Volume 23, Issue 1 | Second Quarter 2023 Newsletter (May 2023)


News from Oakland City Attorney

Barbara J. Parker

  • Highlights from our affirmative litigation team

  • Oakland’s COVID-19 eviction moratorium protects tenants’ housing

  • State approves Oakland’s Housing Element

  • OCA Spotlight: Meet Chief Assistant City Attorney Maria Bee

Dear Fellow Oaklanders:

As you may know, City Hall is open for in-person business. Our Office is not open for in-person business as the City Attorney team continues to work remotely. You can reach our team by calling 510-238-3601. And if you have a legal question for the Oakland City Attorney’s office, reach out to our “Attorney of the Month” at [email protected] with "attorney of the month" in the subject line. We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.


This newsletter premiers a new feature: the OCA Spotlight, where I will shine a light on one of my team members who helps our Office perform important and critical work. This issue, the spotlight is on Chief Assistant City Attorney Maria Bee, who oversees our Litigation Division, including both our defense and affirmative litigation. Not only does Maria oversee and coordinate our defense litigation, Maria is also a driving force in our efforts to fight for a racially just, equitable and healthy city for all of our residents.


As always, I invite your comments and thoughts about this newsletter and the work of the Oakland City Attorney team.

Recent Affirmative Litigation Wins

The Office of the City Attorney handles two types of litigation. The first is affirmative litigation, where my team and I prosecute lawsuits and take other affirmative actions to enforce City, state and federal laws and protect and advance the rights of Oakland residents. In recent months, our affirmative litigation team has secured some significant victories.


After definitively winning a lawsuit against a large Oakland real estate and taxi empire in 2021, we recently secured a victory in enforcing that trial court judgment that will provide some immediate protections for Oakland residents. Although the Oakland City Attorney team won on every claim at the trial court meaning the team proved that the defendants violated Oakland’s Tenant Protection Ordinance and state and local public nuisance laws – the defendants appealed the trial court’s judgment and have claimed that aspects of the trial court’s ruling are on hold during their appeal. Because appeals can take years, the litigation team went back to the trial court to make sure the defendants at least take all of the trial court’s required steps to comply with state and local law even while the legal process moves forward. The court agreed that while the defendants have the right to appeal the lower court’s ruling, they still have to take necessary measures to comply with the law while the appellate process moves forward. This recent development ensures that impacted Oakland residents will immediately feel some of the benefits of our legal win even as the case continues to wind its way through the courts.


The Office has also seen some important recent progress in our effort to hold the opioid industry accountable for the harms these highly addictive substances have caused to Oakland residents and to the city as a whole. As the entire country has become attuned to the devastating effects of the opioid crisis on individuals and communities, Oakland has been part of the nationwide effort by local, state, and tribal governments to hold these corporate actors accountable for their role in the opioid epidemic—and, via settlements, to bring funding from these defendants back to communities to address the crisis’ ongoing fallout. Those efforts have led to several nationwide settlements in which the City of Oakland is participating. Most recently, the City Council approved my office’s recommendation to enter into five new settlements with opioid industry defendants Teva, Allergan, CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart. All told, the City of Oakland will receive more than $10 million across settlements to support programs like homelessness-related services, youth-oriented opioid treatment, and increased access to naloxone, to help abate the opioid crisis.


Also, in late 2022, my office finalized a settlement with Monsanto, bringing an end to litigation that we filed alongside 12 other public entities in 2020 to hold the chemical company accountable for damage caused to our waterways through widespread contamination of the “forever chemicals” known as PCBs. The settlement brought $7.5 million to the City of Oakland to provide compensation to cover part of the costs to remove the contamination.


And in addition to pursuing litigation to protect the health and wellbeing of Oaklanders, my office also lends its voice in support of the efforts of other litigants who are addressing a variety of health, safety, and justice issues at the regional, state, and national levels. In recent months, the litigation team has joined briefs supporting the ongoing legality and importance of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for immigrant youth; challenging the termination of Temporary Protected Status for people from Haiti, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Sudan; arguing for the legality of President Biden’s student borrower debt cancellation; and more. For example, a March ruling from a California appellate court on a key rent control case closely reflected arguments that the City Attorney’s Office made in a “friend of the court” brief submitted by my team. The ruling found that rehabilitated rental units are not newly constructed, which would make them exempt from rent control under California’s Costa Hawkins Rental Housing Act, and therefore can be subject to local rent control.  

Upholding Oakland’s Eviction Moratorium

In addition to our affirmative litigation work, the Charter mandates that the City Attorney represent and defend the City of Oakland when the City is sued. One of our recent victories involved the City’s eviction moratorium ordinance, which has protected tenants from eviction during the pandemic if they don't pay their rent.


In this case, the plaintiffs, a non-profit that represents rental property owners, asked the court to invalidate the City’s eviction moratorium ordinance asserting that language of the ordinance violates the federal and state constitutions. The court denied their motion, allowing the eviction moratorium to remain in effect while the case proceeds. Thanks to the excellent work of my office’s litigation team, vulnerable renters in Oakland continue to have the protections of the City’s eviction moratorium subject to the City Council’s determination to terminate the moratorium.

State Approved City of Oakland’s Housing Element

Every eight years, each city and county in California is required to submit its “Housing Element” to the California Department of Housing and Community Development (“HCD”). The Housing Element is essentially a blueprint that sets forth how each city and county plans to meet the housing needs of current and projected future residents of all income levels. In February 2023, the City of Oakland received State approval for its Housing Element.


The Housing Element is a complex document, and many jurisdictions have had trouble securing approval of their plans if HCD determines that the plan will not create enough housing for a city’s residents. The legal advice and counsel provided by attorneys in the Land Use and Real Estate Units of our Office’s Advisory Division was instrumental in securing approval of Oakland’s Housing Element. The Housing Element is consistent with my firm belief that housing is a human right and that every Californian deserves a safe and affordable place to call home.

City Attorney Team Spotlight

Introducing our Oakland City Attorney Team!

Chief Assistant City Attorney Maria Bee

Chief Assistant City Attorney Maria Bee oversees the Affirmative and Defense Litigation Division of our Office. She is a member of the City Attorney's Executive Team.


“Maria Bee consistently demonstrates superb judgment and sound leadership and is an exemplary attorney as well as an active member of the Oakland community. Maria masterfully oversees our innovative affirmative litigation work and ensures that our Office adeptly represents and defends the City when lawsuits are filed against the City. Maria works tirelessly and is an invaluable member of the Executive Team. It is my distinct honor and pleasure to have worked closely with Maria for nearly ten years.”

– City Attorney Barbara J. Parker


Ms. Bee has 25 years of experience in the legal community, both as a practicing attorney and as a fighter for justice for the most vulnerable populations. Under Ms. Bee’s supervision, the City Attorney’s Affirmative Litigation Division has prosecuted major cases including Oakland’s groundbreaking 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.


Career highlights:

  • Chief Assistant Oakland City Attorney (2018-present): Oversees the City Attorney’s litigation division.

  • Supervising Attorney, Oakland City Attorney’s Affirmative Litigation, Innovation & Enforcement Division (2016-2018): Founding lead attorney for this newly established division, which focuses on social, economic and environmental justice for Oakland residents.

  • Supervising Attorney, Oakland City Attorney’s Litigation Division (2014-2016)

  • Chief of the Victim Services Division, San Francisco District Attorney’s Office (2006-2014): Provided critical services to victims of crime in San Francisco.

  • Deputy Oakland City Attorney (2000-2006): Prosecuted civil hate crimes lawsuits and handled litigation matters including dangerous conditions of public property, breach of contract and alleged constitutional violations. Lead counsel in high profile jury trials including a six-week trial in Bari v. City of Oakland.

Ms. Bee graduated from UC Berkeley School of Law and began her legal career as an associate at McCutchen Doyle, Brown & Enerson, where she handled general commercial litigation cases.


Ms. Bee is a member of the Charles Houston Bar Association and serves on the board of the Alameda County Bar Association. She formerly chaired the Alameda County Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Service committee and served as Chairperson of the Board of Directors of La Casa de Las Madres, an advocacy program for survivors of domestic violence.

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