Posted by: Patricia Salkin | August 14, 2020

Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Finds Tenth Street Residential Association Lacked Standing to Challenge the Demolishing of Dilapidated Historical Homes by the City

This post was authored by Matthew Loescher, Esq.

In 2010, the City of Dallas amended its City Code to streamline its procedure for demolishing dilapidated historical homes smaller than 3,000 square feet. Plaintiff Tenth Street Residential Association (“TSRA”), sought to enjoin demolitions under the new ordinance, alleging that the demolitions were threatening the neighborhood’s status as a historical district. The district court found TSRA’s injuries constitutionally insufficient and dismissed its claims for lack of standing.

 On appeal, TSRA argued that the City’s demolition and historic tax credit policies made it more difficult for TSRA to fulfill its organizational role, and therefore: detrimentally impacted the ambiance of the historic neighborhood, reduced property values, threatened the neighborhood’s designation as a historic district, and posed an imminent threat to each member’s home. The court noted that the Supreme Court had previously recognized that when an organization’s ability to pursue its mission is “perceptibly impaired” because it has “diverted significant resources to counteract the defendant’s conduct,” it was deemed to have suffered an injury under Article III. Here, however, the time spent attending meetings and one member’s efforts intervening as an interested party did not constitute “significant resources.” As TSRA failed to provide any evidence that its members were required to forego other projects or causes as a result of its anti-demolition campaign, its claim failed.

 TSRA’s remaining viable injuries were the overall blight in the neighborhood, the devalued property values, and the threat to its status as a historic district. The court found that these, which also included “decline in the African American and Latino neighborhood” and “reduced property values”, could potentially fall within the FHA’s zone of interests. Despite this, the court held that TSRA could overcome the City’s motion to dismiss because TSRA could not prove that these injuries were traceable to the alleged misconduct, or that this injury would likely be redressed by a judgment in its favor. The court further rejected the argument that enjoining demolitions under 4.501(i) would avoid further decline in the neighborhood. Here, the record reflected that the Tenth Street homes fell into a state of disrepair oftentimes due to absentee homeowners’ neglect. Thus, even assuming that TSRA established a constitutional injury-in-fact for purposes of §1982 and §1983, these claims still failed for the same traceability and redressability defects as its FHA claims.

Tenth Street Residential Association v City of Dallas, 2020 WL 4435429 (5th Cir. CA 8/3/2020)

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