Urban Habitat Decision Invalidates Housing Cap and Mandates Affordable Housing Development

After four years of litigation, including a successful trip to the Court of Appeal, the Superior Court of Alameda County in September of last year ordered the City of Pleasanton to cease enforcement of its voter-approved cap on housing and require affordable housing development. Passed in 1996, the cap made it impossible for the City to provide for its share of the regional need for housing affordable to lower income households as required under State Housing Element Law.  Pleasanton is a regional center for the technology industry, adding thousands of jobs each year. Yet, despite the growing need to accommodate residential development, the city has maintained an absolute cap on housing resulting in exclusion of lower income families and a lack of housing for the city’s growing workforce. The suit was brought by Sandra de Gregorio, a mother of two, and Urban Habitat Programs, an environmental and social justice organization.  Plaintiffs were represented by The Public Interest Law Project (PILP), Public Advocates, Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker, and Munger, Tolles & Olson.  The state Attorney General intervened in the case and a parallel suit involving CEQA violations.

The trial court ordered all policies capping residential development removed from Pleasanton’s general plan and compelled the City to rezone sufficient developable sites to meet its lower income housing need.  The court also enjoined the City from issuing commercial building permits until it complied with the court’s order.  To settle the remaining claims in the suit, the City agreed to a settlement providing that it will adopt: a new housing element within a year to accommodate its affordable housing need, a Climate Action Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a resolution that it will not discriminate against affordable housing. Finally, the settlement ensures that at least 130 units of housing affordable to very low income households will be developed in a mixed use development.

The case has statewide importance as the ruling puts other jurisdictions on notice that local residential growth restrictions could violate the Housing Element Law. The Court of Appeal in 2008 had overturned the dismissal of the case by the previous trial court judge.  Significantly, the court found that the City’s growth cap had become inconsistent with the Housing Element Law when Pleasanton was allocated a share of the regional housing need that was impossible to accommodate under the cap.

Urban Habitat Program v. City of Pleasanton, 164 Cal.App.4th 1561 (2008).)

Peter Gallotta : July 1, 2011 3:59 pm : News and Updates
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PILP Celebrates 15 Years

On May 18th, The Public Interest Law Project celebrated its 15th Anniversary in the Sky Room of Paul Hastings Janofsky & Walker LLP in downtown San Francisco.   Private and public interest attorneys, community advocates, clients, family and friends from throughout the Bay Area assembled to enjoy the breathtaking views and to honor an organization that has expanded considerably since its inception in 1996. more »

Peter Gallotta : July 1, 2011 3:19 pm : News and Updates
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PILP Protects Subsidized Childcare for Tens of Thousands of Working Families

In October, 2010, then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger used his veto power to eliminate funding for the subsidized childcare program for low-income working families known as CalWORKs Stage 3 child care.  The low-income parents of more than 56,000 children were told that their child care would end on November 1st, creating havoc for thousands of people who suddenly were forced to choose between keeping their jobs and staying off welfare, or taking care of their children.  By forcing many working families back onto welfare, the veto was an ill-advised strategy to save state funds.

The Public Interest Law Project (PILP) stepped in as lead counsel, partnering with the Child Care Law Center and several legal services programs throughout the state, to swiftly challenge the child care terminations. Representing Parent Voices Oakland and four low-income parents, PILP swiftly obtained an emergency order from the Alameda County Superior Court, keeping the child care in place until there was a further hearing.  A few days later, Judge Carvill issued an order requiring the California Department of Education (CDE) to continue Stage 3 child care, until it notified families of their right to be screened for other subsidized childcare services. Link to Judge’s Ruling

After obtaining two favorable court orders, the parties  negotiated a court-approved settlement with CDE that extended the Stage 3 program through December 31, 2010 and required state-contracted child care agencies to inform families of their right to request a screening for any available child care alternatives. Many families were able to transition to other subsidized child care.  When interim funding was appropriated in February 2011, many more of the former Stage 3 families were restored to the program.

In late June, 2011, the parties reached a Final Stipulated Order of Settlement which restores child care services for the remaining parents who have successfully transitioned off welfare but whose wages are still too low to cover child care.  The final settlement ensures that all of the former Stage 3 families who lost child care services due to the Governor’s veto will have an opportunity to come back onto the program.

“This settlement gives California working families everything they sought in court,” said Patti Prunhuber of The Public Interest Law Project. “We are grateful that the turmoil unleashed by Gov. Schwarzenegger’s veto can finally be corrected and that children will be in safe, affordable child care while their parents are working.”

“We have achieved success in saving thousands of jobs for working parents and child care providers, but most importantly, we have assured that our number one priority, child care for children, has been upheld,” said Corean Todd, a member of Parent Voices Oakland. This court case not only helped our Parent Voices Oakland members but all parents on a state wide level.  Child care keeps children learning and parents earning.”

The Public Interest Law Project co-counseled with the Child Care Law Center,  Western Center on Law & Poverty, Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County, Public Counsel Law Center, and Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles.

Peter Gallotta : June 30, 2011 5:05 pm : News and Updates
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Major Court Settlement Restores Child Care for Thousands of Working Families

Chaos Wrought by Gov. Schwarzenegger’s 2010 Veto Finally Resolved; Families Restored to Subsidized Child Care

OAKLAND, CA – Ending a six-month court case sparked by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s elimination of vital child care funding, the State of California agreed this week to ensure that working families will continue to have child care assistance. The ground-breaking settlement preserves child care for parents who have successfully transitioned off welfare but whose wages are still too low to cover child care.  The settlement affects the families of 56,000 California children who had been told they would lose their child care last October. more »

Peter Gallotta : June 24, 2011 12:55 pm : News and Updates
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ccastellanet : June 2, 2011 4:05 pm : News and Updates
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Welcome to the new website of the Public Interest Law Project!

Welcome to our newly minted website.

Take a look around. Stay a while.

Read about our Mission & History. Get a glimpse into the life of a small public interest law office by learning about the substance of our legal work and our current Litigation.  Get to know our talented and dedicated Staff & Board. Stay abreast of our legal victories by signing up to receive our quarterly e-newsletter. Support our work by making a tax-deductible donation today.

We hope you enjoy perusing our new website. Thank you for visiting.

All our best,

PILP Staff

Peter Gallotta : December 15, 2010 12:39 pm : News and Updates
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