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Vet Files Suit Alleging Bias in Public Housing

November 26, 1987|JOHN L. MITCHELL | Times Staff Writer

A disabled Korean War veteran from Santa Monica has filed a $10-million lawsuit claiming that the City of Beverly Hills and the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development discriminated against him in last summer's public lottery for 150 apartment units in the Beverly Hills senior citizen's housing complex.

In a suit filed Nov. 13 in U. S. District Court, attorneys for Humphrey O. Cordero, 54, said that the city's decision to give Beverly Hills residents preference in assigning the federally funded apartments discriminated against their client who is Latino and lives outside the city.

"It was supposed to be an open lottery for anyone to participate in equally, but then they gave residents special treatment and that was unfair," said Richard F. Murkey, one of Cordero's attorneys.

Reduced Chances

Murkey said that the decision to give preference to Beverly Hills residents reduced the chances for Latinos and other minorities to be picked in the lottery for apartment units, because few minorities live in Beverly Hills.

Beverly Hills City Atty. Gregory W. Stepanicich said the city has not received the suit, and he would not comment on its allegations.

In addition to HUD and the city, the suit also names Menorah Housing Foundation, the Beverly Hills Senior Citizen Housing Corp. and Mayor Benjamin H. Stansbury as defendants.

In the June lottery, Beverly Hills residents were assured 70% of the units, or 105 apartments in the project at 225 N. Crescent Drive. Only 45 apartments were made available for elderly and handicapped applicants who lived elsewhere.

The city asked for the special consideration to assure that the city's elderly and handicapped would not be swamped by applications from non-residents. Separate drawings were held for Beverly Hills residents and non-residents.

Improved Odds

Of the 2,600 applications submitted for the complex, about 200 came from Beverly Hills residents. Because of the 70% set aside, Beverly Hills residents had a 50% chance of being picked. Those who lived outside the city had about a 2% chance. Twenty Beverly Hills applicants indicated that they were minorities.

"They had no right to restrict it," Cordero said. "This is a federally funded project, but they tried to pull a fast one. The whole thing smells."

Cordero, who lives in a federally subsidized apartment in Santa Monica, said he was seeking one of the Beverly Hills units for handicapped tenants.

HUD Secretary Samuel R. Pierce approved Beverly Hills' request for preference on the grounds that the city had made a special commitment to the project, a spokesman for HUD said. Pierce overruled an earlier HUD decision that such favoritism would be discriminatory.

The Beverly Hills Senior Citizen Housing Corp., which owns the property, was awarded a $9.4-million low-interest loan from HUD for the building. The project will receive $1.2 million a year for 20 years in rent subsidies from the federal government.

'Our Money, Our Property'

"We requested preference for our local residents because it was our money and our property that built it," Stansbury said. "There are federal funds involved, but there are an equal amount of funds from the city involved. That is why it is only fair that we take care of those people who have supported us over the years.

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