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Oakland City Attorney

Oakland City Attorney

Oakland City Attorney

Oakland City Attorney

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city and urban

Recent Legal Highlights: Spring 2024

Alameda County Taxpayers’ Association, Inc. and Marcus Crawley v. City of Oakland

In November 2022 Oakland voters passed Measure Y, a voter-initiative parcel tax measure that provides funding for the Oakland Zoo. Measure Y raises about $12.0 million annually for the Zoo by imposing a $68 parcel tax on single-family parcels, and other parcels, for twenty years. Measure Y requires that the City Council increase the tax on an annual basis based on two price indices, including the annual percentage change in California per capita personal income.

The Alameda County Taxpayers’ Association, Inc. and Marcus Crawley (“Plaintiffs”) filed a lawsuit against the City challenging the validity of Measure Y on several grounds, including that the Measure:

  1. requires 66.7% (two-thirds) approval of the voting electorate, which it did not receive;
  2. grants certain powers and duties to the current operator of the Zoo, which Plaintiffs allege abuses the initiative process; and
  3. includes a mandatory annual tax increase provision that lacks any connection or rational basis to Oakland parcel taxpayers.

In March, the court granted the City’s motion to dismiss four legal claims in Plaintiffs’ complaint which alleged that Measure Y did not pass because it did not receive 66.7% of the “yes” votes. The court agreed that because Measure Y is a voter-sponsored initiative, it needed just one vote more than 50% of the votes cast to pass, which it received.

We are continuing to pursue the City’s defense of Measure Y’s validity with respect to the remaining legal claims in Plaintiffs’ complaint.

People of the State of California and the City of Oakland v. James H. Chau, King V. Chau, Judy N. Chau, et al.

In March, we obtained a final judgment in favor of the People of the State of California and the City of Oakland for violations of the Tenant Protection Ordinance (“TPO”), Code Compliance Relocation Program Ordinance (“CCRP”), and public nuisance causes of action. We sought civil penalties, punitive damages, restitution, and attorney’s fees. The court awarded $2.4 million in civil penalties to the City of Oakland, entered a permanent injunction against the Defendants, and ordered the Defendants to pay full rent restitution to tenants who lived at the subject properties during the time period at issue in the lawsuit. On May 3rd we filed a motion to recover our attorneys’ fees; we are seeking $1.5 million.

The lawsuit was brought by the Neighborhood Law Corp and Housing Justice Initiative units of our office’s Affirmative Litigation, Innovation and Enforcement Division.

In 2020 the Alameda County Superior Court had granted the City of Oakland’s motion for a preliminary injunction and for the appointment of a receiver to immediately take over management of two properties (1030 Foothill Boulevard and 1130 E. 11th Street) owned by Defendants King V. Chau, James H. Chau, and Judy N. Chau. At both of these properties, Defendants: (1) rented out multiple illegally converted units; (2) did not provide basic safety protections such as carbon monoxide or smoke detectors; (3) created severe fire hazards through unapproved wiring and storage of combustible materials; (4) required their tenants to live without power and, more recently, without gas; and (5) subjected their tenants to repeated harassment. These properties placed tenants and surrounding communities at serious risk of harm.

For years, the City of Oakland tried everything short of litigation to push Defendants to bring their properties into compliance with the law. However, despite 27 separate inspections by the City’s Code Enforcement unit, along with eight Notices of Violation (“NOVs”), three Re-Inspection Notices, two Notices of Intent to Obtain an Inspection and Abatement Warrant, one Order to Abate, a right of entry letter, and two Red-Tags formally declaring a property unsafe for human habitation, Defendants refused to take minimal steps to comply and to ensure the safety of their tenants.

Although all of the violations that led to City inspections and notices were serious, the danger to the tenants and their neighbors became graver in 2020. After yet another fire—the fifth between the two properties—the tenants at 1030 Foothill not only lacked electricity, but also lost access to gas. They were forced to use battery-powered lights, rely on quilts to stay warm, and cook using flammable charcoal indoors.

As part of the 2020 order, the court approved the immediate appointment of a receiver, a neutral third-party custodian, to take over day-to-day control of the properties, remedy the unsafe conditions, and protect the rights of the tenants and neighbors.

Gene Hazzard v. City of Oakland, et al.

Gene Hazzard sued the City, the City Council, former Councilmember Taylor, Mayor Thao, former Mayor Schaaf, former City Auditor Ruby, and City Attorney Parker, asking the court to declare Measure X invalid and enjoin its implementation. Measure X is a 2022 ballot measure that amended the City Charter in a number of ways, including but not limited to (1) changing the formulas for calculating the salaries of the City Attorney and City Auditor (2) establishing minimum staffing for the City Auditor’s Office, and (3) amending the operations of the City Council.

Plaintiff Hazzard argued that Measure X violates the “single-subject rule” of the California Constitution because it included multiple reforms in one ballot measure that was presented to Oakland voters. On April 8, 2024, the court granted the City’s motion to dismiss the complaint without leave to amend based on its determination that the single-subject rule does not apply to Measure X because it was placed on the ballot by the City Council.

Courtney Brown v. City of Oakland

Courtney Brown, a former City employee, sued the City under California’s Confidentiality of Medical Information Act (the “Confidentiality Act”). Plaintiff Brown claimed the City violated the Confidentiality Act when it required her to report her COVID-19 vaccine status as part of the enforcement of the City’s employee-wide vaccine mandate. The City sought to dismiss the case on the grounds that the Confidentiality Act does not preclude it from requiring its employees to self-report whether they received the COVID-19 vaccine. After multiple rounds of legal briefing, the Court agreed with the City’s position and dismissed Brown’s case. If Brown had prevailed, the case not only would have continued, but more importantly, it might have opened the door to more lawsuits by other former employees who (like Brown) were terminated for failing to comply with the City’s vaccine mandate.

Kevin Collins v. City of Oakland

Plaintiff filed this lawsuit alleging causes of action for false arrest and imprisonment after the District Attorney’s Office dismissed all charges against him on the eve of trial and he was released from jail. Plaintiff had spent almost two years in jail for attempted murder and felony assault charges. The federal trial court granted our motion for summary judgment and the appellate court affirmed the trial court. The trial and appellate courts dismissed Plaintiff’s false arrest, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution claims, finding that the Oakland police officers had probable cost to arrest Plaintiff for attempted murder based on the evidence they uncovered during the investigation.

city and urban

Recent Legal Highlights: Spring 2024