The Pleasanton case serves as a model for creating more inclusive cities by emphasizing the importance of building affordable housing near jobs and transit.
Campaign Overview: In 2006, Urban Habitat files a housing discrimination lawsuit on behalf of Sandra DeGregorio (a Latino single mother of two), in the case Urban Habitat v. City of Pleasanton for its exclusionary housing policies. In 2010, the settlement ordered the city to eliminate a cap on building new housing, pass an anti-discrimination ordinance, and rezone for affordable housing – allowing low-income communities more access to high-opportunity jobs, good schools, and two BART stations. In 2012, the settlement directly led to an approval of a major mixed-use affordable housing project. This case highlights how housing, transit, and environmental justice are inextricably linked. In an unprecedented step, the Attorney General Jerry Brown intervened in support of the lawsuit, “concerned that exclusionary local housing laws like those in Pleasanton” make it difficult for California to meet its requirements to decrease greenhouse gas emissions.
Background: Many communities in the nine-county Bay Area lack sufficient housing for their low- and moderate-income workers. Pleasanton remains an affluent job center, but for disenfranchised communities, its lack of affordable housing created barriers to access these opportunities. The imbalance between commercial development and affordable housing forced nearly 90 percent of the 47,000 people who worked in Pleasanton to live elsewhere and commute to their jobs, exacerbating road traffic and greenhouse gas emissions. Pleasanton’s 1996 housing cap policy created a moratorium on affordable housing by refusing to zone for high-density apartment buildings. In 2008, voters reaffirmed the housing cap as Measure PP buried in another initiative called Save Pleasanton’s Hills. Pleasanton's local policies were illegal and did not meet the Regional Housing Needs Assessment’s affordable housing requirements. Many racially charged motivations were cited for the policies that blocked affordable housing and multifamily apartments. Since low-and-moderate wage workers could not afford to live there, an organized local base of residents could not leverage power to pressure elected officials to advance equitable development. Litigation was the only option available. For us, this case was a pivotal moment to advance racial, class, and environmental equity by challenging exclusionary housing policies.
Current News: Since 2012, the city has approved 500 units of new housing, with 70 units for very low-income households. It also passed an ordinance banning housing discrimination against families with children. Pleasanton came to terms with its housing responsibility only after five years of litigation.
During Facebook's relocation from Palo Alto to Menlo Park, housing justice advocates looked to the Pleasanton case as a model in getting local governments to heed the power of state housing laws. Menlo Park's advocates used the Pleasanton's model of litigation and organizing work to secure affordable housing in the city.
Partners/Allies: With the legal support of our allies Public Advocates and the California Affordable Housing Law Project, and the organizing support of the East Bay Housing Organizations (EBHO), and the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California (NPH), TransForm, Greenbelt, Tri-Valley Interfaith Poverty Forum, and Citizens for a Caring Community, Urban Habitat was able to secure a victory for housing justice in Pleasanton that sent reverberations across the state.
- Action Alert by Urban Habitat to Attend April 2010 City Council Meeting
- Tentative Agreement/ Settlement Term Sheet Urban Habitat et al. v. City of Pleasanton July 20, 2010
- Contra Costa Times article approving deal ending housing cap, August, 8, 2011
- Public Advocates’ Comment Letter to HCD re: City of Pleasanton Draft Housing Element, September 27, 2011
- “Lawsuit Breaks Suburban Affordable Housing Limits— Challenges Affluent Sprawl” Reimagine RP & E Journal Article 2011