Pittsburgh neighborhood organizations defend inclusionary zoning, affordable housing, and diverse neighborhoods
Lawrenceville, Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh is facing an escalating crisis in housing affordability. In response, the City passed an inclusionary zoning ordinance this spring, requiring new large developments to set aside units that are affordable to working class residents in neighborhoods where housing costs are increasing rapidly. The Builders Association of Metropolitan Pittsburgh is seeking to block this law in federal court in a lawsuit filed May 12, 2022.

On August 16, the people of Pittsburgh fought back. We represent community organizations in neighborhoods where housing costs are soaring—Lawrenceville United, the Bloomfield Development Corporation, the Polish Hill Civic Association, the Hill District Consensus Group, and the Fair Housing Partnership—and filed a motion to intervene in the case and defend inclusionary zoning, affordable housing, and diverse communities. We're joined by co-counsel from the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Community Justice Project.

We cannot stand idle while racial and economic segregation accelerate,” our staff attorney Mary Beth Schluckebier said. “Our clients are standing up for a future where their communities can be home to all, not just the fortunate few who can keep up with skyrocketing housing costs.

Our motion was covered by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Pittsburgh City Paper. Our client Dave Breingan also joined City Cast Pittsburgh for an audio tour of Lawrenceville, highlighting the need for affordable housing and inclusive communities.
Join us for our 2022 annual celebration,
Persevering for Justice!
We are so excited to see you at our 2022 annual celebration! Join us at Vie on Broad Street in Philadelphia as we celebrate those who never give up in the fight for civil, social and economic rights at Persevering for Justice!

When: Thursday, October 27, 2022, 6-9 PM
Where: Vie, 600 North Broad Street, Philadelphia PA

Individual tickets are $150; tickets for non-profit colleagues, teachers and students are $75. Sponsorships are also available--contact Stephanie Davis for more information at sdavis@pubintlaw.org or 267-546-1303.
Honoring those who led the fight for fair school funding in Pennsylvania
Top photo: our clients, six superintendents from Pennsylvania school districts. Bottom photo: From left to right: O’Melveny attorneys Chris Burke, Harry Liberman, Eli Grossman, and Law Center staff attorney Claudia De Palma working during the school funding trial.

This year, we will present our Thaddeus Stevens Award to those who made the fight for a constitutional public school funding system in Pennsylvania possible. We'll recognize our own Michael Churchill, who joined the Law Center as co-director in 1976 and who for more than 50 years dedicated his career to advancing civil and social rights, including the right to a quality public education. We'll honor our brave clients in our school funding trial, superintendents from six Pennsylvania school districts, and our tireless pro bono co-counsel, O'Melveny and Meyers. Read more about this year's honorees here!
West Powelton Drummers
Spiral Q
Our celebration features exciting and thought-provoking entertainment from local Philadelphia artists: the West Powelton Drummers and Spiral Q, known for their giant puppets and creative political action. Learn more about this year's artists here!
Our comment on new proposed SBA rules for veterans with criminal histories
Recently, the Small Business Administration (SBA) proposed changes to its rules for programs certifying veteran-owned small businesses for consideration for federal contracts. The SBA took a step forward for inclusion of Americans with criminal records by removing categorical exclusions of business owners who are on parole, on probation, or incarcerated. Unfortunately, the agency left in place vaguely defined language requiring applicants to display “good character,” a requirement that is ripe for bias towards applicants who have had contact with the criminal justice system.

Led by the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and the Collateral Consequences Resource Center, we joined 26 organizations nationwide in public comments expressing our concern about the new proposed rule leaving this requirement in place and urging the SBA to take an evidence-based approach to evaluating whether any particular criminal history has any bearing on the performance of a contract.

The absence of criteria makes it impossible for small business owners with criminal records to know how to maximize their chances of certification, understand how their application will be evaluated, and predict the likelihood of certification,” we write. Read the full comment here.
Law Center in the News: Underfunded districts, unresolved lawsuit
As students head back to school across Pennsylvania, we await a decision in our school funding challenge that could provide more resources to low-wealth school districts that have been left behind for decades. WFMZ-TV in Allentown covered the pending decision in our school funding case on August 10. "The inadequate resources prevent many Pennsylvania students from meeting academic standards set by the state," Deborah Gordon Klehr, executive director of our partner Education Law Center PA said. "The state legislature has an obligation to ensure that every student, not only those living in select ZIP codes, receive the basic resources they need." Read more here.
Join us for a Vacant Land 215 training, September 21
Want to learn more about community gardening and farming on vacant land in Philadelphia? Join us for a free online Vacant Land 215 training on Wednesday, September 21 from 12-1:30 p.m.

Our Garden Justice Legal Initiative and Soil Generation invite you to come discuss legal land access and preservation for gardens, farms, and other community-managed open spaces.

The program will feature presentations from the Garden Justice Legal Initiative, Neighborhood Gardens Trust, and the Philadelphia Land Bank, who will be available to discuss City policies towards preserving community-managed green space. Following this presentation, participants will be able to ask questions of panelists.
Senior attorneys Ben Geffen and Dan Urevick-Ackelsberg
Ben Geffen
Dan Urevick-Ackelsberg
Two of our attorneys, Ben Geffen and Dan Urevick-Ackelsberg, were recently promoted to Senior Attorney in recognition of their extensive experience and accomplishments in civil rights and public interest law while at the Law Center. Ben Geffen started at the Law Center in 2010 and works across several practice areas, including voting rights, public health, and civil rights for people with criminal records. He helped lead our successful challenge to Pennsylvania's gerrymandered congressional district map in 2018. Dan Urevick-Ackelsberg joined the Law Center in 2015 and focuses his practice on education and housing issues. Most recently, he helped lead our litigation team during a four month trial challenging Pennsylvania's unconstitutional system of public school funding. Help us congratulate them by liking their post on LinkedIn!