Posts Tagged ‘city attorney’
YOU MIGHT BE A GADFLY IF … the SF City Attorney’s Office Makes a Webpage Just for YOUR Records RequestsTuesday, October 28th, 2014
Dennis Herrera Throws Down: “Vows Aggressive Defense of the Prop B Waterfront Development Voting Measure”Tuesday, July 15th, 2014
All right, it’s on, the defense of Prop B (2014) is on:
SAN FRANCISCO (July 15, 2014) — The California State Lands Commission today sued San Francisco to invalidate Proposition B, an initiative measure passed in the June 3 election that requires voter approval for waterfront development height increases on property owned or controlled by the Port of San Francisco. The legal challenge filed in San Francisco Superior Court contends that the California legislature specifically intended to prohibit local voters from exercising authority over bay and coastal public trust lands, strictly limiting management of state tidelands to designated trustees. In its legal action today, the State Lands Commission argues that the sole trustee responsible for sovereign tidelands in San Francisco is the city’s Port Commission. The State Lands Commission is additionally seeking a preliminary injunction to bar San Francisco from enforcing Prop B.
In response, City Attorney Dennis Herrera issued the following statement:
“For decades, land use decisions involving San Francisco’s waterfront have included voters, elected leaders and appointed members of our Planning and Port Commissions. It’s a participatory process that enacted a comprehensive Waterfront Land Use Plan in 1990, developed a showplace ballpark for the Giants, and continues to protect an urban waterfront that is the envy of cities worldwide. San Francisco’s deliberative decision-making process on waterfront land use has never been successfully challenged, and I intend to defend it aggressively. With today’s lawsuit, the State Lands Commission seems to have embraced the notion that any local initiative — and, by extension, any land use regulation approved by a Board of Supervisors or Planning Commission — affecting port property is barred by state law, and therefore invalid. That view represents a radical departure in law and practice from land use decision-making in San Francisco and elsewhere. While the City must certainly honor its obligations as trustee in managing public trust property, it is a legally and practically untenable position to argue that San Francisco’s voters and elected officials have no direct say over how our city’s waterfront is developed.”
Dennis Herrera Throws Down: Tells “Monkey Parking” to Drop Mobile App for Auctioning City Parking Spots – $300 Fines?Monday, June 23rd, 2014
Gotta say I sort of saw this one coming.
And it’s not just Monkey Parking that’s in trouble today. Check out the craigslist ad from ParkModo (cached website) (@ParkModo – no Tweets yet, or maybe they were deleted?), posted on June 17th, 2014:
“Earn $13.00 P/H Just To Park! (mission district)
Our company is launching an awesome app that rewards people to sell their on-street parking spots before leaving to people who need a spot.
To help us promote the app, we are looking for 20 people with cars and iPhones to park around the mission and use the app to offer their parking spots to people looking for parking.
The hours will be from 5:30-9:00 pm Thurs-Sat starting June 26th.
This is how it works:
1. You download the app from the app store.
2. When you want to work, you will contact our field manager to check in.
3. The field manager will then instruct you as to what area and type of spot you are to park in.
4. You will then find a spot in the area and park.
5. Once you are parked, using the app, you will offer the spot for sale.
6. While you are waiting for someone to purchase the space, you will distribute postcards and promote the app.
7. Once someone purchases the spot, you will complete the transaction with the buyer and then find another space to park in and start the process all over again!
If you are interested, please click on the link below (Paste into your browser) and provide your information so we can contact you and get you started.
We look forward to working with you!”
I think ParkModo’s operations will now be on hold, for a little bit at least. But do you want some more from them? See below.
Now, all the deets about all these troubled businesses, from Herrera’s office:
“Herrera tells Monkey Parking to drop mobile app for auctioning city parking spots
Motorists face $300 fines for each violation under existing law, City Attorney says — and three startups could be liable for penalties of up to $2,500 for each transaction
SAN FRANCISCO (June 23, 2014) — San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera today issued an immediate cease-and-desist demand to Monkey Parking, a mobile peer-to-peer bidding app that enables motorists to auction off the public parking spaces their vehicles occupy to nearby drivers. The app, currently available for iOS devices, describes itself on the Apple iTunes App Store as the “the first app which lets you make money every time that you are about to leave your on-street parking spot.”
The letter Herrera’s office issued this morning to Paolo Dobrowolny, CEO of the Rome, Italy-based tech startup, cites a key provision of San Francisco’s Police Code that specifically prohibits individuals and companies from buying, selling or leasing public on-street parking. Police Code section 63(c) further provides that scofflaws — including drivers who “enter into a lease, rental agreement or contract of any kind” for public parking spots — face administrative penalties of up to $300 for each violation. Because Monkey Parking’s business model is wholly premised on illegal transactions, the letter contends that the company would be subject to civil penalties of up to $2,500 per violation under California’s tough Unfair Competition Law were the city to sue. Such a lawsuit would be imminent, Herrera’s office vowed, should the startup continue to operate in San Francisco past July 11, 2014.
“Technology has given rise to many laudable innovations in how we live and work — and Monkey Parking is not one of them,” Herrera said. “It’s illegal, it puts drivers on the hook for $300 fines, and it creates a predatory private market for public parking spaces that San Franciscans will not tolerate. Worst of all, it encourages drivers to use their mobile devices unsafely — to engage in online bidding wars while driving. People are free to rent out their own private driveways and garage spaces should they choose to do so. But we will not abide businesses that hold hostage on-street public parking spots for their own private profit.”
Herrera’s cease-and-desist demand to Monkey Parking includes a request to the legal department of Apple Inc., which is copied on the letter, asking that the Cupertino, Calif.-based technology giant immediately remove the mobile application from its App Store for violating several of the company’s own guidelines. Apple App Store Review Guidelines provide that “Apps must comply with all legal requirements in any location where they are made available to users” and that “Apps whose use may result in physical harm may be rejected.”
Two other startups that similarly violate local and state law with mobile app-enabled schemes intended to illegally monetize public parking spaces in San Francisco will also face legal action in the form of cease-and-desist demands this week, according to the City Attorney’s Office. Sweetch charges a $5 flat fee when its users obtain a parking spot from another Sweetch motorist. Sweetch drivers who pass their spots off to other Sweetch members are refunded $4 of that fee. ParkModo, which appears poised to launch later this week, according to recent employment postings on Craigslist, will employ drivers at a rate of $13.00 per hour to occupy public parking spaces in the Mission District. As with Monkey Parking and Sweetch, ParkModo then plans to sell the on-street parking spots to its paying members through its iPhone app. Sweetch and ParkModo members who make use of the apps to park in San Francisco are also subject to civil penalties of $300 per violation, and both companies are potentially liable for civil penalties of $2,500 per transaction for illegal business practices under the Cali04fornia Unfair Competition Law.
A copy of Herrera’s demand letter to Monkey Parking and additional information about the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office is available at: http://www.sfcityattorney.org/
And here’s a little more from ParkModo:
“We are currently rolling out the beta in the following cities…
San Francisco – As beautiful as city it is, parking is just as bad! Not only is there way to much demand for the supply, but the parking police will catch you if they can! Be among the first 1000 people to download the app and get $5 in free parking!
New York – Instead of calling it the city that never sleeps, they should call it the city that never has parking! Get in on ParkModo and earn some serious cash and stop wasting your time. We know every minute in ny is precious.
Chicago – There may be wind here, but there is certainly no parking! Use ParkModo and fly like the wind when you need a space!”
Dennis Herrera Throws Down: Reaches $4.4 Million Settlement with California Art Institute – Students Getting CashTuesday, June 17th, 2014
The News of the Day, re: Argosy University:
“Herrera reaches $4.4 million agreement in dispute over for-profit college’s marketing. California Art Institutes’ ownership to settle for $1.95 million; fund returning student and new student scholarships; and re-calculate graduation and job placement rates
SAN FRANCISCO (June 17, 2014) – City Attorney Dennis Herrera today settled an unlitigated claim against California Art Institutes’ parent company in a consumer protection dispute over marketing tactics that allegedly underestimated program costs for students and inflated job placement figures for graduates.
Under terms of the agreement with Educational Management Corporation, the Pittsburgh-based for-profit educational provider will pay San Francisco $1.95 million to settle the dispute; endow a $1.6 million scholarship fund for non-graduating California Art Institute students who wish to return to finish their studies; and offer $850,000 in general scholarships to new students. The agreement—formally an “Assurance of Voluntary Compliance” that is legally binding and enforceable in court—includes provisions for a sweeping array of reforms to Educational Management Corporation’s marketing and reporting practices. The accord, which avoids litigation, includes no admissions of wrongdoing.
“I hope this agreement is a bellwether for other for-profit colleges, highlighting the need to fully inform students about their education costs and job placement prospects,” said Herrera. “In a workplace where so much depends on education and training, students deserve accurate information about the schools they attend—and that’s exactly what California law requires. I applaud Educational Management Corporation for its industry leadership in working with us cooperatively and productively. They’ve shown a commendable willingness to address concerns about their current and former students, and to avoid similar problems moving forward.”
The $1.6 million Returning Student Scholarship Fund will be distributed to students who withdrew from California Art Institute programs between 2009 and today, and will be available to returning students for five years or until it is exhausted. EDMC and the City Attorney’s Office will work together to publicize the fund to reach out to eligible former students. EDMC has also agreed to new methods of calculating the percentage of enrolling students that graduate with degrees, and the percentages of students that are employed and that are employed within their field of study; and to publicize those recalculated figures in their promotional materials. The school also agreed to train advisors to counsel students on the long term effects of student loan debt and default.
As is common with Assurances of Voluntary Compliance reached outside of litigation, the agreement also includes enforcement provisions that compel EDMC to notify the City Attorney of any breaches of the agreement on its part, and a stipulation that a material violation by EDMC will be considered evidence of an unfair business practice that the City could make the subject of a future lawsuit.”
Dennis Herrera Throws Down: Files Legal Action to End Unlawful SFMTA MUNI “Sick-Out,” Compels Union to ArbitrateWednesday, June 4th, 2014
The news of the day, this third day of our MUNI crisis:
“Herrera files legal action to end unlawful “sick-out” and compel union to arbitrate wage and benefits dispute
Charges filed before Public Employees Relations Board allege union is flouting contract and City Charter provisions that could bring an end to three-day-old work stoppage
SAN FRANCISCO (June 4, 2014)— On the third day of an unlawful employee “sick-out,” in which transit workers are calling in sick en masse after contract negotiations with the Municipal Transportation Agency reached an impasse, City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed unfair labor practice charges with California’s public labor relations body against Transport Workers Union Local 250-A, seeking to compel the union to end the sick-out and abide by the City Charter by allowing a neutral arbitration board to resolve its contract dispute with the MTA. The charges, filed at the Public Employees Relations Board, the state agency that administers collective bargaining statutes covering public employees, state that in the wake of the union’s rejection of the MTA’s contract offer, the Charter of San Francisco requires the union and the City to submit to the decision of a neutral three-member arbitration board. The complaint further alleges that the sick-out is illegal under both state law and the existing contract with the workers.
“This is an unfortunate attempt by the union to get around a law and contract provisions they don’t like,” Herrera said Tuesday. “The Charter is clear that an impasse such as this one is resolved with neutral arbitration. Let’s do what the law says, begin the arbitration process, and get San Francisco moving again as soon as humanly possible.”
The PERB can take as much as a year or more to issue rulings on allegations of unfair labor practices, but San Francisco officials are hopeful that the filing of the complaint can spur the union into doing the right thing. “Our transit operators have very difficult jobs and deserve fair and competitive wages in return,” said Ed Reiskin, SFMTA Director of Transportation. “At the same time, we have an obligation to provide transit service for 700,000 riders a day and we are asking the union to follow provisions in the Charter and get everyone back to work.”
The existing contract between the union and the MTA forbids strikes and work stoppages such as the sick-out. The MTA announced Monday that it would not pay transit workers for sick time taken during the sick-out unless workers could document that they in fact met the criteria to claim sick leave.
Appendix A, section A8.409-4(a) of the San Francisco City Charter states that “disputes… which remain unresolved after good faith bargaining between the City and County of San Francisco, on behalf of its departments, boards and commissions, and a recognized employee organization representing classifications of employees covered under this part shall be submitted to a three-member Mediation/Arbitration Board (“the Board”) upon the declaration of an impasse either by the authorized representative of the City and County of San Francisco or by the authorized representative of the recognized employee organization involved in the dispute.”
Dennis Herrera Throws Down: Sues Short-Term Rental Scofflaws for Illegal Conversions, Unlawful Business Practices – Ellis Act, Baby!Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014
City Attorney Dennis Herrera, The Happy Warrior:
“Herrera sues short-term rental scofflaws for illegal conversions, unlawful business practices
Two cases target ‘egregious offenders’—both involving Ellis Act evictions of disabled tenants to illegally convert residential apartments into tourist lodging
SAN FRANCISCO (April 23, 2014) — City Attorney Dennis Herrera today filed two separate lawsuits against short-term rental scofflaws for illegally converting residential apartments into commercial tourist lodging, which the property owners then marketed through such online platforms as Airbnb, Homeway.com and VRBO.com. In both cases, the defendants had previously evicted long-term residents from their apartments under the Ellis Act, a state law that allows landlords to evict tenants and withdraw their properties from the residential rental market. Two of the evicted tenants were disabled, according to San Francisco Superior Court and Rent Board records cited in today’s pleadings.
“In the midst of a housing crisis of historic proportions, illegal short-term rental conversions of our scarce residential housing stock risks becoming a major contributing factor,” said Herrera. “The cases I’ve filed today target two egregious offenders. These defendants didn’t just flout state and local law to conduct their illegal businesses, they evicted disabled tenants in order to do so. Today’s cases are the first among several housing-related matters under investigation by my office, and we intend to crack down hard on unlawful conduct that’s exacerbating—and in many cases profiting from—San Francisco’s alarming lack of affordable housing. I’m grateful to the city departments, including the San Francisco Planning Department, and community advocates who have worked with my office to help us pursue these kinds of scofflaws. And I encourage tenants and neighbors to report housing-related wrongdoing online to my office through our Up2Code.org website or the Up2Code app, or by calling our Code Enforcement Hotline at (415) 554-3977.”
Herrera’s complaints filed in San Francisco Superior Court this morning detail pervasive violations of the city Planning Code and state Unfair Competition Law at three addresses: 3073-3075 Clay Street, owned by defendants Darren and Valerie Lee; and 734 and 790 Bay Street, which is owned or managed by defendants Lev, Tamara and Tatyana Yurovsky. If successful, the litigation could result in permanent court-ordered injunctions; civil penalties of up to $200 per day for Planning Code violations; up to $2,500 for each unlawful business act; disgorgement of illegally obtained profits; and attorneys’ fees. Though the Ellis Act itself does not preclude the commercial use of properties for tourists where long-term tenants have previously been evicted, Herrera’s litigation emphasized longstanding city policy that tourist conversions of residential properties be aggressively policed “in order to protect the residents and to conserve the limited housing resources.”
According to one of Herrera’s civil actions, defendants Darren and Valerie Lee purchased 3073-3075 Clay Street in 2004, and invoked the Ellis Act in 2005 to evict their tenants from both of the property’s residential units. One of the evicted tenants was disabled. Evidence presented in the complaint found that the Lees have marketed 3075 Clay Street, a four-bedroom, three-bathroom property, for tourist lodging on such vacation websites such as Homeaway.com and VRBO.com since 2009, describing it as an “exquisitely renovated home, in prime Pacific Heights.” The Lees charged their guests between $395 and $595 per night for a minimum stay of three nights. But in doing so, the owners flouted the city’s required conditional use authorization process—depriving neighbors and city planners of their role to first determine whether the conversion is necessary or desirable; compatible with the neighborhood; detrimental to the City’s housing stock; or consistent with the city’s Planning Code or Planning Department’s General Plan. According to Herrera’s complaint, San Francisco’s Planning Department repeatedly cited the Lees for their illegal use of the property for commercial tourist lodging, even collecting penalties of as much $250 per day for violations. The Lees—who at one point assured Planning Department officials that their illegal conduct had stopped—then defiantly resumed marketing and renting their property to tourists. In 3073 Clay Street, the Lees evicted a disabled tenant who had lived in the unit for more than ten years and, until evicted, was paying $1,087 per month. By invoking the Ellis Act, the Lees were legally restricted until August 25, 2011, from re-renting the unit at market rate. But evidence presented in Herrera’s action shows that the Lees admitted to the Planning Department that they had, in fact, re-rented 3073 Clay Street and charged their new residential tenants between $5,000-$7,038 per month.
Herrera’s other civil complaint against Lev, Tamara and Tatyana Yurovsky notes that they, too, used the Ellis Act to evict long-term residential tenants — including one who was disabled — from one of their properties, at 734 Bay Street. Together with a residential unit at another of their properties owned by Lev and Tatyana and managed by Tamara, at 790 Bay Street, the Yurovskys illegally converted their apartments into tourist use beginning in 2010. They marketed the rentals to tourists on Airbnb.com and “greatsfvacation.com” for rates of between $165 and $320 per night, with three-night minimum stays. Though the Yurovsky defendants boasted on social media that they had hosted several hundred tourists, according to evidence detailed in the complaint, they too flouted the city’s conditional use authorization process, violating the San Francisco Planning Code and state law.
The cases are: City and County of San Francisco and People of the State of California v. Darren Lee et al., San Francisco Superior Court No. 538857; and City and County of San Francisco and People of the State of California v. Tamara Yurovsky et al., San Francisco Superior Court No. 538854. Additional documentation from the case is available on the City Attorney’s website at:http://www.sfcityattorney.org/
City Attorney Dennis Herrera Throws Down: Says “MeetMe.Com” Enables Sexual Predators and Child StalkersMonday, February 3rd, 2014
All the deets:
SAN FRANCISCO (Feb. 3, 2014) — San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera today filed suit against MeetMe, a popular social networking platform that facilitates interactions among strangers, over inadequate privacy protections and unlawful publication of minors’ profiles, photos, and location data, which can enable sexual predators and stalkers to target children as young as 13 years of age.
The civil complaint filed in San Francisco Superior Court this morning alleges that the New Hope, Pa.-based MeetMe, Inc. is violating California’s Unfair Competition Law by relying on legally invalid consent from minors between the ages of 13 and 17 to collect and improperly distribute their real-time geolocation and personal user information. Approximately 25 percent of MeetMe.com’s user base is under the age of 18, according to social media marketing statistics cited in Herrera’s complaint. The lawsuit additionally alleges that MeetMe fails to adequately disclose to users how their personal data is distributed.
“MeetMe has become a tool of choice for sexual predators to target underage victims, and the company’s irresponsible privacy policies and practices are to blame for it,” said Herrera. “MeetMe improperly collects personal information from young teens — including their photos and real-time locations. It then distributes that information in ways that expose children to very serious safety risks. Sadly, these risks aren’t hypothetical. Dozens of children nationwide have already been victimized by predators who used MeetMe to coerce minors into meeting. Under California law, MeetMe’s reckless business practices are illegal, and we’re asking a court to put an end to them.”
MeetMe has been a key factor in numerous crimes involving sexual assault and illicit sex with minors in California, according to news reports documented in Herrera’s complaint. In Aug. 2013, a 29-year-old Citrus Heights, Calif. man was charged with multiple counts of sexual acts with a minor and communicating with minors for unlawful purposes. Police investigators found that MeetMe was among the apps the perpetrator used to send sexually-explicit photos and text messages to underage girls in order to begin a “sexting” relationship that ultimately progressed to sexual contact. A Fresno, Calif. man was arrested in Oct. 2013 on suspicion of sexually assaulting a minor that he met using MeetMe, according to news reports, and in July 2013 a 21-year-old Fair Oaks, Calif. man was criminally charged after posing as a 16-year-old boy to have sex with two girls — aged 12 and 15 — whom he met using MeetMe.
Dozens of minors nationwide have been similarly victimized in sex crimes by predators who relied on MeetMe to target their underage victims, according to reports cited in the complaint. In June 2013, a Tewksbury, Mass. man was sentenced to up to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to more than 50 charges, including rape of a child by force, indecent assault and battery on a child under 14. The man used multiple aliases on MeetMe to trick teenage girls into sending him nude images. He then threatened to publish the photos in order to blackmail victims into having sex with him. A Wilmerding, Penn. man, who was criminally charged in Sept. 2013, used MeetMe to meet and then sexually assault three teenagers. In Grady County, Okla., a 25-year-old man used MeetMe to meet and rape a 15-year-old girl. An Albuquerque TV news station, reporting on MeetMe’s role in the case of a 21-year-old man who was arrested for soliciting sex with a 13-year-old girl, noted: “Investigators say it’s the latest site predators are cruising to find new victims, and it’s happening all too often.”
The lawsuit, which was investigated and filed by Herrera’s Consumer Protection Unit, is seeking a court order to enjoin MeetMe from continuing to engage in activities in California that violate state law; civil penalties of up to $2,500 for each violation found to have occurred in the state; and costs of the City Attorney’s lawsuit.
About the S.F. City Attorney’s Consumer Protection Unit
The San Francisco City Attorney’s Office’s Consumer Protection Unit pursues public interest civil cases under California’s Unfair Competition Law, which are funded virtually exclusively by civil recoveries — not taxpayer dollars. The award-winning program, for which the National Association of Consumer Advocates recognized Dennis Herrera as its 2009 Consumer Attorney of the Year, reflects voter-enacted changes to California law that require civil penalties recovered by public prosecutors to be used exclusively to enforce consumer protection laws. Since voters passed the amendments as part of Proposition 64 in 2004, Herrera’s Consumer Protection Unit has recovered some $20 million in successful battles against unlawful business practices that include price-fixing, illegal marketing, credit card collections arbitration scams and more. The unit’s work has helped win equally important industry reforms to help protect consumer privacy, end discriminatory practices in health insurance and media metrics, protect immigrants, halt predatory evictions, and obtain recoveries for victims of wage theft.
The litigation is: People of the State of California ex rel. Dennis Herrera v. MeetMe, Inc. et al. (San Francisco Superior Court Case No. 537126, filed Feb. 3, 2014). Complete documentation on the case is available at: http://www.sfcityattorney.org/