President Lyndon B. Johnson saw passage of the Fair Housing Act (“FHA”) to be a fitting tribute to the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who had just been assassinated. The United States was in turmoil, much as it is today, with cities burning and people divided. The FHA was first introduced by Democratic senator Walter Mondale. The lobbying efforts of Republican senator Edward Brooke, the first Black senator to be elected by popular vote, and Democratic senator Edward Kennedy finally brought this legislation to fruition as Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968. Senator Mondale remarked, “in truly integrated neighborhoods, people have been able to live in peace and harmony— and both [Blacks] and whites are richer for the experience.” Although the FHA has been “rightfully lauded as one of the greatest achievements of the civil rights movement,” discriminatory lending practices have continued. These lending practices, called redlining and reverse redlining (also known as predatory lending), have not ceased to devastate individuals, families, neighborhoods and cities. In 2018, the City of Oakland, California (“Oakland”), sued Wells Fargo to address part of what the FHA set out to do: end discrimination in lending. The court quoted senator Mondale, the chief sponsor of the FHA, who cited cities’ declining tax bases as a specific injury traced to discrimination in housing. Wells Fargo appealed to the Ninth Circuit, and pursuant to the Supreme Court’s decision in Bank of America Corporation v. City of Miami (“Miami I”), the court held that Oakland must be given a chance to prove that its harm was within the zone of interest affected by Wells Fargo’s actions.
Wells Fargo v. City of Oakland: A Matter of Proximate Cause, 51 Golden Gate U. L. Rev. 11