GALVESTON — The single plaintiff remaining in the lawsuit over construction of mixed-income housing in the city will have to clear a high hurdle in order for the case to continue, a federal court judge said Tuesday.

U.S. District Court Judge Gregg Costa told attorney Shari Goldsberry that she would be allowed to present an argument to the court about whether the plans for a housing development in Galveston would harm her client, Galveston resident Trysha McCardell, by increasing segregation in the neighborhood where McCardell currently lives.

Last week, Costa dismissed claims made by a handful of other plaintiffs that the housing developments would harm them as potential future residents of the housing developments, saying they did not have standing to show that actual harm would occur to them if the housing developments were built.

McCardell may have standing, however, because she lives within 10 blocks of the site of the Cedar Terrace development, which her lawyers argue would be segregated by the construction of the housing developments. The Galveston Housing Authority’s plans call for the new mixed-income housing to be built on the sites of public housing that were torn down after Hurricane Ike in 2008.

Costa told Goldsberry the burden would be hers to prove that motivations behind rebuilding on those locations are intentionally discriminatory.

“Isn’t it motivated by the fact that was where the prior locations were and there’s a desire from people who used to live there to go back to that location,” Costa said. “It might be dumb, but you have to prove that it’s racist.”

Goldsberry told Costa she intended to prove the government agencies involved do not care about segregating the city with the housing development.

“These defendants have all been educated thoroughly on the effect that this plan would have on the city,” Goldsberry said. “We’re telling them what’s going to happen. They know what’s going to happen, and they’re just going to move forward.”

An attorney representing the Texas General Land Office and the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs argued the complaint failed to consider the full extent of housing plans for the island.

“This one plaintiff is halting the entire construction because of about 35 to 40 units, and that’s what we’re talking about here,” attorney Nancy Juren said.

Housing plans made after Hurricane Ike called for 569 public housing units to be rebuilt on the island, about 140 of which were to be located in the mixed-income housing developments. The developments also are planned with an almost equal number of market-rate apartments.

Tuesday was the first time since the lawsuit was filed in December a meeting was held in open court. The hearing was attended by lawyers representing the city, state and federal government and the Galveston Housing Authority. A handful of advocates, from both sides of the housing debate, were also present for the 40-minute hearing.

During the hearing, Costa noted the proceedings had already been protracted by the number of filings made by the Open Government Project’s lawyers and said he would not be inclined to permit future changes to the legal arguments being made about the construction of housing.

“Given both sides are saying there is an urgency to this case, for different reasons, I really want to get that set and get this moving,” Costa said.

A lawyer for the Galveston Housing Authority said that construction of the developments is not moving forward because the lawsuit had blocked the authority’s ability to apply for low-income tax credits from the state. The Galveston Open Government Project has requested that an injunction be filed to block any construction while the lawsuit is in court.

Costa set a hearing date for the request for June 10, but indicated he would make more rulings before then.

In particular, Costa said the state defendants — the General Land Office and Department of Housing and Community Affairs — could be dismissed on 11th Amendment grounds. The 11th Amendment grants sovereign immunity to states and generally protects agencies from lawsuits except in certain specific cases.

“I’ve looked at the law on the 11th Amendment, I think it’s fairly straight forward,” Costa said.

Contact reporter John Wayne Ferguson at 409-683-5226 or john.ferguson@galvnews.com.

(14) comments

Raymond Lewis

The slightly obese person of female persuasion is clearing her throat for song.

Steve Fouga

Yes, TrebleClef, and then authorities will proceed to build housing that brings crime and blight to Galveston, segregates tenants by income and race, and discourages middle-class families from building a life on the Island.

A few zealots and a few poor people -- excited to live, subsidized, in a resort town -- will be pleased.

Evelyn Clark

Sounds to me like someone paid her to come down here and lie about the PH. I

have lived in this city 72+ years and I have never heard so many lies about how

and concern about segreated living.. Every city that I have visit have have a

rental for low income via government . Why all the interest , most people do not

want low income people to even have a wage increase.. SAD SAD

[sad]

Evelyn Clark

I still say this island is for everyone. Not just the one that think they owns this island

They will find something or someone else to blame. Any body that is so unhappy

about the (HOUSING ) remember to get your business [people ) to increase wages.

If you remain so unhappy about things not going your way, maybe you should

leave the island. JUST SAYING [sad] [sad]

Matt Coulson

Please, look around, who do you think are not here? Every major census group is fully represented in Galveston. Just make the island a better place for everyone and it will prosper. Work hard, be nice. Oh yea we decided the group who used that slogan was racist and sent them packing.

Kevin Lang

I wonder if somewhere amonst all those involved in this debate, there are a few that are looking into ways to make sure that this PH program, when implemented, will prove itself to truly be different in all the right ways from previous PH programs on the island?

My guess is that the answer is no. The PH advocates, believing that this, for 5+ years, is a foregone conclusion, will probably look to the victory as an endorsement of how it's always been done, while those against it will take to the sidelines and just nod with "I told you so's" as the project fulfills all of their prophesies, believing that this puts one more notch in their arguments for the "next time".

In a perverse sort of way, both of the political sides will get what they've wanted out of this, however, society, and the people needing service, will, once again, be left with things no better than they were before. It's nice to dream that the politicians in all of this would look beyond their own self-interests, but I can think of a lot of other dreams I have that have much better chances of coming true. Like winning the lottery, or being the next #1 on People's list, turning a pile of rocks into an endless water supply, etc.

Steve Fouga

"I wonder if somewhere amonst all those involved in this debate, there are a few that are looking into ways to make sure that this PH program, when implemented, will prove itself to truly be different in all the right ways from previous PH programs on the island?"

Kev, this city can't find a way for people to take a p*ss on the seawall. No reason to expect miracles from public housing.

Kevin Lang

Jake, I'm almost 100% sure you're right. The problem with politics today is that the local politicians are almost always taking their cues from the national level. That would be fine if the national politicians were setting any kind of model approach toward accomplishment. Imagine if small companies, instead of innovating what big companies will do tomorrow, merely tried to hold firm to what big companies are doing today and have been doing for decades? We certainly wouldn't have a good recipe for economic progress. This business of local politics imitating Washington, DC, is not preparing us for the next generation of political progress.

George Croix

You can build it with white. Or rye. Or whole wheat. Multi-grain. Pumpernickel.
Sourdough. A hogie bun. A burger bun. French bread. Italian bread. Homemade.
Store bought. Fresh. Day old. Stale.
No matter what you build it with, when you fill it with slices of ham, or chunks of it, or shreds of it, plain, smoked, honey baked, or whatever, you've still got a ham sandwich, and you will still have a ham sandwich no matter how many cosmetic changes you make, or in what order you assemble the ingredients.
The basic outcome of using the ingredients to make a ham sandwich assures you will get a ham sandwich, no matter what famous chef or everyday homemaker assembles it, and no matter how much or how little is spent advertising the marvelous benefits of one over another.
Still... a ham sandwich....
I await the results of the assurances that Galveston's newest ham sandwich i ngredients will instead produce a five star gourmet meal, when the only real change in the menu is the cost of the ingredients...

Elizabeth Robertson

Gecroix, I must say that is an awesome analogy.....

Raymond Lewis

Humorous analogy gecroix. Humorous only if you're not hungry. If you are hungry, you could care less if it's "still a ham sandwich". You just want to eat.

No one wants the new developments to turn out the way they were and there are a number folks trying to assure that not be the case. If as much energy is put into quality development and quality maintenance as has been put into keeping them out... Well, you get the picture.

Buckner, your sea wall comment brought about an outright guffaw!

George Croix

I don't mind at all feeding the hungry who really can't feed themselves.
I have learned over these many decades to no longer care about the ones who demand I pay for their meals and refuse to work, even when they could. In fact, I care as much about them as they have shown to care about me caring for them.
There's a big difference between wanting to eat and with demanding to be fed, despite the attempts all too often to overlook that fact.
I also know that 'a number' is anything from one, on up...and that it depends much more on who the number(s) is than on how many numbers there are.
With the minimum standards for construction along the Gulf Coast there's little doubt that whatever is built will be 'quality', but that can be done short of luxury...easily.
And, no matter the structure, and no matter the money thrown at it to keep it up, the ultimate outcome depends on the quality of the occupants.
Well, you get the picture.

Raymond Lewis

Interesting fossilized ideas gecroix. Thankfully they are hindrances and not road blocks.

George Croix

Of course.
Who could argue with such wisdom.
Besides, who would they argue with...
If you are half as smart in reality as in anonymity, you must be one whiz bang.
Congrats.

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