Permanent Injunction Granted Against Alameda County Protecting Food Stamp Applicants

A federal court judge entered a permanent injunction against Alameda County on March 7, 2016 requiring it to process CalFresh (food stamps) applications within the federal and state-mandated timelines and orders the county to “comply fully within a margin of human error with the legally mandated times for processing expedited and regular CalFresh applications.”

Federal law requires that counties process food stamp applications benefits within 30 days and California state law requires emergency food stamp applications be processed within three days.

The injunction requires Alameda County to submit monthly reports detailing the progress of its compliance to both the Court and Plaintiffs’ Counsel. Plaintiffs are represented by PILP, Western Center on Law & Poverty, and Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP in this federal class action lawsuit.

The injunction will remain in place at least one year and potentially longer if Alameda County cannot begin complying with state and federal law.

Learn more about the case here.

Courthouse News Service article from March 8, 2016.

Staff : March 15, 2016 12:28 pm : News and Updates
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U. S. Supreme Court Refuses to Consider Decision Upholding Inclusionary Zoning

Washington, D.C., February 29, 2016 – The United States Supreme Court denied certiorari in California Building Industry Association v. City of San Jose, a lawsuit that challenged San Jose’s inclusionary housing ordinance. The California Building Industry Association had petitioned the Court for review of the California Supreme Court’s June 2015 decision, which held that inclusionary housing requirements are not “exactions” and that they need only be reasonably related to the legitimate government purposes they set out to further. Over 170 cities in California have inclusionary programs requiring new market-rate housing developments to include affordable housing.

The Public Interest Law Project, the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley and the law firm of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati (pro bono) represent non-profit affordable housing advocacy organizations who intervened as parties in the case in support of San José’s ordinance: Affordable Housing Network of Santa Clara County, California Coalition for Rural Housing, Housing California, Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California, San Diego Housing Federation, and the Southern California Association of NonProfit Housing. We applaud these groups for stepping forward to save this critical affordable housing tool.

San José’s inclusionary housing ordinance, which requires developers of certain new market-rate housing to include a certain percentage of homes that are affordable to low- or moderate-income households, or to choose from a menu of other compliance options, was passed by City in 2010 but has been on hold because of the litigation, which was filed before the ordinance ever became operative.

For more information contact Michael Rawson at PILP.
(510) 891-9794 ext. 145

Learn More Here.

Staff : March 14, 2016 4:36 pm : News and Updates
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Welcome Val and Good Luck Patti

We are pleased to welcome back Valerie Feldman as Staff Attorney for PILP.

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Staff : March 14, 2016 9:24 am : News and Updates
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A Great Lawyer for the People Passes On.

Remembering Judy Gold (1952 – 2016)
We sadly lost our amazing and compassionate colleague Judy Gold this week.

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Staff : February 19, 2016 1:36 pm : News and Updates, Staff Announcements
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The Preliminary Injunction Authorizes Federal Judge to Oversee County Compliance

SAN FRANCISCO–On January 15, 2016 U.S. District Court Judge James Donato granted a preliminary injunction motion on behalf of food stamp recipients in Alameda County. The injunction will require Alameda County to adhere to strict timelines established under federal and state law for processing CalFresh applications and awarding benefits to residents entitled to receive food stamps.

If the County fails to meet the processing timelines, Alameda County will be required to implement corrective measures to ensure compliance.

“This is a complete victory for our clients” — Pillsbury partner Tom Loran

The injunction stemmed from a class action filed on September 29, 2015 alleging that Alameda County has been chronically out of compliance with those legally mandated deadlines and has persistently ranked last out of 58 California counties in timely processing these applications. Filed in U.S. District Court, the class action also alleged that the County refused to take the steps needed to remedy those chronic delays.  For more information about this lawsuit and to read the original complaint click here.

“This is a complete victory for our clients” said Tom Loran, a partner at Pillsbury who along with PILP and Western Center on Law & Poverty represent the Plaintiffs in this federal class action lawsuit.

Stephanie Haffner of Western Center on Law & Poverty added, “When people reach the point of applying for food assistance, it is all too often a crisis. The injunction means now the county will act to prevent needless hunger.”

PILP Staff Attorney Lauren Hansen said, “During the last 12 months, an average of 725 needy households per month did not receive a timely determination of their applications for food stamps benefits. People struggled while they waited— some ate expired food, others went hungry. This order will go a long way toward preventing such suffering.”

Under the order, the Alameda County Social Services Agency must file monthly compliance reports with the judge and plaintiffs’ attorneys showing that it is processing applications on time. Federal law requires that food stamp applications be processed within 30 days. Expedited benefits must be paid in three days to eligible applicants.

Read more about the Preliminary Injunction here, here, and here.

Western Center on Law & Poverty represents low-income Californians through litigation, legislative advocacy and administrative advocacy in core poverty issues of housing, healthcare, basic income support and access to justice.

From housing to voting rights, and nearly every issue in between, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP handles high-impact pro bono matters and provides basic legal services to the poor.

Staff : January 27, 2016 1:31 pm : News and Updates
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Yuba County to Provide Aid to Neediest Residents

Board of Supervisors adopts regulations to comply with state mandate.

Marysville, CA – The Board of Supervisors adopted new, lawful General Assistance (GA) regulations on December 15, 2015. The County had been operating its program by old Board resolutions that were out of date, illegal in a number of respects, and not applied uniformly. This historic event moved the County toward compliance with its legal obligation to provide the County’s neediest residents with the last resort assistance to which they are entitled. Very few extremely low income county residents, despite very high poverty and unemployment rates, had been receiving aid.

GA is a program mandated by state law. It requires counties to provide about $330 dollars per month to severely impoverished lawful residents who have nowhere else to turn. Recipients often are homeless, most are unemployed and unemployable. Many recipients have disabilities or are veterans or both. A significant number are survivors of domestic violence, fleeing their abusers. GA allows these individuals to find modest shelter, such as a shared room, and to begin to become self-sufficient.

Before adoption of the new regulations, Yuba County imposed eligibility hurdles that were so extensive that very few people could navigate the application process. California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA) assisted one client reapply for benefits after she was denied, only to be rejected a second time. “I’ve been to law school and am pretty good at filling out forms, but I couldn’t even fill out the GA application forms to the exacting standards used by the County,” said CRLA Directing Attorney Laura Clauson Ferree.

“My client was desperate and facing homelessness; even this small amount, only $11 dollars a day, can be critical,” said Ms. Ferree. Multiple clients asked CRLA for help after being rejected for benefits. The County asked them for duplicative and unnecessary verifications, and despite being clearly eligible, their applications had been denied.

“Sadly, Yuba County is not an outlier in its operation of its GA program” said Lauren Hansen, a staff attorney at the Public Interest Law Project (PILP). “Our ongoing Rural General Assistance Project, (Rural GAP) is dedicated to improving access to GA benefits in rural counties that have small or nonexistent GA programs, probably due to simple unawareness of the law.”

“We’re very pleased that the County has listened to us and worked to ensure the County complies with state law by providing a small safety net for its most vulnerable residents,” said Ms. Ferree. Ms. Hansen agreed, “the new regulations are a huge improvement.”

About California Rural Legal Assistance:
Founded in 1966, CRLA’s mission is to fight for justice and individual rights alongside the most exploited communities of our society. CRLA provides legal services to over 43,000 low-income people annually.
Visit for more information

CRLA and PILP Yuba County GA Press Release.

Staff : December 16, 2015 5:44 pm : News and Updates
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Affordable Housing Victory in Huntington Beach

The Los Angeles County Superior Court struck down the City of Huntington Beach’s efforts to block affordable housing. An amendment to the Beach-Edinger Corridor Specific Plan (BECSP), adopted on May 4, 2015, would have blocked the development of affordable housing at the City’s primary location for residential development, the Beach-Edinger Corridor.

“This ruling means that affordable housing is once again possible in Huntington Beach.”
– Cesar Covarrubias, Executive Director of the Kennedy Commission.

Two formerly homeless veterans and the Kennedy Commission (a non-profit dedicated to advocating for affordable housing in Orange County), represented by the Public Interest Law project, along with co-counsel Public Law Center and Jones Day, filed a petition challenging the amendment on July 31, 2015. On November 12, 2015, the Court granted petitioners’ request and declared the amendment void.  The Court Ruling is available here.

“This ruling means that affordable housing is once again possible in Huntington Beach,” said Cesar Covarrubias, Executive Director of the Kennedy Commission. “Huntington Beach faces a worsening housing crisis, as one-third to one-half of all residents spend an unaffordable share of their income on housing costs. We look forward to working with developers and the City to achieve affordable housing within Huntington Beach.”

Staff : November 25, 2015 11:29 am : News and Updates
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Department of Finance ordered to authorize payments to displaced residents

Superior Court holds settlement agreement entered after redevelopment dissolution enforceable; Department of Finance ordered to authorize payments to displaced residents
Limon v DOF

Residents of a Garden Grove mobile home parked sued for replacement housing and relocation after the City’s redevelopment agency displaced them.  After redevelopment dissolution, the successor agency settled residents’ claims by agreeing to pay additional relocation, provide replacement housing and pay attorneys’ fees, but the Department of Finance (DOF) denied payments required by the settlement.

Public Counsel, the Public Interest Law Project and Norton Rose Fulbright, LLC, brought suit against DOF on the residents behalf.  In June 2015 the Sacramento Superior Court found that the settlement is an enforceable obligation and issued a writ of mandate directing DOF to approve payments.  DOF did not appeal.

The Ruling is available here.

Staff : October 27, 2015 2:30 pm : News and Updates
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Federal Class Action Lawsuit Against Alameda County Over Widespread Delays Processing Food Stamps

September 29, 2015 – PILP, along with Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, as pro bono counsel and Western Center on Law & Poverty have filed a federal class action lawsuit against Alameda County, asking the court for declaratory and injunctive relief, and ordering the defendants to approve or deny CalFresh applications within 30 days, and approve or deny expedited benefits within 3 days, as required by federal and state law.

Plaintiff Jarvis Johnson implored, “I wouldn’t ask for help unless I really needed it, and I need it now.”

Alameda County and the County Social Services Agency must be held accountable, Thomas Loran of Pillsbury stated.

The class action complaint, notes that federal and state laws require that applications for federally funded food stamps (known in California as CalFresh) be processed, and a decision rendered to an applicant, within 30 days. In California, the state has three calendar days In expedited cases.

Read More Here from the Contra Costa Times.

Press Release from Pillsbury.

Staff : October 21, 2015 10:58 am : News and Updates
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California Supreme Court Upholds Inclusionary Zoning

Decision Removes Legal Uncertainty around Local Power to Require Mixed-Income Housing

July 1, 2015 – The California Supreme Court unanimously and without qualification upheld San Jose’s 15% inclusionary housing ordinance, freeing communities to adopt mixed-income housing ordinances to address critical shortages of affordable housing.  PILP, the Silicon Valley Law Foundation and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich Rosati represented intervening low income tenants and affordable housing groups assisting San Jose in defending the constitutional attack on its inclusionary zoning law by the California Building Industry Association.  See California Building Industry Assn. v. City of San Jose, 61 Cal.4th 435 (2015).  For more info contact Michael Rawson ( or Melissa Morris (

CBIA contended the law lacked sufficient justification and, therefore, constituted an unconstitutional “exaction” resulting in a taking of property.  The Court ruled that the need for affordable housing and the goal to increase diversity of housing opportunity throughout the city provided ample justification for the adoption of the inclusionary requirement.  Inclusionary laws, the Court said, come within the community’s “broad authority, under its general police power, to regulate the development and use of real property within its jurisdiction to promote the public welfare” of the community or the region.  Approximately 170 California communities have inclusionary requirements.

Specific Holdings

  • Inclusionary Requirement Are Land Use Regulations, not “Exactions.” Inclusionary zoning is not an exaction because it does not require a conveyance of a property interest.  Inclusionary housing ordinances are land use regulations that merely restrict the use of property by limiting the price of some units.
  • Building Industry Ass’n v. City of Patterson Disapproved. The Court rejected CBIA’s contention that under Patterson and San Remo Hotel v. San Francisco inclusionary housing requirements or in lieu fees are justified only if the need for affordable housing “was caused by or attributed to” the impact of new housing development.
  • Inclusionary Ordinances Are Valid if they are Reasonably Related to Legitimate Public Purposes. The  Court found that “unquestionably constitutionally permissible purposes” for adoption of an inclusionary requirement include:
    1. Increasing the number of affordable housing units in a community when there is an insufficient number in relation to the community’s “current and future needs,” including regional needs under the Housing Element Law
    2. Assuring new affordable housing units “are distributed throughout the city as part of mixed-income developments” in order to:
      • “Obtain the benefits that flow from economically diverse communities”
      • “Avoid the problems that have historically been associated with isolated low income housing.”
  • In Lieu Fees Are Not Exactions. In-lieu fees as an alternative to on-site inclusionary requirements are not “mitigation fees” or exactions and, therefore, are not required to be related to some impact of new housing development.

Going Forward

  • A Nexus Study is Not Required for the On-Site Inclusionary Percentage or In-Lieu Fee Alternatives Related to the On-Site Requirement. A study is unnecessary because the community is not required to show that new housing development is the cause of the need for affordable housing.
  • Provisions Granting Mandatory Options to Purchase for Local Government May Not Be Permissible in Isolation. San Jose’s ordinance authorized utilizing options to purchase inclusionary units when resold, but did not mandate an option.

Rental Housing—Palmer v. Los Angeles Not Effected – Legislative Action Now TimelyThe Palmer decision’s prohibition of inclusionary rent restrictions under the Costa-Hawkins Act was not at issue in this case.  When vetoing AB 1229 in 2013, which would have overturned Palmer, Governor Brown indicated the legislation was premature because he first wanted “the benefit of the Supreme Court’s thinking.”  Now that we have it, similar legislation is timely.

Staff : August 25, 2015 1:51 pm : News and Updates
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