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Sacramento City Unified School District Settlement in Race and Disability Discrimination Lawsuit Increases Accountability


Sacramento City Unified School District Settlement in Race and Disability Discrimination Lawsuit Increases Accountability

Agreement requires five-year monitoring period and action plan for all students to receive an equal education

Sacramento, Calif. — A group of plaintiffs that includes the Black Parallel School Board and several individual students has reached a settlement agreement with the Sacramento City Unified School District (SCUSD) in a lawsuit that challenged the district’s longstanding harmful practices of excluding and segregating students with disabilities, particularly Black students with disabilities.

The settlement was reached Friday in the class action suit, which was initially filed in 2019. The suit accused the district of discriminatory segregation of students with disabilities and Black students with disabilities into highly restrictive classrooms and schools, plus other harmful practices laid bare in a 2017 report (, based on a district self-audit. The suit also highlighted the District’s failure to provide these students with the educational and supportive services that the law requires. Plaintiffs alleged this failure contributed to grossly disparate rates of suspension and expulsion of Black students—among the very worst in the state for Black boys in 2018-2019 ( —as well as for students with disabilities.

“In the 2018-2019 school year, Black students with disabilities at SCUSD were more than ten times more likely to be suspended from school than other students with disabilities — a group disciplined at much higher rates to begin with,” said Michael Harris, an attorney for the plaintiffs with the National Center for Youth Law. “This effectively deprives Black students with disabilities of their right to an equal education.” 

Within months of filing the lawsuit, the plaintiffs were able to negotiate an interim agreement with the District. 

“Shortly after we sued, the District sat down with us and then agreed to halt all suspensions based on ‘willful defiance’ for students from K-8 before it became state law, and lower the threshold for reviewing a student’s suspension to determine if the student’s behavior was due to a disability,” recounted Darryl White, Chair of plaintiff Black Parallel School Board. “Those reforms remain in effect today and the full settlement agreement we have now significantly builds on those early achievements.”  

LaRayvian Barnes has a son who is a Black middle-schooler with autism attending SCUSD. As with generations of Black students with disabilities and their families in the District, they went through years of struggle to redress her son’s mistreatment and finally get him into the learning environment where he is now doing well with the help of a teacher who understands and supports him. 

Barnes said she’s hopeful that “the settlement agreement will hold the District accountable to adopt policies, provide services, and create and maintain the right kind of integrated learning environments so that students like my son will not be punished and mistreated because of who they are, but instead can learn and thrive alongside their classmates from the start.”

Said Meeth Soni, an attorney for plaintiffs with Disability Rights California: “The settlement agreement’s accountability measures will help SCUSD ensure students with disabilities are receiving the services and supports they need to succeed in school rather than being segregated from their non-disabled peers or subjected to unfair exclusionary discipline.” 

The settlement agreement requires the appointment of an independent monitor not employed by the District to review existing reports and data on the District’s special education and school discipline practices. Based on that review, the independent monitor must develop and implement an Action Plan to bring SCUSD in compliance with the law and ensure all students have equal access to a quality education. The agreement also gives the independent monitor the power to enforce the agreement. 

“We are optimistic about the independent monitor component of the settlement; it will create accountability and help guide and direct the District as it undertakes the essential work of dismantling a discriminatory system,” said plaintiff attorney Antionette Dozier of the Western Center on Law and Poverty.

The Action Plan will take into account initiatives and programs SCUSD has recently begun to implement and also requires the District to reduce the disproportionate discipline of Black students and students with disabilities. The Action Plan must also impose measures to increase inclusive placements, provide ongoing support and training for school staff, and help create a reliable data collection system. Further, the Action Plan must hold the district to measurable goals and deadlines for the completion of the Action Plan items. 

The independent monitor is required to provide community progress updates and reports to the plaintiffs and District. The settlement period will span five years after approval of the final Action Plan, or until the date that SCUSD fully implements all the actions that the agreement and Action Plan require. 

“This settlement is the result of years of advocacy, not just by the Black Parallel School Board and the plaintiff families in this case, but by the broader community of Sacramento advocates for disability rights and racial equity in education as well. We appreciate SCUSD working with the plaintiffs to come to an agreement that creates accountability and requires detailed plans and actions for positive change to benefit students and their families,” said Mona Tawatao of the Equal Justice Society, lead attorney for the plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs are represented by the Equal Justice Society (EJS), Disability Rights California (DRC), National Center for Youth Law (NCYL), and Western Center on Law & Poverty (WCLP).

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Analysis Of Governor Newsom’s 2023-2024 May Revision Budget

The Newsom Administration released its 2023-24 May Revision budget, projecting a $31.5 billion deficit. After years of a budget surplus, California is forecasting a downturn in funding due to a combination of capital gains losses and delayed tax filings due to natural disasters, but California remains strong. The May Revision reflects a $37.2 billion in total budgetary reserves and additional funds from the Managed Care Organization tax.  

Governor Newsom maintains many of the Administration’s and legislature’s previous commitments and proposes no new trigger cuts. He also proposes no new corporate or personal taxes, despite calls from the Senate and advocates to increase taxes on wealthy corporations and the state’s highest earners.  

We appreciate that the May Revision maintains past budget agreements including expansion of Medi-Cal to all regardless of immigration status, reforming the Medi-Cal share-of-cost, and on-time implementation of food assistance for Californians 55 years of age or older, regardless of immigration status 

As the fourth largest economy in the world, California has made great strides in addressing poverty and systemic inequities, but there is more work to be done. We look forward to working with the legislature and Administration to protect low-income Californians as the State enters more uncertain fiscal circumstances.  

Below are our initial reactions to the proposed budget by issue area, with a focus on changes from the January budget proposal.   


Health4All: The May Revision maintains full funding to expand full-scope Medi-Cal eligibility to all income eligible adults ages 26-49 regardless of immigration status on January 1, 2024. The May Revision includes increases for previous expansions for adults 50 and older and ages 26-49 due updated managed care rates, higher share of state-only costs, higher caseloads, and higher acuity members. 

Managed Care Organization (MCO) Tax: The May Revision proposes a bigger MCO tax with an earlier start date (April 2023 through end of 2026). This results in $19.4 billion in total funding, including $3.4 billion for 2023-24. $8.3 billion is proposed to offset General Fund and $11.1 billion is proposed to support Medi-Cal investments that improve access, quality, and equity over an 8- to10-year period. These investments include rate increases to at least 87.5% of Medicare for primary care, birthing care, and non-specialty mental health providers and the remainder will be put into a special fund reserve for future consideration.  

Covered California Affordability Sweep: The May Revision maintains proposal to sweep Covered California reserve fund to General Fund totaling $333.4 million. 

Distressed Hospital Loan Program: The May Revision includes up to $150 million one-time General Fund to provide interest-free cashflow loans to not-for-profit and public hospitals in significant financial distress or to governmental entities representing a closed hospital, for purposes of preventing the closure of, or facilitating the reopening of, those hospitals.  

Home and Community-Based Services Spending Plan Extension: The May Revision includes a six-month extension until September 30, 2024 for specified programs such as the IHSS Career Pathways Program and the Senior Nutrition Infrastructure Program to fully spend allocated funding based on critical programmatic needs.  

Doula Services Implementation Evaluation: To align with later implementation date, TBL is proposed to extend the timeline of the Doula Stakeholder Workgroup (from April 1, 2022 until December 31, 2023) and to extend the evaluation of the doula benefit implementation in the Medi-Cal program (from April 1, 2023 until June 30, 2025).  

Medical Interpreter Pilot Program: Through TBL, the May Revision proposes to extend the expenditure authority of the Medical Interpreter Pilot Project for 12 months, from June 30, 2024 to June 30, 2025.  

988 Update: The May Revision includes a one-time augmentation of $15 million for a total of $19 million, from the 988 State Suicide and Behavioral Health Crisis Services Fund for California’s 988 centers. This increase will support workforce expansion to handle increased answered call volume, extensions of service hours, and the availability of chat and text options for callers utilizing the 988 services.  

BH-CONNECT Demonstration (formerly referred to as CalBH-CBC Demonstration): The May Revision includes an update to the BH-CONNECT Demonstration to include a new Workforce Initiative and includes $480 million in funding for each year of the five-year demonstration period ($2.4 billion total funding and no General Fund).  

CalRX and Reproductive Health: The May Revision includes TBL and $2 million one-time General Fund reappropriation from the Capital Infrastructure Security Program and allows the use of these funds for reproductive health care if necessary. 

Community Assistance, Recovery, and Empowerment (CARE) Act: The May Revision includes additional funding to support the implementation of the CARE Act. Compared to the Governor’s Budget, the annual increase is between $43 million and $54.5 million to account for refined county behavioral health department cost assumptions, additional one-time $15 million General Fund for Los Angeles County start-up funding. The May Revision also includes an additional $16.8 million in 2023-24, $29.8 million in 2024-25, and $32.9 million ongoing to double the number of hours per participant for legal services from 20 hours to 40 hours. 


The May Revision preserves the full $3.7 billion in funding for homelessness programs, as committed in previous budgets, including $1 billion for the Homeless Housing, Assistance and Prevention grant program. 

May Revision Adjustments:  

Behavioral Health Bridge Housing Program: $500 million one-time Mental Health Services Fund in 2023-24 in lieu of General Fund. This investment eliminates the January Budget proposed delay of $250 million General Fund to 2024-25 and restores the $1.5 billion commitment funded in the 2022 Budget Act for the program. 


While the May Revision reflects a steady commitment to Homelessness investments, the May Revision also culminated in a weakening of housing investments totaling $17.5 million in General Fund reductions and $345 million in deferrals related to housing programs. Funding for housing programs remains at approximately 88% of the allocations made in 2022-23 and proposed for 2023-24 ($2.85 billion). This outlook could change if there are sufficient General Fund dollars in January 2024. If that occurs, the Governor has committed to restoring $350 million of these reductions. Overall, the proposal includes $500 million continued annual investment in the state Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program, $225 million for the Multifamily Housing Program, and $100 million for the Portfolio Reinvestment Program. These programs have a proven track-record of addressing housing affordability and homelessness across California. 

May Revision Adjustments: 

Foreclosure Intervention Housing Prevention Program: Provides funds to various non-profit organizations to acquire foreclosed property and operate as affordable housing. Deferral of $345 million of the $500 million one-time General Fund over four fiscal years—for a revised allocation of: $50 million in 2023-24, $100 million in 2024-25, $100 million in 2025-26, and $95 million in 2026-27 

Downtown Rebound Program: Funds adaptive reuse of commercial and industrial structures to residential housing. Reverts $17.5 million in unexpended funding that remained in this program after the Notice of Funding Availability. 

In contrast, the Senate’s Budget Plan, which was released two weeks ago, both prevents funding cuts and delays, and builds on our progress by including ongoing investment in homelessness and resources for key housing production programs. Notably, that Plan provides $1 billion in ongoing funds to support the Homeless Housing Assistance, and Prevention Program, $1 billion towards the state Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Program, and an additional $300 million flexible allocation towards affordable housing programs.  

Western Center is a proud member of a coalition of California’s leading affordable housing, homelessness, and housing justice advocacy organizations championing a comprehensive coalition investment strategy for affordable housing production, preservation, and tenant stability. While the May Revision falls short of our requests to meet the housing and homelessness crisis at scale, we look forward to continuing our budget advocacy and encourage the Governor and Legislative leadership to finalize a budget that includes ongoing, significant resources like those included in the Senate budget plan and our coordinated housing budget letter. 


CalWORKs Grant Increase: The May Revision reflects a 3.6-percent increase ($111.2 million in 2023-24) to CalWORKs Maximum Aid Payment levels, effective October 1, 2023. These increased grant costs are funded through the Child Poverty and Family Supplemental Support Subaccount.  

Supplemental Security Income/State Supplementary Payment (SSI/SSP): The May Revision continues to include an 8.6% increase in funding for the SSI/SSP and Cash Assistance for Immigrants (CAPI) program providing a $3.6 billion from the general fund. This allocation provides recipients with an increase in grant levels to $1,134 per month and $1,928 per month for couples. 

California Food Assistance Program (CFAP) Expansion Update: The May Revision moves up the issuance of food benefits for older undocumented immigrants to start October 2025, instead of the January Proposal that delayed it until 2027, which we appreciate but we still need Food4All regardless of age and immigration status. 

Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) Program: The May Revision includes $47 million ($23.5 million General Fund) for outreach and automation costs to phase in a new federal Summer EBT program for children who qualify for free or reduced-price school meals beginning summer 2024.  

Safety Net Reserve: The May Revision withdraws $450 million (half of $900 million) from the Safety Net Reserve. The reserve is intended to maintain existing Medi-Cal and CalWORKs program benefits and services when program cost may increase due to economic conditions, which may occur if recession occurs, so we argue it is prudent to not draw from Safety Net Reserve until those conditions are met. 

Services for Survivors and Victims of Hate Crimes Augmentation: The May Revision includes an additional $10 million General Fund to support services for victims and survivors of hate crimes and their families and facilitate hate crime prevention measures in consultation with the Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs. 

For questions, contact: 

  • Health: Linda Nguy, Senior Policy Advocate – lnguy[at]; Sandra Poole, Policy Advocate – spoole[at] 
  • Housing and Homelessness: Cynthia Castillo, Policy Advocate – ccastillo[at]; Tina Rosales, Policy Advocate – trosales[at] 
  • Public Benefits/ Access to Justice: Christopher Sanchez, Policy Advocate – csanchez[at] 

Homelessness Prevention Act Passes Senate Judiciary with Leadership Majority

Sacramento (Calif.) — Today a major step forward to stem the rise of homelessness and protect California renters and tenants —the Homelessness Prevention Act (SB 567) authored by Senator María Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles)—passed through the Senate Judiciary committee with a leadership majority. As evictions rise and homelessness increases, SB 567 responds to the lived experience millions of California’s renters face by strengthening The California Tenant Protection Act of 2019 (AB 1482) to protect families from falling into homelessness. Hundreds of our neighbors who rent in California—including labor, advocates, and faith leaders—gathered at the state capitol to tell their stories and voice their strong support of SB567. The Homelessness Prevention Act closes easily exploitable loopholes used by unscrupulous corporate landlords and provides enforcement tools that protect our neighbors—workers, families, and seniors—from arbitrary evictions and displacement. 

The Homelessness Prevention Act is being co-sponsored by ACCE, California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability, PICO California, Public Advocates, and Western Center on Law and Poverty. With over 250 diverse organizations supporting the bill, this powerful coalition is led by a steering committee composed of the co-sponsors as well as Housing Now!, Inner City Law Center, the Million Voters Project, PolicyLink, and Tenants Together, united in an effort to make housing affordable and disrupt the displacement crisis that is disproportionately impacting working class communities of color. 

“I want to thank our community and partners for working diligently with us to pass a key policy vote. SB 567 is committed to closing existing loopholes in state tenant protections law and ensuring it is enforced,” said Senator María Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles).  “These are key components to advance as we seek to proactively address the state homelessness humanitarian crisis, by keeping our families in their homes. I look forward to continuing to see this measure move ahead.”

“As a single mom of two kids that is currently receiving a no-fault ‘substantial renovation’ eviction for a plumbing job that only takes a few days, passing Senate Bill 567 feels like a life and death situation for me. If we are not allowed to return to our home at the rent amount we had paid before our plumbing was repaired, we will likely be homeless. Everyone deserves safe, healthy and affordable housing – and that means repairs without rent hikes or evictions. I am grateful that the Senate Judiciary committee took an important step forward towards realizing that value today, and at ACCE we look forward to working with legislators to lower the rent cap moving forward.” – Patricia Mendoza, leader with the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), resident of Imperial Beach

“For our low-income rural and farmworker clients, this bill provides vital improvements to the Tenant Protection Act and we are pleased that the measure approved by the Judiciary Committee retains critical provisions to close loopholes in the Act that have left too many of our clients vulnerable to eviction,” said Brian Augusta, Legislative Advocate, California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation.

“SB 567 passing means that my family doesn’t have to fear our landlord kicking us out onto the streets just to raise rents. These protections give us the peace of mind to know our home is safe from predatory landlords exploiting loopholes in AB 1482.” Alejandra Velasco, leader with Faith in the Valley, a PICO California Federation, resident of Taft.

“There’s never a dull moment in the legislature. A last minute agreement helped move this bill forward, unfortunately without the rent cap,” said Michelle Pariset, Director of Legislative Affairs, Public Advocates. “Closing the loopholes in just cause protections will benefit millions of California renters and we need to make these laws enforceable. We’re excited for the next step.”

California legislators must use every tool available to keep people housed as we’re facing a housing and homelessness crisis. The passage of this bill is a step in that direction to prevent unjust evictions. We look forward to working with legislators on advancing key enforcement protections,” said Tina Rosales, policy advocate at Western Center on Law and Poverty.

In order to address California’s growing affordable housing and homelessness pandemic our state’s leadership must first prevent more community members from being unhoused; creating stronger renter protections that help every Californian have access to safe shelter is one cost-effective solution. As inflation soars and state and local eviction protections enacted during the pandemic come to an end, the gaps in existing state protections are impacting more and more renters, who are facing significant rent increases and a spike in “no fault” evictions. The Homelessness Prevention Act will provide critical safeguards to stop abuses and ensure that renters can stay in their homes.

We hope our elected leaders will partner with Senator Durazo to help keep families housed and our diverse communities together.


Additional Resources: SB 567 Homelessness Prevention Act Fact Sheets are available in Armenian, Chinese, English, Filipino, Korean, Spanish and Vietnamese.  

Western Center’s 2023 Legislative Agenda

Western Center’s 2023 Legislative Agenda

March 6, 2023
Following is a list of bills to help secure housing, healthcare, and a strong safety net for low-income Californians that will be sponsored or co-sponsored by Western Center on Law & Poverty during the 2023 legislative session.


AB 1085 (Maienschein): Medi-Cal: housing support services.
The bill would require the Department to seek federal approval to make housing support services a Medi-Cal benefit for Californians experiencing homelessness. Housing support services help people access housing, remain stably housed, and are essential for individuals experiencing homelessness to access meaningful care.
(Co-sponsored with Corporation for Supportive Housing)
Fact Sheet

AB 1094 (Wicks): Consent and Reproductive Equity (CARE) for Families Act.
This bill will ensure that a pregnant or perinatal person provides informed consent prior to drug or alcohol tests or screens being conducted on them or their newborn.
(Co-Sponsored with Drug Policy Alliance, Black Women for Wellness, California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, A New Way of Life, Los Angeles Dependency Lawyers)

AB 1157 (Ortega and Wilson): Rehabilitative and habilitative services: durable medical equipment and services.
This bill would clarify that durable medical equipment is a covered essential health benefit in California-regulated health plans and policies when prescribed by a doctor for rehabilitative or habilitative purposes. The bill would also remove limitations such as annual caps on durable medical equipment coverage.
(Co-sponsored with National Health Law Program)
Fact Sheet

SB 595 (Roth): Minimizing gaps in health coverage.
This bill is follow-up legislation to ensure that last year’s SB 644, which required Employment Development Department (EDD) to share information about those who applied for income-replacing benefits with Covered California to allow Covered California to outreach and help enroll these individuals in Medi-Cal or Covered California, is implemented timely.
(Co-sponsored with California Pan Ethnic Health Network and Health Access)
Fact sheet


AB 653 (Reyes): Department of Housing and Community Development.
This bill would create a program to pair housing navigation, incentives, and deposit resources with housing choice voucher tenants to find and secure a unit. The bill would also require housing authorities that have low successful placement rates to work with the Department of Housing and Community Development to analyze and improve their policies.
(Co-sponsored with Housing CA, Corporation for Supportive Housing, United Ways of CA and the National Housing Law Project (NHLP))
Fact Sheet

AB 846 (Bonta): Low-income housing credit.
This bill would limit rent increases in properties funded by the low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) program.
(Co-Sponsored with the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation)

AB 920 (Bryan): Discrimination: housing status.
This bill would add housing status to the list of protected categories under California’s anti-discrimination statute in order to prevent the routine discrimination of unhoused people by public and private entities that receive state funding.
(Co-Sponsored with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Disability Rights California (DRC), Housing California, and Public Advocates)
Fact Sheet

AB 1082 (Kalra): Authority to remove vehicles.
This bill would prohibit towing or immobilizing a vehicle due to unpaid parking tickets, increase the number of unpaid tickets from one to eight before the DMV can place a registration hold, and improve the guidelines for parking ticket payment programs.
(Co-Sponsored with End Poverty in California (EPIC), FreeFrom, and Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights (LCCR))
Fact Sheet

AB 1085 (Maienschein): Medi-Cal: housing support services.
The bill would require the Department to seek federal approval to make housing support services a Medi-Cal benefit for Californians experiencing homelessness. Housing support services help people access housing, remain stably housed, and are essential for individuals experiencing homelessness to access meaningful care.
(Co-sponsored with Corporation for Supportive Housing)
Fact Sheet

AB 1418 (McKinnor): Limiting Racially Motivated Crime-Free Housing Programs and Nuisance Ordinances.
This bill would limit local crime-free/nuisance ordinances (CFNH) housing programs and nuisance ordinances, which typically include harmful provisions such as requiring landlords to evict tenants for alleged criminal activity. Often touted as crime-fighting tools, these policies represent a new phase in the evolution of segregationist housing laws designed to exclude people of color from communities.
(Co-Sponsored with California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, Disability Rights California, National Housing Law Project, and Root & Rebound)
Fact Sheet
Register support here

ACA 10 (Haney): Housing is a Human Right.
ACA 10 will recognize that every Californian has the fundamental human right to adequate housing on an equitable and non-discriminatory basis. Should the measure pass in the legislature, California voters will have the opportunity to vote to add this right to the state’s constitution, creating an obligation on the part of state and local governments to take meaningful action to fully realize the right.
(Co-sponsored with Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) Action, End Poverty in California (EPIC), Housing Now, ACLU California Action, Abundant Housing LA, National Homelessness Law Center, and PowerCA Action)
Fact Sheet
Register support here

SB 460 (Wahab): Fair Chance Housing.
The bill would establish the first statewide Fair Chance Housing Ordinance (FCH), which would provide a pathway for individuals with criminal records reentering society to access, obtain, and sustain housing. This bill would prevent rental housing providers from screening for criminal history of housing applicants during the advertisement, application, selection, or eviction process, unless required by federal law.
(Co-Sponsored with All of Us or None, Just Cities, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, and Root & Rebound)
SB 460 Fact Sheet
Register Support here

SB 567 (Durazo): Homelessness Prevention Act.
This bill would close the gaps in existing law that leaves millions of California renters at risk of exorbitant rent increases and allows housing providers to abuse “no-fault” just cause eviction protections.
(Co-Sponsored with Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability, PICO California, and Public Advocates)
SB 567 Fact Sheet
Register Support here

Public Benefits and Access to Justice

AB 94 (Davies): Administration of public social services: blocked telephone calls.
This bill would prohibit county departments of social services to call recipients from a blocked phone number.
(Co-Sponsored with Coalition of California Welfare Rights Organizations)

AB 274 (Bryan): CalWORKs: CalFresh: eligibility: income exclusions.
This bill would exempt any grant, scholarship, loan, or fellowship as income for CalWORKs.
(Co-Sponsored with Coalition of California Welfare Rights Organizations)

AB 310 (Arambula): CalWORKs.
This spot bill would provide various reforms to the CalWORKs program.
(Co-sponsored with Coalition of California Welfare Rights Organizations, GRACE/End Child Poverty California, John Burton Advocates for Youth, and Parent Voices)

AB 325 (Reyes): Human services: noncitizen victims.
This bill would provide social services to immigrants who have applied for humanitarian relief including applicants who have applied for Asylum, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS), and survivors of domestic abuse who have applied for relief through the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
(Co-Sponsored with Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA), Coalition of California Welfare Rights Organizations)

AB 380 (Arambula): California Labor Trafficking Prevention Act.
This bill would establish a Labor Trafficking unit within the Department of Industrial Relations the Division of Labor Standards.
(Co-Sponsored with Sunita Jain Anti-Trafficking Initiative, Loyola Law School)

AB 843 (J. Carrillo): Restoration of electronically stolen CalFresh benefits.
This bill would place into law that recipients of the CalFresh program who have been victims of electronic theft are able to have their benefits restored. Today electronic theft of public benefit programs has become rampant and lucrative for thefts as these programs lack adequate protections from these forms of theft.
(Co-Sponsor with Coalition of California Welfare Rights Organizations)

AB 964 (Ortega): Prevention of human trafficking through state contracts.
This bill would enhance prevention of human trafficking through state contracts by requiring awardees of state contracts to submit a human trafficking prevention plan.
(Co-Sponsor with the Sunita Jain Anti-Trafficking Initiative, Loyola Law School)

AB 991 (Alvarez): Modernizing public benefit communication.
This bill would allow recipients of public benefit programs to provide information that has been requested by county departments of social services via email.
(Co-Sponsored with Coalition of California Welfare Rights Organizations)

AB 1094 (Wicks): Consent and Reproductive Equity (CARE) for Families Act.
This bill would ensure that a pregnant or perinatal person provides informed consent prior to drug or alcohol tests or screens being conducted on them or their newborn.
(Co-Sponsored with Drug Policy Alliance, Black Women for Wellness, California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, A New Way of Life, Los Angeles Dependency Lawyers)

AB 1266 (Kalra): End Debtor’s Prison Act.
This bill will remove the possibility of bench warrants being issued for infractions. Today courts are able to issue bench warrants if someone fails to appear in court or doesn’t pay a fine.
(Co-Sponsoring with the Debt Free Justice Coalition, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area)

SB 36 (Skinner): Safe Haven for Abortion & Gender-Affirming Care Act.
This bill would strengthen our safe haven protections by making it illegal for bail agents or bounty hunters to apprehend people in California who have left another state to avoid criminal prosecution or imprisonment related to that state’s criminalization of abortion or gender-affirming care. The bill would also ensure that benefits such as CalFresh and CalWORKs would not be denied to individuals who left another state and traveled to California for purposes described above but would otherwise be eligible for such benefits.
(Co-Sponsored with Black Women for Wellness, Equality California, NARAL Pro-Choice California, Coalition of California Welfare Rights Organizations)

SB 491 (Durazo): Access to Mail for Unhoused Californians.
This bill would create an option for unhoused Californians to pick up government related mail from a county department of social services such as Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards, election ballots, public housing waiting list notifications, student report cards, and much more.
(Co-Sponsored with Coalition of California Welfare Rights Organizations)

SB 727 (Limón): Forgiveness of coerce debt for survivors of human trafficking.
This bill would provide a pathway for survivors of human trafficking to have coerced debt forgiven that accrued during the time they were trafficked.
(Co-Sponsored with Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST), Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice)

Contact our Sacramento Advocates: For more information about Western Center on Law & Poverty and our advocacy priorities, go to

Linda Nguy
[email protected]

Sandra O. Poole
[email protected]

Cynthia Castillo
[email protected]

Tina Rosales
[email protected]

Public Benefits and Access to Justice
Christopher Sanchez
[email protected]

JOINT PRESS RELEASE: Attorneys for Community Groups Denounce California’s Move to Appeal Ruling in Covid-19 Rent Relief Lawsuit

For Immediate Release: March 2, 2023

Media Contact: Joshua Busch, 310-991-2503, [email protected]


Attorneys for Community Groups Denounce California’s Move to Appeal Ruling in Covid-19 Rent Relief Lawsuit

In January, a Superior Court judge ordered the state to develop denial notices that satisfy constitutional due process protections for applicants

OAKLAND, CA – March 2, 2023 – Attorneys representing three community groups suing the State of California for wrongfully denying applicants without adequate process in its Covid-19 rent relief program released a statement today denouncing the State’s decision to appeal a recent ruling in the case. In January, a Superior Court judge said that in rejecting an application for rent relief, the state must “specify the facts supporting the denial” in order to satisfy the applicant’s right to due process–meaning the denial notice must provide enough information for applicants to understand why the state rejected their application, and potentially appeal the decision. The state has been barred from issuing denial notices to the approximately 140,0000 remaining applicants until this requirement is met.

The state’s lawyer argued that this requirement would be too burdensome, and that in order to provide such information to applicants, the state would have to pay all remaining rent relief funds to the private contractor it hired to administer the program. Alameda Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch rejected the state’s argument and its implications that “a constitutional principle can be ignored because of budgetary reasons.” Last Friday, the state turned again to the Court of Appeal, requesting it throw out the lower court’s order.

In response, the legal team representing the community groups that filed the suit has issued the following statement:

“Our clients are simply asking the State of California disburse rental assistance funds to eligible tenants so that they can avoid eviction, and for those that are found ineligible for assistance, provide a notice that explains why the tenant is being denied so they have a fair chance to appeal. Both the trial court and the Court of Appeal have agreed that tenants need to be told the specific reason they are being denied assistance.Yet, rather than provide applicants with the basic information both courts have said is required—information we know the program keeps track of—the state continues to dispute its obligation to the public, and has filed yet another writ in the Court of Appeal to end the injunction and continue issuing unacceptably opaque denials.

At the same time the state refuses to inform tenants who are still waiting for help nearly a year after the program closed why their applications are not being approved. We are disappointed by the state’s decision to put its resources towards litigation instead of distributing funds to eligible tenants and landlords. The state’s refusal to provide transparency is preventing much-needed relief from getting into the hands of tens of thousands of Californians . Many of these tenants have started to get eviction notices for nonpayment of rent, and the state’s inaction will harm Californians who need help now. If the state moves forward with denying the 140,000 remaining applications as it proposes, the program’s total denial rate could be nearly 50%, a shameful track record for the state with the highest need in the country. This denial rate does not include tens of thousands of additional applicants for whom the state only approved part of the rental assistance requested without explanation, leaving tenants vulnerable to eviction for the balance.

We are concerned that the state erroneously continues to label the program as ‘in limbo.’ The only part of the program impacted by this lawsuit is the state’s ability to issue denial notices. Nothing is stopping the state from reaching out to applicants to help them fix mistakes on their applications, ask for missing information, or even disperse funds to approved applicants. Frustratingly, we hear from dozens of applicants every week who have been waiting patiently for a year or more with no follow-up, information, or assistance from the state.

Rather than fix the numerous widespread issues with the program, the state continues to drag this case out and delay rental payments by refusing to amend their flawed notice, repeatedly running to the Court of Appeal, and engaging in legal delay tactics. They are now alarmingly turning around and blaming our clients —tenant rights organizations who have assisted thousands of tenants navigate the difficult application process—for the lack of payments to suffering Californians. But our clients have only ever had one goal in bringing this case: to make sure that our most vulnerable residents get the rent relief promised and avoid eviction. We hope the state begins to act with the same goals in mind.”

The state was sued last June by community groups Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE Action), Strategic Actions for a Just Economy (SAJE), and PolicyLink for issuing flawed notices that provided little or no explanation for why an applicant was denied, making it difficult for wrongfully denied tenants to appeal. The groups are represented by Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA), Public Counsel, Western Center on Law & Poverty, and Covington & Burling LLP.


Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA) is a nonprofit law firm that seeks to achieve equal justice for people living in poverty across Greater Los Angeles. LAFLA changes lives through direct representation, systems change, and community empowerment. It has five offices in Los Angeles County, along with four Self-Help Legal Access Centers at area courthouses, and three domestic violence clinics to aid survivors.

Public Counsel is the nation’s largest provider of pro bono legal services, utilizing an innovative legal model to promote justice, hope, and opportunity in lower-income and communities of color in Los Angeles and across the nation. Through groundbreaking civil rights litigation, community building, advocacy, and policy change, as well as wide-ranging direct legal services that annually help thousands of people experiencing poverty, Public Counsel has fought to secure equal access to justice for more than 50 years.

Western Center on Law & Poverty fights in courts, cities, counties, and in the Capitol to secure housing, health care, and a strong safety net for Californians with low incomes, through the lens of economic and racial justice.

Letter to Assemblymember Josh Hoover in Opposition to AB 257

Assemblymember Josh Hoover
Capitol Annex
1021 O St Suite 4540
Sacramento, CA 95814
February 3, 2023

As organizations and individuals who work to end homelessness and protect the human and civil rights of all Californians, the undersigned join together to oppose AB 257 (Hoover), which seeks to further criminalize the very existence of our unhoused neighbors in public space. AB 257 would make it a crime to sit, lie, sleep, or store, use, maintain, or place personal property upon any street, sidewalk, or other public right-of-way within 500 feet of a school, daycare center, park, or library. The bill would also make it a crime to resist, delay, or obstruct a police officer or public employee attempting to enforce this measure. We are gravely concerned that AB 257 would further demonize, destabilize, criminalize, and violate the human rights of unhoused Californians while failing to address the underlying driver of homelessness: the lack of affordable and accessible housing to Californians with the lowest incomes. However, we would welcome a chance to work with you and other members of the legislature to advance solutions that address the urgent housing, economic, and health needs of Californians experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity.

Given the ubiquity of schools, parks, libraries, and daycare centers, this policy would effectively make it a crime for any unhoused Californian to exist in public space, and put police officers at the frontlines of responding to our state’s affordable housing and homelessness crisis. By framing the bill as means to enhance public safety, this measure perpetuates false narratives that unhoused people are inherently dangerous. It also ignores that our unhoused neighbors include families and children who attend schools and visit parks and libraries. Further, given the fact that Black people and other people of color disproportionately live without housing or  shelter and are unjustly targeted by law enforcement, AB 257 also reinforces dangerous  racialized stereotypes that continue to reproduce systemic inequity in housing, health, employment, and legal outcomes.

Only housing ends homelessness, and at present, California is experiencing a housing affordability crisis decades in the making, with a statewide shortage of 1.2 million affordable homes. Without housing options, criminalizing basic activities of living cannot solve homelessness and may make it worse. As shown by recent research and reporting from across the state, sweeping encampments and criminalizing unhoused people with nowhere else to go is traumatic, destabilizing, and ineffective. People displaced by sweeps regularly lose access to important belongings, including identity documents, medication and healthcare resources, and irreplaceable belongings such as photographs or family heirlooms or have them seized and destroyed. Criminal penalties for sleeping create legal and financial barriers that may make it harder to access housing or services in the future. Sweeps can disrupt service provision and exacerbate well-founded mistrust of government workers and institutions. Under AB 257’s proposed enforcement zones, people would almost certainly be pushed to areas far away from critical services and resources. Finally, a police-based response to homelessness is extremely costly to local governments, diverting critical resources away from long-term solutions like affordable and supportive housing, mental health services, infrastructure, and other critical life-affirming resources.

Criminalizing unhoused people because they are homeless violates their constitutional and civil rights. Courts have found that, where people experiencing homelessness have no alternative housing or shelter, the state is prohibited from criminalizing acts such as sitting, lying, sleeping, or other life-sustaining activities. People cannot be restricted from public spaces by reason of their housing status, especially given that decades of underinvestment mean that services, shelters, and housing options do not exist in this state for everyone who needs them. The effect of such a blatantly discriminatory law will lead to further stigmatization and discrimination of people experiencing houselessness. This discrimination also compounds considering that people experiencing homelessness are also disproportionately comprised of other marginalized groups, including people of color, people with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ people.

AB 257 perpetuates a harmful trend of scapegoating our unhoused neighbors and wasting public resources on inequitable and ineffective enforcement-driven homelessness policy. If the legislation’s goal is, as its author states, to increase safety surrounding encampments, there are many ways to do so that do not require police or criminal penalties: ongoing sanitation services, regular trash pickup, housing navigation resources, and on-site support services at encampment sites while people wait to be connected to interim and permanent housing and services.

While we vehemently oppose AB 257, we reiterate our interest in working with the Legislature to secure additional state resources to deliver on our neighbors’ basic health and housing needs, including through budget investments in supportive and affordable housing, service provider outreach, community-based mental health and substance use treatment services to support our unhoused neighbors in connecting to the housing and care the want and need.

To discuss these concerns further, please reach out to Cynthia Castillo, [email protected].

The following organizations:
ACLU California Action
Housing California
Western Center on Law and Poverty
Active San Gabriel Valley
All Home
Bet Tzedek Legal Services
Black Women for Wellness
Break the Cycle Project
Brilliant Corners
Build Affordable Faster
California Coalition for Women Prisoners
California Housing Partnership
Californians for Safety and Justice
Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice
Centro Legal de la Raza
Climate Resolve
Coalition on Homelessness San Francisco
Community Works
Corporation for Supportive Housing
Disability Community Resource Center (DCRC)
Disability Rights California
Downtown Women’s Center
East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice
Elder Law & Disability Center
Ella Baker Center
Ensuring Opportunity Campaign to End Poverty in Contra Costa
First to Serve, Inc.
Friends Committee on Legislation of California
GRACE/End Child Poverty CA
Haven Hills, Inc.
Homeless Health Care Los Angeles
Housing Equity & Advocacy Resource Team (HEART LA)
Housing is a Human Right OC
HPP Cares (Home Preservation and Prevention Inc.)
Indivisible CA: StateStrong
Indivisible CA45
Indivisible Sacramento
Indivisible San Francisco
Indivisible Sonoma County
Initiate Justice
Inner City Law Center
LA Family Housing
Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of The San Francisco Bay Area
Law Foundation of Silicon Valley
Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability
Legal Aid of Marin
My Friend’s Place
National Alliance to End Homelessness
National Homelessness Law Center
National Housing Law Project
NoHo Home Alliance
Norwalk Unides
No CARE Court Coalition
PICO California
Project Amiga
Public Advocates
Residents United Network Los Angeles
Sacramento Homeless Organizing Committee
Sacramento Regional Coalition to End Homelessness
Safe Place for Youth
San Bernardino Free Them All
Silicon Valley De-Bug
SLO Legal Assistance Foundation
South County Homelessness Task Force
Strategic Actions for a Just Economy (SAJE)
Streets for All
The Center in Hollywood
The Midnight Mission
The People Concern
The People’s Resource Center
The Public Interest Law Project
The RowLA – The Church Without Walls – Skid Row
The San Francisco Public Defender’s Office
Transitions Clinic Network
Union Station Homeless Services
United Way of Greater Los Angeles
University of Southern California
Venice Community Housing
Voices for Progress
Western Regional Advocacy Project
YIMBY Action
The following individual community members:
Paula Lomazzi
Casey Thompson
Shelly Williams
Sarah Whipple
Ben Baczkowski
Kevin Green
Christina Gonzalez
Zerita Jones
Haley Feng
Joyce E Roberts
Damian J. Hernandez
Irma Ramos
Kyle Robert Kitson
Sydney Smanpongse
Elizabeth Flores
Olivia Barber
Itzel Vasquez-Rodriguez
Ariège Besson
Rachael L Parker-Chavez
Nelowfar ahmadi
Gloria Magallanes
Isaac Bushnell
Andrea Martinez
Kiara Tarazon-Molina
Melissa Ceja
Jacqueline Olivares
Katayun Salehi
Abbi Samuels
Roya Pakzad
Amy Ithurburn
Rebekah Turnbaugh

Update on ACCE, PolicyLink, and SAJE v. California Housing and Community Development

In June 2022, ACCE and SAJE, and PolicyLink, filed a lawsuit against California’s Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) for administering ERAP in an opaque and discriminatory way and for refusing to provide adequate explanation to tenants who were denied assistance. In July 2022, a judge agreed that the denial notices HCD sent out are too vague, that applicants have no meaningful way to appeal, and that HCD indefensibly refused to tell applicants which of their documents led to denial. The court then ordered HCD not to deny any pending rental assistance applications as of July 2022 until the court can determine if HCD’s process meets constitutional due process standards. Western Center on Law & Poverty, Public Counsel, Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, and Covington & Burling represent the Petitioners.

As of January 19, 2023, HCD has not provided the Court with a notice that meets due process standards.  Currently, HCD is still not allowed to deny any pending applications that do not meet due process. However, nothing is stopping HCD from continuing to process applications, approve applications, or issue payments to approved applicants. We urge you to continue contacting HCD if you were approved but have not yet received payment, or if your application has been pending since 2021. If you need legal assistance, you can find legal resources in your area at You can also reach out to your state representatives to tell them your story and how HCD is holding up much needed emergency assistance to vulnerable Californians.

2023-24 Housing and Homelessness Budget Blueprint for Impact

Sent February 6th, 2023

The Honorable Gavin Newsom Governor of California

Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon

Assembly Budget Chair Philip Ting

Senate Budget Chair Nancy Skinner


Re: 2023-24 Housing and Homelessness Budget Blueprint for Impact

Dear Governor Newsom, Senate President pro Tempore Atkins, Assembly Speaker Rendon, Assembly Budget Chair Ting, and Senate Budget Chair Skinner:

As you know, California’s affordable housing and homelessness crisis is one of the most pressing challenges facing our state and its residents. You have demonstrated your commitment to addressing this crisis through several years of historic investments and enacting meaningful policy change. We write to you as a united coalition of California’s leading affordable housing, homelessness, and housing justice organizations to propose a set of investments that should serve as a blueprint for housing investment in the 2023-24 budget.

We share your commitment to ensuring everyone in every community has access to a safe, stable, affordable home. However, to continue to build on our progress we must go beyond the investment signaled in the Governor’s January budget proposal and invest at a greater scale in deeply affordable housing development, preservation, homelessness, tenant protection, and affordable homeownership.

We recognize the complex, difficult choices the Administration and the Legislature face in the months ahead in confronting a major projected budget deficit, and appreciate the Administration’s commitment to maintaining many of the planned housing and homelessness investments committed in last year’s budget. We also know from previous deficits and recessions that economic downturns are precisely the times when we must invest in resources for our most marginalized neighbors to prevent our housing and homelessness crisis, and its disproportionate impact on people of color, from worsening. Now is the time to build on our momentum in securing a more stable and affordable California.

We are collectively calling for investing $7.9 billion in a critical continuum of housing production, preservation, and homelessness programs to advance housing affordability and economic resilience in California. Our coalition stands by this full suite of investments as a holistic package that can ensure that our state continues to build and preserve deeply affordable housing to address our shortfall of over a million affordable units for people with extremely low incomes, prevent people from falling into homelessness and solve homelessness for thousands of our neighbors living on our sidewalks and in shelters, and address the disproportionate harms of skyrocketing housing costs, housing instability, and homelessness on Black, Indigenous, and other people of color living in poverty.

$7.9 Billion Investment Strategy to Build on Progress on California’s Affordable Housing Goals

● $4 billion to unlock and accelerate production of 35,275 new affordable homes. We propose doubling the current state Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Program (LIHTC) with an additional $500 million beyond what was allocated in the 2022-2023 state budget. We also urge appropriating $2 billion to the Multifamily Housing Program (MHP) and $1.5 billion to the California Housing Accelerator Program (CHAP) and that HCD be given the authority, with DOF approval, to transfer amounts between these two programs in line with demand. Using a portion of MHP funds for capitalized operating subsidies or in conjunction with augmented HHAP allocations for operating subsidies would allow a significant portion of these funds to provide housing for extremely and acutely low-income households, where the greatest need currently exists.

● $2 billion in additional funding for the Homeless Housing, Assistance, and Prevention Program (HHAP) in 2023-2024 for a total of $3 billion in ongoing funding for future years, allowing 94,000 households to exit homelessness. This funding will provide local jurisdictions and Continuums of Care (CoCs) with adequate resources to rehouse about 20,000 households experiencing homelessness in year one, increasing to rehousing or preventing homelessness for 94,000 households annually by year five, by focusing investment on solutions like rental subsidies, services to help sustain housing, and homeless prevention programs that keep the most marginalized populations from falling into homelessness. Much of this funding can pay for operating costs of deeply affordable housing also created through this proposal, making state capital funding more effective. The Bring California Home Coalition is proposing pairing this funding with programmatic changes to enhance accountability, drive successful long-term outcomes, eliminate racial disparities, and advance workforce capacity and equity across local homeless response systems

● $1 billion to prevent displacement and homelessness for low-income households and preserve new affordable homes, to include:

○ $500 million for the Community Anti-Displacement and Preservation Program (CAPP) as proposed in Senate Bill 225 (Caballero) to spur the preservation of 3,600 homes, preserving low-income housing for 39,600 households over the next 55 years. This program will prevent displacement and homelessness by financing the acquisition of naturally occurring affordable rental housing and preserving it as permanently affordable. Acquisition preservation directly prevents low-income families from being displaced and potentially falling into homelessness today while also investing in expanding the supply of deed-restricted affordable homes for generations to come. CAPP fills a state funding gap where there are not currently resources to support this type and scale of acquisition preservation.

○ $500 million for a targeted rental subsidy program to prevent and end homelessness and displacement for over 13,500 older adults and people with disabilities each year, over four years. As proposed in Senate Bill 37 (Caballero), this funding will create a grant program to prevent the inflow of older adults and people with disabilities, the fastest-growing populations falling into homelessness, and help these populations exit homelessness.

● $500 million for affordable homeownership production through the CalHome Program to provide homeownership opportunities to 5,000 low-income Californians. CalHome is the only state homeownership program with funding dedicated to the construction of new owner-occupied homes for low-income families. CalHome supports programs prioritizing homeownership in various forms for low-income families so they can build equity, increase community stability, and gain the multi-generational benefits of owning a home.

● $200 million to support the affordable housing needs of farmworker and tribal communities. This allocation should include $100 million for farmworker housing development through the Joe Serna Farmworker Housing Grant Program. Farmworkers face significant housing disparities and require resources to ensure safe, quality housing that supports migrant families and make a life-changing difference in their children’s health and educational outcomes. These investments should also include $100 million for a new Tribal Housing Grant Program to help finance homes for rent or purchase on tribal trust and fee land and meet the unique housing, land, and sovereignty conditions of California tribes that are not being met by existing state housing programs.

● $200 million a year for 2 years for resources to help tenants utilize federal Housing Choice Vouchers through landlord recruitment, services, and resources to connect landlords and tenants. These programs have succeeded around the country in increasing voucher utilization and access for voucher holders.

● In addition, we support the augmentation of funding for the Civil Rights Department (CRD) included in the Governor’s January budget proposal to support investigation and enforcement of complaints related to SB 329 (Mitchell, Chapter 600, Statutes of 2019), which prohibited landlords from discriminating against prospective tenants with housing vouchers and other forms of public rental assistance. CRD receives upwards of 800 voucher discrimination complaints every year but does not have sufficient staff to process them all. Expanding enforcement of the state’s voucher non-discrimination law will increase the utilization and effectiveness of both federal- and state-funded rental subsidies.

We realize that these budget requests exceed what is outlined in Governor Newsom’s January budget proposal, but are eager to work with the Administration and the Legislature to seek collaborative and creative approaches, including through exploring new, dedicated revenue sources, to provide long-term funding solutions to our housing crisis. Together, we can ensure that deeply affordable housing units do not continue to languish in the pipeline, unhoused Californians need not wait months or years to access an affordable and accessible housing option, and we stem the inflow of Californians into homelessness through protecting their rights and preserving their affordable housing options. As such, our coalition stands fully committed to advocating for this full spectrum of housing and homelessness programs as a package. We recommend that any housing and homelessness investments beyond those proposed in the Governor’s January budget reflect the proportionality of the requests in this letter.

Thank you for your ongoing leadership and partnership in creating a more affordable and equitable California. We look forward to working together closely on the budget this year.


California’s Riverside County Agrees to Reimburse Families $540K in Juvenile Detention Fees


Para ver esta información en español, haz clic aqui

Settlement Website, click here

January 31, 2023


Willis Jacobson, National Center for Youth Law: [email protected]

Estevan Montemayor, Western Center on Law and Poverty: [email protected]



Riverside County families who were subjected to illegal collection of juvenile fees moved a step closer toward justice — in the form of cash reimbursements — after a court this month granted preliminary approval of a settlement in a class action lawsuit they brought against the County.

The lawsuit, Freeman v. County of Riverside, alleged that the County did not follow California law and the U.S. Constitution when it charged millions of dollars in fees to families who had children in juvenile detention. Under state law, the County was obligated to ensure families had the ability to pay fees they were assessed and inform families of their right to challenge the fees. The plaintiffs claimed that the County failed to fulfill these legal duties. The families are represented by the National Center for Youth Law and the Western Center on Law & Poverty.

After the families filed their complaint in court in March 2020, the County agreed to stop collecting $4.1 million in outstanding juvenile detention and administrative fees. The parties have now negotiated a settlement, in which the County agrees to pay $540,307 to reimburse more than 1,200 class members for the fee payments they made.

“The County’s practices have had a devastating effect on families,” said Michael Harris, an attorney and Senior Director of Legal Advocacy and Justice and Equity at the National Center for Youth Law. “This settlement will offer those families meaningful relief and deter Riverside County and other jurisdictions from illegally assessing and collecting money from struggling families.”

The settlement, if finalized, would mark a major victory for families in Riverside County, some of whom have been caught in decades-long cycles of financial turmoil as a result of the County’s collection practices. Plaintiffs Shirley and Daniel Freeman are among those from whom the County pursued for more than 10 years to collect fees related to their grandson’s time in juvenile detention. “The settlement gives recognition to what happened to us and other families,” said Shirley and Daniel Freeman. “We are pleased that the lawsuit helped families by canceling amounts they still owed and now the settlement will return some of the money that was collected from them.”

“Even when state law requires consideration of ability to pay, individuals and their families are frequently burdened with debt they’re unable to pay. These fees cause significant harm to families, undermining community health and trust in public institutions,” said Rebecca Miller, Senior Litigator with the Western Center on Law and Poverty. “This case shows why fees should not be charged to individuals involved in the juvenile justice system.”

Families from whom Riverside County collected juvenile detention fees will receive mailed notice about the proposed class action settlement in the coming weeks. Parents and guardians who believe they might be members of the class action entitled to relief under the settlement should visit the Settlement Administrator’s website at or call (833) 472-1997.


The National Center for Youth Law centers youth through research, community collaboration, impact litigation, and policy advocacy that fundamentally transforms our nation’s approach to education, health, immigration, foster care, and youth justice. Our vision is a world in which every child thrives and has a full and fair opportunity to achieve the future they envision for themselves. For more information, visit

Western Center on Law & Poverty fights in courts, cities, counties, and in the Capitol to secure housing, health care, and a strong safety net for Californians with low incomes, through the lens of economic and racial justice. For more information, visit

JOINT PRESS RELEASE: Lawsuit Challenges San Bernardino County Approval of Polluting Warehouse Near Schools, Homes



Hallie Kutak, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 844-7117, [email protected]
Nisha Vyas, Western Center on Law and Poverty, (213) 235-2621, [email protected]
Mary Ann Ruiz, Sierra Club, [email protected]
Miranda Fox, Earthjustice, (415) 283-2324, [email protected]

Lawsuit Challenges San Bernardino County Approval of Polluting Warehouse Near Schools, Homes

BLOOMINGTON, Calif.— Environmental justice and conservation groups sued San Bernardino County today for approving a Bloomington warehouse complex without adequately addressing the harms it will cause to air quality, public health and housing.

Today’s lawsuit asserts that the county violated the California Environmental Quality Act when it approved a 213-acre business park to accommodate a massive warehouse and distribution center. The Bloomington Business Park would add more than 8,555 vehicle trips per day — including diesel truck traffic — to an area already referred to as a “diesel death zone” because of the influx of massive warehouses nearby.

In November the board of supervisors greenlit the project on a site the size of 173 football fields near low-income communities, communities of color and three schools. According to state data, the project area already has an overall pollution burden that is heavier than 94% of the state.

“The county’s approval of this project is not only unlawful — it is disproportionately harmful to a community that is already overburdened,” said Candice Youngblood of Earthjustice. “In the last several years, especially as e-commerce has boomed, we’ve seen the freight logistics industry sprawl across the Inland Empire. At this point, these warehouses are in folks’ backyard. The residence closest to this project site is only 11 feet away.”

“Residents in and around Bloomington already breathe some of the nation’s dirtiest air, but San Bernardino County wants to pile on still more pollution,” said Hallie Kutak, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Instead of keeping young children and frontline communities safe, county leaders are allowing industrial developers to turn this neighborhood into a toxic zone. This trend of prioritizing warehouses over residents has got to stop.”

The county’s environmental review failed to consider and mitigate the air quality, greenhouse gas, traffic, noise and other environmental concerns caused by the increased truck traffic this project would bring to the area. These concerns were expressed by many individuals and organizations, including the California Air Resources Board.

“The county has once again ignored the health and safety of residents by approving this project that will add to the cumulative air quality impacts of diesel trucking in this corridor,” said Mary Ann Ruiz, chair of the San Gorgonio Chapter at the Sierra Club. “Concerns from community members and our environmental justice partners were ignored, and our county supervisors must be held accountable.”

“The environmental and health concerns of Bloomington residents have been neglected by the San Bernardino County planning staff and board of supervisors time and time again,” said Alejandra Gonzalez, member of the People’s Collective for Environmental Justice. “Building warehouses in the middle of our neighborhood strips us of our right to breathe clean air and these buildings encroach upon our homes, schools and ultimately our freedom. The approval of the Bloomington Business Park is a deliberate act of disrespect to the children, seniors and families who will continue to call Bloomington their home long after the land that currently houses horses, chickens and gardens becomes home to pallets, forklifts and machinery.”

Despite the county’s dire need for safe and affordable housing, it rezoned existing residential land to accommodate this industrial development, requiring at least 100 homes to be demolished and their occupants to be displaced. Other households near the project will face environmental and other harmful constraints.

Today’s lawsuit also argues that the county’s approval of the project violates fair housing laws intended to protect vulnerable communities from discrimination and requiring the county to, among other things, lift barriers that restrict access to opportunity based on national origin and other protected characteristics.

“We hoped that the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors had the consciousness and convictions to never allow this to happen in an already overburdened community that is majority Latino low-income families, but they voted for it with no deliberation or consideration to public concerns of displacement and perpetuation of environmental racism,” said Ana Gonzalez, executive director of Center for Community Action Environmental Justice.

“There is no evidence that the county analyzed the project’s impacts on the primarily Latinx households that will be directly displaced by the project or in close proximity to the project,” said Nisha Vyas, an attorney with Western Center on Law and Poverty. “Nor did the county consider that this community will disproportionately bear the ongoing environmental, health, and housing harms caused by the Bloomington Business Park.”

Today’s lawsuit was filed in San Bernardino County Superior Court on behalf of the PCEJ, CCAEJ, Sierra Club and the Center. The Community Action and Environmental Justice is represented by Earthjustice; PCEJ is represented by Earthjustice and The Western Center on Law and Poverty; and the Sierra Club is represented by the Law Office of Abigail Smith.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.