Francisco Ugarte, managing attorney of the San Francisco Public Defender's immigration defense unit, holds a banner with the late Public Defender Jeff Adachi at a community rally for immigrants' rights in 2018.

S.F. Immigration Defense Unit Represents Immigrants Statewide Through Pandemic

San Francisco’s office of the public defender has a unit dedicated to defending immigrants in court. In most states, they often have no representation because there is no right to counsel in immigration cases. Francisco Ugarte, managing attorney of this unit, talked with “Civic” about how handoffs between agencies work and what happens to someone who is arrested by immigration enforcement in San Francisco, as well as a class action suit the unit helped litigate over COVID-19 outbreaks in detention facilities.

The science on the key ingredient in the top-selling U.S. weedkiller, Bayer's Roundup, is still in fierce dispute as the company settles thousands of lawsuits claiming health impacts for billions of dollars.

Scientists Split Over Herbicide Risk, Leaving Public in Lurch

Identifying clear guidelines for the level of exposure to glyphosate that could cause cancer or other illness is a contentious business. Monsanto owner Bayer denies glyphosate, the active ingredient in weedkiller Roundup, is a carcinogen. The European Union and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency back that view. That’s despite a finding from the World Health Organization in 2015 that glyphosate probably is a human carcinogen.

San Francisco city workers use blowtorches to remove grass and weeds from a median on Broadway at Polk Street on Feb. 3, 2020. City workers rely much less on herbicides than they did just five years ago, as health concerns mount.

As Cancer Concerns Lead Cities to Ban Herbicide, S.F. Scales Back Use of Roundup

When San Franciscans hike up Twin Peaks or stroll through Glen Canyon Park, they could be exposing themselves to an herbicide that some studies have linked to cancer. But thanks to growing concerns about public health and liability, their risks are substantially lower than they were five years ago, when the city used 20 times as much of the chemical.

That chemical is glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto’s top-selling weedkiller, Roundup. Monsanto owner Bayer agreed in June to a settlement of more than $10 billion with plaintiffs in thousands of pending lawsuits over claims Roundup caused cancer.

As legal victories against the company pile up, Bay Area cities have faced a tough choice — keep using a chemical that evidence increasingly shows is dangerous and exposes them to the legal liability it entails or switch to other, often less effective methods. San Francisco has limited its risk through a strategy known as integrated pest management and its move to scale back dramatically on glyphosate since 2015.

This Navigation Center in the Mission, opened in March 2015, was one of the first to serve San Francisco's homeless population. In early 2019, development began on a plan to turn the site into 157 affordable-housing units.

Surge in S.F. Homelessness Funding Could Be a Game Changer

San Francisco will soon spend previously unthinkable sums on the fight against homelessness. The massive influx of cash — nearly $600 million over the next year collected thanks to a voter initiative, combined with hundreds of millions of dollars in expenditures by the homelessness department — could be a game changer.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed Tuesday extended her eviction moratorium through the end of November. For many tenants, that will delay displacement — a longstanding political issue in the city, as exemplified by this demonstration at the 2014 Pride Parade.

Breed Extends Eviction Moratorium to Dec. 1

Mayor London Breed Tuesday gave San Francisco tenants an additional month to figure out how they will cover rent and avoid eviction, in light of economic hardships resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, the soonest landlords could legally evict for nonpayment of rent is Dec. 1. That’s a month later than the previously announced eviction moratorium was set to end. The information was initially made public in a web post from the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco. The San Francisco Public Press received confirmation of these changes from Hugo Ramirez, a staff member at the Mayor’s office.

carolyn gold

Court Upholds S.F. Eviction Ban

A challenge to San Francisco’s eviction moratorium lost in court Monday. The San Francisco Apartment Association and three co-plaintiffs sued the City and County of San Francisco in June to overturn legislation that took eviction permanently off the table for unpaid rents due during the pandemic. They argued that it was an unconstitutional taking of property and pre-empted state law. San Francisco Superior Court Judge Charles Haines heard arguments in the case Friday before ruling in favor of the city. “This is a resounding victory for vulnerable tenants in San Francisco,” said Supervisor Dean Preston, the legislation’s author, on Twitter.

ICE detention video

S.F. Immigration Lawyers Cut ICE Detention Centers Population by Two-Thirds

In late March, a cell phone video made by detainees was leaked to the public from Mesa Verde Immigration and Customs Enforcement Processing Center in Bakersfield, Calif. Dozens of men in orange jumpsuits walked past the camera while Charles Joseph read a petition. “Many of us have underlying medical issues,” he said. “This turns our detention into a death sentence, because this pandemic requires social distancing and that is impossible in this environment. We request that you give us parole or bond so we may return to our families.”

Joseph’s plea caught the attention of the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, which joined a lawsuit with the American Civil Liberties Union, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, and two law firms — Lakin & Wille, and Cooley LLP — seeking the release of detained immigrants with pre-existing health concerns.

San Francisco Superior Court

Real Estate Groups Sue S.F. Over Eviction Ban

Real estate groups Monday sued the City and County of San Francisco to overturn an eviction ban designed to help renters weather the COVID-19 pandemic. The plaintiffs argue that the city ordinance “violates constitutional and state law” empowering landlords to evict, and conflicts with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Executive Orders, which have allowed local governments to issue temporary bans on evictions — not permanent ones. The San Francisco Apartment Association, the Small Property Owners of San Francisco Institute, the San Francisco Association of Realtors and Coalition for Better Housing jointly filed the suit in San Francisco Superior Court. The groups are also seeking a temporary restraining order to suspend the law, said Noni Richen, president of the small property owners group. The legislation, signed into law June 26, outlaws eviction for nonpayment of rents that were due from March 16 through July 29 — a time period tied to Newsom’s executive order.