United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
Decided May 14, 2014
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
For OXFORD INVESTMENTS, L.P., Plaintiff: RICHARD C. DEMARCO, LEAD ATTORNEY, ELLIOTT GREENLEAF & SIEDZIKOWSKI, PHILADELPHIA, PA.
For THE CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, Defendant: MATTHEW K. HUBBARD, LEAD ATTORNEY, CITY OF PHILA. LAW DEPT, OFFICE OF THE CITY SOLICITOR, CIVIL RIGHTS UNIT, PHILADELPHIA, PA; DIMITRIOS MAVROUDIS, MICHAEL R. MILLER, CITY OF PHILADELPHIA LAW DEPT, PHILADELPHIA, PA.
For THE PHILADELPHIA ZONING BOARD OF ADJUSTMENT, Defendant: ANDREW S. ROSS, LEAD ATTORNEY, MICHAEL R. MILLER, CITY OF PHILA LAW DEPT, PHILADELPHIA, PA; MATTHEW K. HUBBARD, LEAD ATTORNEY, CITY OF PHILA. LAW DEPT, OFFICE OF THE CITY SOLICITOR, CIVIL RIGHTS UNIT, PHILADELPHIA, PA.
Hon. Petrese B. Tucker, Chief United States District Judge.
Currently pending before the Court is Oxford Investments, L.P.'s Motion for
Summary Judgment (Doc. 71), the City of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Zoning Board of Adjustment's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 70), and all responses thereto. For the reasons more fully set forth below, the Court will deny Oxford's motion in its entirety, grant Defendants' motion in its entirety, and dismiss all of Oxford's claims.
I. Factual History
This is an action filed by Oxford Investments, L.P (" Oxford" ) against the City of Philadelphia and The Philadelphia Zoning Board of Adjustment (" ZBA" ) (collectively " Defendants" ) alleging discrimination against individuals with disabilities, and violations of the Federal Fair Housing Act (" FHA" ) and its Amendments, 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(1)(B) and Section 3604(f)(3)(B), inter alia.  Oxford's claims arise from the Defendants' refusal to permit Oxford to increase the number of residents housed at its facility located at 1917-23 West Oxford Street, Philadelphia, PA (" the Property" ), from 44 residents to 88 residents. (Stmt. Stip. Facts at ¶ 1.) Defendants' refusal to allow Oxford to house these additional residents, and Defendants' alleged discriminatory reasons behind its refusal, form the core of this case.
Oxford and its tenant, Minsec, were the operators of the Property in 2007. (Oxford Mot. Summ. J. at 5.) On July 26, 2007 Oxford applied to L& I for a Zoning/Use Registration Permit to allow Oxford to increase the number of residents housed at the Property from 44 residents to 88 residents. (Stmt. Stip. Facts at ¶ 1.) Oxford asserted that the additional residents it sought to house included persons referred to it through the courts. (Id.) On August 7, 2007, L& I refused to grant Oxford's requested permit because it determined that, if granted, the Property would be used as a private penal and correctional facility, a use not permitted at the Property as it was currently zoned. (Stmt. Stip. Facts at ¶ 3.) On August 9, 2007, Minsec submitted a request for a reasonable accommodation under the FHA with L& I to permit Oxford to increase the residents housed at the property from 44 residents to 88 residents because, " the individuals who reside in the facility suffer from drug and/or alcohol addiction, and some are mentally ill." (Stmt. Stip. Facts at ¶ ¶ 5-6.) The request stated that Oxford was the applicant. (Stmt. Stip. Facts at ¶ 6.) L& I denied Oxford's FHA request. (Stmt. Stip. Facts at ¶ 7.)
After receiving the FHA denial from L & I, Oxford appealed to the ZBA. (Stmt. Stip. Facts at ¶ 8.) Oxford's petition for appeal filed with the ZBA noted four reasons for its appeal, including, " (1) the denial of the FHA Request was discriminatory and violated the FHA; (2) the Zoning Code violates the FHA by discriminating against individuals with disabilities; (3) the
zoning refusal is erroneous, and Oxford should have received a permit as a matter of right; and (4) the granting of an FHA accommodation is appropriate and not an undue burden." (Stmt. Stip. Facts at ¶ 8.) The ZBA held a hearing on Oxford's appeal on February 24, 2009. (Oxford's Mot. Summ. J. at Ex. H.) At the hearing, Oxford presented several witnesses. (Id.) Also present at the meeting were several community organizers who were opposed to Oxford's request. (Id.) After the close of the meeting, the ZBA prepared findings of fact and conclusions of law with regard to Oxford's request. (Oxford's Mot. Summ. J. at Ex. I.) The ZBA denied Oxford's appeal on May 5, 2009. (Stmt. Stip. Facts at ¶ 10.)
Following the ZBA's denial, on May 14, 2009, Oxford filed a statutory appeal to the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania, Court of Common Pleas. (Stmt. Stip. Facts at ¶ 11.) Oxford also filed the instant suit on July 28, 2009. (Stmt. Stip. Facts at ¶ 13.) During the pendency of the Federal Court action, Oxford's claims were dismissed by the Common Pleas Court on February 28, 2011. Oxford Investments, L.P. v. Philadelphia Zoning Board of Adjustment, (Pa. C.P. 2011). Oxford filed an appeal of this decision to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania. (Stmt. Stip. Facts at ¶ 15.) The Commonwealth Court granted Oxford a stay of this appeal on March 23, 2011. (Stmt. Stip. Facts at ¶ 16.)
II. Legal Standard
Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law where, upon making the appropriate motion under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a), the movant shows that there is " no genuine dispute as to any material fact" . Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). " Facts that could alter the outcome are 'material,' and disputes are 'genuine' if evidence exists from which a rational person could conclude that the position of the person with the burden of proof on the disputed issue is correct." Ideal Dairy Farms, Inc. v. John Labatt, Ltd., 90 F.3d 737, 743 (3d Cir. 1996). The burden of proof rests originally with the movant to show the lack of dispute as to a material fact, and must do so by citing to specific portions of the record which demonstrate the movant's entitlement to judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). To determine whether a movant has demonstrated that there are no genuine issues of material fact, a court must first consider the evidence presented by the moving party and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986).
For claims or defenses where the movant bears the burden of proof at trial, a movant " must show that it has produced enough evidence to support the findings of fact necessary to win." El v. Se. Pennsylvania Transp. Auth. (SEPTA), 479 F.3d 232, 237 (3d Cir. 2007). For claims or defenses that the non-movant bears the burden of proof at trial, a movant can simply point out " that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325. Once the movant has met its burden of proof under summary judgment, the opposing party " must point to actual evidence in the record on which a jury could decide an issue of fact its way." El, 479 F.3d at 238.
In order to survive summary judgment, the party opposing summary judgment must raise, " more than a mere scintilla of evidence in its favor." Williams v. Borough of W. ...