LOS ANGELES—The Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles, known as CRA/LA has agreed to pay $3.1 million to resolve allegations that they violated the False Claims Act by knowingly failing to comply with federal accessibility laws.
Federal accessibility laws were violated when The Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles obtained millions of dollars in housing grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by falsely certifying that money was being spent in compliance with federal accessibility laws. The organization used the money to create inaccessible housing that deprived people with disabilities an equal opportunity to find housing of their choice.
“The Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles opted to lie about its failure to ensure that these projects were accessible to everyone,” said U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna for the Central District of California. “This settlement resolves only a small portion of this case, and we are prepared to litigate additional allegations that the City of Los Angeles covered up its failure to comply with federal laws enacted to protect the civil rights of all citizens.”
Recipients of federal housing development funds must implement accessible programs related to housing, including maintaining a publicly-available list of accessible units with a description of their accessibility features, adopting policies and procedures to ensure that people who need the accessibility features of particular units occupy them, and designating at least one individual to coordinate accessibility efforts. These laws prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities in activities receiving federal financial assistance.
“The basic tenant of fair housing translates into the premise of equal access for all, this is to include those citizens that face physical and functional challenges,” said Inspector General Rae Oliver Davis of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The agreement partially resolves a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles by Mei Ling, a Los Angeles resident who uses a wheelchair, and the Fair Housing Council of San Fernando Valley.
The United States’ lawsuit alleged at least nine multi-family housing properties fell significantly short of federal accessibility laws since 2005. Examples of alleged defects included:
- Slopes and ramps too steep for people in wheelchairs
- Tall thresholds restricting wheelchair access
- Kitchen cabinets, shelves, and surfaces outside the accessible reach range of people in wheelchairs
- Sinks, grab bars, and mailboxes mounted outside the accessible reach range of people in wheelchairs
- Uninsulated pipes below sinks and lavatories
- A lack of accessible parking spaces
- Insufficient visual alarms and tactile signs for people with hearing and visual impairments.
The United States claims against the city of Los Angeles has not been resolved and is still pending in litigation.
These matters were investigated and litigated by the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California. The claims asserted against the CRA/LA and the city of Los Angeles are allegations only as there has been no determination of liability.