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Fighting for Education

When Marcos* was admitted to the hospital with a life-threatening medical condition, all he could think about was school. Always an ambitious student, Marcos didn’t want to let his disability get in the way of his future. His mother urged his school repeatedly to provide Marcos with work to do at home, and his treating physician even got involved, providing medical documentation that explained why he couldn’t attend school.

Despite having a strong team advocating for Marcos, the school district failed to provide any work for him to keep up with his studies, did not arrange for a teacher to visit Marcos at home, and didn’t communicate with the family about its plans for Marcos.

With only a few months left until the end of the school year, Marcos’ doctor referred his mother to the Law Foundation and Valley Medical Center’s Medical Legal Partnership program. Marcos’ Law Foundation attorney submitted a formal complaint to the U.S. Department of Education that is currently under review. Within a week of our attorney taking the case, Marcos was visited by a teacher and received the schoolwork he needed to start getting up to speed.

Sometimes all our clients need is for the world to know that we’re in their corner fighting on their behalf.

*Name changed to protect identity

Ensuring Just Treatment for Immigrant Children

Photo by The Atlantic

Photo by The Atlantic

Earlier this summer, the Law Foundation was part of a legal team that obtained a positive federal appeals court ruling determining that undocumented immigrant children detained by federal authorities must be given adequate living conditions, including access to clean water, proper heating and cooling, and appropriate sleeping conditions. Co-counsel on the case included the Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, and La Raza Centro Legal.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, ruled that immigration authorities must abide by the 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement, named for a teenage girl who brought the original case, that established standards for the detention, release, and treatment of minors in immigration custody.

Law Foundation attorney, Kate Manning, an expert on child welfare, argued for improved conditions on behalf of some of the children who were in detention and served as the Law Foundation’s lead on this case. The Law Foundation is thankful to its partners and is proud to have worked together to ensure that immigrant children across the country are treated with dignity and justice under the law.

Pro Bono Spotlight: A Little Help Goes A Long Way

When 8-year-old Charlie Taylor* began experiencing seizures as a result of mold and dust mites in his family’s apartment, Charlie’s doctor recommended the family clean the mold and replace the carpet with wood flooring. The family informed their landlord of Charlie’s illness and requested the repairs be made. Instead, the landlord refused and suggested the family move to another unit where the rent is higher. That’s when the Taylor family came to the Law Foundation and was matched with volunteer attorneys from Hogan Lovells, who quickly came to their rescue.

The Hogan Lovells team assigned to the case sent a letter to the landlord on the Taylor family’s behalf, requesting that he have the mold in the unit professionally cleaned and the carpet replaced with wood flooring. The landlord promptly agreed and then worked with our volunteers to make the necessary repairs and improve conditions in the apartment. 

Sean Mahsoul, an attorney at Hogan Lovells, shared the following about his experience:

“This case meant a great to deal to me especially given that the health of a child was at stake. We ended up achieving a positive result for our client that helped improve the health of his son and the livelihood of his family. It made me appreciate the impact that I can make as an attorney by using my legal skills to advocate for those who may not be able to advocate for themselves. I was especially happy that we were able to achieve a positive result without having to escalate the situation.”

*Name changed to protect identity

A Hard-Fought Five Years Brings a Huge Victory

For five years, more than 400 residents of Buena Vista Mobile Home Park, Palo Alto’s last mobile home park, fought to preserve their homes after the park owners announced their intention to sell the property to a developer. 

Earlier this month, a deal was reached that will preserve the park as affordable housing.

Buena Vista families will continue to enjoy their diverse and tight-knit community and benefit from living in a high opportunity area of Silicon Valley, one that has high-quality Palo Alto schools, safe neighborhoods, jobs, and healthcare. 

We thank the Housing Authority of Santa Clara County and its Executive Director Katherine Harasz, who, together with Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, worked to ensure that Buena Vista will be preserved--and renovated-- and operated on a day-to-day basis by The Caritas Corporation, a nonprofit with a mission of maintaining quality affordable housing.

We worked in partnership with our tireless and courageous clients, the Buena Vista residents' association, and many other community advocates and supporters, including:  the Friends of Buena Vista, a dedicated group of Palo Altans, led by Winter Dellenbach; the Palo Alto School Board; the Palo Alto and regional PTAs, led by Susan Eldredge and Nancy Krop; the Community Working Group; Stanford professors and students, led by Education Professor Amado Padilla; Larry Klein; and Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian and his staff members Micaela Hellman-Tincher and Kristina Loquist. 

Photo by Eric Kuhri, Bay Area News Group

Photo by Eric Kuhri, Bay Area News Group

The Law Foundation's Buena Vista preservation team included senior attorneys Nadia Aziz and Diana Castillo, senior outreach coordinators Teresa Magana and Nuemi Guzman, supervising attorney Melissa Morris, former supervising attorney James Zahradka, and directing attorney Kyra Kazantzis.  The team was supported by expert co-counsel Madeline Howard, Navneet Grewal, Sue Himmelreich, and Dick Rothschild at the Western Center on Law & Poverty. The law firm of Sidley Austin LLP provided generous pro bono staffing and financial resources for the litigation effort; Matt Dolan and Norm Blears were the key, hard-working members of the Sidley team.

You're Supporting A National Award Winning Program


We're proud to announce that the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership honored the Law Foundation's Silicon Valley Medical Legal Partnership as a 2017 Outstanding Medical Legal Partnership (MLP) Award recipient at the annual MLP Summit last month in Washington, D.C.

Our medical-legal partnership with Santa Clara Valley Medical Center connects patients in VMC's pediatrics department and Homeless Healthcare Program with Law Foundation attorneys who are onsite at multiple VMC clinic sites each week to help with underlying legal problems to various medical issues.

We're grateful to the National Center for Medical Legal Partnership for this wonderful honor and to Valley Medical Center for supporting our work.

You Did It!

We had a great time with everyone who came together to create a stronger, more inclusive community at our Celebration of Justice dinner. A heartfelt thank you goes out to our annual partners and individual donors who gave generously to help us continue to use the law as a tool for change in Silicon Valley. Together, we can do so much more for the people in our region who need life-changing legal services -families like the Hernandez-Garfias’, who we introduced to you at the dinner.  

Thank you for an unforgettable night! 

Be sure to check out our photos and see if you can spot your friends and colleagues.

Major Win for Mountain View Tenants

Photo by Nailah Morgank, KQED

Photo by Nailah Morgank, KQED

Last November, voters in Mountain View passed Measure V, aimed at stabilizing rents and providing just cause eviction protections for certain rental units.

Following the vote, the California Apartment Association (CAA) moved to sue the City to block the law from going into effect. That’s when the Law Foundation, along with Fenwick & West, the Stanford Community Law Clinic, and the Public Interest Law Project, stepped in to represent a group of Mountain View voters, tenants, and organizations.

In a major win for Mountain View tenants, the CAA dropped the lawsuit earlier this month.

Mountain View tenants will now be protected from unreasonable rent increases and unjust evictions. “This is a complete victory for the City of Mountain View and a critical win for Mountain View residents, including the most marginalized in our community,” said Nadia Aziz, senior attorney at the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley. “We were thankful to have Fenwick’s excellent support in ensuring Mountain View tenants do not have to live in fear of unfair rent increases and evictions.”

Crucial Safety Net Services, Saved

Photo by Associated Press

Photo by Associated Press

Earlier today, a federal judge in San Francisco blocked the Trump administration's efforts to withhold funding from sanctuary jurisdictions, which refuse to act as an arm of federal immigration officials by detaining non-criminal immigrants. The decision was in response to lawsuits filed by the County of Santa Clara and City of San Francisco.

The Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, along with pro bono co-counsel at Cooley LLP, filed two amici curiae briefs in the matter,  on behalf of dozens of nonprofit organizations and associations throughout California, supporting Santa Clara County's and San Francisco's motions for preliminary injunction. An amicus curiae is a brief filed with the court by someone who is not a party to the case.

Funding cuts to sanctuary jurisdictions would endanger programs that provide preventive health care, meals for seniors, HIV/AIDS assistance, domestic violence services and mental health treatment, putting vulnerable individuals and the community at large at risk.

"This order is an important step to making sure that our neighbors who are immigrants feel safe in accessing important health and human services that are provided by local governments and nonprofit agencies," Law Foundation Directing Attorney Kyra Kazantzis said. "It also ensures that nonprofit organizations providing these key safety net services can continue to further their community service missions without fear of losing important federal funding."

Just Cause Protections Sweep into the South Bay

In a life-changing and historic vote by San Jose City Council, renters in San Jose can no longer be evicted without good reason.  Thanks to years of hard work by tenants and nonprofit groups, like the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, landlords will soon need to provide "just cause" for evicting tenants. Until now, San Jose was the only major Bay Area city without a similar policy. The Mercury News reported earlier this month that since 2010, more than 2,400 no cause evictions were reported.

The explosive growth of Silicon Valley continues to leave some members of our community behind, including long-time residents who are being displaced due to the rising cost of living. San Jose City Council’s vote to enact just cause evictions will help to ensure that all members of our community have the opportunity to be part of the Silicon Valley success story. 

Want to learn more about what just cause protections mean for renters? Listen to Law Foundation supervising attorney, Melissa Morris, on KQED's Forum program or read her letter to the editor in The Mercury News.

Thank you to Mayor Liccardo, and Councilmembers Jones, Jimenez, Peralez, Diep, Carraso, Nguyen, Arenas, and Rocha for their courage and leadership in making sure the urgency ordinance passed.


Hope in Devastation

Last month approximately 14,000 San Jose residents were evacuated from their homes after the Coyote Creek flooded. Now, weeks later, over a hundred affected homes are still uninhabitable. Rock Springs, the neighborhood hardest hit by the flood, is primarily home to low-income Latino and Vietnamese families. Many are living in shelters, cars, with friends, or, if they can afford it, in hotels. Many of those displaced have questions about their legal rights as they try to put their lives back together.

The Law Foundation responded immediately to the need for legal services following the flood by preparing know-your-rights materials and coordinating with other non-profit and government agencies. Our attorneys met with displaced tenants onsite at a community center and at San Jose City Hall.  Most of the tenants we talked to lived in apartments that had been "yellow-tagged," which means that, even though the apartment was cleared for entry, there are still structural problems or issues with providing necessary utilities like water, gas, or electricity-making the home unlivable.  

We met with more than 100 tenants who had questions about rent, their right to move back after their landlords finished making repairs, and about damage to their personal property. We helped them understand their options, including the right of tenants in rent controlled apartments to file petitions for rent reductions with the City of San Jose's rental rights and referrals program.  We also provided advice about talking to their landlords, suggesting they write everything down and to immediately call us if they run into problems or receive an eviction notice.

Tenants affected by the flood who have questions about their legal rights can contact our office at (408) 280-2424.  We serve clients regardless of immigration status, and we keep all information confidential.

Battling Housing Discrimination

What happens when someone with a disability is harassed and discriminated against in the place they call home?

Randy is an elderly man who needs an electronic scooter to get around. However, his landlord refused to allow him to use his scooter at his rental complex. Unable to use a ramp to safely get to his unit on the second floor, he was instead forced to use a cane. The property manager believed Randy was too old to live at the property and further harassed him by making comments suggesting he needed to be somewhere with 24 hour care.  We suspected that Randy wasn't the only one being discriminated against. Our community partner, Project Sentinel, sent in people of varying demographics as potential renters. Not only was the landlord refusing to allow wheelchairs on the property, but families with children were also being turned away and denied housing. 

Law Foundation attorneys filed a lawsuit against the property on Randy's behalf, ultimately settling the case. The property owners agreed to pay monetary damages and demote the manager to a non-leadership role. Additionally, the property owners agreed to allow for future fair housing testing, ensuring that no one else is treated to the kind of discrimination Randy endured. 

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

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.