A black group has accused Alexandria city officials of purposefully reducing and eliminating housing opportunities for blacks in the city from the 1960s to the present.
The group alleged in a discrimination complaint filed with the Department of Housing and Urban Development that city officials violated blacks' constitutional rights by such actions as relocating U.S. Rte. 1 though a black neighborhood and declaring the predominately black Parker-Gray neighborhood a special preservation district.
"There is some legitimacy to it," said Mayor James P. Moran Jr. of the complaint. Moran said, however, that economic development -- "not removing blacks" from the city -- was the driving force behind many of the actions the group cited.
Euroda Lyles, spokesman for the group called the 16th Census Tract Crisis Committee, declined to comment on the allegations yesterday, and city officials could not say for certain what actions HUD might take against the city if the complaint is found valid.
A spokesman at the Virginia Real Estate Board in Richmond said HUD had referred the matter to the state agency for investigation.
City Attorney Des Calley said yesterday that even though the complaint was filed April 23, the city received written notice of the dispute only this week. Calley said he believed the city never intended to put the city's 23,000 blacks at an housing disadvantage or "to deliberately deprive anyone of their homes."
Lyles' group, which has the backing of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in New York, alleges in the complaint that the mayor, city manager, City Council, and housing office "engaged in a pattern of actions . . . which have had and continue to have the purpose and effect of displacing blacks while making property more accessible to whites."
The group says the officials violated the Civil Rights Act of 1968 and the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause by the following actions:
*Sanctioning the Virginia highway department's relocation of Rte. 1 in the mid-1960s through one of the city's oldest black communities.
*Placing the Braddock Road Metro Station, built in 1984, in a location that divided a downtown black community.
*Using zoning, code enforcement, or condemnation provisions to justify demolishing black-owned or occupied homes without providing affordable alternatives.
*Rejecting promised urban renewal projects and renovating housing units that were too costly for blacks.
*Closing the city's historically black high school, Parker-Gray, and reselling the property for commercial and upper-income residential use instead of low-income housing.
*Passing a 1984 ordinance that proclaims the downtown Parker-Gray black community, located on the 16th Census Tract, a special preservation district.
Opponents of the special Parker-Gray District said that the preservation status means some blacks there face unaffordable requirements and standards for maintaining their homes. In addition, they say higher assessments will force blacks out and in effect extend the boundaries of Old Town for white residents.
Calley said the city would have further response to the discrimination complaint after the state Real Estate Board's investigation.