This inaugural newsletter for 2017 and my second term as Oakland City Attorney covers the first quarter of the new year.
In this new year and new term, I am continuing my mission to protect and advance the rights of all Oaklanders. We secured an injunction against the owner of a residential property in the Fruitvale neighborhood under the City's Tenant Protection Ordinance that requires major repairs to make the property safe and habitable; we filed our first lawsuit to enforce Oakland's Minimum Wage Ordinance; we filed amicus (friend of the court) briefs asking that the U.S. Supreme Court uphold immigrants' fundamental constitutional rights to a hearing when they are detained; and we filed amicus briefs asking the federal district court to strike down the new administration's executive orders that impose a Muslim travel ban and threaten to withhold federal funds from Oakland and other sanctuary cities.
I again thank my family members, City Attorney staff, friends and other supporters who attended the inauguration ceremony for Oakland elected officials in January. My inauguration speech addresses some of the challenges Oakland faces, and that we as Oaklanders, Americans and citizens of our planet must address to defeat the new federal administration's regressive and unconscionable policies.
As always, I look forward to your questions and comments about the work we are doing on behalf of the people of Oakland.
Barbara J. Parker
Oakland City Attorney
City Attorney secures injunction to protect tenants in Fruitvale neighborhood
Last year, I established a new division in the City Attorney's Office to prioritize affirmative litigation and other actions to protect the rights and interests of all Oaklanders.
Our new Affirmative Litigation, Innovation & Enforcement Division includes the Neighborhood Law Corps, an award-winning unit in the City Attorney's Office that focuses on enforcing illegal dumping laws, holding abusive landlords accountable and shutting down hotels and other businesses that collude in human trafficking. The Division also includes a new Community Lawyering & Civil Rights Unit that is focusing on securing social, environmental and economic justice and equity in our community. The Division also includes the Code Enforcement Unit which continues to focus on violations of City codes and illegal dumping.
During my second term as City Attorney, I intend to expand the work of the new Affirmative Litigation Division, and to prioritize cases that will secure justice for Oaklanders.
One example of my Office's prioritization of affirmative litigation is the lawsuit we filed against the owners of a Fruitvale neighborhood apartment building to compel them to provide safe and habitable living conditions for their tenants. For years these tenants complained that they had no heat, no working smoke detectors, bedbug and cockroach infestations, faulty electrical wiring and other habitability problems, including a fire in July 2016 that caused extensive damage to several units.
In 2016, the Community Lawyering & Civil Rights Unit collaborated with the Neighborhood Law Corps to file the lawsuit against the owners and operators of the 30-unit apartment building at 1620 Fruitvale Avenue. It is the latest in a series of actions we have filed to enforce Oakland's 2014 Tenant Protection Ordinance.
Our lawsuit includes a declaration from a family that slept in a closet and on their kitchen floor for nearly a year and a half to avoid being bitten by bedbugs. Alameda County Vector Control confirmed pest infestations at the property on numerous occasions, and City of Oakland Code Enforcement cited the owners multiple times over the past few years for sewage backup and other plumbing problems, a lack of working heat and smoke detectors, holes in the walls, broken or missing windows, failure to provide functioning locks and the accumulation of raw sewage under the building, among other issues. The owners failed to remedy the problems.
In August 2016, Code Enforcement again cited the owners after a fire damaged the building and forced tenants to vacate several apartments. A tenant who was at home with her eight-year-old daughter when the fire occurred said she did not hear a fire alarm and did not know what was happening until she saw smoke and flames coming out of the walls of her bathroom. Luckily, she and her daughter were able to escape the building unharmed, and no other tenants were injured. To date, the owners have not fully restored the damaged units.
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Winifred Smith's final ruling on January 19 enjoins the owners from continuing to operate the building in violation of Oakland's Tenant Protection Ordinance and state and local public nuisance laws.
The owners have approximately forty days to address the health, safety and habitability issues at the building. If they fail to do so, they will face contempt of court charges and sanctions.
As of this week, the owners have taken some steps to comply with the order. However, there are some outstanding issues at the property, including the fact that the building still has no heat. We are monitoring the owners' progress and will update the Court in April.
Oakland's ongoing housing crisis is forcing so many families to survive in their cars, on the streets, in our parks, or in unsafe, substandard buildings. It is critical that the City hold accountable landlords who violate tenants' rights and turn a blind eye to inhumane conditions that persist at their properties. Every Oakland family has the right to habitable, dignified and safe housing.
In March 2016, the nonprofit Centro Legal de la Raza filed a lawsuit against the same owners for similar violations at the property (Alameda County Superior Court Case No. RG16806249). Centro Legal also assisted the City Attorney's Office with declarations and other aspects of its case.
City Attorney and Centro Legal de la Raza sue major hotel chain over violations of labor laws and Oakland's Minimum Wage Ordinance
This is the first complaint the City has filed under the minimum wage law Oakland voters passed in 2014
In January, my Office and Centro Legal de la Raza filed a lawsuit against an international hotel chain and its affiliate in Oakland for systematically violating state labor laws and Oakland's minimum wage ordinance by refusing to pay overtime, failing to provide sick leave and engaging in other illegal conduct towards employees.
This complaint, which we filed on January 31st, is City's first lawsuit to enforce the Minimum Wage Ordinance voters adopted in November 2014.
Evidence shows that the Quality Inn on Enterprise Way in Oakland and its parent company, the Delaware-based Choice Hotels International, forced employees to work off the clock and without pay before and after their shifts, provided inaccurate wage statements to workers, refused to give rest, meal or bathroom breaks as required by law, failed to provide overtime or sick leave and retaliated against employees who called in sick. The violations of the state Labor Code, state Business & Professions Code and Oakland's Municipal Code go back at least four years.
Unfortunately, women and workers of color face higher rates of wage theft and exploitation. Every worker in California, regardless of their profession, their gender, race or immigration status is entitled to basic rights including sick leave and a minimum wage. My Office is committed to fighting this abuse, which violates state and local laws, undermining the stability and well-being of Oakland families.
The plaintiffs, all monolingual Spanish speakers, say they were intimidated by management and feared losing their jobs if they objected to violations.
The lawsuit seeks unpaid wages and compensation owed to employees, plus penalties, damages, attorney's fees and other costs.
In November 2014, Oakland voters overwhelmingly passed Measure FF, an amendment to the Oakland Municipal Code that established a minimum wage, requires payment for accrued sick leave and requires payment of service charges to hospitality workers.
Oakland City Attorney files amicus brief in Hayward eviction case
The lawsuit was filed against a landlord who increased tenants' rent in violation of Hayward's rent control law. When the tenants refused to pay the increase, the landlord filed an eviction action. The trial court ruled that Hayward's rent control law was ambiguous regarding rental units that had received federal or state funding, and that the landlord in question was exempt from the ordinance. The Hayward City Attorney and Hayward City Council clarified that the ordinance was intended to exempt only units that currently receive federal or state funding. But the Court disagreed and ruled that the ordinance exempts all units that have "ever received" funding in the past.
This case is not just about a questionable eviction, it is about the right of cities to clarify the interpretation of the laws and regulations they enact. As the brief states: "Clarification is an essential tool in the legislative tool kit, the necessity of which may not become apparent until decades after the ambiguous language in question has been codified."
The court should have deferred to the City of Hayward's interpretation and longstanding application of Hayward's rent control law, and should have ruled in favor of the tenants that the law was designed to protect.
Oakland joins U.S. Supreme Court battle to uphold constitutional protections for immigrants who are held in prolonged detention
In February, Oakland and other local governments across the country
filed an amicus brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold basic constitutional protections for immigrants who are held in prolonged detention by the federal government.
amicus brief was filed in the U.S. Supreme Court
on February 10, 2017 in the case Jennings v. Rodriguez. The brief supports the rights of a number of immigrants who were held in detention for months or years while they awaited deportation proceedings, with no opportunity to be considered for release.
The Supreme Court is reviewing a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision that held that immigrants in prolonged mandatory detention must be given a bond hearing every six months where an immigration judge can consider whether they can be released safely based on the individual facts and circumstances of the particular case.
Imprisoning people for months or years without basic due process protections violates fundamental human rights and dignity. Indefinite and arbitrary detentions of immigrants serve no public safety purpose, but the financial cost to taxpayers is astronomical, and the human cost to families that lose a father, mother or child for extended periods of time is staggering.
At a time when the federal government is focused on demonizing immigrants and building an East Berlin-style wall along the southern border, it is critically important for the Supreme Court to uphold fundamental constitutional principles and rights.
The amicus brief argues that holding immigrants in mandatory detention without bond hearings also harms their children and families, many of whom are U.S. citizens or lawful residents. Detention of an immigrant parent deprives families of the parent's income and associated health benefits, and may lead to job loss, homelessness and food insecurity. Not surprisingly, children of detained parents often fall behind in school and suffer from psychological problems.
When immigrants are not given the right to a bond hearing, many who could safely be released are stuck in federal immigration detention facilities for months or years, wasting billions in taxpayer dollars.
Oakland and 33 other cities and counties file amicus brief seeking nationwide injunction of Trump administration's executive order targeting "sanctuary jurisdictions"
The City of Oakland, and other local jurisdictions across the country, have joined together to challenge the president's Executive Order 13768, which threatens to withhold federal funding from "sanctuary" cities and counties.
The coalition of 34 jurisdictions, including Oakland and the cities of New Orleans, Chicago, Salt Lake City and Los Angeles, filed an amicus brief on March 22 in County of Santa Clara v. Trump, Case No. 17-cv-00574, and City and County of San Francisco v. Trump, Case No. 17-cv-00485. These lawsuits seek a nationwide injunction that would prohibit enforcement of Executive Order 13768. On March 28th, the U.S. District Court consolidated hearings on Santa Clara County's and San Francisco's motions for preliminary injunctions and scheduled the hearing on April 14 at 2:00 p.m.
Some of the amici consider themselves to be "sanctuary cities" or "sanctuary counties," while others do not. All agree that the Executive Order is unlawful and unconstitutional on its face.
Fundamental constitutional principles establish that cities and counties have no obligation to enforce federal laws; that is the federal government's job. Yet, this Executive Order seeks to coerce local jurisdictions into becoming agents of the federal government by threatening to withhold funding Congress has authorized, resulting in increased local public health and safety risks and a massive transfer of unreimbursed federal expenses to local jurisdictions.
This Executive Order is just one example of the heartless, lawless and unconscionable policies of the new administration. The promise to defund child care, housing, medical and other vital programs of sanctuary cities like Oakland that adopt common sense law enforcement policies would undermine public health and public safety, making our communities less safe.
Sanctuary city policies help police to solve and prevent crimes by allowing undocumented residents to cooperate with law enforcement and act as witnesses without fear of deportation. For example, victims of domestic violence and witnesses to crime will be less likely to report to police who might turn them over to federal immigration authorities.
Sanctuary policies have other benefits outside of law enforcement, for example, health epidemics could go untreated if large groups of residents fear deportation when they seek treatment at public hospitals.
All of the amici agree that local authorities are best positioned to assess local enforcement priorities, weigh the costs and benefits of different options, and make judgments about what will best promote the safety of their communities.
|Oakland City Attorney files amicus briefs to support challenges to new federal administration's Muslim travel ban
In March, I joined a number of amicus briefs on behalf of the City of Oakland supporting challenges to the new federal administration's cruel and unconstitutional ban on refugees of war and travel from Muslim countries.
amicus brief filed on March 23
supports the State of Hawaii's lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the second version of the administration's Muslim travel ban. The State of Hawaii asserts that the "travel" ban is a thinly veiled ban on Muslim immigration that is unconstitutional and harmful to Americans. The federal district court issued a temporary restraining order and subsequently granted Hawaii's motion for a preliminary injunction order halting the ban.
We also signed onto an
amicus brief filed March 14
supporting the State of Washington's challenge to the revised Muslim travel ban. The brief which was filed on behalf of Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Oakland and other major cities and counties across the country argues that the ban's "discrimination on the basis of religion and national origin will significantly undermine the safety, economic well-being, and social cohesion in our communities and across the United States."
I will continue to exercise my powers as Oakland City Attorney to stop the new administration's unconstitutional policies.
City Attorney in the Community
On January 26, I and members of my Office attended this year's Alameda County Bar Association Gala at the Rotunda Building in downtown Oakland. Thanks to Deputy City Attorney Kim Bliss (far left in below photo) for coordinating and to Supervising Deputy City Attorney Colin Bowen (third from left), who was sworn in to continue his tenure as a member of the board. The highlight of this year's gala was the keynote speech and musical performance of David Kelly, General Counsel of the Golden State Warriors and an accomplished musician. Thanks to everyone for representing Oakland at this great annual event.
From left to right: Oakland Police Departmental Counsel Kim Bliss, Deputy City Attorney Pelayo Llamas, Supervising Deputy City Attorney Colin Bowen, Neighborhood Law Corps Attorey Farrah Hussein, City Attorney Barbara J. Parker, Neighborhood Law Corps Attorney Patrick Bears, Deputy City Attorney Celena Chen, Special Counsel Maria Bee, Deputy City Attorney Selia Warren and Chief Assistant City Attorney Otis McGee.
Also in January, I was honored to attend the induction ceremony for Alameda County Superior Court Judge Margaret Fujioka. In June 2016, voters elected Judge Fujioka to the bench. She is a former Piedmont mayor and city councilmember, and she worked as a Deputy City Attorney in the Oakland City Attorney's Office for many years. Congratulations, Judge Fujioka from all of us in the City Attorney's Office. Below is a photo of some of the current and former members of our Office who attended the induction ceremony.
Photo Credit: Tu Nam Ton/TNT Pictures
First row: City of Alameda Senior Assistant City Attorney Farimah Faiz, former Oakland City Attorney Jayne Williams, Judge Margaret Fujioka, Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker, Oakland Police Departmental Counsel Kim Bliss.
Second row: Deputy City Attorney Pelayo Llamas, San Francisco Office of Citizen Complaints Attorney Ines Frankel Garcia, Sole Practitioner Curtis Kidder.
Third row: Chief Assistant City Attorney Doryanna Moreno, U.S. Magistrate Judge Kandis Westmore, Senior Counsel for the University of California Office of General Counsel Jennifer Chin, City of Oakland Public Works Departmental Counsel Celso Ortiz.
On March 23, I and members of my staff purchased a table for the 41st Annual Dinner of the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area (AABA). The theme of this year's event, "Stand Up for Justice," was apt given the current state of our democracy. Congratulations to
Kiran Jain, the City's Chief Resiliency Officer and a former member of the City Attorney team, who received the Joe Morozumi Award for Exceptional Legal Advocacy. I was deeply moved by the message of
Khizr Khan, who received the AABA's American Values Award. We all remember Mr. Khan's stirring, eloquent and heartfelt speech at the Democratic National Convention. He and his wife
Ghazala Khan are the parents of Captain
Humayun Khan, who was killed in combat during the Iraq War. After the Khans appeared on stage at the Democratic National Convention, then-candidate Trump mocked them on national television and compared the "sacrifice" of working on his businesses to the sacrifice of Captain Khan's life in war.
At this point, only a few months into this administration, it should be crystal clear to Americans in every state, including many who voted for Trump, that this president is a vindictive, morally corrupt and unstable person who is unfit to hold our country's highest and most powerful office.
Mr. Khan once again spoke with eloquence, passion and deep conviction, reminding us of the values enshrined in our Constitution and our obligation to ensure that our country lives up to those principles.
From left to right: Chief Assistant City Attorney Doryanna Moreno, Neighborhood Law Corps Attorney Farrah Hussein, City Attorney Barbara Parker, Executive Assistant to the City Attorney Jamie Smith, Special Counsel Dianne Millner and Deputy City Attorney Pelayo Llamas.
Phone: (510) 238-3601