Los Angeles, CA – May 17, 2017 – A developer may not convert a Costa Mesa residential motel to a luxury apartment complex by circumventing planning and zoning requirements for affordable housing, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled last week in The Kennedy Commission, et al. v. City of Costa Mesa, et al.
“This decision is helping us to take another step toward holding city’s like Costa Mesa responsible for creating housing opportunities for everyone. We have much more to do on behalf of Orange County residents like Timothy Dadey, but this decision will help the Kennedy Commission to continue to create affordable housing solutions in a County that is facing an affordable housing crisis,” said Cesar Covarrubias, Executive Director of the Kennedy Commission, an Orange County housing advocacy organization serving as organizational petitioner in the case.
Judge Mary H. Strobel invalidated development approvals for conversion of the Costa Mesa Motor Inn because the City allowed the proposed project to be built at 54 units per acre, well above the maximum 40 units per acre she said was permitted by local planning and zoning laws. The court ruled that under the state’s Density Bonus Law, cities may permit an increase in density only if the developer agrees to build some units affordable to poor people. That did not happen in this case, said Judge Strobel, who also held that the development approvals violated the City’s General Plan for land use.
“This sends a strong message to other cities and developers that they may not ignore important affordable housing laws to displace low income households in pursuit of redevelopment and luxury housing,” stated Michael Rawson, Director of the Public Interest Law Project (PILP).
“The state law gives developers an incentive to build affordable housing,” said Navneet Grewal, an attorney at the Western Center on Law and Poverty, who represents the Kennedy Commission and four former tenants of the Motor Inn. “What the City and the developer improperly tried to do here was exactly the opposite – build luxury housing at the expense of low income tenants.”
The lawsuit also contends that under state law displacement of the long-term tenants requires the City to prepare a relocation assistance plan, which would include reimbursement for moving and related expenses. “For many years, the City has acted on a plan to demolish the Motor Inn and evict its long-term residents,” said Julian Burns from Bird, Marella, Boxer, Wolpert, Nessim, Drooks, Lincenberg & Rhow, another attorney for the petitioners. “The City may not do that without giving the assistance the law requires.”
Judge Strobel agreed that it was “undisputed that persons who were long-time residents of the Motor Inn have been required to vacate the premises.” But the court stated it was unnecessary to decide the relocation issues, transferring the matter to another judge for trial
In addition to PILP, the petitioners are represented by the Public Law Center (PLC) in Santa Ana, Bird, Marella, Boxer, Wolpert, Nessim, Drooks, Lincenberg & Rhow, P.C., the Legal Aid Society of Orange County, and Western Center on Law and Poverty (Western Center) in Los Angeles. PLC Affordable Housing and Homelessness Prevention Unit staff attorney Richard Walker played a significant part in the litigation team.
About our co-counsel:
Public Law Center, Orange County’s pro bono law firm, is committed to providing access to justice for low-income and vulnerable residents through counseling, individual representation, community education, strategic litigation and advocacy to challenge societal injustices.
Bird, Marella, Boxer, Wolpert, Nessim, Drooks, Lincenberg & Rhow, P.C. is a boutique litigation firm, whose trial lawyers defend national and multinational corporations, government agencies, closely held companies, partnerships, and individuals.
Legal Aid Society of Orange County and Community Legal Services of southeast Los Angeles County provides civil legal services to seniors and low-income individuals and promotes equal access to the justice system.
Western Center on Law and Poverty, an independent nonprofit law firm originally founded as a joint legal clinic of the law schools of USC, UCLA, and Loyola, brings about system-wide change on behalf of low-income individuals and families through impact litigation, advocacy, negotiations, and legal aid support.
Mountain View, CA — On April 5, 2017, Mountain View tenants, proponents of Measure V and advocacy groups won a major victory when the Santa Clara County Superior Court denied the California Apartment Association’s (CAA) request for a preliminary injunction of the voter approved Community Stabilization and Fair Control Act (Measure V). The Act, approved by the voters in November, establishes rent stabilization and just cause eviction protections in the City. The denial of the preliminary injunction lifted the temporary restraining order imposed by the Court through a stipulation of the City and CAA.
The Court ruled that the CAA was not likely to prevail in the case and had not demonstrated that landlords would be irreparably harmed if the measure was allowed to take effect. Residents Joan MacDonald, Steve Chandler, Linda Williams, Urban Habitat, and Faith in Action intervened in the suit brought by the CAA against the City, challenging the legality of the measure. Intervenors are represented by PILP, the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, the Stanford Community Law Clinic, and Fenwick and West. For more information, contact Michael Rawson at PILP, 510-891-9794 ext. 145 or Craig Castellanet at 510-891-9794, ext. 132.
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