The Consumer Protection Division of the Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office (CAO) is commemorating the 51st anniversary of the Fair Housing Act of 1968 (also known as the Civil Rights Act of 1968) with several activities in April. The fair housing laws prohibit housing discrimination that is based on race, national origin, religion, gender, disability, familial status, sexual orientation, marital status and other protected classes.

First, the CAO is co-sponsoring the workshop Fair Housing Issues in Santa Monica on April 23, 2019 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Santa Monica Main Library. The CAO’s co-sponsors include the City’s lead housing groups: Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR), Santa Monica Rent Control Board, Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles (AAGLA) and Action Apartment Association.

The workshop’s presenters include Chancela Al-Mansour, Executive Director of the Southern California Housing Rights Center; Shanley Hopkins Partner of Client Education at the Law Offices of Kimball, Tirey & St. John LLP; Lucie Loach, Santa Monica Housing Authority Administrator; Navneet Grewell, Senior Attorney at the Western Center for Law & Poverty, Denise McGranahan, Senior Attorney at Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, and Deputy City Attorney Gary Rhoades from the City Attorney’s Office. Displacement and gentrification in fair housing will be one of the new topics covered in the workshop.

Second, the City Attorney’s Office hosted its popular annual Santa Monica Student Fair Housing Poster Contest. More than 350 elementary and middle school students from Santa Monica participated in the contest this year, creating dynamic posters that feature the 2019 theme .  “It was very difficult to select only 9 finalists,” said Johanna Rodriguez, Community Liaison for the City Attorney’s Office, “The artwork the students submitted really captured the fair housing message that we want to convey to our city.”

1st Grade – Sofia O’Leary – Saint Anne School/ Ms. Andric

2nd Grade – Analia Alvarez – Saint Anne School/ Ms. Costas (Peoples’ Choice)

4th Grade – Amanda Camacho – Saint Anne School/ Ms. Renteria

5th Grade – Eden Craig – Grant/ Ms. Kooy (Judges’ Choice)

6th Grade – Deven Scanlin – Saint Anne School/ Mr. Gustafson

6th Grade – Rayah Todorov – Lincoln Middle School/ Ms. Pomatti

7th Grade – Matthew Martinez – Saint Anne School/Ms. Reed

8th Grade – Nick Weng – Lincoln Middle School/ Ms. Pomatti

8th Grade – Ava Sigman – Lincoln Middle School/ Ms. Pomatti

Four of the posters will also be published as calendars for 2020 and will be part of the City’s fair housing newspaper ad campaign.  As part of that campaign, a full-page color ad of a poster by  Eden Craig, 5th grader from Grant Elementary School is being published in the Santa Monica Daily Press on April 23.

On Monday, April 15, the City hosted the People’s Choice Award in which students, teachers, parents and general public cast their votes. This year, the People’s Choice Award goes to Analia Alvarez, 2nd grader from Saint Anne School.

Third, the CAO continues to promote two fair housing videos that it produced last year and that are available on YouTube:

Follow John To Learn About Fair Housing: This unique animation project is a first-of-its-kind collaboration between the Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office (CAO), IdeaRocket, and Peter Riedle, a young artist who as a seventh grader at St. Anne’s School submitted the poster to last year’s poster contest. The sixty-second video brings to life the characters depicted in the poster, including John the wheelchair user, his friends, family and landlord. Follow John To Learn About Fair Housing can be viewed on YouTube.com and already has over 7,800 views.

The Past, Present and Future of Fair Housing: A Symposium Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Fair Housing Act of 1968:  The City’s symposium on January 18, 2018 featured a blockbuster panel of three speakers, including U.S. Senator (ret.) Fred Harris, the last living member of the 1967-68 Kerner Commission who voted for the Fair Housing Act of 1968, Chancela Al-Mansour, Executive Director of the Housing Rights Center, and Director Kevin Kish, Department of Fair Employment & Housing. The event was filmed and edited by Santa Monica CityTV, and the production has been viewed on YouTube over 12900 times.

Fourth, the Consumer Protection Division of the City Attorney’s office continues to enforce the City’s and state’s fair housing laws. It has recently helped tenants and landlords resolve over a dozen Section 8 discrimination complaints along with several reasonable accommodation and modification cases. The office has also just filed and served its first Section 8 discrimination lawsuit, City of Santa Monica v. WIB Holdings, alleging that the landlord violated City law by refusing to accept Section 8 from a tenant of over thirty years. The complaint also alleges that the landlord violated the Tenant Harassment Ordinance, using the tenant’s precarious financial position to try to force her out of a rent-controlled unit.

“Fair housing laws are a cornerstone of community, in Santa Monica and throughout the country.  The City Attorney’s Office is proud to partner with community based organizations, City staff, and other enforcement agencies to educate members of the public about their rights and to ensure that those rights are protected,” said Lane Dilg, City Attorney.

For questions about fair housing or to file a complaint, call the City Attorney’s Office at (310) 458-4928.

Submitted by Gary Rhoades, Deputy City Attorney

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