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Alcaraz v. KMF Oakland LLC

United States District Court, N.D. California

October 11, 2019

BERNARDO ALCARAZ, Plaintiff,
v.
KMF OAKLAND LLC, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING APPLICATION FOR TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER RE: DKT. NO. 28

          SUSAN ILLSTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         On September 13, 2019, plaintiff Bernardo Alcaraz, who is representing himself pro se, filed an ex parte application for a temporary restraining order (“TRO”) and order to show cause. Dkt. No. 28 (“TRO App.”). At a case management conference held that same day, the Court ordered plaintiff to serve and notify the opposing side and set a hearing for the TRO for October 11, 2019. Dkt. No. 33. On September 16, 2019, defendant Altezza Condo LLC (“Altezza”) filed an opposition. Dkt. Nos. 30 (“Def.'s Opp'n”), 31, 32. Alcaraz filed a reply brief and proposed order on October 9, 2019. Dkt. Nos. 36, 37.

         The Court held a hearing on October 11, 2019, at which Alcaraz and Altezza appeared. For the reasons stated below, the Court GRANTS plaintiff's application for a TRO.

         BACKGROUND

         This lawsuit arises from Alcaraz's assertion that, on account of his race, color, and/or national origin, defendants have refused to sell him the residence that he occupies. Alcaraz alleges that defendant KMF Oakland LLC (“KMF”) owned the 33-unit residential complex in Oakland where he and his family have resided since August 2010. He states that in mid-2015 tensions arose between himself and a new property manager on account of Alcaraz's being a Mexican citizen and that his rent checks began to be refused. Dkt. No. 23 (“SAC”) ¶¶ 38-48. In March 2016, KMF initiated unlawful detainer proceedings against Alcaraz in state court. Id. ¶ 49. While those proceedings were pending, in June 2016, KMF sold the building where Alcaraz resides to defendant Altezza.[1] Id. ¶ 50. Plaintiff states that he made his July 2016 rent payment to the company designated by Altezza. Id. ¶¶ 53-55. On August 1, 2016, in the unlawful detainer action, KMF secured a judgment of possession of the unit where Alcaraz resides.[2] Id. ¶ 62.

         Alcaraz alleges that in late 2016, the units in the building where he resides began to be sold as condominiums but that “not one unit of the 33 units was sold to a buyer of Hispanic and/or Mexican origin.” Id. ¶ 70. Alcaraz further states that in August and September 2016 he had communications with a firm representing Altezza in which they offered Alcaraz the opportunity to buy his unit at the sales price of $630, 000 and that Alcaraz accepted.[3] Id. ¶¶ 76-78. The sale did not take place, and ultimately Alcaraz sued Altezza in state court for breach of contract and promissory estoppel in January 2018. Id. ¶ 83. In March 2019, Altezza prevailed in that suit on a motion for summary judgment.[4] Id. ¶ 85; Def.'s Opp'n at 3, Ex. G. Alcaraz is appealing the dismissal of his case, arguing that Altezza did not serve him with proper notice of the motion. TRO App. at 2.

         On May 11, 2018, Alcaraz filed the present lawsuit in this Court against defendant KMF, asserting violations of the federal Fair Housing Act and the Fourteenth Amendment right to Due Process. Dkt. No. 1. Among the relief requested, Alcaraz requested that the Court enter “an order of permanent injunction enjoining KMF . . . from continuing to seek to employ the Alameda County Sheriff's Office through the use of its various individual Deputy Sheriffs from dislodging Plaintiff from the Premises” where Alcaraz resides. Id. at 12. At a case management conference in November 2018, Alcaraz informed the Court that KMF “is a cancelled foreign limited liability company” and thus he served them with the summons and complaint through the California Secretary of State. Dkt. No. 6 at 1. KMF has not made an appearance in this case.[5]

         On November 21, 2018, Alcaraz filed a first amended complaint, adding claims against KMF for intentional interference with prospective economic relations, negligence, and injunctive relief. Dkt. No. 9. On July 22, 2019, with the Court's permission, Alcaraz filed a second amended complaint, adding Altezza as a defendant, and removing the claims for intentional interference with prospective economic relations and negligence. Dkt. No. 23. The remaining claims are for violation of the federal Fair Housing Act, violation of the Fourteenth Amendment right to Due Process, and injunctive relief. Altezza filed an answer to the second amended complaint on October 4, 2019. Dkt. No. 35.

         On September 13, 2019, Alcaraz filed the application for a temporary restraining order and for an order to show cause that is now before the Court for decision. Dkt. No. 28.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         I. Temporary Restraining Order

         “[I]njunctive relief [is] an extraordinary remedy that may only be awarded upon a clear showing that the plaintiff is entitled to such relief.” Winter v. Nat. Res. Def. Council, 555 U.S. 7, 22 (2008). In order to obtain a temporary restraining order or a preliminary injunction, the plaintiff “must establish that he is likely to succeed on the merits, that he is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief, that the balance of equities tips in his favor, and that an injunction is in the public interest.” Winter, 555 U.S. at 20 (citations omitted); see also Jones v. H.S.B.C. (USA), 844 F.Supp.2d 1099, 1099 (S.D. Cal. 2012) (standard for granting a temporary restraining order is similar to standard for granting a preliminary injunction). “Alternatively, the plaintiff may demonstrate that the likelihood of success is such that ‘serious questions going to the merits were raised and that the balance of hardships tips sharply in the plaintiff's favor,' so long as the other two elements of the Winter test are met.” Fid. Brokerage Servs. LLC v. Rocine, No. 17-CV-4993-PJH, 2017 WL 3917216, at *3 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 7, 2017) (quoting All. for the Wild Rockies v. Cottrell, 632 F.3d 1127, 1131-32, 1135 (9th Cir. 2011)).

         II. Federal Fair Housing Act

         With certain limited exceptions, the federal Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful--

(a) To refuse to sell or rent after the making of a bona fide offer, or to refuse to negotiate for the sale or rental of, or otherwise make unavailable or deny, a dwelling to any person because of race, color, ...

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