Lawsuit Lifts Barriers to Affordable Housing and Advances Environmental Justice in Pleasanton

The case against Pleasanton was a pivotal moment to advance racial, class, and environmental equity by challenging exclusionary housing policies. In an unprecedented step, then 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.

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. Pleasanton’s 1996 housing cap policy created a moratorium on affordable housing by refusing to zone for high-density apartment buildings. Pleasanton’s local policies were illegal and did not meet the Regional Housing Needs Assessment’s (RHNA) affordable housing requirements. Many racially charged motivations were cited for the policies that blocked affordable housing and multifamily apartments. 


  • 2006: Urban Habitat files a housing discrimination lawsuit on behalf of Sandra DeGregorio, a Latina single mother of two, in the case Urban Habitat v. City of Pleasanton for its exclusionary housing policies. 
  • 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. 
  • 2012+: The settlement directly resulted in an approval of 500 units of new housing, with 70 units for very low-income households. The City also passed an ordinance banning housing discrimination against families with children.

With legal help from Public Advocates and the California Affordable Housing Law Project, and support from the East Bay Housing Organizations (EBHO), 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.

The case serves as a model for creating more inclusive cities by emphasizing the importance of building affordable housing near jobs and transit. For example, in 2011 during Facebook’s process to relocate from Palo Alto to Menlo Park, housing justice advocates referenced the Pleasanton case as a model in getting local governments to heed the power of state housing laws. And advocates in  Menlo Park used it as a model for litigation and organizing work to secure affordable housing in the city.

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