Judge partially rules against Los Altos resident in discrimination lawsuit

A judge partially ruled against a Los Altos resident who filed a racial discrimination lawsuit in 2018 against the city of Los Altos that claimed city employees treated him unfairly based on his race after he sought permits to make improvements on his home.

In an order filed Monday (Jan. 11), Magistrate Judge Virginia DeMarchi ruled that the city didn’t violate the Fourteenth Amendment rights of the plaintiff, Satish Ramachandran. In granting the city’s motion for a summary judgment, DeMarchi wrote that Ramachandran presented insufficient evidence that Los Altos employees enforced code based on homeowners’ race, ethnicity or national origin.

In the lawsuit, Ramachandran named city employees, including Kirk Ballard, a building official; David Kornfield, the planning services manager from 2010 to 2018; and Chris Jordan, the city manager from 2016 to 2020.

Ramachandran contended that in 2013, when senior building inspector Greg Anderson had visited his property, Anderson told him to “go back in India,” and in another visit, Ballard had acted “belligerent” toward Ramachandran. The defendants didn’t dispute the allegations, the judge’s order noted.

But neither those incidents nor a claim from Ramachandran that 15 nonwhite homeowners had recently been denied permits for construction on their properties as opposed to “no more than” four white homeowners swayed the judge.

DeMarchi wrote that Ramachandran only contrasted the statistics – which relied on Ramachandran’s own assessment of the homeowners’ ethnicity – with census data of Los Altos’ racial composition and not data “reflecting the racial composition of homeowners who made improvements to their property in Los Altos.”

“Evidence of a single derogatory remark by a Los Altos employee in 2013 and of Mr. Ballard’s subsequent interactions with Mr. Ramachandran concerning that remark is insufficient, without more, to support a claim that the individual defendants engaged in a custom or practice of discrimination with respect to code enforcement,” the judge wrote.

Ramachandran fared better on the other claim in his lawsuit, as DeMarchi denied the defendants’ motion for a summary judgment on his complaints regarding violation of First Amendment rights, which were unrelated to racial discrimination. Those claims are expected to be heard by a jury by August.


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