March 2018 Volume 18, Issue 2
Oakland City Attorney Barbara J. Parker 
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This month, the federal judge presiding over Oakland's lawsuit against Big Oil - the five largest publicly traded fossil fuel companies in the world - held a unique, first of its kind court tutorial on the science of climate change.
Last year, Oakland and San Francisco filed lawsuits to hold Big Oil accountable for the cost to protect our cities from the consequences of climate change and rising sea levels. These companies knew for decades that their products would cause global climate change and almost catastrophic harm to cities like Oakland and our entire planet, yet they concealed that knowledge and engaged in a massive misinformation campaign to convince the world that climate change was a hoax.
During the tutorial this month, three of the world's leading climate science experts made compelling and alarming presentations to the court about the science, history and future of climate change. Read more about the hearing and our case against Big Oil below.    
Also in this month's newsletter: the City Attorney's Office files a lawsuit against a landlord for a fake "owner move-in," and partners with a locally-based nonprofit to protect tenants' civil rights, and secure economic and environmental justice and consumer protection.  
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
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Top Climate Scientists Testify in Oakland's Lawsuit against Big Oil 
On March 21st, three of the world's preeminent climate scientists testified in federal court in support of lawsuits by Oakland and San Francisco against the five largest publicly traded fossil fuel companies.
The defendant companies - Chevron, ConocoPhilips, Exxon Mobil, BP and Royal Dutch Shell - have known for decades that fossil fuel-driven global warming and accelerated sea level rise posed a catastrophic risk to human beings and to public and private property, especially in coastal cities like Oakland and San Francisco. Despite that knowledge, the companies continued to aggressively produce, market and sell vast quantities of fossil fuels for a global market, while engaging in an organized campaign to deceive consumers about the dangers of massive fossil fuel production.

The lawsuits ask the court to hold these companies responsible for the costs of sea walls and other infrastructure that will be necessary to protect Oakland and San Francisco from ongoing and future consequences of climate change and sea level rise - consequences that the companies have known about and concealed from the public for decades.
Judge William Alsup ordered both sides to present a "tutorial" on the science of climate change and its historical development at a hearing on March 21. Oakland and San Francisco brought in leading climate scientists to answer the court's questions and present tutorials about the science, history and future of climate change. You can read the full tutorials on our website.
The presentations by three of the preeminent experts on the science of climate change were compelling and alarming.
Rising seas are not just a theoretical threat to Oakland and other cities.
Climate change models show large parts of San Francisco and Oakland, including the Oakland airport, under water by the end of this century, especially during storm surges. A recent state report, Rising Seas in California, projects as much as 10 feet of additional sea level rise in the San Francisco Bay by 2100, a catastrophic scenario that would cause almost unimaginable harm to the cities of Oakland and San Francisco.

In both Oakland and San Francisco, property worth billions of dollars is located six feet or less above current sea levels. The below map shows large parts of Oakland and Alameda under water due to eight feet of sea level rise, a scenario that is well within the range of possibility by the end of the century.
Of the five defendant companies, only Richmond-based Chevron made a presentation to the court. The presentation, by one of Chevron's attorneys, was notable because Chevron acknowledged that it agrees with scientific reality: that global warming is real and it is caused by human use of fossil fuels.  
Of course, this admission does not make up for the fact that Chevron and the other defendants have spent decades denying reality and misleading the American people about the catastrophic threat of climate change.
It is past time for all of the defendant companies to acknowledge the scientific reality and take responsibility for the harm their deception has caused and will cause to Oakland, San Francisco and other cities. Anything less would be a further profound betrayal of their customers, the American people and the entire planet.
I will keep you updated about all developments in this case. 
Oakland coastline
Map of Oakland coastline with 8 feet of sea level rise. From Surging Seas Risk Zone Map.

City Attorney and Centro Legal de la Raza sue landlord for fake "owner move-in"

Landlord pretended he had moved into his property in effort to illegally displace a long term tenant and nearly triple the rent  

On March 16, the City Attorney's Neighborhood Law Corps and Centro Legal de la Raza sued a landlord who attempted to illegally increase his tenant's rent by pretending he had moved into the downstairs unit of a duplex.  

In a scheme that has become all too common as Oakland's housing crisis persists, some landlords are using sham "owner move-ins" as a tactic to evade Oakland's just cause for eviction and rent control laws.

In this case, landlord Rong Fu Lee attempted a fake owner move-in to nearly triple the rent for the family living in his rent-controlled duplex on Center Street.
Under Oakland law, an owner and certain family members may be entitled to evict a tenant or significantly increase a tenant's rent by moving into the owner's property.  In the midst of Oakland's housing crisis some landlords are violating the law by claiming they will move in, or by moving into the property for a brief period, in order to evict tenants or increase rents by exorbitant amounts.
Since 2003, tenant Salvador Sotelo and his family have lived in the Center Street duplex that Mr. Lee owns.  In 2016 Mr. Lee claimed he had been living in the downstairs unit of the duplex for a year, and that the property therefore was exempt from rent control.
However, utility bills showed months with zero water usage in the unit during that time period, and neighbors testified that Mr. Lee visited the property only infrequently.  Mr. Lee's father was even videotaped bringing trash to the property from elsewhere, apparently to make it look like the downstairs unit was occupied.
Mr. Sotelo filed a Rent Adjustment Program petition challenging the rent increase. In October 2017, a hearing officer found that increase was invalid because Mr. Lee had not occupied the unit as his primary residence for the requisite time period.
This was not the first petition Mr. Sotelo filed.  In 2014, he filed a petition against Mr. Lee for illegal rent increases and habitability violations.  According to the petition, the family had to lock their door with a two by four because the doorjamb was severely rotted and the deadbolt was loose the toilet was broken, and the unit had water damage including mold.  A hearing officer ordered Mr. Lee to reduce the rent based on the habitability issues, however, many of those issues continue to this date.
For years, Mr. Lee also has frequently entered Mr. Sotelo's unit without providing lawful notice, yelled at him, filmed him despite his objections, and told him that he either must vacate the unit or pay unlawful rent increases.

The City is suing Mr. Lee for violations of Oakland's Tenant Protection and Just Cause laws, and Centro Legal is suing on behalf of Mr. Sotelo. The lawsuit asks the court to order Mr. Lee to immediately make repairs, refrain from making verbal or written threats against the Sotelo family, and pay penalties and attorney's fees.

As Oakland continues to struggle with its historic housing crisis, we are committed to stopping landlords who engage in deceit or coercion to unlawfully raise rents or evict tenants. Depriving tenants of their homes frequently plunges families into poverty and homelessness and uproots them from the community.  We are suing unscrupulous landlords because every family that pays rent in Oakland is entitled to decent housing free from harassment and exploitation.

Also see the City Attorney's FAQ about owner move-ins.

Oakland City Attorney and Public Rights Project Launch Partnership to Support Civil Rights, Economic Justice, Consumer Protection and Environmental Litigation
In March, the Oakland based, national nonprofit Public Rights Project and the Oakland City Attorney' Office announced a partnership to increase City legal resources for civil rights, economic justice and environmental litigation to protect the rights of all Oaklanders.
On March 15, the Public Rights Project announced that it is launching its fellowship program in Oakland. The program will place a full-time legal fellow in the City Attorney's Office to help with lawsuits to safeguard the rights of Oakland's diverse communities, including communities of color, women, immigrants and low-income residents.
The legal fellow will support the work of the City Attorney's Affirmative Litigation, Innovation & Enforcement Division, which handles actions such as Oakland's recent lawsuits against the world's five largest publicly traded oil companies for deceiving the public about the catastrophic danger of fossil fuel-driven climate change, and against Wells Fargo for predatory and racially discriminatory mortgage lending practices against African American and Hispanic applicants.
I am honored and excited that the Public Rights Project is launching its fellowship program in the Oakland City Attorney's Office. The fellows will help us file cutting-edge cases to protect Oakland residents from discrimination, predatory corporate practices, abusive landlords, wage theft and fraud. Tragically, the federal government has become an adversary rather than a champion of justice, due process and equal protection. This fellowship will provide invaluable resources to help Oakland ensure justice and equal protection under the law in one of the most powerful and effective ways we can: through the courts.

Phone: (510) 238-3601



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