They’re doing it again in California: “State and federal authorities have opened an investigation into a Norco housewife, alleging that her vitriolic protests against a high-risk group home in her neighborhood may constitute housing discrimination.” Federal officials asked state fair housing regulators to investigate Julie Waltz, 61, who had protested plans to open a group house next to her home for developmentally disabled residents; among those eligible to reside there under state law would be persons deemed not competent to stand trial on sex crime charges. In 2000, the Ninth Circuit ruled that three Berkeley, Calif. neighbors’ rights had been violated by an “extraordinarily intrusive and chilling” investigation of whether their protests had been contrary to housing discrimination law. In that episode, as in the latest one, housing advocates had set the investigation in motion by filing complaints against the neighbors.
A spokesman for the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development acknowledged that in order to recommend the inquiry, it had to push aside internal guidelines that prohibit such an investigation because it infringes on the 1st Amendment.
The rules require that complaints of housing discrimination be investigated only in cases in which the alleged victim’s safety has been threatened.
No such allegation has been made against Waltz, but HUD opened an investigation into her and state investigators ordered her to respond to the complaint in detail because a preliminary review showed that someone else in the neighborhood may have made a violent threat, said HUD spokesman Larry Bush.
(Garrett Therolf, “Protester of group home is targeted”, Los Angeles Times, Mar. 20).