Volume 20, Issue 1 | January 2020
News from Oakland City Attorney
Barbara J. Parker
BJP new
This month:

  • City Council unanimously passes first reading of Fair Chance Access to Housing Ordinance co-sponsored by the City Attorney
  • Alameda County Bar Association honors Chief Assistant City Attorney Maria Bee with the Government Attorney Distinguished Service Award
  • Our Annual Report for Fiscal Year 2018-2019 (July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019) will be in our February newsletter)!

As always, we 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 Council unanimously passes motion introducing the landmark Ronald V. Dellums and Simbarashe Sherry Fair Chance Access to Housing Ordinance co-sponsored by City Attorney Barbara J. Parker
On January 21, the City Council unanimously passed a motion introducing a landmark ordinance that will prohibit consideration of criminal history in screening applications for rental housing in Oakland. Ordinances require two readings. The second reading will occur at the February 4, 2020 Council meeting. The Ordinance will help individuals with criminal records to gain access to housing in Oakland.

The Fair Chance Access to Housing Ordinance , co-sponsored by City Attorney Barbara J. Parker, Vice Mayor Larry Reid, Councilmember Nikki Fortunato Bas and Council President Pro Tem Dan Kalb, will address the "prison-to-homelessness pipeline" that creates formidable obstacles to individuals with criminal records obtaining housing. The City previously prohibited consideration of criminal history in City employment applications, typically referred to as the “ban the box” law.  This ordinance will remove a barrier that is preventing access to housing in our city. Access to housing and employment are essential to allow individuals with criminal records to re-integrate into our communities.

The ordinance will prohibit landlords from using criminal background checks to screen tenants and also will prohibit landlords from asking tenants if they have a criminal record. The ordinance allows landlords to check California's sex offender registry, and will not apply to some types of housing, including single-family dwellings that the owner occupies as a principal residence, and properties divided into a maximum of three units, if the owner occupies one of the units as his/her principal residence. The ordinance also allows screening and rejection of applicants with criminal records by federally-funded housing providers when required by federal law.

The crisis of mass incarceration has disproportionately impacted African Americans, and is one of the great national failures of our time. This crisis is a direct legacy of the enslavement of African people and the Jim Crow era that followed abolition of slavery in the U.S. 

Between 1980 and 2008, the number of people incarcerated in America quadrupled, from about 500,000 to 2.3 million, where it remains today. This expansion has been focused – in a massively disproportionate manner – on African Americans. African Americans now make up about 1 million of the 2.3 million prisoners. African Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of whites, not because they commit crimes at a higher rate than whites, but because African Americans are subject to much more aggressive policing and arrests, and much harsher charges and sentences, than other ethnicities.

If the City Council approves the ordinance with six affirmative votes on the second reading of the ordinance on February 4, it will take effect immediately.  If the ordinance is approved on second reading by five votes, it will take effect seven days after adoption. However, no housing provider will be liable for violating the ordinance during the first six months after enactment unless they first receive a warning letter.

I want to thank the staff of the nonprofit Just Cities , including Executive Director Margaretta Lin and Community + Political Engagement Director John Jones III, for their vision and their tireless work on this project. I also recognize the attorneys in my Office who worked on the Ordinance: Supervising Deputy City Attorney Laura Lane, and Deputy City Attorneys Kent Qian and Oliver Luby.
Chief Assistant City Attorney Maria Bee honored with Distinguished Service Award
ACBA awards JAN 23 2020
On Thursday, January 23rd, the Alameda County Bar Association (“ACBA”) honored Chief Assistant City Attorney Maria Bee with the Government Attorney Distinguished Service Award.

The ACBA selected Chief Assistant City Attorney Bee as the recipient of this year’s award for her volunteer service and her work as the head of the affirmative and defense litigation divisions of the Oakland City Attorney’s Office.

Photo: Members of the City Attorney’s Office at the Jan. 23 awards ceremony. First row: Special Counsel David Pereda, Senior Deputy City Attorney Selia Warren, Deputy City Attorney Trish Shafie, Deputy City Attorney Brian Mulry; Second row: Deputy City Attorney Cynthia Stein, Chief Assistant City Attorney Maria Bee, Deputy City Attorney Malia McPherson, Supervising Deputy City Attorney Laura Lane; Third row: Deputy City Attorney Michael Quirk, Deputy City Attorney Michael Branson, Senior Deputy City Attorney Kevin McLaughlin, Deputy City Attorney Amadis Sotelo and Deputy City Attorney Ravi Patel.

Maria has more than 25 years of experience practicing law. Throughout her career, she has fought to protect the rights of and secure justice for vulnerable populations.

In 2018, I appointed Maria to oversee affirmative and defense litigation for the City Attorney’s Office, including the Affirmative Litigation, Innovation & Enforcement Division and the General & Complex Litigation Division (Defense). Under her supervision, the Affirmative Litigation Division has prosecuted a number of major cases, including but not limited to Oakland’s climate change lawsuit against the five largest publicly owned fossil fuel companies in the world, Oakland’s lawsuit against Monsanto chemical corporation seeking damages for the company’s pollution of Oakland storm water with toxic PCBs, and Oakland’s lawsuit against Wells Fargo Bank for racially discriminatory and predatory mortgage lending practices against African American and Hispanic borrowers. 

The Division, which includes the City Attorney’s award-winning Neighborhood Law Corps program, also has prioritized litigation and legislation to protect tenants from predatory landlords and to shut down massage parlors that are fronts for sex trafficking.

Maria's distinguished service includes her work as Chairperson of the Alameda County Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Service committee and as former Chairperson of the Board of Directors of La Casa de Las Madres , an advocacy program for survivors of domestic violence. She is a native Oaklander who graduated from Skyline High School, received her Bachelor of Arts Degree in French History from the University of California, Berkeley and graduated from UC Berkeley School of Law.

In 2018, the ACBA awarded the Oakland City Attorney’s Office the Distinguished Service Award for Law Firm of the Year . And last year, the ACBA gave the Government Attorney Distinguished Service Award to former Supervising Deputy City Attorney Colin Bowen, who was appointed as Alameda County Superior Court Judge in December 2018.

Maria's superb judgment and imperturbability under pressure make her an exemplary attorney and a consummate public servant. Thank you to the ACBA for recognizing her distinguished service in the City of Oakland and her long history of volunteer service.

In Brief
In our next newsletter, please look for our Fiscal Year 2018-2019 (July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019) Annual Report detailing litigation trends, financial outcomes, policy advice, special initiatives and proactive, affirmative lawsuits that my Office undertook during the last fiscal year. The City Attorney has published an annual report every year since the beginning of this century to give a comprehensive and transparent accounting of the work we perform on behalf of our residents and taxpayers. We are scheduled to present the Fiscal Year 2018-2019 Annual Report to the City Council's Finance and Management Committee on February 25th. KTOP will broadcast the committee meeting live.

You can find all of our previous annual reports on our website.
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