Ordinance aligns Oakland with peer jurisdictions by granting the City Attorney clear authority to enforce all of Oakland’s civil laws, and uniquely incorporates equity into the ordinance itself
For Immediate Release: July 19, 2023
Oakland, CA – On Tuesday July 18, the Oakland City Council unanimously adopted an ordinance that grants the Oakland City Attorney clear authority to equitably enforce all of Oakland’s civil laws to protect Oakland residents’ rights. The City’s local laws include numerous protections for Oaklanders, from the right to dignified housing conditions and work environments to safe and healthy neighborhoods. The ordinance takes effect immediately.
Previously, the City Attorney had clear authority to enforce some, but not all, Oakland laws, resulting in a patchwork of authority that varied from ordinance to ordinance. That approach prevented the City Attorney from being a critical civil backstop to the City’s other departments in enforcing local laws aimed at protecting and serving Oakland residents. It also placed the burden of some enforcement of local laws on historically and/or currently marginalized Oaklanders, who are disproportionately Black, Indigenous and other People of Color. Oakland Municipal Code (“OMC”) 1.10 places the City Attorney in a position to better protect and serve all Oaklanders.
Oakland has been an outlier compared to peer cities in California, such as San Jose, San Diego, and Los Angeles, where the city attorneys already have comprehensive authority and remedies available to enforce their local laws. OMC 1.10, entitled the Civil Protection of the People of Oakland Ordinance, now provides the Oakland City Attorney with clear and comprehensive authority and remedies.
“Oakland has a number of progressive laws aimed at protecting historically and currently marginalized community members who are disproportionately Black, Indigenous and other People of Color. However, without the full range of tools and authorities to enforce these laws – the very authorities Oakland’s peer cities already have – Oakland risked under-enforcement,” said Oakland City Attorney Barbara J. Parker. “Individual Oakland residents understandably fear retaliation, and often are not financially equipped to protect their own rights in court. The City of Oakland has a critical role in enforcing those rights on behalf of the public. My office is now able to ensure Oakland’s local laws are enforced in a manner that is both effective and equitable. I thank the City Council, Mayor Thao, City Administrator Johnson, and Director Darlene Flynn for their leadership and support of this critical legislation.”
The Civil Protection of the People of Oakland Ordinance provides the City Attorney’s Office with the authority to seek a range of remedies in civil actions to address violations of local law and advance justice. Potential legal remedies include injunctive relief (court orders to stop the harm), restitution (the return of money or property) to impacted individuals, civil penalties, and abatement. The legislation included a robust Racial Equity Impact Analysis, developed by the City Attorney’s Office with guidance from the Department of Race and Equity, reflecting the City Attorney’s commitment to equitable enforcement.
Oakland City Attorney Barbara J. Parker proposed the ordinance, and it was co-sponsored by Department of Race and Equity Director Darlene Flynn, Mayor Sheng Thao, City Administrator Jestin Johnson, City Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas, City Council President Pro Tempore Dan Kalb, Councilmember Carroll Fife, and Councilmember Treva Reid.
Additional statements in support of OMC 1.10
“Oaklanders expect and deserve to have our local laws enforced. I’m pleased that the City Council took this step to ensure the City Attorney can enforce the wide range of key protections under Oakland laws.”
– Mayor Sheng Thao
“Having authored and passed legislation to improve conditions for tenants and low-wage workers, and seeing how implementation is too often hampered by gaps in our legal enforcement system, I’m heartened that the City Attorney’s Office will now have the authority and expanded tools to equitably enforce civil laws and win justice for our most vulnerable residents.”
– Oakland City Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas
“City Attorney enforcement of civil rights is a powerful tool for advancing equity and justice in Oakland and reducing racial and other disparities in outcomes for our community. We have a responsibility to make rights enforceable for all Oaklanders. The Department of Race and Equity is proud to partner with the City Attorney on this critical legislation.”
– Darlene Flynn, Director of the Department of Race and Equity