LAS VEGAS (CN) - Residents of West Las Vegas accuse city officials of continuing a decades-long effort to segregate their mostly black neighborhood by closing off a crucial road to nearby services.
Plaintiff Stop the F Street Closure says plans to widen Interstate 15 unfairly called for the September closure of a portion of F Street in the mostly black community. It's the project's only street closure, according to the lawsuit filed in Clark County Court.
"The permanent closure of F Street segregated West Las Vegas from the rest of Las Vegas," the complaint states.
The closure lowered property values and denied residents access to new commercial and government centers south of F Street, including parks, an outlet mall and county and city offices, the plaintiffs say. Plaintiffs sued the City of Las Vegas and the Nevada Department of Transportation.
It also changed the public transportation routes for West Las Vegas residents, including plaintiff Ora Bland, a 74-year-old woman who says she has to walk five extra blocks to a bus stop.
Neighborhood residents say they were not informed of public meetings concerning the closure, and learned of it only after spotting bulldozers in the neighborhood.
It's not the first time city officials tried to segregate the black community, according to the complaint.
In 1940, the Westside Improvement Association, a group of whites in West Las Vegas "who were unhappy with the prospect of African Americans moving into West Las Vegas," requested that the city "segregate West Las Vegas on account of race."
The city closed D, F and H streets in the 1960s to "bolster the old West Las Vegas 'Iron Curtain,' the inaccessible street design that confined West Las Vegas residents to their historically African American community," according to the complaint.
More than 300 residents protested the closures, and the streets were reopened the next day.
"History repeated itself in the 1970s when the city impeded access to West Las Vegas by building (Interstate 15) through West Las Vegas without an exit ramp," the lawsuit states. After protests, officials installed an exit ramp at D Street.
"Almost like clockwork," officials "impeded access to and from West Las Vegas in the 1970s by closing every street in West Las Vegas, except Martin Luther King Boulevard and Owens Avenue, during the construction of U.S. Route 95."
Residents, police officers and ambulance drivers expressed outrage at the closure, and after protests, officials reopened the streets.
Plaintiffs seek compensatory damages, declaratory relief and costs. They are represented by Matthew Callister with Callister Reynolds.
Subscribe to Closing Arguments
Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.