San Francisco, CA

SF seeks to limit predatory lending with moratorium

December 15, 2005
San Francisco took a step Thursday toward imposing a 45-day moratorium on new payday loan and check-cashing businesses, which city officials say are “preying” on The City’s poor by charging them interest that sometimes approaches annual percentage rates of 500 percent. The moratorium would allow The City time to look at how to regulate the number of businesses and where they can locate.
     The San Francisco check-cashing and payday loan businesses have grown from a handful of stores to as many as 60 in recent years racking up profits of $40 million a year, according to the Brookings Institution and city officials. They are clustered in The City’s poorer neighborhoods, such as the Tenderloin, Mission and Bayview, where banks are sometimes few and far between.
     In exchange for a small loan totaling no more than $255, an individual provides the lender a check for the loan plus a finance charge, which by law is capped at $17.65 per $100. The business does not cash the check until the customer’s next payday. Because of the short term of the loans, the annual percentage rate for the loans can equal 460 percent. For check cashing, the businesses can keep up to 12 percent of the total depending on the type of check.

Disabled woman wins $1 million in bias suit

November 07, 2005
disabled San Francisco woman who had to hobble up a stairway over a three-year period while fighting her landlord for an accessible parking space settled her discrimination suit Friday for $1 million.
     The state Department of Fair Employment and Housing said the settlement reached by Shirley Carper and the owners of the 2001 California Street apartments was the largest ever in a housing discrimination suit filed by the department.
     Carper, a 24-year tenant, asked the owners in 2000 for a space that would have spared her from walking up 16 stairs and aggravating a degenerative disorder in her knee, her attorneys said. Despite supporting letters from city, state and private civil rights agencies, they said, the landlord refused until 2003, after Carper filed suit.

Disabled kids among lawyer's victims

October 15, 2004
A jury Thursday convicted a once-prominent attorney who lived a pampered, lavish lifestyle for stealing millions from clients including low-income tenants, disabled children and struggling immigrants.
     Prosecutors alleged Nikolai Tehin ripped off more than $2 million. Tehin, 57, was found guilty on all 15 counts of mail fraud, money laundering and related felonies, all connected to accusations that he spent his clients' settlement money on himself and to pay off other clients in a Ponzi-type fraud scheme.
     The jury deliberated for nearly two days. Tehin faces 20 years in prison.

Google accused of elderly discrimination

July 23, 2004
Online search engine leader Google Inc. casts itself as an enlightened employer that pampers its employees with free meals to supplement plentiful helpings of stock options that could soon be worth millions of dollars.
     But a lawsuit filed earlier this week by a recently fired Google manager offers a less flattering picture, contending the company has cultivated a culture that discriminates against older workers and fostered serious morale problems.
     The civil complaint, filed Tuesday in Santa Clara Superior court, alleges Mountain View-based Google fired Brian Reid, 54, as its director of operations in February 2004 because he didn't fit in a culture emphasizing "youth and energy."

Know rules before you buy

May 22, 2004
If you plan to purchase a new home in California, you will probably have to consider whether you can abide by a given set of covenants, conditions and restrictions. Approximately 80 percent of new homes planned or under construction in California will be subject to CC&Rs.
     To avoid buying into a contractual relationship that you may regret later, demand a copy of a development's CC&Rs early in your home-buying process and allow yourself time to read them. Don't wait until close of escrow.
     Ron Kingston of the California Association of Realtors says that although most real estate agents make every effort to get the CC&Rs into the hands of a potential buyer as early as possible, the CC&Rs are a deed restriction that runs with the property, and the onus is on the title company to transfer the CC&Rs, along with title to the property, at close of escrow.

Human rights abuses begin at home

May 05, 2004
Lately, U.S. conduct abroad has triggered a number of inquiries into alleged – and in some cases, undeniable – violations of international human rights.
     Photos testify that American troops have abused Iraqi prisoners in terrible ways. Some have argued that the U.S.'s practice of sending accused terrorists to be interrogated in countries where torture is permitted violates America's obligations under the U.N. Convention Against Torture. And allegations of U.S. guards' mistreatment of detainees at Guantanamo seem all the more relevant as the Supreme Court decides whether U.S. federal courts can review detainees' claims.
     Meanwhile, as the news gives Americans an education in international human rights issues, American citizens seem more willing to consider the possibility of violations right here at home.

United Airlines to pay $36.5M in lawsuit

February 12, 2004
A judge ordered United Airlines to pay $36.5 million to settle a sex discrimination lawsuit brought by 13 former flight attendants over the airline's weight policy.
     The original settlement in the case was suspended in 2002 when United filed for bankruptcy. A judge reinstated the settlement Wednesday.
     In 2000, an appeals court had found that the weight policy for flight attendants, in place from 1980 to 1994, discriminated against women.

Group donates King papers: Activists hope volumes will inspire civil rights awareness

January 06, 2004
The son of a civil rights movement figure is organizing the donation of the first four completed volumes of the papers of Martin Luther King Jr. to the Danville public library.
     Maynard Holliday, son of the Rev. Bernard Holliday -- a top official at the National Council of Churches in New York City from 1966 to 1985 -- is making the donation through the Diablo Black Men's Group, a fellowship and service organization.
     His donation is part of a 1,000-volume book drive sponsored by Rakestraw Books in Danville. About 500 books have been donated so far, said Rakestraw's Mike Barnard.

Personal voices: Facing up to race

June 23, 2003
Abercrombie and Fitch is back on the hotseat – this time for racial discrimination in hiring practices. Last year the company was forced to pull T-shirts sporting slant-eyed Chinese laundrymen and the slogan "Two Wongs can make it white" when Asian-Americans protested. This time the stakes are higher. Nine Latino and Asian plaintiffs are suign Abercrombie for only hiring white people for sales floor jobs and pushing black, Latino and Asian applicants into stockroom jobs to project what the clothing company calls the "classic American look."
      Here we go again. The media and American public are shaking their heads at the company, but this is hardly a new phenomenon. The case is simply yet another manifestation of the prevalent belief that "American" still means white. But instead of pointing fingers at flagrant offenders like Abercrombie, we should instead look in the mirror to examine the ways that we all participate on a daily basis in this racist hierarchy which places whites in the center and pushes those whose backgrounds are more "ethnic" to the margins.
     Think about it. When you go to an expensive restaurant, the managers and servers are almost always white, while the busboys and kitchen help are unfailingly people of color. At most offices the managers are usually white, while the interns and junior staff are often people of color. Often when you drive by the carwash you'll see white and light-skinned people fanning themselves in plastic chairs while brown-skinned people are scrubbing tires and windshields. Diversity is great, but only when it happens at the lower levels of an organization so as not to challenge the skewed balance of power. The signs are everywhere: Race still plays a major if unspoken role in the way our society is organized.

Locked out of 3rd St. rail work, blacks plan to sue

June 18, 2003
The community came together Monday as I’ve never seen us come together before. Everybody was upbeat and dead serious, our minds made up to bring jobs, justice, homeownership and good health to Bayview Hunters Point, San Francisco’s Black heartland.
     While the Third Hand in all its guises - joblessness, gentrification, police brutality, toxic pollution - has long been trying to pound us into oblivion, two issues broke the camel’s back, prompting organizers to call Monday’s town hall meeting in the Alex Pitcher Community Room: the emptying out of the housing on Hunters Point Hill (see “Residents fight to own Hunters Point housing” on page 1) and Muni double-crossing the community by putting the Third Street light rail maintenance facility out to bid (see Muni’s Invitation to Bid classified ad on page 10).
     In December 2001, Bayview Hunters Point was up in arms, because Blacks, except for an occasional flagger, had been locked out of preliminary work on the $600 million Third Street light rail project. After 500 angry residents had met with Muni General Manager Michael Burns, I wrote to him on behalf of the African American Contractors of San Francisco asking him “to postpone all bids and rebids related to the Third Street light rail project until all roadblocks to our full participation have been removed.”

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