San Francisco, CA

Race seen affecting mental health care

August 27, 2001
Discrimination, stigma and poverty often contribute to minorities not receiving treatment for mental disorders, according to a report presented by U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher.
     In a supplement to his first-ever report on mental health in 1999, Satcher emphasized that blacks, Hispanics, Asians/Pacific Islanders, American Indians and Alaskan Natives face the greatest challenges, partially because so many within those communities have gone without treatment or have been given substandard care.
     "The failure to address these disparities is playing out in human and economic terms across the nation – in our streets, in the homeless shelters, public health institutions, foster care systems, in our prisons and in our jails," Satcher said Sunday at a meeting of the American Psychological Association in San Francisco.

S.F. luxury hotel accused of racial discrimination

August 24, 2001
As the swank, refurbished Clift Hotel was preparing to open its doors to a hip, young clientele this summer, hotel managers fired the black-owned valet service that had parked guests' cars for nearly two years.
     The Ethiopian-born owners were told their employees did not fit the ``image'' of hotelier Ian Schrager's newest property, according to a lawsuit alleging racial discrimination filed Thursday in San Francisco Superior Court. The Royal Valet Parking Co.'s workers are black and Asian. The suit claims the valet drivers who replaced them are primarily white.
     Royal Valet's suit comes a year after owner Ian Schrager's Mondrian Hotel in Los Angeles settled a federal discrimination action for $1.08 million. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued the hotel for firing a group of mostly minority bellmen. Evidence in the case included a handwritten memo from Schrager that called certain hotel employees ``too ethnic.'' 

S.F. woman can sue over dog mauling

July 27, 2001
The lesbian partner of a woman mauled to death by dogs in San Francisco won a surprising victory Friday when a judge said her wrongful-death suit could proceed to trial even though she is not a "surviving spouse" under the law.
      At issue was whether the woman, Sharon Smith, had the legal standing to sue. Under California law, only surviving spouses or other relatives can bring wrongful-death claims.
      But Superior Court Judge A. James Robertson II said that because state law does not allow gay couples to marry, the surviving-spouse rule should not apply to same-sex couples. The judge agreed with Smith's attorney that the rule violates the equal protection clause of the California Constitution.

Court: race legal in admissions

December 04, 2000
A federal appeals courtruled Monday the University of Washington Law School acted legally when it considered therace of applicants in its now-abandoned admission policy. 
     The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision means publiclyfunded schools throughout the circuit, which includes most western states, can continue to use affirmative action programs, said DanTokaji, staff attorney for the USC chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union,which supported the university in its case. 
     Regardless, the ruling will not affect current admissions in Washingtonand California, where voters have banned race considerations in admission policies, he said.  
     The lawsuit was brought by Katuria Smith, Angela Rock andMichael Pyle, who say they were denied admission to the region's largest and mostprestigious law school because they are white. 

Calif. law declared unconstitutional

December 01, 2000
The state's highest courtdeclared unconstitutional a San Jose law requiring government contractors to solicit bids fromcompanies owned by women and minorities. 
     By a 7-0 vote Thursday, the state Supreme Court upheld a lowercourt decision that previously overturned the city ordinance, saying it violatesProposition 209, a 1996 California initiative that banned state-funded affirmative action programs. 
     Approved by 54 percent of voters, the initiative prohibits preferencesin state and local contracting, employment and education. Although it does not define "preferences," the measure's sponsors sought to abolishquotas, set-asides and other allowances that give groups advantages in selection. 
     Under the city law, San Jose required that on city contracts over$50,000, construction contractors who need subcontractors contact at least four companies owned by women or minorities. They wererequired to negotiate with the potential subcontractors and either accept their bids orstate legitimate reasons for rejection. 

Court: Landlords can require English fluency

November 03, 2000
Mexican immigrants whowanted to rent a house in San Jose, but were turned away by the owners because they couldn't speak fluent English, havebeen rebuffed by a federal appeals court. 
     A jury found that landlords Carl and Mary Lindow's policy was notintended to discriminate against Mexican Americans. Jurors had previously been told by the trial judge that requiring an adult in thehousehold to speak English fluently did not necessarily violate federal housing laws. 
     The would-be tenants, Joaquin and Delia Veles and their fivechildr n, appealed the verdict, saying the English policy discriminated on the basis of nationalorigin. 
     They were joined by civil rights groups and the Clintonadministration's Justice Department, which said such rental practices hurt immigrants fromnon-English-speaking countries and should be struck down unless shown to be a businessnecessity. 
      But the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the verdict in abrief ruling Wednesday, saying the family failed to prove that the policy had either theintent or the effect of harming tenants based on their national origin. 

Ex-FBI agent settles sex bias suit

October 24, 2000
A former FBI agent settleda sex discrimination claim against the government Tuesday for $150,000 and undeterminedcourt costs and legal fees. 
     Former Agent Kathleen Anderson, a 20-year veteran of the FBI,claimed she was subjected to sexual taunts and ridicule by co-workers and supervisors over many years, denied equal job treatment and waspunished when she complained. 
      Under federal anti-discrimination laws, Anderson could have beenawarded $300,000. In settling, the government admitted no wrongdoing. 

Court says HUD investigators overreached

October 01, 2000
When Berkeley proposed to convert a University Avenue motel to low-income housing in 1992, some neighbors warned of an influx of drug users and the mentally ill. They protested, leafleted, started a newsletter and went to court.
      In response, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development launched an investigation into whether the protesters had violated the civil rights of prospective residents. At one point, HUD officials warned three of the critics that they could face penalties of up to $100,000 each. HUD eventually dropped the case and tightened its guidelines for future investigations.
      The protests failed to stop the project, which now operates as Erna P. Harris Court, offering 35 units of Section 8 housing. But Wednesday the 9th U.S.Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the protesters could ask a jury for damages for violations of their rights to speak freely and petition their government.
      Although housing discrimination against the disabled is illegal, Judge Stephen Reinhardt said in the 3-0 ruling, private citizens have the constitutional right to argue against it as long as they stop short of advocating imminent violence that islikely to be carried out.

Calif. housing executive convicted of taking bribes

September 27, 2000
A city housing executivewas convicted Wednesday of taking thousands of dollars in bribes from people seeking low-income homes in one of the nation'stightest housing markets. 
     Patricia Williams, 57, was convicted following a yearlong FBI probeinto the San Francisco Housing Authority. Williams, another city official, Yolanda Jones, and 20 othershave pleaded guilty or been convicted in the scam to illegally obtain subsidized housing. 
     "Public officials who take bribes and make false statements ... abusethe public trust," U.S. Attorney Robert Mueller said after the verdict in federal court. 
      Williams is a 23-year housing agency veteran who supervised theauthority's relocation office from 1996 to 1999. 
      Prosecutors said she conspired with others to sell access to publichousing units, and Section 8 rental vouchers for as much as $2,500. Williams was accused of receiving morethan $34,000 in bribes.
      Witnesses testified that they either gave Williams money or saw hertake money to help secure public housing for people who could not qualify for subsidies because of criminalrecords or their incomes. 

Minority groups criticize Nader for "elitism"

September 18, 2000
Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader has been ``oblivious'' to the issues of minorities and women in his campaign, which represents ``a cloistered environment'' dominated by white males, a coalition of leading organizations representing minorities charged this week. The criticism of Nader came in a letter sent to the National Organization for Women by the group, made up of nine organizations. The letter charges that Nader has steadfastly refused to diversify his message and campaign themes to appeal to minority voters and that lobbying for change has been repeatedly rebuffed by the candidate.
      The charges angered Nader's California spokesman, Ross Mirkarimi, who said that the groups were ``serving in the best interests of the Democratic party to foment fear'' with unsubstantiated charges.
      ``They're starting to fling dirt, and they don't have the substance to prove any kind of statement like that,'' he said. ``Nader's issues include civil rights, environmental racism, criminal justice issues like `three strikes,' living wage, . . . and he speaks to those much more than other candidates, . . . and that's what's bothering the Democrats.''

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