• Coblentz’s International Legal Alliance TAGLaw Named an “Elite” Global Legal Alliance by Chambers & Partners

    Coblentz’s international legal alliance, TAGLaw®, has again been recognized by Chambers & Partners as “Elite” for 2024—the highest ranking awarded to legal networks and alliances. This is the eleventh time TAGLaw has received the distinguished “Elite” designation since Chambers & Partners began ranking legal networks and alliances in 2013.

    In selecting networks and alliances for their “Elite” status, Chambers & Partners pays particular attention to the quality of the member firms, their global reach, and the value that the alliance provides to its member firms. Member firms have exceptional reputations for quality of service and client satisfaction, and strive to cooperate to provide resources and expertise as if they were right down the hall from one another.

    As the Northern California law firm representative to TAGLaw, Coblentz is able to access a network of exemplary regional, national and international legal resources to help us better serve our clients. TAGLaw, with a global footprint in over 90 countries, has leading firms in over 160 jurisdictions providing legal services to companies ranging from the Fortune 5000 and leading SMEs to high net worth individuals. With expertise in dozens of practice areas and countless industry sectors, TAGLaw offers a substantial capability to its members’ clients. This capability is expanded by TAGLaw’s unique relationship with its sister alliance of accounting firms, TIAG, providing members and clients with the multidisciplinary expertise needed in today’s business world.

    Coblentz partner Paul Tauber is a member of the Advisory Board and chair of the Global Strategy Committee of the TAG Alliances, assisting in reviewing prospective new members, offering feedback for the planning of international conferences, and providing valuable guidance on future plans and initiatives.

    Categories: News
  • March 2024 Election: San Francisco Measures and a State Proposition to Watch

    Voters in San Francisco and California will again confront a formidable ballot during the election on March 5, 2024, with an array of qualified City measures and one state proposition to consider. Key measures related to real estate and housing are as follows:

    San Francisco Proposition A (Affordable Housing Bonds): Proposition A would allow the City to borrow up to $300 million by issuing general obligation bonds to construct, develop, acquire, and/or rehabilitate affordable housing. Of that $300 million:

    • Up to $240 million of bond proceeds would be used for new rental housing, including senior and workforce housing, for extremely low-income, very low-income, and lower-income households.
    • Up to $30 million would be used to preserve existing affordable housing that is affordable for lower-income and moderate-income households.
    • Up to $30 million would be used to serve extremely low-income, very low-income, and/or lower-income households who need safe and stable housing and are experiencing street violence, domestic violence and abuse, sexual abuse and assault, human trafficking, or other trauma relating to homelessness.

    The measure proposes to raise these funds through an estimated average tax of 57 cents per $100 of assessed property value. For rent controlled units, landlords can pass through to tenants 50 percent of this real property tax increase. The Citizens’ General Obligation Bond Oversight Committee would audit the expenditure of these bond proceeds.

    One of the major drivers of the measure is the City’s need to meet its state-mandated Regional Housing Needs Allocation of over 46,000 affordable housing units by 2031, which we’ve written about here and here.

    Support and Opposition: Proposition A was placed on the ballot by an 11-0 vote of the Board of Supervisors, the ordinance for which was signed by the Mayor. Proponents of Proposition A, including Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin, the SF Democratic County Central Committee (DCCC), SPUR[1], TogetherSF, SF YIMBY, the San Francisco Labor Council, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Council of Community Housing Organizations, the San Francisco Tenants Union, and the Mission Housing Development Corporation, argue that the measure provides essential affordable housing for working parents and families, teachers, firefighters, nurses, veterans, and seniors on fixed incomes. Opponents, including Larry Marso, argue that the City should push back against state-mandated housing levels, reign in borrowing, and protect against rising property taxes on existing home owners.

    Proposition A requires a two-thirds vote to pass.

    San Francisco Proposition C (Real Estate Transfer Tax Exemption and Office Space Allocation): For any property owner that receives permission to convert a property from commercial to residential use before January 1, 2030, Proposition C would exempt its initial post-conversion transfer from the transfer tax, up to a combined limit of 5 million square feet of space converted. The measure also allows the Board of Supervisors to amend the transfer tax without voter approval (but not to increase it), and permits office space that has been converted or demolished to be returned to the Proposition M allocation pool for allocation to new office developments of at least 50,000 square feet.

    Support and Opposition: Proposition C was placed on the ballot by the Mayor, and is supported by certain members of the Board of Supervisors, the Housing Action Coalition, GrowSF, SF YIMBY, SPUR, TogetherSF, YIMBY Action, Senator Scott Wiener, the San Francisco Chronicle, and various small business and merchants associations, who assert that the City’s current transfer tax – which is up to 6 percent on transactions of $25 million or more – is a significant barrier to a more vibrant downtown and disincentivizes the conversion of underused office buildings to housing. Opponents of the proposition, including Supervisor Dean Preston, John Avalos, the SF DCCC, the Affordable Housing Alliance, the San Francisco Labor Council, the San Francisco Tenants Union, and the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club, maintain that the measure would take power away from the voters, provide unnecessary tax breaks to the rich, and limit funding for vital City services. A recent report by the Office of the Controller concludes that although the goals of revitalizing San Francisco’s downtown and increasing housing opportunities are important, office to residential conversion may not be currently financially feasible, and the proposed incentive is likely too small to close the feasibility gap.

    Proposition C requires a simple majority to pass.

    San Francisco Proposition D (Changes to Local Ethics Laws): Proposition D would tighten City ethics laws, including by:

    • Expanding the types and sources of gifts that City officers and employees are prohibited from accepting;
    • Amending the definition of bribery to prohibit City officers and employees from soliciting or accepting anything of value for themselves or a third party with the goal of influencing any government action;
    • Requiring City department heads to report additional information about gifts to their department and allowing discipline for failing to meet these requirements;
    • Creating a uniform set of rules for all prohibited nonwork activities for City officers and employees;
    • Allowing for monetary penalties when City officers and employees fail to make required disclosures about their personal, professional, or business relationships;
    • Requiring all City employees with decision-making authority to complete an annual ethics training; and
    • Requiring voter approval or supermajority votes by both the Board of Supervisors and the San Francisco Ethics Commission to amend most City ethics laws.

    According to the Ethics Commission, these changes are also designed to standardize ethics rules and enforcement across City departments. If this measure passes, the provisions would become effective six months after the election.

    Support and Opposition: Proposition D was placed on the ballot by a unanimous vote of the Ethics Commission in response to recent incidents involving corruption on the part of City officials and those doing business with the City. Proponents, including SPUR, the San Francisco Chronicle, the SF DCCC, the San Francisco Labor Council, and TogetherSF, argue that recent City government corruption lays out a case for much-needed internal reform. Opponents of the proposition, including Larry Marso and 11th Congressional District candidate Eve Del Castello, state that it is more efficient to have City departments set individual, tailored policies rather than creating a uniform set of rules and that the measure would continue to expand the headcount, and spending, within the Ethics Commission.

    Proposition D requires a simple majority to pass.

    California Proposition 1 (Behavioral Health Services Act and Behavioral Health Infrastructure Bond Act): Proposition 1 would authorize the state to sell a total of $6.4 billion in new bonds to build treatment facilities for those with mental health and substance use challenges (up to $4.4 billion) and to fund the state program that gives money to local governments to turn hotels, motels, and other buildings into housing and to construct new housing ($2 billion). Proposition 1 would amend the Mental Health Services Act (Proposition 63), which was passed by voters in 2004 and taxes individuals with incomes over $1 million per year, to allow funding to be used to treat substance use disorders (and not just mental health disorders), reallocate funding for full-service treatment programs, behavioral health services, and housing programs, and require annual audits of programs.

    Support and Opposition: Proposition 1 was put on the ballot by the Legislature. Proponents, including Governor Gavin Newsom, California Professional Firefighters, the California Chamber of Commerce, the SF DCCC, the Veteran Mentor Project, the San Francisco Chronicle, SPUR, TogetherSF, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness–California, argue that the state’s mental health system is broken and that the proposition would move people permanently off the streets, out of tents, and into treatment. Opponents, including Senate Minority Leader Brian W. Jones, Assemblymember Diane B. Dixon, and Mental Health America of California, argue that Proposition 1 is a heavy burden on taxpayers and that a better tactic is to attack the problem of homelessness and mental health challenges through the regular budget process. They also assert that the proposition reduces local control, bringing a one-size-fits-all approach to a program that counties already offer.

    Proposition 1 would modify Proposition 63 and requires a simple majority to pass.



    [1] Links provided in this post to substantive voter guides, where available.

    Categories: Blogs
  • Senator Wiener Proposes Targeted CEQA Exemption for Downtown S.F. Projects

    Recognizing that Downtown San Francisco is “struggling” post-pandemic, State Senator Scott Wiener has announced new legislation to exempt certain projects in the area from California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review for a 10-year period, together with a tax exemption for projects providing workforce housing. SB 1227 seeks to expand on SB 423, CEQA streamlining legislation the Senator authored last year, which will result in many housing projects in San Francisco becoming exempt from CEQA as of mid-2024. (See our past coverage here).

    Temporary CEQA Exemption

    Unlike SB 423, SB 1227 would apply to a range of non-residential and mixed use projects that do not meet the definition of a “housing development project,” as well as student housing projects, and it will apply only in a defined “downtown revitalization zone,” which includes the Financial District, Union Square, Civic Center, Yerba Buena, East Cut, South Beach, and Rincon Hill. (See map here). To qualify for the CEQA exemption, the project must not involve demolition of:

    • Housing restricted to below-market rate households, or subject to rent control;
    • Housing occupied by tenants, or a building operated as a hotel, within 10 years prior to submittal of an application for development; or
    • A listed historic structure.

    The site must also meet a number of environmental criteria, including not being located on a designated hazardous waste site or special flood hazard area. Many of the site requirements will be met simply due to the highly urbanized nature of the targeted area (e.g., there are no areas of prime farmland or very high fire hazard severity zones in downtown San Francisco). Importantly, most projects will be required to meet labor requirements similar to SB 423’s, summarized below:

    • All projects over 10,000 square feet or proposing 10 or more residential units must pay prevailing wages;
    • Projects over 40,000 square feet must also comply with apprenticeship, health care, and reporting requirements;
    • Projects over 40,000 square feet that do not include residential uses, or that include residential uses and are over 85 feet in height, must also comply with specified requirements for a skilled and trained workforce.

    By leaving local zoning controls intact but eliminating CEQA review in these limited circumstances, the bill could significantly shorten the review period, and avoid lengthy litigation challenges, for qualifying projects.

    Expansion of Welfare Exemption

    SB 1227 would also expand the partial “welfare exemption” from property tax for specified projects in the downtown revitalization zone that provide workforce housing. To qualify, projects must obtain building or site permits for residential units before January 1, 2035 and must provide rental housing up to 120% of the area median income, so long as they are rented 10% below the market value. By expanding an exemption already used by residential projects affordable to lower income households, the legislation is intended to encourage the production of moderate-income residential projects in downtown San Francisco.

    Throughout the legislative session, we will continue to monitor SB 1227, as well as other legislation related to housing and development, and will provide updates as they become available.

    Categories: Blogs
  • Recent Developments: Better News Than Your Return to Office Policy

    On Friday, March 15, 2024, Coblentz partner Jennifer Scharre will present “Recent Developments: Better News Than Your Return to Office Policy” during the California National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) Summit 2024. Jennifer’s session will focus on recent developments in trusts and estates. For more details and to register, please click here.

    Categories: Events
  • Under the State Microscope, San Francisco Implements Its Housing Element and Avoids De-Certification

    Throughout 2023, the State’s Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) loomed large in San Francisco land use policy and politics. In January 2023, the City adopted and HCD certified a new Housing Element setting forth San Francisco’s plan for approving and building a State-mandated 82,000 new housing units over the next eight years (see earlier post). In October, HCD released its San Francisco Housing Policy and Practice Review, which concluded that San Francisco has the longest review and approval process for housing projects in the State. It deemed San Francisco an “outlier,” with “approval processes [that] are also notoriously complex and cumbersome, creating unpredictability and uncertainty.” At the end of the year, the Board of Supervisors passed the Constraints Reduction Ordinance contemplated in the Housing Element, after HCD advised in the fall that failure to do so could result in Housing Element de-certification.

    The Constraints Reduction Ordinance makes numerous changes to the Planning Code to remove barriers to approving and building housing, particularly in well-resourced portions of the City that have traditionally seen less multifamily development. Among other changes, the Ordinance exempts certain housing projects from neighborhood noticing procedures; removes certain conditional use authorization requirements for some projects in lower height and density zoning districts; authorizes the Planning Commission to delegate to the Planning Director approval of many State Density Bonus Law projects without a conditional use or large project authorization; and relaxes rear yard, open space, and other development standards in specified zoning districts.

    Looking ahead, no break in the action should be expected in 2024. In light of recent reporting that the City issued permits for only 581 new units in 2023—a 13-year low—we anticipate continued HCD oversight and involvement in the legislative process. In addition, SB 423, authored by Senator Scott Wiener (D – San Francisco) extended the SB 35 streamlined, ministerial approval program and added a San Francisco-specific annual HCD reporting and review requirement. If, as expected, HCD determines this year that San Francisco is not making adequate progress toward its market-rate housing production goals, a significantly larger number of predominantly market-rate housing projects may be eligible for streamlined, ministerial approvals.

    Categories: Blogs
  • Are You Ready? CPRA Regulations Are In Effect Immediately: Attorney General Rob Bonta Wins a Reversal at the California Court of Appeals

    By Scott Hall and Amber Leong

    The California Court of Appeal just issued an opinion reversing a trial court decision from last year that stayed enforcement of the California Privacy Rights Act (“CPRA”) Regulations.If you recall, last year, on June 30, 2023 – the eve of when the regulations were to take effect – a California trial court issued a ruling and injunction halting the regulations from going into effect. The trial court found that the statute required a one-year delay from when the regulations were finalized to when they could take effect. Accordingly, because the regulations were finalized on March 29, 2023, they would not take effect until March 29, 2024.

    Attorney General Rob Bonta, on behalf of the California Privacy Protection Agency (“CPPA”),2 appealed the trial court’s ruling. Last Friday, on February 9, 2024, the California Court of Appeal issued its opinion in Cal. Priv. Protection Agency v. Sup. Ct. of Sac. Cty., C099130 (Cal. Ct. App. Feb. 9, 2024). In a unanimous opinion, the California Court of Appeal reversed the trial court decision. In so doing, the Court found that nothing in the statutory language of the CPRA “unambiguously require[s] a one-year gap between approval and enforcement regardless of when the approval occurs, and nothing in the relevant material[s] presented for our review signals that the voters intended such a gap,” id. at 19, “even if the specific statutory provision at issue . . . include[d] what amounts to a one-year delay,” ibid. (original emphasis included). Thus, the California Court of Appeal vacated the trial court’s order and judgment that had stayed the CPPA’s regulations “for a period of 12 months from the date that [each] individual regulation becomes final.” Id. at 22.

    What this means is that the regulations take effect now – a little less than two months earlier than the expected March 29, 2024 date.

    The California Court of Appeal’s ruling, though, has broader significance for pending and future regulations for which the CPPA has not issued final regulations yet – including cybersecurity audits, risk assessments, and automated decision-making. Under the Court of Appeal’s ruling, these regulations can presumably take immediate effect once they are finalized, rather than having a one-year waiting period. It remains to be seen whether the CPPA will provide a certain period of time for businesses to prepare for new regulations as they are finalized, or whether the CPPA will seek to enforce new regulations without delay in light of this ruling, though the CPRA regulations do provide that the CPPA should consider the time between the effective date of regulatory requirements and alleged violations, among other things, in deciding whether to pursue an investigation. (CPRA Regulations § 7301(b).)

    With the CCPA’s original 30-day notice-and-cure provision eliminated, and both Attorney General Rob Bonta and the CPPA signaling their intent to increase enforcement of California consumers’ privacy rights, companies should work to become immediately compliant with the current CPRA regulations and should also work towards compliance with draft regulations regarding cybersecurity audits, risk assessments, and automated decision-making as there is no clear waiting period before those regulations can go into effect once finalized. In sum, businesses will need to closely monitor and always be ready for CPRA regulatory enforcement.

    Please contact the Coblentz Data Privacy Team with any questions or assistance on these compliance issues.

    To view a PDF version of this article, please click here.

    [1] Pursuant to the CPRA, a law which was enacted by California voters through Proposition 24 and which amended the California Consumer Privacy Rights Act, authorized for regulations to be promulgated in support of therein and at issue here, and created the CPPA.

    [2] The CPPA is the enforcement agency created to enforce the privacy rights of California residents.

    Categories: Publications
  • US Privacy Laws – What To Look Out For In 2024

    On Tuesday, March 12, 2024, Coblentz litigation partner Scott Hall will co-present the Prighter webinar, “US Privacy laws – What to look out for in 2024.”

    The US regulatory landscape is becoming increasingly complex with state and federal laws being passed or bills being discussed together with various vertical regulations dealing with data protection. One of the landmarks in 2024 is the enforcement of the CPRA’s amendments to the CCPA from March 29, 2024.

    During this webinar, Scott and his co-presenters will cover the following topics:

    • Evolving US privacy regulative landscape: state, federal and vertical regulations
    • Enforcement of CPRA: what to expect from March 29, 2024
    • New data subject rights under CPRA: what you need to know
    • Proposed Regulatory Framework for Automated Decision Making Technology
    • Operationalizing Privacy Laws: the role of an external DPO in the US
    • Global Outlook: extraterritorial scope and the effect on international businesses

    For more details and to register, please click here.

    Categories: Events