Alabama Ave/13th Street Tenant Coalition files Lawsuit
Against Sanford Capital and CityPartners LLC

Congress Heights tenants seek injunctive relief to put an end to business partners’ long-running scheme to deprive them of their rights under the
Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act.

As part of the Legal Clinic’s ongoing representation of the Alabama Ave/13th Street Tenant Coalition (The Coalition) through our Affordable Housing Initiative, we’ve partnered with Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP, and jointly filed a Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief on May 17, 2018. The Complaint asserts that the December 2017 transfer of the properties from Sanford Capital to its long-time joint-venture development partner, City Partners, LLC violated the tenants’ rights under the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA).

Check out this blog post for some background on the transfer and the Coalition’s vision for their homes and community.

This transfer represents the latest attempt by Sanford Capital and City Partners, LLC to profit from years of mistreatment of the residents, and cynically prevent them from participating in decision-making about the redevelopment of their own community. Current development practices in Washington, DC, are premised upon rampant land speculation, and a manifest-destiny approach to the redevelopment of neighborhoods that have seen years of disinvestment. TOPA is a vital tool that allows tenants to push back against these short-sighted and harmful practices, fight to remain in their own communities, and move forward development goals that are inclusive and meet the needs of existing residents while promoting growth. Throughout this Congress Heights housing struggle, members of the Coalition, led by President Ruth Barnwell, have made clear that they are not only standing up for their own rights, but are also striking back against illegal practices that affect tenants across the District. Their decision to move forward with this lawsuit is the next step in this now years-long struggle.

The Washington Post and Washington City Paper have covered extensively the resident-led struggle for housing justice for these Congress Heights properties, below are just a few articles that provide context for the legal issues at play and the politics behind the effort to displace Coalition members.

“Congress Heights Tenants Sue Current and Former Landlords” Washington City Paper, May 18, 2018

“An Abandoned Building in Congress Heights Is the Keystone in a Battle Between Tenants, Developers, and the District” Washington City Paper, September 14, 2017

“Why a law meant to protect the poor from gentrification doesn’t really work” The Washington Post, February 6, 2016

The lawsuit filed by last week comes in the midst of ongoing litigation brought by DC Attorney General Karl Racine against Sanford Capital in 2016 in response to unlawful and dangerous housing conditions at the properties. (The Coalition’s willingness to push back against Sanford Capital and City Partners has shone light on their practices, this is one of several cases filed by the OAG against Sanford Capital). The Office of the Attorney General has added CityPartners 5914 LLC as a defendant in that matter, and the case has an upcoming court date on May 30, 2018. If you’d like to be in solidarity with the Coalition at the upcoming court date in that case, join us in packing the room!

When: May 30, 2018 at 2:00pm
Where: DC Superior Court (500 Indiana Ave NW, Washington, DC), courtroom 518
RSVP here!



The Affordable Housing Initiative was established in 2002 to intensify Legal Clinic efforts to preserve and expand affordable housing for low-income District residents. For information on current Affordable Housing Initiative work, please contact staff attorneys Akela Crawford ( and Will Merrifield (