PILP attorneys Craig Castellanet and Michael Rawson and their co-counsel at Public Law Center and Jones Day received 2017 California Lawyer Attorneys of the Year awards for their work in The Kennedy Commission v. City of Huntington Beach.
The City had adopted a downtown specific plan providing high density to multifamily sites to meet the City’s lower income housing needs identified in its housing element. But, when a new city council took over, the City illegally amended the specific plan to eliminate the zoning. Representing the Kennedy Commission and low income Veterans, the litigation won a ruling declaring the specific plan amendments void when adopted.
The City is appealing the Court’s decision and has reportedly refused to comply with the orders.
Read more about the case and the other 2017 CLAY award honorees here.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Enforces Judgment Protecting Affordable Housing in Huntington Beach
Orange County, CA — On April 15, 2016, the Los Angeles County Superior Court agreed with Jason Puleo and William Adams, two formerly homeless veterans, and the non-profit Kennedy Commission (Petitioners), represented by PILP’s California Affordable Housing Law Project, the Public Law Center (PLC), and Jones Day, that the City of Huntington Beach must “immediately comply with the judgment and writ of mandate and to cease enforcing, administering or implementing the [BECSP Amendment].” See Order Enforcing Judgment.
The BECSP Amendment effectively blocked any low-cost housing in the City, imposing a development cap, burdensome parking, setback, height, and use restrictions, and costly and time-consuming discretionary permit requirements. “This year-long effort to force the city to simply comply with state law and its own Housing Element, the ‘Constitution’ for development, reminds all of us that we must remain vigilant and be prepared to fight efforts to block affordable housing.” said PLC staff attorney Sarah Gregory.
“Although this Superior Court decision…is a win for affordable housing in Huntington Beach, our work to ensure veterans and other vulnerable individuals can continue to call Orange County home will continue”
-Sarah Gregory, PLC staff attorney
The Huntington Beach City Council adopted the BECSP Amendment on May 4, 2015, despite months of efforts by the Kennedy Commission and the two displaced veterans, who had been forced to leave Huntington Beach due to the lack of affordable housing in the city. The City of Huntington Beach had refused to comply with previous court orders, continued to enforce the BECSP Amendment, and appealed a January 20, 2016 judgment in favor of the Petitioners.
Petitioners sought to force Huntington Beach to implement its state-approved General Plan Housing Element, which was approved by the California Department of Housing and Community Development in 2013. The General Plan Housing Element–referred to as the “Constitution” for all planning and development within the city–allowed for the development of high-density low-cost housing by-right along the city’s Beach-Edinger commercial corridor in order to accommodate the city’s housing needs for low-income residents. Sarah Gregory said, “Although this Superior Court decision on the BECSP Amendment is a win for affordable housing in Huntington Beach, our work to ensure veterans and other vulnerable individuals can continue to call Orange County home will continue in earnest.”
Read More: Order Enforcing Judgment
Read More: PLC Press Release
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.
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
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.
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.
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 www.crla.org for more information
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.”
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.