Tackling Systemic Inequalities in Silicon Valley

With Law Foundation attorneys along with other housing advocates on hand calling for action, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors moved forward last month with a significant anti-discrimination measure that will provide much needed protection for low-income households in Santa Clara County. 

Though our housing crisis offers limited options for low-income families, many landlords refuse to rent to recipients of rental assistance, including holders of federally-subsidized Section 8 vouchers. This legal form of discrimination prevents thousands from securing safe, stable housing despite their ability to pay the rent.

Putting an end to this harmful practice, the Board of Supervisors approved an ordinance that makes sure landlords cannot discriminate against tenants who receive rental assistance. We thank the Supervisors who voted in favor of this vital effort to address Silicon Valley's housing crisis, including President of the Board Dave Cortese, Supervisor Joe Simitian, Supervisor Cindy Chavez, and Supervisor Ken Yeager

Celebrating Our Kindhearted Heroes!

March 1st marked the beginning of Social Work Month, a time dedicated to honoring social workers for their tenacity in confronting some of the most challenging issues facing families and individuals.

We are grateful to have social workers on our team to give professional insight into the mental, emotional, and physical needs of some of our most vulnerable clients.

"My favorite part about being a social worker at the Law Foundation is getting to work with immigrant children. I get to hear their stories and support them through their legal proceedings." - Cynthia Valenzuela

"My favorite part about being a social worker at the Law Foundation is getting to work with immigrant children. I get to hear their stories and support them through their legal proceedings."

- Cynthia Valenzuela

"I really enjoy getting to advocate for kids, giving voice to the voiceless. I feel like I'm making a meaningful impact in the lives of the kids we serve." - Gustavo Rangel

"I really enjoy getting to advocate for kids, giving voice to the voiceless. I feel like I'm making a meaningful impact in the lives of the kids we serve."

- Gustavo Rangel

Follow us on Facebook to meet our social workers as we highlight a few from the team throughout the month!

Mark Your Calendars!

Save the date --- this year's Celebration of Justice dinner will take place on Thursday, April 13, 2017 at the Santa Clara Convention Center .

For more than 30 years, our dinner has been known as the premier legal event in Silicon Valley and attracts nearly 1,000 influential lawyers and business leaders from world-renowned firms and companies, as well as prominent judges and elected officials.

It's the legal event of the year that you won't want to miss! 

For information or partnership inquires contact Carrie Chung at 408.280.2472 or carriec@lawfoundation.org.

Saving the Last Mobile Home Park in Palo Alto

In case you missed it, last month the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park Resident's Association prevailed in its lawsuit challenging the closure of Buena Vista Mobile Home Park, Palo Alto's last mobile home park.

This past holiday season, the 400 mostly Latino and low-income residents of Buena Vista were given the gift of hope that their diverse and affordable community will be saved. Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Brian Walsh found in favor of the Resident's Association, requiring the City to go back to the drawing board and delay closure until the relocation assistance plan complies with the applicable law.

Additionally, the Housing Authority of Santa Clara County approved a plan to acquire Buena Vista through eminent domain. The Resident's Association, represented by the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, Western Center on Law & Poverty, and pro bono partner, Sidley Austin LLP, is now more hopeful than ever that their community will be saved.

Your Vote is Creating Affordable Housing in the Bay Area

Did you hear? We won! Last November, we advocated for critical funding for affordable housing through Measure A. The passage of Measure A makes available $950 million to be invested in affordable housing for homeless veterans, those with special needs, seniors, along with low-income working families and first-time home buyers.

This adds to the good news last fall that Measure K in San Mateo County and Measure A1 in Alameda County also passed. Together, these three measures will generate about $2 billion in funds for affordable housing in the Bay Area in the coming years.

Thank you to everyone who voted for these game-changing measures and who supported them as campaign staff, volunteers, donors and champions.  Measure A would not have been possible without the leadership of Santa Clara County Supervisors Cindy Chavez and Dave Cortese, and many of our partner nonprofit organizations in the South Bay.

You're a Champion for our Youngest Clients!

It's #ThrowbackThursday and we'd like to give a final thanks to our amazing supporters at last November's LACY Honors luncheon who raised over $210,000 for the Law Foundation's Legal Advocates for Children & Youth program! Because of you, we can continue to provide life-changing legal help for children and teens dealing with serious issues like physical and sexual abuse, human trafficking, entry into the foster care system and homelessness.

Missed the luncheon? Meet a former client, we shared Macaulay, whose story we shared. He was only 13 years old when he came to the Law Foundation in need of a lawyer to advocate for him after the death of his father.  

We also honored Mary Ritter, a Certified Physician's Assistant at Valley Medical Center who has served as the coordinator of the Center for Child Protection's Pediatric Sexual Assault Response Team (PediSART) for nearly 30 years; and the Juvenile Justice Commission, a state-mandated, court-appointed authority dedicated to the promotion of an effective juvenile justice system operated in an environment of credibility, dignity, fairness and respect for the youth in our community. 

Check out our photos from the event and see if you can spot your friends and colleagues in ourFlickr album!

Special thanks to Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez, our 2016 partners, and event co-chairs Alexis Coll-Very, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP, and Natasha Innocenti, Innocenti Partners.     

Transforming a Community & Changing Lives

Fearing retaliation and in short supply of affordable housing, many tenants and families in our community silently cope with dismal housing conditions, unaware of their rights. Sometimes it takes one person with the courage to come forward and ask for help to create change for an entire group of people. That was the case when Ana* walked into our office.

Ana came to the Law Foundation with several legal questions about tenants' rights. She lived in a mobile home park where the owner had failed to keep the park or mobile homes in proper working order while overcharging for rent, utilities and repairs. Making matters worse, the owners had also made discriminatory remarks about tenants --- violating fair housing laws --- and retaliated against anyone who filed a complaint. They were able to take advantage of vulnerable people who had limited options in the Bay Area's dog-eat-dog rental market.

Law Foundation attorneys and staff investigated, held meetings with tenants throughout the park and filed a lawsuit with help from pro bono partner, DLA Piper. Ultimately, the tenants prevailed in a financial settlement that allowed some families living in the park to move to safe and stable housing, To prevent future unlawful actions by the park's owners --- and potentially more lawsuits --- park management agreed to fair housing training.

Thanks to support from people like you, our attorneys and DLA Piper, Ana and her neighbors learned that they don't have to live in fear. They can stand up for themselves, exercise their rights and expect justice. 

*Name changed to protect identity

Your 2016 Housing Champions!

In May the Law Foundation was honored with the Housing Trust Silicon Valley's 2016 Housing Champion Award for the work we do to ensure that everyone in Silicon Valley has safe, fair, and affordable housing. "They're who you want in your corner when you're fighting for affordable housing," the Housing Trust's CEO, Kevin Zwick, said in his remarks during the event. The explosive growth of Silicon Valley has left some members of our community behind. Many residents are being displaced as the cost of living sky-rockets. At the Law Foundation, we work with people every day who are at risk of becoming homeless due to an unfair eviction. We are also advocating for policy changes that put long-term solutions in place. For example, we have been pushing for stronger protections for renters, and our work is paying off. This spring, San Jose City Council voted on the following measures: 

• A 5% limit on annual rent increases for rent-controlled apartments;

• Anti-Retaliation Protection Ordinance to protect tenants from eviction if they ask for improvements or report a code violation; 

• Elimination of the debt service pass-through, which limits the costs landlords can pass on to their tenants. 

Though these measures are a step in the right direction, they're not enough to safeguard meaningful protections against unfair evictions and displacement. There is strength in numbers; we hope you'll add your voice as we continue to advocate for fair and just treatment for renters in Silicon Valley. 

Click here to see our recognition video from the Housing Trust.

Employee Spotlight: Mariel Block

Congratulations are in order for our own Mariel Block who was selected as the Santa Clara County Bar Association's Barrister of the Year for her contributions to the legal profession in both a professional capacity and in pro bono and community activities.

In many parts of Santa Clara County, landlords can legally evict tenants for almost any reason as long as it is not discriminatory; providing legal help in eviction cases is a critical service to our community. Through Mariel's leadership, the Law Foundation's Pro Bono Housing Justice Program, which serves low-income families facing homelessness due to an eviction, has grown extensively--- meaning more families have been able to stay in their homes or have been given adequate time to move with dignity. 

Every Friday, Mariel manages the Law Foundation's eviction clinic and trains pro bono attorneys and volunteers who take on eviction cases for on-going representation. In 2015, the clinic provided representation to 373 tenants and their families, a significant increase over previous years. Your ongoing support enables us to have incredible advocates like Mariel on our team. We're proud that her accomplishments were formally recognized by the Santa Clara County Bar Association. Way to go, Mariel!

Your Generosity Broke Another Record!

You really did it this time! A heartfelt thank you goes out to our annual partners and individual donors who gave over $2 million dollars to help us continue to use the law as a tool for change in Silicon Valley. Your investment in the Law Foundation gives us the power to change the lives of families and individuals in dire need of legal help.

Together, we can do so much more for the people in our region who are desperate for a voice in their fight for social justice - families like Sabrina and Margie's, who we introduced to you at the dinner

Thank you for an unforgettable night! 

Preying on the Elderly? Not on Our Watch

When a loved one has fallen ill and needs care at home, you might place your trust in the hands of strangers, care-givers, to provide assistance for them as you would. But what happens when that trust is shattered? 

Ninety-year-old Iris spent her life serving others as a nun. When dementia set in, Iris became the one to rely on others for the help she needed to get through the day. Sadly, when Iris had to spend an extended period of time hospitalized, the care-giving facility where she was staying took advantage of her vulnerability and had her sign over her monthly Social Security income. 

Iris' family was shocked and confused when Iris received an eviction notice from her landlord. The care-giving facility had failed to pay the rent on her apartment and Iris was on the verge of losing her home. Our attorney, Denise Miller, fought for Iris and her family by negotiating with the landlord to keep Iris in her apartment and got the care-giving facility to return Iris' funds and place her finances with a trusted family member. Thanks to you, we were able to get justice for Iris and she can now rest easy in her home, where she belongs.