San Francisco, CA

Federal government to make decision on San Francisco 'neighborhood preferences'

September 08, 2016
San Francisco officials should find out on Friday whether their plan to help maintain diversity in the city will be approved by the federal government.
     The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development had rejected so-called neighborhood preferences.
     Subsidized housing is set to open in the fall. You would not believe how many people have applied, but the mayor, city attorney and supervisors believe that those who already live somewhere in the neighborhood and want to move here should get preferential treatment.
     Roxanne Trade is hoping to be selected for an apartment in Willie B. Kennedy Place, a brand new 98-unit affordable housing complex built by the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation.
     "We've received over 5,000 applications in less than three weeks, so overwhelming, overwhelming," Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corp. spokesperson Cynthia Alvarez said.

A Supreme Court pass gives affordable housing advocates a win

February 29, 2016
Advocates of low-cost housing scored a legal victory Monday when the U.S. Supreme Court left intact a ruling by California’s highest court allowing cities and counties to require builders to include a percentage of affordable units in each new development.
     The building industry had argued that those requirements amount to a government confiscation of property and should be allowed only if a particular development would cause a shortage of affordable housing. The state Supreme Court rejected those arguments unanimously in June, and the nation’s high court denied review Monday. The case involved a San Jose ordinance, passed in 2010 but not yet in effect, that requires developers of 20 or more units to make at least 15 percent of those units affordable to low- or moderate-income buyers and renters. Similar laws are in effect in more than 170 California communities, including San Francisco, Berkeley, Richmond and unincorporated areas of Contra Costa, Marin and San Mateo counties.

Court excepts roommate site from housing bias laws

February 03, 2012
A website that matches prospective roommates is entitled to screen applicants by sexual orientation and gender because housing discrimination laws don't apply within a household, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday.
     Applying civil rights laws to living arrangements inside a home or apartment "would allow the government to restrict our ability to choose roommates compatible with our lifestyles," said the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. "This would be a serious invasion of privacy, autonomy and security."
     The court ordered dismissal of a suit by two civil rights organizations in Southern California against The Phoenix website requires prospective users to disclose their sex, sexual orientation and family status and say whether they would be willing to live with straight or gay men or women, or with children.

SF landlords might be forced to rent to ex-cons

July 07, 2011
Some landlords in San Francisco are concerned about a proposal they say would force them to rent to ex-cons. The city's Human Rights Commission wants to change city codes as a way to keep former offenders on the right track.
     According to the San Francisco Human Rights Commission nearly seven million Californians have either been arrested or convicted for a misdemeanor or felony. Commissioners say that record makes it hard for them to find housing, but this proposed solution is meeting resistance from some property owners.
     Lafayette Thomas works in the garden outside San Francisco's San Bruno Jail. He was just released from the facility in January and now desperately needs housing, but says no one will rent to him.
     "They want to do a credit report and a police report and it's just hard to get housing. They see you have a felony... and you never get a call back," said Thomas.

HUD scolds Marin on fair housing record

January 06, 2011
Marin County has agreed to research why it has so few racial and ethnic minority residents relative to the rest of the Bay Area and to take “specific actions” to attract more low-income people and ethnic minorities to the affluent county, which is 85 percent white.
     The agreement, which was signed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, came more than a year after the agency found Marin “failed to comply” with Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and two other anti-discrimination statutes.
     The review found that Marin County’s federally funded affordable housing programs failed to adequately outreach to minorities and people with disabilities, failed to adequately track which ethnic groups were benefitting from those affordable housing programs, and failed to take steps to “affirmatively” ensure that low-income and minority residents are not pushed out.

Iguana Man optimistic he won't have to give up his 'service lizard'

August 26, 2009
Cosmie Silfa was at risk of having to give up his doctor-prescribed "service iguana" Skippy. Today, however, Silfa is optimistic he won't have to give up the arm-sized, green lizard his psychiatrist describes as "an essential component of our treatment plan."
     Silfa -- who was profiled in a June SF Weekly cover story about the city's intriguing rules and regulations regarding service animals -- has been entitled to keep "Skippy" the iguana in his well-heated room at the Knox SRO for years thanks to a note from Dr. Cynthia Resendez.
     Yet for reasons that are not totally clear, building management has recently decided it wants more than the aforementioned note, and asked for Silfa's doctor to fill out what appear to be reasonable accommodation request forms. Silfa reported, however, that his doctor felt uncomfortable filling out the forms, and believed providing the note was enough -- setting in motion a situation in which he could be forced to remove the iguana from the premises. The John Stewart Company, which manages this SRO, has not gotten back to us yet, and this move puzzled Chuck Hauptman, HUD's regional director of fair housing and equal opportunities.

Craigslist Not Liable For Illegal Ads, Court Says

March 18, 2008
Craigslist is not liable for discriminatory housing ads posted on its Web site, a federal appeals court has ruled.
     The decision is a victory for the Internet bulletin board where every month more than 30 million people post offers to buy, sell or rent goods and services, including housing, free of charge.
     A group of Chicago lawyers sued the Web site in 2006 because some of its housing notices illegally discriminate on the basis of race, gender, religion and ethnicity.
     Various ads say "no minorities" or "no children." Declaring such preferences violates the U.S. Fair Housing Act and would be illegal in a newspaper.
     But a three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals on Friday found that Craigslist is not the publisher of these ads, as a newspaper would be.

Barring wheelchair washing may violate housing laws

February 24, 2007
Question: My 15-year old son is a typical teenager. He is into sports and a lot of outdoor activities. The only difference between him and his friends is that he has to use a wheelchair. For the past year we have been washing off the chair with soap and water in the driveway. The last time we did this, the new manager told us we were not allowed to use any area of the grounds to clean the wheelchair. There is no other place for us. What can we do?

Wells Fargo targeted over charges of predatory lending

December 15, 2005
Groups alleging that one of the nation’s wealthiest financial firms engages in discriminatory lending practices staged a picket at the company’s headquarters yesterday. The groups are in a long-running campaign to force the firm to admit to and provide compensation for what critics term "predatory" lending. The protest at Wells Fargo’s San Francisco offices garnered little media attention, but organizers considered it an important step toward wringing economic equity from the banking giant.
     Yesterday’s demonstration was aimed at highlighting allegations that Wells Fargo routinely adds surprise charges to mortgages taken out by minorities, with many rates rising well above 10 percent. As of last week, the average mortgage rate in the nation’s largest cities hovered around 6.5 percent, according to the Associated Press.
     Company shareholders and community activists reportedly joined the Association for Community Reform Now (ACORN) in picketing Wells Fargo’s headquarters, as did members of Responsible Wealth, a philanthropic group, and the Community Reinvestment Association of North Carolina (CRA-NC), an advocate for wealth equality. The latter two groups have been negotiating with Wells Fargo over reforming its lending practices for most of the year, leading to minor concessions on payment penalties and other issues.


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