Stay Connected Donate

Category: Miscellaneous

Home | Newsroom | Miscellaneous

Western Center’s 2019 Budget & Legislative Victories

16 Western Center bills were signed by Governor Gavin Newsom this year, marking huge wins for California. Of note are two renter protection bills, AB 1482, now one of the nation’s most expansive anti-rent gouging and just cause for eviction laws, and SB 329, which prohibits discrimination against housing voucher holders.

For health care, SB 464 will require perinatal health providers to undergo implicit bias training to address the maternal mortality rate for black women in California, which is 4-5 times higher than it is for white women. For financial security, SB 616 outlaws the ability of debt collectors to drain people’s bank accounts, leaving them without funds for necessary day-to-day expenses. These legislative victories are in addition to big wins achieved in the state budget earlier this year.

See the full suite of Western Center’s 2019 budget and legislative victories below!

EPIC News – October 2019


16 Western Center Bills Signed by the Governor

16 Western Center bills were signed by Governor Gavin Newsom this year, marking huge wins for California. Of note are two renter protection bills, AB 1482, now one of the nation’s most expansive anti-rent gouging and just cause for eviction laws, and SB 329, which prohibits discrimination against housing voucher holders. For health care, SB 464 will require perinatal health providers to undergo implicit bias training to address the maternal mortality rate for black women in California, which is 4-5 times higher than it is for white women. For financial security, SB 616 outlaws the ability of debt collectors to drain people’s bank accounts, leaving them without funds for necessary day-to-day expenses. Those are only some of our 2019 wins. See the full list here

These legislative victories are in addition to big wins achieved in the state budget earlier this year.


Western Center Statement on Proposed 2020 Ballot Measure to Address Homelessness

A deeply inhumane initiative to combat homelessness has been presented to the California Attorney General for the 2020 ballot. We believe it’s illegal.  Read our statement here


HUD Proposal to Change Disparate Impact Enforcement

Western Center submitted comments to HUD opposing its proposal to alter how Disparate Impact rules are implemented. If the proposal to gut Disparate Impact in Fair Housing becomes final, it will open the flood gates for housing discrimination at a time when communities across the country are grappling with rising housing insecurity and homelessness.

In this video, Western Center housing attorney Matt Warren explains more about the rule, and why we are fighting to stop it from becoming final.  Watch here


Thank You for Supporting Garden Party

Thank you to everyone who made Garden Party 2019 such a wonderful evening and a great success. We appreciate your support as we honored Cameron Rowland, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, Shirley Gibson and Clare Pastore at the Ebell of Los Angeles.  View photos of the event here


In Memoriam – Dean Matsubayashi

Western Center mourns the passing of our board member Dean Hojo Matsubayashi on September 4, 2019. Dean was the Executive Director of the Little Tokyo Service Center (LTSC) since 2012 and led the organization through some of its most transformative years. Dean was a passionate and courageous leader, loving and generous family man, warm and compassionate friend, coalition and bridge builder. He passed away at age 49, surrounded by family and friends, after waging a fierce 15-month battle against glioblastoma of the brain stem. Dean dedicated his life to creating safe and affordable housing and thriving communities for all. Under his leadership, LTSC developed over 1,000 units of housing for those in need and provided social services and child development programs to thousands of seniors, children, and families. Dean served on Western Center’s board of directors for seven years.

Colleges Should Not Have to Have Food Pantries

One of the first lessons Jalyn Wharton learned her freshman year at Kennesaw State University was how to stretch a pizza so it would feed her for a week. It wasn’t the only time she’d had to ration food. When she was in high school, her family became homeless and Wharton would sometimes eat less to make sure her younger siblings got enough. Even as her family bounced between hotels and friends’ houses, Wharton stayed focused on school. Everyone told her education was her path out of poverty. She finished high school with honors and was thrilled to get into Kennesaw State, a research institution with 35,000 students near Atlanta, Georgia.

…“We have been doing a better job of making sure low-income children feel like college is a place for them,” said Jessica Bartholow, of the Western Poverty Law Center in California. “Maybe so much so that it’s a real shock when they get here and find out that it isn’t.”

Read more

EPIC News – September 2019


Join Us for Garden Party 2019

Please join us for our annual Garden Party fundraiser on Thursday, October 10, 2019 in Los Angeles.

Western Center will be honoring:
Cameron Rowland – Renowned Social Justice Artist
Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP – Western Center Co-Counsel
Shirley Gibson – Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County
Clare Pastore – USC Gould School of Law

Sponsorship opportunities and individual tickets available here


Trump Administration Threats to our Clients

Taken together, this summer’s onslaught of new rules from the Trump administration has the potential to threaten the economic, housing, and food security of over 2 million Californians – which would cripple the future of our state. The news of these rules, combined with the president’s continuous anti-immigrant rhetoric, has already caused a “chilling effect;” families are foregoing vital health, food, and housing services for fear of retaliation, deportation, eviction, and separation.

To protect the well-being of California, and to assert the fundamental rights of everyone in our country, Western Center is litigating and advocating to stop the following rules and proposals from being implemented by the administration:

Public Charge – Impact: millions of people, 1/3 of whom are children

“This rule change is a direct attack on communities of color and their families, and furthers this administration’s desire to make this country work primarily for the wealthy and white. Our immigration system cannot be based on the racial animosities of this administration, or whether or not people are wealthy.” – Antionette Dozier, Western Center Senior Attorney Read more

Food Security – Impact: 120,000 California households

The SNAP categorical eligibility rule targets low-income families by seeking to end a long-standing and widely adopted rule that eases the application and retention burden for families that qualify for other federal benefits, like CalWORKs in California, for SNAP benefits – reducing hunger for millions of Americans.

“This newest proposal is just one more in a long line by this administration that will remove food, housing and other basic needs assistance for people already struggling to get by. No one in our country should go hungry, yet over 13 million children live below the federal poverty line and are in danger of going hungry every day. This policy makes hunger even more likely. It’s a step in the completely wrong direction.” – Jessica Bartholow, Western Center Policy Advocate Read more

Housing – Impact: 10,000 California families

The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s proposed “Mixed Status” rule threatens to exacerbate poverty by evicting over 25,000 families with mixed immigration status, betraying this country’s promise of opportunity in favor of an unreasoned, unworkable policy. Almost ten thousand of those families are in California Read more


Meet Sasha, Western Center Housing Policy Advocate

Meet Sasha! He’s one of Western Center’s amazing housing policy advocates. In the midst of a statewide housing crisis, the fight for laws that protect tenants and facilitate the creation and preservation of affordable housing is critical for the future of California. See how Sasha fights for affordable housing in California.

PRESS RELEASE: Western Center and co-counsel sue SCUSD over segregation, mistreatment of students with disabilities, particularly Black students

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Sacramento City Unified School District sued over the segregation and mistreatment of students with disabilities, particularly Black students with disabilities

Suit follows years of documented disability and race discrimination by the District

 

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – A coalition of nonprofit advocacy groups have filed a lawsuit against the Sacramento City Unified School District (SCUSD), Superintendent Jorge A. Aguilar, and others on behalf of the Black Parallel School Board and three students in the District. The suit alleges flagrant district-wide discrimination against students with disabilities, especially Black students.

 

The District has organized its programs in a way that segregates and denies students with disabilities, particularly Black students with disabilities, a meaningful opportunity to be educated side-by-side with their peers in an inclusive environment. Further, the suit alleges the District imposes excessive and exclusionary discipline on students with disabilities for behavior caused by their disabilities. The District disciplines Black students with disabilities more frequently and more harshly instead of providing the services and support they need to thrive.

 

“SCUSD routinely violates the rights of students with disabilities, particularly Black children with disabilities, by denying them the services and supports they are entitled to,” said Darryl White, Chairperson of the Black Parallel School Board. “Instead, the District tends to unfairly segregate and punish these children.”

 

In 2017, the Council of Great City Schools, a coalition of 75 of the nation’s largest urban public school systems, released a damning report on the state of special education in the District that validated these long-standing deficiencies. The report was described as a wake-up call by the District, Superintendent, and several School Board members, who vowed to ensure equal opportunities for all children in the District. Sadly, the District did nothing in the year following the report.

 

In 2018, nonprofit advocacy groups met with Superintendent Aguilar to express their dismay over the District’s continuing failures and demand immediate action. During this meeting, the District promised meaningful reforms and asked for more time to come into compliance. Today, more than two years have passed since the report was published, and the District still has not taken meaningful steps to fix its broken systems and serve students appropriately. 

 

“The District’s failure to act on well-known systemic deficiencies shows a blatant disregard for the education and futures of its students with disabilities,” said attorney Carly Munson with Disability Rights California. “Our clients are paying the price. In 2018, only 61.9 percent of the District’s seniors with disabilities graduated from high school.  And, of those students, only 4.1 percent were prepared for college or a career according to the District’s own public reports. That’s unconscionable.”

 

The lawsuit challenges the myriad ways in which the District unlawfully segregates students with disabilities, particularly Black students with disabilities. The District not only places students with disabilities in rooms or schools separated from their peers without disabilities—it also segregates these students through excessive and exclusionary discipline for behavior caused by their disabilities and fails to provide the services, accommodations, and modifications required by law that would allow these students the opportunity to thrive in the general education setting.

 

SCUSD’s practice of segregating students with disabilities, particularly Black students with disabilities, into restrictive settings outside their neighborhood schools is an irresponsible and expensive choice for a district in an already precarious financial situation.

 

“Providing an equal education for students with disabilities, including Black students with disabilities, is not only required by law, it is fiscally responsible,” said attorney Antionette Dozier of the Western Center on Law & Poverty. “According to the Council of Great City Schools Report, the District’s practice of segregating students with disabilities outside their neighborhood schools cost the District over $10 million in transportation expenses for the 2015-16 school year.”

 

SCUSD also promotes a hostile education environment throughout the entire District for students with disabilities, especially Black students with disabilities. The District’s actions and failures create lasting harm, including emotional trauma and feelings of stigmatization and isolation. “The District’s mistreatment of students perpetuates biases and stereotypes rooted in slavery and Jim Crow that create a false narrative of Black students as violent, in order to justify segregation, restraint and exclusion,” said attorney Mona Tawatao of the Equal Justice Society. 

Tragically for the affected students, this systemic mistreatment has earned the District the shameful distinction as the District with “the most egregious suspension district for Black males in the State of California,” according to a 2018 report issued by the California Community College Equity Assessment Lab.

“Our lawsuit asks that the District take several actions,” said attorney Michael Harris of the National Center for Youth Law. “These include reforming its policies, procedures, and practices to fully comply with the law so that they no longer segregate or discriminate against students with disabilities, including Black students with disabilities; implementing a plan to correct violations and create a safe, inclusive and welcoming environment for these students; identifying and holding accountable those staff responsible for violations of the laws; and identifying all students with disabilities and ensuring they receive the services and programs they are entitled to under the law.”
____________

 

Fourth-grader Konrad has been diagnosed with Autism, dyslexia, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Beginning in kindergarten, SCUSD refused to properly assess him or address his disability-related needs. Instead, SCUSD defaulted to exclusionary and discriminatory tactics – first shortening his school days, then suspending him repeatedly for his disability-related behaviors, and finally suggesting that he dis-enroll from school entirely. During the 2018-19 school year alone, Konrad – one of only a few Black students at his school – was formally suspended for 17 days – the equivalent of almost a month of school.

Fifth-grader Stephen has been diagnosed with Autism and Anxiety Disorder. Despite a lifetime in SCUSD, Stephen has never received the mental health services he needs to be successful in school, nor has he had a teacher credentialed to work with students with Autism. Stephen – also one of only a few Black students at his school – has been called racial slurs without consequence and sent home from school on at least 80 occasions for manifestations of his disabilities. Rather than provide lawful and necessary services, SCUSD has repeatedly excluded and punished Stephen.

 

Eleventh-grader Kurtis also has a history of trauma and known mental health conditions. He aspires to attend college, attend prom, or participate in a Regional Occupational Program. Sadly, Kurtis has been relegated to a nonpublic school that does not provide the same classes or social rites of passage as traditional public high schools. Kurtis fought to attend a public school for ninth grade but was subjected to hostile and discriminatory conditions. He was targeted by peers with homophobic and racial slurs; staff posted a sign outside his classroom proclaiming the students were “Emotionally Disturbed.” Eventually, Kurtis, who is also Black, was unilaterally removed from his high school for behavior that SCUSD explicitly acknowledged was disability-related and sent back to a nonpublic school for students with disabilities. Kurtis is frustrated, bored, and will not be ready to enroll in college or get a job when he graduates next school year.

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS: If you are a parent of a child with a disability within the Sacramento City Unified School District (SCUSD) and are experiencing similar concerns mentioned in this lawsuit, please contact the Disability Rights California confidential intake line at 1-800-776-5746, available 9:00 am – 4:00 pm, Monday through Friday.

 

MEDIA CONTACTS

For Equal Justice Society:

Mona Tawatao, Legal Director

415-288-8703 direct

mtawatao@equaljusticesociety.org

 

For Disability Rights California:

Melody Pomraning, Communications Director

916-504-5938

melody.pomraning@disabilityrightsca.org

 

For National Center for Youth Law:

Patty Guinto, Director of Communications

626-512-4974 mobile

pguinto@youthlaw.org

 

For Western Center on Law & Poverty:

Courtney McKinney, Director of Communications

916-282-5116 

cmckinney@wclp.org

### 

EPIC News – August 2019


Why Californians Could Bear the Brunt of Trump Food Stamp Cuts

“There’s actually no evidence that making someone hungrier makes them less dependent on public benefits. And there’s plenty of evidence showing the opposite,” said Western Center’s Jessica Bartholow. Western Center estimates that some 250,000 Californians could lose CalFresh, based on estimates made when California expanded eligibility in 2008 under Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and again in 2013 under Democrat Gov. Jerry Brown. Additionally, children in those families could lose automatic eligibility for free lunches at school.
Read more

Read our coalition statement on the administration’s proposed rule regarding SNAP eligibility.


Western Center Housing Advocate On Governor’s Task Force

We are proud to report that Western Center housing advocate Anya Lawler will be on Governor Gavin Newsom’s homelessness task force. Anya has been a housing policy advocate on behalf of low-income Californians for decades — her experience and priorities will be invaluable in the administration’s pursuit to end California’s homelessness crisis. Read more


Update On Western Center Cases

The past month has seen a remarkable number of decisions in Western Center cases — mostly good, some not great. Here is a rundown


Join Us for Garden Party 2019

Please join us for our annual Garden Party fundraiser on Thursday, October 10, 2019 in Los Angeles.

Western Center will be honoring:
Artist Cameron Rowland
Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP
Shirley Gibson – Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County
Clare Pastore – USC’s Gould School of Law

Early sponsors will be acknowledged on our printed invitation! Make your pledge by August 12. Sponsorship opportunities and individual tickets available here


Meet Cori Racela, Western Center’s Deputy Director

Cori is an attorney specializing in health care, working to make sure Californians with low incomes have access to the care they need and deserve. See how she does it!

New York State Follows California in Banning Hair Discrimination

The fight to legally protect black women and men with natural hair just gained another ally. On July 12th, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed assembly bill 007797to prohibit “race discrimination based on natural hair or hairstyles” in the state of New York.

…The Crown Coalition, which is comprised of the the National Urban League, Western Center on Law & Poverty, Color Of Change, and Dove, hoped this would encourage other states to follow California’s lead.

Read more 

EPIC News – July 2019


Launching EPIC News!

The Insider’s Report, Western Center’s monthly newsletter, is now called EPIC News, inspired by Upton Sinclair’s 1934 movement to “End Poverty in California.”


Western Center Victories in the 2019-20 Budget

Governor Newsom’s first budget adopts many Western Center proposals, and moves the needle on poverty, inequality, and homelessness. See Governor Newsom’s recent tweet here.

The new California budget more than doubles the California Earned Income Tax Credit (CalEITC), which provides support to low- and moderate-income working parents. The budget also ends the “senior penalty” for accessing Medi-Cal, and expands Medi-Cal to undocumented young adults. It also provides a major boost to CalWORKs grants, which is cash aid for food, housing and basic necessities for eligible families with children, and provides a significant investment in affordable housing and homelessness programs. Read more


Follow Along: Legislation Tracker

Western Center is in the home stretch of this year’s legislative session. Want to know more about bills we are sponsoring, tracking or opposing? Follow along with our Legislation Tracker


Western Center and Partners File Motion to Intervene in Huntington Beach v. State of California

“Charter cities like Huntington Beach must stop pretending like their actions don’t affect housing affordability across the state; the poorest and most vulnerable among us are who pay for their bad actions. We are filing this motion to intervene for Housing California and California Coalition for Rural Housing – organizations that fight for affordable housing for Californians with the lowest incomes, because our state can’t rely on reluctant cities like Huntington Beach, of which there are many, to do the right thing. The costs are too great.” – Navneet Grewal, Senior Attorney at Western Center. Read more


Fair Shake Honors Three Attorneys and Raises over $50,000 for Western Center

Western Center honored three associates from Los Angeles law firms at our annual Fair Shake event on June 12, 2019. We are incredibly grateful to Rachael Schiffman, Rick Schwartz and David Kane for their unwavering commitment to Western Center, and their work alongside our litigation team. View photos from the event

Progress for California: Western Center’s Statement on 2019-20 State Budget

Governor Newsom’s first budget adopts many Western Center proposals, and moves the needle on poverty, inequality, and addressing homelessness

The budget signed by Governor Newsom today for FY 2019-20 includes important anti-poverty measures that Western Center has pushed for years. Most notably, the budget more than doubles the California Earned Income Tax Credit (CalEITC), ends the “senior penalty” for accessing Medi-Cal, and expands Medi-Cal to undocumented young adults. It also provides a major boost to CalWORKs grants, and includes a significant investment in affordable housing and homelessness programs.

Unfortunately, the budget does not include funding to restore massive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) grant cuts from a decade ago, or to expand Medi-Cal to undocumented seniors. Additionally, CalWORKs grants still keep most CalWORKs families in deep poverty, and while the governor’s closing of tax loopholes to boost low wage workers’ income through the EITC was creative and bold, it continues to exclude ITIN tax filers.

There is much more work to do, but the Governor’s first budget demonstrates both empathy for those with the least, and imagination in finding ways to address their needs.

Read more

PRESS RELEASE: Advocates file Motion to Intervene in Huntington Beach v. State of California

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Western Center on Law & Poverty and California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation submit Motion to Intervene in the case of Huntington Beach v. State of California

 

The Motion is submitted on behalf of advocacy organizations Housing California and the California Coalition for Rural Housing

 

Los Angeles, Calif. (June 28, 2019)  Western Center on Law & Poverty and California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation have filed a Motion to Intervene in the matter of Huntington Beach v. State of California, on behalf of their clients, Housing California and the California Coalition for Rural Housing (CCRH). The Motion will be heard in the Los Angeles County Superior Court on July 23, 2019.

 

In February, Huntington Beach filed suit against the State, claiming the requirements via Senate Bills 166 and 1333 that make sure cities can accommodate high density housing are unconstitutional. The city asserts that zoning is a local issue, and that California’s 121 charter cities should be free to make their own decisions. “Charter cities like Huntington Beach must stop pretending like their actions don’t affect housing affordability across the state; the poorest and most vulnerable among us are who pay for their bad actions. We are filing this motion to intervene for Housing California and CCRH – organizations that fight for affordable housing for Californians with the lowest incomes, because our state can’t rely on reluctant cities like Huntington Beach, of which there are many, to do the right thing. The costs are too great.” – Navneet Grewal, Senior Attorney at Western Center.

 

The claims made by the City of Huntington Beach in the matter fundamentally threaten the ability of both Housing California and CCRH to carry out their missions to facilitate increases in affordable housing throughout the state on behalf of low-income Californians. “Low-income families are disproportionately affected by California’s housing shortage crisis. As part of our mission to ensure social justice and equity for California’s rural poor, CRLAF works vigorously to ensure the development and maintenance of safe, clean, and affordable homes for rural workers and their families,” said Cecilia Guevara Zamora, Staff Attorney at California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation.

 

Housing California works to curb homelessness and promote the development of affordable housing. Should Huntington Beach find success with its claim that charter cities do not have to plan for the development of affordable housing, Housing California’s efforts and strategies to expand affordable housing in communities across California will be significantly impacted; charter cities make up over 50 percent of the state. “What affects one part of our state affects us all. Providing affordable homes in all communities ensures that people can live where they work, which means less traffic, cleaner air, and healthier communities for everyone. The future of our state relies on a more inclusive California – if Huntington Beach wins its case, we will be taking a step backwards.” – Lisa Hershey, Executive Director of Housing California.

 

Similarly, CCRH’s work to promote and preserve affordable housing in rural California communities, which have unique land and development constraints, would be severely impacted by such a decision as well. There are approximately 45 charter cities in rural California – the negative consequences for those communities could be severe. “Cities in rural California have a long history of erecting barriers to affordable housing through land use and zoning – including onerous limits on the production of multifamily housing and higher density development, as well as requirements for parking that restrict how many units can be built. That’s why state legislation to relax those barriers is critical to our members whose mission it is to build homes for hard-working, low-wage workers who live in rural communities,” said Executive Director of CCRH, Robert Wiener.

 

In light of its dramatic housing crisis, California cannot afford for cities, charter or otherwise, to eschew zoning requirements that facilitate the creation of high-density housing that accommodates low- and moderate-income households. When an individual city does not do its part, it harms its neighbors and the state. As stated in the lawsuit filed by the State against the City of Huntington Beach in January, “The failure of local governments to plan for the necessary housing supply has been a key factor contributing to this crisis.”

 

The decision made in the case of Huntington Beach will not only impact the Proposed Interveners, it will also have impacts that ripple all over California. This intervention seeks to ensure that the City of Huntington Beach’s actions do not expand to other municipalities, posing significant harm to low- and moderate- income families, and exacerbating California’s housing crisis.

 

###