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Blackhawk couple sue HOA, say kids can't play outside

Suit: Children barred from trick-or-treating

A Blackhawk couple has filed a federal lawsuit against their homeowners association, claiming their children aren't allowed to play or trick-or-treat in their own neighborhood.

The lawsuit claims repeated discrimination against Seth and Carolynn Neri and their three children by the HOA of the Tennis Villas at Blackhawk and Pleasanton-based Community Association Management.

The suit alleges the HOA and the management company discriminate against families with children and ban them from accessing common areas within the community.

According to the lawsuit, the defendants "threatened the Neris with fines if their

children didn't cease playing outside," and threatened to place a lien on their home if the children continued playing outside.

The Neri's children were also told they could not attend a neighborhood-wide block party, the lawsuit said, because they were not allowed to play outside, and were told they could not display Halloween decorations, although at least one resident of an adult-only home had a display.

Residents and the HOA have said it was originally intended as a senior living community.

Neither the Neris nor Community Association Management could be reached for comment.

According to the lawsuit, the family of five moved to the gated community of about 30 single-family homes in the upscale area of Blackhawk, east of Danville, in the spring of 2012.

The Neris are the only family in the housing development with children. They were told that their three kids weren't allowed to play in front of their home, on the street or in the community's common areas, the suit claims.

When the family tried to put up Halloween decorations last year, they were told holiday decorations, as well as trick-or-treating, were prohibited, according to the complaint.

The family tried to work with the HOA, but after that failed, two of the children decided to write a letter to neighbors introducing themselves and asking them to consider changing the no-playing rule, according to the suit.

But, the complaint alleges, rather than receiving positive responses, the Neris got anonymous letters in their mailbox that said "No move!!" and "No Way! Move!"

In May, Carolynn Neri was told that if her children violated the HOA's no-playing rule, a lien would be placed on the family's home, according to the suit.

The complaint alleges that when Carolynn Neri approached the president of the housing development's board of directors about the rules, she was told that some residents in the gated community were "upset that (Carolynn and Seth Neri) were a mixed-race couple."

According to the complaint, because of the HOA's "discriminatory housing practices, plaintiffs have suffered violation of their civil rights, economic losses (and) emotional distress," including depression, panic attacks, sleep loss and other ailments.

A hearing is set for February.

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