Volume 22, Issue 2 | Second Quarter 2022 Newsletter (July 2022)
News from Oakland City Attorney
Barbara J. Parker
BJP new

  • Statement on the Supreme Court’s Decision to Overturn Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey and Summary of This Supreme Court’s Devastating, Barbarous, and Lawless Term
  • U.S. Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Challenge to Oakland’s Tenant Relocation Assistance Law – Seals Victories in Federal Trial Court and Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Rejecting Plaintiffs’ Claim that Oakland’s Ordinance is Unconstitutional
  • City of Oakland Agrees to Settlement Framework to Resolve Lawsuits Regarding the 66-Year Ground Lease of the West Gateway of the Former Oakland Army Base for a Bulk Commodity Terminal
  • City Attorney Co-Sponsors Resolution Declaring Racism a Public Health Crisis Which Oakland City Council Passed Unanimously 

Dear Friends and Fellow Oaklanders:

Parts of our local government buildings are now open, but due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, in City workplaces and buildings, masks are still required indoors for all employees and visitors, regardless of vaccination status. City employees are no longer required to wear a mask outdoors. Please refer to the City’s face-covering guidelines, which remain in effect until further notice.
For other up-to-date information and resources, see the Alameda County Public Health Department website or the City’s COVID-19 information page.

I hope you are staying healthy and safe during these unsettling times.

As always, I invite your comments and thoughts about the newsletter and our Office’s work.
Statement on the Supreme Court’s Decision to Overturn Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey and Summary of This Supreme Court’s Devastating, Barbarous, and Lawless Term
Decision to Overturn Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey
On June 24, a lawless and renegade majority of the United States Supreme Court overturned fifty years of precedent, relegating all people who can reproduce to second-class citizenship by stripping the legal right from the Constitution to control our reproduction, our bodies, and our freedom. This decision extinguishes a right that had been guaranteed under the Constitution’s Due Process Clause, an unprecedented and dangerous step that shows us that no right that we hold firm and sacred is truly safe.

This decision is tragic. As the brave dissenters point out, the Court has condemned pregnant people in much of this country to a life where, from the moment of fertilization, the state controls their bodies. A state can force a pregnancy to term even if it is the result of rape or incest, or if it has a fatal disease and no hope of survival. This decision harms us all, relegating all of us to live in a world that is less safe and less free.

Indeed, that is the point. This is a step in this Court’s cruel crusade to reduce and remove rights and freedoms, not its end. As justices suggested in this very decision, the goal is not merely to overturn Roe: it is to end all of the rights that emanate from that same constitutional source. They seek to end the right to marriage equality set forth in Obergefell v. Hodges, the right to sexual privacy regardless of one’s gender or legal relationship set forth in Lawrence v. Texas, and the very right to contraception and bodily autonomy set forth in Griswold v. Connecticut. And as the three surviving progressive and law-abiding Justices declared, “[t]he majority has overruled Roe and Casey for one and only one reason: because it has always despised them, and now it has the votes to discard them.”

Tragically, that was not this Court’s only outrageous decision. This term, the Court has wrought colossal damage akin to an avalanche.
The Court’s 2021-2022 Term
June 30 marked the end of the worst United States Supreme Court term in more than a century. In one term, the fanatical and lawless majority has upended multiple cornerstones of constitutional law, overruled decades and, in some cases, centuries of precedent, and exacerbated the dangerous and terrifying division and chaos that is plaguing our country.
Elected officials like me cannot be silent as we are bombarded with this Court’s devastating, barbarous, and lawless rulings; silence plays a role in legitimizing and accepting them.
The injustices wrought this term include:
  • West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency, which stripped the EPA of some of its crucial authority to regulate climate change-causing greenhouse gas emissions and undermined the ability of all federal regulatory agencies to issue rules that detail and make current the broad protections passed by Congress.
  • Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta, which rewrote centuries of Native American history, twisting or simply inventing facts and precedent to justify curtailing the true breadth of tribal sovereignty that had only recently been returned through McGirt v. Oklahoma.
  • Decimating the separation of church and state, holding in Carson v. Makin that states must fund religious programs even if those programs openly discriminate against LGBTQIA+ or other minority students, and holding in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District that public schools must allow public Christian prayer at school activities even if students feel coerced to participate.
  • Overturning centuries of precedent for regulating firearms in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, holding that the Second Amendment “elevate[d] above all other interests the right of law-abiding, responsible citizens to use arms for self-defense,” a decision suggesting that the right to carry a gun may carry more weight with this Court than the right to speak, assemble, or vote.
By virtue of these tragic and lawless decisions, we are less safe today because this Court has arbitrarily curtailed fundamental freedoms and rights.
But these decisions are not simply separate, isolated tragedies. They are the result of decades of work, of a longstanding, and growing, nationwide illiberal campaign to turn back the clock to a time when only the few were powerful and only the privileged were free. This campaign has been funded by American oligarchs, fueled by brutal ideologues, influenced a generation of lawyers and politicians, and trained and selected the judges—including the majority on this Court—who decide what our laws mean. This campaign is about eviscerating voting rights for Black Americans; immigration, asylum, and citizenship rights from Latinx, Asian, and other new Americans; land rights from Indigenous Americans; the very right to legal existence for LGBTQIA+ Americans; and much, much more.

Yet, despite where we find ourselves today, this can still be just a moment in time. We can and must weather these catastrophes and remember that we have been here before. I am part of the generation that remembers life before Roe v. Wade. As a woman and a descendant of enslaved Africans, I and my parents and ancestors have suffered this country’s oppressions, experienced some of its freedoms, and will experience both again. And what I know today is that we cannot give up. We cannot grow numb. We must acknowledge our grief—and let it motivate us to action. I firmly believe and know in my heart that we will not give in or give up, and that we will succeed in restoring and expanding our rights. We will fight to protect the people of Oakland, and will fight with our sister governments to protect people across California—and, however we can, to bring rights and freedoms back nationwide. We have the power to do this together.
U.S. Supreme Court Refuses To Hear Challenge To Oakland’s Tenant Relocation Assistance Law – Seals Victories in Federal Trial Court and Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Rejecting Plaintiffs’ Claim that Oakland’s Ordinance is Unconstitutional
Despite their otherwise horrific term, on June 6, the United States Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge to Oakland’s Uniform Residential Tenant Relocation Ordinance. The Court’s denial of the petition requesting review means that Oakland’s victories in the lower courts will stand—affirming a critical component of Oakland’s comprehensive tenant protections, and affirming that local governments can successfully defend progressive policies against coordinated attacks by the conservative legal movement.

This case, Ballinger v. City of Oakland, began in 2018 when local landlords evicted their tenants in order to move back in, and paid the tenants the relocation assistance required under Oakland’s local laws. Calling the relocation payment “ransom,” the plaintiffs challenged Oakland’s ordinance, claiming it was unconstitutional on several grounds, including that the City was “taking” their property and that the payment was an unlawful “seizure” of their money.

In 2019, the federal District Court for the Northern District of California agreed with the City that every one of the plaintiffs’ claims should be dismissed, as no law supports their theories. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, upholding the dismissals earlier this year in an opinion confirming that Oakland’s ordinance is constitutional, and is consistent with many other types of lawful government regulation, from requiring corporations to pay to clean up hazardous waste to monetary assessments on tobacco companies.

This challenge to Oakland’s tenant protections is not an isolated case; it is part of a growing national campaign against progressive policy and policymakers who seek to balance the scales by providing protections for historically and currently marginalized communities. The plaintiffs in this matter were represented by the Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF), which is funded and guided by major corporate interests such as ExxonMobil and the tobacco industry, and by conservative foundations financed by right-wing billionaires such as the Koch brothers and the Scaife family. PLF has been involved in innumerable challenges to governments’ ability to protect vulnerable tenants from eviction and discrimination, raise money via taxation, and much more.

This is an important and just victory for the City of Oakland—and for tenants’ rights. By refusing to consider overturning the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court affirmed what we have said since this litigation began: the City’s Uniform Residential Tenant Relocation Ordinance is a lawful—and vital—protection for Oakland tenants against no-fault eviction. The Ordinance provides critical minimal relocation assistance to tenants who, through no fault of their own, are displaced by evictions. Many displaced tenants suddenly face unforeseen relocation expenses, lose the benefits of rent control, and face a brutal rental housing market. The reasonable assistance required by the relocation ordinance eases the hardship of an unanticipated eviction and makes it more likely that displaced tenants will obtain alternative housing and not become homeless.

We are proud that Oakland will continue to enforce our laws, protect our tenants, and stand up to the legal movement and campaign to obliterate those laws and protections.
City of Oakland Agrees to Settlement Framework to Resolve Lawsuits Regarding the 66-Year Ground Lease of the West Gateway of the Former Oakland Army Base for a Bulk Commodity Terminal
In January, the City of Oakland, Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal, LLC (OBOT), California Capital Investment Group (CCIG), Insight Terminal Solutions, LLC (ITS), and Oakland Global Rail Enterprise, LLC (OGRE) reached agreement on a framework for settling two pending lawsuits that arose out of disputes regarding the City’s 2016 Army Base Redevelopment Project, and specifically the 66-year Ground Lease of the West Gateway of the former Oakland Army Base for a bulk commodity terminal (the Ground Lease).

Having agreed to the key terms of the settlement framework, the parties proceeded to crafting and discussing the terms of a settlement agreement and related documents to: (1) ensure that no coal or coke will be loaded, unloaded, transferred between any mode of transportation, including without limitation between or among a motor vehicle, ship, or train at the West Gateway; (2) resolve the pending lawsuits and allow development of the West Gateway to proceed; and (3) ensure the City receives compensation under the Ground Lease for the use of this valuable public land.

The pending lawsuits arose out of disputes regarding two development contracts that govern the City-owned West Gateway land: the Development Agreement and the 66-year Ground Lease. For additional background on these matters, please see the City’s press release.

We remain committed to securing a comprehensive settlement that is in accord with the settlement framework that the parties agreed to in January—and hopeful that it has negotiating partners in OBOT. The City looks forward to continuing confidential negotiations to reach a successful resolution well before the April 2023 trial date.
City Attorney Co-Sponsors Resolution Declaring Racism a Public Health Crisis Which Oakland City Council Passed Unanimously
On June 7, the Oakland City Council unanimously passed a resolution declaring racism a public health crisis and reaffirming Oakland’s commitment to advancing racial equity. The City Attorney’s Office authored the resolution in partnership with my colleague, Darlene Flynn, Director of the City’s Department of Race and Equity. The resolution was co-sponsored by City Attorney Barbara J. Parker, City Administrator Ed Reiskin, Council President Pro Tem Sheng Thao, and Councilmembers Carroll Fife, Treva Reid, and Loren Taylor.
Although systemic racism has long existed in Oakland and across the state, country, and globe, the Covid-19 pandemic further revealed and exacerbated existing racial inequities. The highest incidences of Covid-19 have been in the East Oakland flatlands, disproportionately impacting Black and Latinx residents, renters at risk of displacement, and economically vulnerable households and neighborhoods. Sparked by these types of disturbing injustices that the pandemic laid bare, and by other longstanding and systemic racial injustices, City Attorney Parker proposed this measure to explicitly recognize that structural racism has led to, among other things, a public health crisis in Oakland.
This resolution uplifts important steps the City has taken to address racial equity, particularly since the establishment of the Department of Race and Equity five years ago, and acknowledges that much more work must be done. The City’s Department of Race and Equity (DRE) served as a co-drafter and thought partner in developing the resolution; many other city departments similarly contributed their expertise to the legislation.
The resolution commits the City to the immediate next steps of providing $350,000 in the mid-cycle budget for DRE to hire a Race and Equity Data Analyst and to obtain consulting services to improve city-wide systems to collect and analyze data to track equity progress. These people and resources will also be deployed to update the City’s baseline data from its 2018 equity indicators report every five years and to further develop the City’s public-facing equity indicators website to reflect new data, promoting accountability and transparency. Leading with this data will allow the City to reach answers, choose solutions, and set priorities that center racial justice.
This resolution is a milestone in the longstanding quest to eliminate racial disparities and secure equity for Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and Asian Pacific Islanders in Oakland. For too long, the grave personal and public health effects of racism, from medical racism to environmental racism, have been ignored. This resolution commits us to begin in earnest the hard work of eliminating those impacts and pursuing a future that is healthier and more just for Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and Asian Pacific Islanders in Oakland.
As Director Flynn eloquently stated: “This is an important step that helps to keep the momentum going behind the difficult transformational work that we are trying to do with very few resources. But aspiration without actions will not change the world. This resolution is a reminder to us that we can and must resource the action we care about, and learn to use data to communicate effectively about racial justice.”
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