Tenants at some of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald T. Sterling's more-recently acquired Koreatown properties allege that the basketball magnate weeded out black and Latino residents in favor of Koreans who were perceived as being people who don't “complain” as much, according to one fair-housing advocate.
It looks like the Clippers organization loses again, though: A discrimination lawsuit against Sterling was settled for $2.725 million, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Tuesday. The settlement doesn't mean that Sterling admits to actually barring certain minorities from his buildings, but it is “largest monetary payment ever obtained by the department in the
settlement of a case alleging housing discrimination in the rental of
apartments,” according to a statement from the DOJ's Civil Rights Division.
Frankly, it doesn't make the NBA team owner, whom player Elgin Baylor accused of having a “vision of a Southern plantation-type structure” in his organization, look good at all. Those big one-page advertisements in the Times trumpeting his New York-style highrises along the Wilshire Corridor are windows to a world of alleged bigotry of the worst kind.
Sterling starting buying highrises in the Koreatown area in 2002 under his Korean Land Company (though the settlement names his Beverly Hills Properties). He gave the buildings names like Wilshire Korean Towers, Sterling Korean Plaza, Windsor Square Korean Towers, and Fremont Place Korean Plaza until a judge ruled that Sterling's residential buildings could not indicate ethnic preferences in their names. The owner was also barred from asking about prospective tenants' countries of origin, a practice Sterling's people said was a post-9/11 security measure.
Perhaps the most damning evidence indicating Sterling's alleged bigotry is found in the original lawsuit against the team owner. Witnesses say that Sterling himself spoke up during a staff meeting at one building in May of
2002: “Hispanics smoke, drink, and just hang
around the building,” witnesses recalled him saying. Sterling's people, litigants alleged, did not accept their rent checks and then attempted to evict them for failure to pay up. Plaintiffs also alleged that Sterling's company eliminated outdoor yards they had enjoyed outside their apartments for years in an apparent attempt to pressure them to leave.
The DOJ echoed these allegations in its own investigation that preceded the settlement, stating, “The United States presented evidence that the defendants' employees
prepared internal reports that identified the race of tenants at
properties the defendants purchased in Koreatown. Additionally, the
defendants made statements to employees at Koreatown buildings
indicating that African-Americans and Hispanics were not desirable
tenants. The United States also presented expert analysis in court
filings showing that the defendants rented to far fewer Hispanics and
African-Americans in Koreatown which than would be expected based on
income and other demographic characteristics.”
Sterling originally defended the allegations against him, with his attorneys saying that the black and Latino litigants were simply anti-Korean, “motivated by … an unbalanced, xenophobic aversion to Koreatown and the word Korean.”