August 9, 2016
OAKLAND, CA — In our efforts to prevent devastating tenant displacement throughout the Bay Area, Centro Legal de la Raza vigorously pursues all avenues for relief – from the courtrooms, to the halls of the legislature.
Like many places in the Bay Area, Hayward is gentrifying and poor families of color are getting pushed out by dishonest landlords looking to make space for wealthier tenants. For almost two years, Centro Legal has been helping 61 low- and middle-income Latino and African-American tenant families living at an apartment complex in Hayward. Although many of the families have lived in their homes for decades, a new owner began demanding rent increases of up to $300 or $400, or 20-30% of the tenants’ total rent.
The unscrupulous owner then filed eviction cases against two fixed-income families who couldn’t afford to pay the gigantic rent increases, including an immigrant family spanning three generations who had lived in their apartment together for over 30 years. Centro Legal de la Raza’s Litigation Attorney Shira Levine and expert tenant attorney Chris Beatty of the Law Offices of Andrew Wolff immediately jumped to the tenants’ defense and have been representing them in the courts ever since.
Under Hayward’s local rent control laws, the massive rent increases would have been illegal and the eviction cases would have to be dismissed. The owner argued, however, that he shouldn’t have to comply with the same laws as other Hayward landlords, because the property used to be subsidized by the federal government. Unfortunately, a state court commissioner and trial judge both ruled in the owner’s favor. But this didn’t stop Centro Legal’s Litigation Team or Mr. Beatty, who immediately filed a petition for writ with the appellate courts.
Not satisfied with waiting on the courts, Centro Legal also reached out to the City of Hayward itself. Thanks to the efforts of the Hayward City Attorney’s Office’s, which believed that Hayward’s rent protections did apply, the City Council held a vote to clarify that their rent control law does protect Hayward tenants living at properties like this one. The resolution would not only protect the tenants at this particular property, but hundreds of other tenants living at similar apartment complexes.
To help make sure the City made the right decision, more than 20 tenants from the apartment complex attended the Council vote, along with Centro Legal’s Litigation Director Jesse Newmark, Skadden Fellow Gillian Quandt, and volunteer intake specialist Nancy Jauregui. The City Council unanimously passed the resolution and staff thanked the tenants for their participation in the political process.
As Litigation Director Jesse Newmark has explained: “The fight is not over, as we still need to enforce the rent law protections. But because Centro Legal and these brave tenant families are willing to take all roads to justice, including legal and political advocacy, we are hopeful that we can help them avoid displacement.” Please support Centro’s efforts to do so!