December 2014 Vol. 14, Issue 12
Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker 
News from the Oakland City Attorney's Office
In This Issue:
Council adopts ethics ordinance & new policy to lease rather than sell City property
Major cases & legal matters
City Attorney in the Community


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On behalf of everyone in the Oakland City Attorney's Office, I wish you and everyone in your "village"  a prosperous and spiritually fulfilling new year.


As 2014 came to a close, I and the members of my Office continued to provide advice and counsel to our clients on many projects and other legal matters; and, most importantly, we continued to protect and advocate for the interests of all Oaklanders. Oaktown is an extraordinary and unique City of incomparable beauty and diversity -- not only the critical diversity on the basis of race, sexual orientation and disabilities, but diversity of incomes that allows park maintenance workers, truck drivers, teachers and other middle class and poor people to continue to live here and enrich Oakland's culture.

This is our last newsletter covering our work in 2014. For a look back on the highlights of a very eventful 2014, please check out our newsletter archives


As always, I look forward to your questions and comments about the work we are doing on behalf of the people of Oakland. 


Happy New Year!

Barbara J. Parker
Oakland City Attorney 

City Council Adopts Ethics Ordinance 


In our last newsletter we reported that on December 9th the Council would consider adopting a comprehensive ethics reform ordinance that I and City Councilmember Dan Kalb co-sponsored. I am delighted to report that the Council unanimously voted to adopt the ordinance.


The Government Ethics Act provides a clear and comprehensive framework of laws to ensure that Oakland's government operates with integrity, that appointed and elected officials and candidates for elected offices make decisions in the best interests of the people of Oakland and that the Public Ethics Commission has the power to enforce the law.


The Act was a companion to the Measure CC Charter amendment that voters passed in November 2014, which increased the Ethics Commission's authority and independence and mandated minimum staffing.


I and a team of attorneys in my Office worked for months with Councilmember Kalb to research case law and draft this ordinance. The Government Ethics Act is one of the legislative highlights of 2014 for Oakland. The Act establishes rules regarding gifts to public officials that are stricter than state law, restricts former City employees' ability to lobby on behalf of or accept employment with potential City contractors (so-called "revolving door" employment) and bans City contracts with high-level City officials. 


The Act also grants the Public Ethics Commission authority to enforce the City Charter provision that prohibits City Councilmembers' interference in administrative affairs such as hiring and firing and other administrative decisions, recommendations and analyses; and the Act grants the Commission authority to enforce a number of ethics-related state and local laws, including restrictions on nepotism and conflicts of interest.


I greatly appreciate the collaborative process and hard work of my staff, Councilmember Kalb and his staff, and the staff of the Ethics Commission on this important law.



Council Approves New Policy to Lease Rather than Sell City Property


On Dec. 9, the City Council established an important new policy to lease rather than sell City property. I co-sponsored this policy with the City Administrator's Office and Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney to protect and maintain valuable City assets so that they will provide a long-term source of revenue and allow the City to determine their use in future planning.


Historically, the City and its former Redevelopment Agency typically conveyed commercial property to potential developers by sale rather than by long term ground lease. Some prominent examples include the sales to developers of the downtown Rotunda Building, land for the Rotunda garage, Oakland City Center and Preservation Park.  


The Council's resolution shifts the historical practice of favoring sale of City properties by establishing a general policy favoring long term leases.


The new policy allows the Council to authorize a sale, as opposed to a lease, on a case-by-case basis when a sale is in the City's best interests, taking into consideration the City Administrator's recommendation. 


In general, long term ground leases allow the City to realize more value from its property. Privately developed City property remains a public asset that the City can utilize for another public purpose or private development when the lease expires.


More information


Updates on Major Cases & Matters  


Hazzard v. City of Oakland, et al.


On December 8, the California Court of Appeal affirmed the Alameda County Superior Court's judgment dismissing Plaintiff's lawsuit.


Plaintiff filed a complaint against the City and each member of the City Council alleging that the City engaged in fraud and deceit, and failed to comply with the competitive bidding process set forth in the Oakland Municipal Code when the City selected the Master Developer for the redevelopment of the former Oakland Army Base. Plaintiff argued that the City had no basis to waive the competitive bidding process, that the Master Developer did not have sufficient financial capacity to complete the project and that the project would ultimately place the City in financial ruin. Plaintiff sought declaratory and injunctive relief. 


The Alameda County Superior Court granted our Office's motion to dismiss plaintiff's complaint. The court found that plaintiff's complaint failed to make required allegations to show that he had standing (the legal right) to bring the lawsuit and that his complaint also failed to make allegations to show the City had failed to comply with a mandatory duty. Applicable law requires the allegations to state a basis for declaratory or injunctive relief.  Plaintiff filed an appeal. After considering our Office's briefs and oral argument, the Court of Appeal upheld the Superior Court's dismissal of plaintiff's complaint.


More information


City Attorney in the Community

Charles Houston Bar Association Gala


On December 6, 2014, I attended the Charles Houston Bar Association's ("CHBA") 59th annual gala dinner & dance at the Oakland Marriott Hotel.


CHBA represents the interests of African American attorneys throughout Northern California. Its goals are to implement programs designed to increase the access of African American people to the justice system and to ensure equal protection under the law. CHBA was founded in 1955 in honor of the legacy of Charles Hamilton Houston, an outstanding constitutional lawyer and the key legal theorist and strategist in the critical early battles against racial discrimination in education, labor and housing. Among the decisions that he personally argued or worked on the preparation of are Brown v. Board of Education (1954) and Bowling v. Sharpe (1954).


CHBA Dec 2014At the CHBA Gala: Pamela Means, President of the National Bar Association, City Attorney Parker and Mayor Libby Schaaf 


Black Lives Matter - Moving Toward Change and Crafting Solutions - Forum Hosted by Black Elected and Faith Based Leaders of the East Bay at Beebe Memorial Cathedral


On December 17, 2014, I attended this forum which was a step to address the crisis of inequality and injustice in the justice system in particular and in our society at large as a result of systemic racism.  


The forum was convened by the Black Elected and Faith Based Leaders of the East Bay and hosted by Dr. Charly Hames Jr., Pastor of Beebe Memorial Cathedral. Keith Carson, President of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, moderated the forum. Federal, state and local elected representatives, faith based leaders and appointed officials attended the forum.


The forum provided an opportunity for members of the public to speak about their experiences and recommend solutions. Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Senator Loni Hancock, State Assemblymembers Rob Bonta and Tony Thurmond and other elected officials discussed potential steps to address the issues. Please go to to read a summary of testimony at the forum.


Black Lives Matter addresses the tragic reality that due to systemic racism, which is the legacy of slavery and de jure discrimination, Black lives are not valued as much as white lives or not at all. It is indeed a sad commentary on our society that the leaders of the 1960s civil rights movement strategically enlisted whites to participate in the desegregation movement because their injury or death would galvanize support and outrage in the country to a greater degree. It is outrageous and unacceptable that this remains the case today.  We must focus on eradicating systemic racism and upending Citizens United and other decisions that deprive us of the political will to allocate the resources and enact laws and policies that will prevent free access to guns, including military style weaponry, and address entrenched poverty and lack of access to a decent and good education, jobs and living wages.


The forum was moving and painful. But it is the pain that will compel us to focus on securing justice. I was inspired by the attendance of legislators, law enforcement officials and appointed officials at the local, state and federal levels. Collectively, we have the power to enact laws, amend laws, establish programs and policies and allocate funding to address the legacy of slavery and de jure discrimination that have maintained systemic racism in our country. In other words we need to put our money where our mouth is.


I am excited about the birth of a protest movement to address this ongoing crisis and the once in a lifetime or generation opportunity to finally redress these issues. My spirits also are buoyed by law students, college and high school students, public defenders, and people from all walks of life and races who have joined or declared their support for the movement.