoy their homes the same way as other households.”