Housing needs a lawyer too.

California state law prevents cities from denying housing proposals that comply with objective zoning standards, general plans and environmental laws.

In practice, cities often deny housing proposals anyways because there is no statewide enforcement agency. New housing production inevitably plays a role in the lives of California renters. Denial of housing proposals means fewer options available to renters as our population grows and our rental stock ages; Home owners have housing security while renters depend on new housing.

Cities that deny housing proposals are denying renters a home in California.

CaRLA is a 501(c)3 that holds municipal governments accountable when acting in violation of California State laws. We pursue legal action where developers have not, bringing suit against cities that fail to approve compliant housing. We work for California’s renters, not homeowner wealth.

Defending housing in the court of law

California state law prevents cities from denying housing proposals that comply with objective zoning standards, general plans and environmental laws. In practice, cities often engage in such behavior anyways because there is no statewide enforcement agency. CaRLA has and will continue to pursue legal action where developers have not, bringing suit against cities that fail to approve compliant housing. In doing so, we seek to establish a reputation as the go-to expert on the Housing Accountability Act and to change the political and legal norm of the HAA sitting on the books, unenforced.

Everyone should be able to build the homes we need

Homebuilders rely on project approvals for revenue and are unlikely to go on the offensive against malicious jurisdictions. Developers prefer to negotiate with cities rather than pursue relief in court under the Housing Accountability Act. These negotiations are unnecessary when a housing project is protected by the HAA; yet, many developers do not understand their rights and lack an independent advocate. The Housing Accountability Act is a powerful tool in combating predatory delay-and-deny tactics utilized by malicious jurisdictions.

State law requires local governments to establish a process and regulations for ADU development that can be navigated by small builders and homeowners. The parties that will seek to build ADUs often lack the resources to hold cities accountable to state ADU restrictions, however. CaRLA monitors local implementation of ADU laws and seeks to push cities toward policy that will encourage ADU development through legal advocacy.

Holding cities accountable to the people

The Fair Housing Act and its state law equivalents seek to prevent discrimination in housing, combat segregation, and provide access to affordable housing for all. In many cases, local zoning and development policy works against these goals. CaRLA looks to bring lawsuits and establish precedent to enforce fair housing requirements against these local housing policies, especially hold local governments to their obligation to affirmatively further fair housing.

The Mitigation Fee Act provides an avenue for challenging abusive impact fees throughout California. In some areas, these fees are a significant barrier to equitable development. CaRLA looks for opportunities to challenge the most abusive fees.

We carry a big stick, and we aren’t afraid to use it.

Lawsuits filed

Homes Defended in 2018

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Lawsuits won

Meet the Kumars

Santosh Kumar and his wife Shilpa wanted to legalize the ADU that came with their house. Read how CaRLA defended them against a malicious city government.
The HAA cases we are now defending were all brought by YIMBY organizations committed to the construction of housing of all types, affordable or market-rate. However, in the context of litigation, the interests of the developer and the ‘housing organization’ do not necessarily coincide: the developer wants a project and a settlement in a timely fashion; the housing organization wants to make new law, get attorneys’ fees, and issue a press release.

This can make settlement difficult. California League of Cities

Supported by you

CaRLA relies on individual donations and membership subscriptions from regular people like you.

There is no California statewide agency charged with enforcing the laws like we do, which makes our work all the more valuable.

Donate to CaRLA and help us restore a legal environment in which California builds housing equal to its needs.

We are CaRLA

We’re a scrappy team of four operating out of an abandoned bank in downtown Oakland, California. No, seriously, that is our office. Our annual budget is just shy of $400,000, which is supported through grassroots donations and one or two small grants. And yet, we are punching far above our weight.

Dylan Casey

Dylan Casey

Executive Director

Dylan Casey moved to Oakland to join CaRLA in early 2017. Dylan’s work at CaRLA has focused on ensuring local compliance with state housing law, including the Housing Accountability Act and Accessory Dwelling Unit Law. Before joining CaRLA, Dylan worked as a land use lawyer for New York City government since graduating law school from New York University in 2012. Dylan worked on permitting the public review process for individual developments, neighborhood rezonings, and helped develop the city’s inclusionary housing program first at the Department of City Planning and later at the New York City Council.
Sonja Trauss

Sonja Trauss

Employee, Co-Founder

Sonja Trauss founded the SFBay Area Renters Federation, the Metro Observer and co-founded the YIMBY Party and CaRLA to advance the cause of building housing. San Francisco, and California generally, are experiencing a housing shortage. Housing shortage is bad for renters (and good for homeowners, incidentally). Over the last few decades, most solutions have focused on fixing the price of housing, while allowing the shortage to worsen. Since high prices are a symptom of the underlying shortage, focusing only on prices hasn’t gotten us any closer to fixing the problem.
Victoria Fierce

Victoria Fierce

Director of Operations

Victoria moved to Oakland, California in early 2014, having moved away from her hometown of Akron, Ohio for lack of jobs. She’s a founding organizer of the modern YIMBY movement and is a tireless voice for pushing YIMBYs further left. In 2016 she co-founded East Bay for Everyone, an East Bay housing organizer collective, which has since grown to several thousand members and is an unstoppable power for urban justice.

She currently lives in downtown Oakland with her partner and a baby pirate cat, just a few blocks from the CaRLA office.