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Attorney News

 

City Defeats First Amendment Challenge to Spectating Ordinance

The City Attorney’s office recently defeated a facial constitutional challenge to the City’s Street Race Spectating Ordinance, which prohibits being a spectator at a street racing event. A defendant charged under the City’s Street Race Spectating Ordinance filed a Demurrer to the action, alleging that the Ordinance was facially unconstitutional under the First Amendment Overbreadth Doctrine, primarily as an infringement upon freedom of association. Deputy City Attorney Brittany Brace, mentored by Deputy City Attorney Kevin Kundinger, argued: 1) that there is no First Amendment right to assemble for the purposes of spectating at illegal activities and 2) the dangerous nature of these activities makes the Ordinance a reasonable exercise of the City’s police power to protect public health and welfare. The Honorable Thadd Blizzard, who agreed with the City, overruled the Defendant’s Demurrer and upheld the Ordinance as constitutional.

Sheryl N. Patterson Retires after 15 Years with the City Attorney

On May 5, 2022, Sheryl Patterson retired from the City Attorney’s Office. Sheryl received her Juris Doctorate from McGeorge School of Law in 1983. Following law school and private practice, she began a long and distinguished career of public service. In 2000 Sheryl became Assistant District Counsel for Regional Transit. Sheryl left Regional Transit in 2003 to take a position with the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency. She left SHRA and joined the City Attorney’s office in 2007- for which we are forever grateful. The breadth and depth of Sheryl’s knowledge was legendary. She was always willing to take on a new challenge and was extremely generous with her advice and time for other attorneys – new and old. Sheryl is beginning her retirement with a much-deserved European vacation. Among the many tributes that were sent to Sheryl and the CAO upon the announcement of her retirement was that of Mario Lara, Director of the Department of Youth, Parks and Community Enrichment:

“Sheryl had a wealth of historical knowledge and information and I often relied on her not just for legal advice, but also invaluable context and background information regarding issues that my department needed to address. She worked with speed and accuracy quickly cutting through to the heart of the matter and helping the Youth, Parks, & Community Enrichment department to resolve problems efficiently and effectively. I am profoundly grateful for the counsel that she gave me and YPCE team.”

Public Contracting - Staying Informed in a Constantly Evolving Field

Senior Deputy City Attorneys Jennifer Gore and Michael Voss presented to the Sacramento Chapter of the American Public Works Association in March, 2022. The presentation focused on the role of the Attorney Advisor in assisting with key issues in public construction law. Both Ms. Gore and Mr. Voss have many years of experience with the City and handle procurement and public contracting issues for the City on a daily basis. The presentation was developed through collaboration with other members of the City Attorney team.  Public contracting is such a broad field and covers so many topics that the legal landscape is continually shifting. For this reason, it is important that public agency staff stay abreast of legal developments and best practices in the field and work closely with public agency counsel to proactively address legal issues.

Volunteer Efforts Keep The Municipal Law Handbook Updated

Each year, CalCities (formerly known as The League of California Cities) publishes an updated version of The Municipal Law Handbook, which is the go-to legal reference book for California lawyers advising local governments.   The annual update is made possible by the voluntary contributions of scores of reviewers, led by the Editorial Committee and CalCities staff.  Each member of the Editorial Committee is responsible for a particular chapter, ensuring that its summary and citation to the law is accurate and up to date.   

For the next two years, Assistant City Attorney Matthew Ruyak will be the chapter chair for Chapter 9 (Regulating Businesses and Personal Conduct).  This follows Mr. Ruyak’s position as chapter chair for Chapter 3 (Elections) for the 2021 and 2022 editions of the book.   During that past two-year period, he was joined by Senior Deputy City Attorney Emilio Camacho, who was the previous chapter chair for Chapter 9.

SACRAMENTO CITY ATTORNEY’S OFFICE RECEIVES LEADERSHIP AWARD FROM HABITAT FOR HUMANITY

Habitat for Humanity of Greater Sacramento this past week honored the Sacramento City Attorney’s Office for its innovative work in helping to create more affordable housing.
The leadership award was presented to City Attorney Susana Alcala Wood and her office during Habitat for Humanity’s 28th annual Hammy Awards held April 28 at the Mack Powell Center

Read more here.

Senior Deputy City Attorney, Emilio Camacho, nominated to lead California League of Cities - Cannabis Regulatory Committee.

Senior Deputy City Attorney, Emilio Camacho, has been nominated to Chair the Cannabis Regulation Committee (Committee) of the League of California Cities within the City Attorneys Department. The purpose of this committee is to assist municipal attorneys and cities on legal issues related to cannabis regulation through the expertise of its 20 members, representing different parts of the State of California. Cannabis issues are particularly challenging for local government due to the lack of legal precedent and constantly evolving laws. For this reason, it is important that municipal attorneys stay abreast of current cases and precedent from other legal fields that can be applied to advise clients and offer solutions as cannabis issues arise. To that end, in 2021, the Committee completed a Cannabis Guide as a comprehensive and practical compilation of city attorney experience from throughout California. The same year, Mr. Camacho also presented the guide at the League’s Conference in Sacramento.

 

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY EVENT

In honor of International Women’s Day, the Sacramento County Bar Association and Women Lawyers of Sacramento co-hosted a panel discussion on the topic of embracing intersectionality. Katherine Underwood from the City Attorney’s Office was one of three women who put the event together. The panel was moderated by Carmen-Nicole Cox from McGeorge School of Law and the panelists were: Ederlina Co, from McGeorge School of Law;, the Honorable Shama Mesiwala from Sacramento Superior Court; Andi Mudryk from the California Department of Rehabilitation, and the Honorable Emily Vasquez from Sacramento County Court (ret.). These brave women discussed the intersection of their gender, race, disabilities, gender identity, and religion and shined a light on how to embrace our differences. This talk set out to encourage, challenge, and energize its viewers.

WITH FINAL AGREEMENTS IN PLACE, IT'S NOW FULL SPEED AHEAD FOR THE AGGIE SQUARE PROJECT

On February 16th, groundbreaking commenced for the Aggie Square Project (Project). Aggie Square is a multi-phase development project envisioned to advance the City's efforts to make the City of Sacramento a leading location for the health and food sciences and an innovation hub.  

The proposed Project is a mixed-use innovation and research center located on the UC Davis Sacramento Campus (home of the UC Davis Medical Center) along the Stockton Boulevard corridor.  

Phase 1 of the Project is being developed under a public/private partnership collaboration between Wexford and UC Davis and is intended to be the catalyst for future development of the surrounding area. In this phase, both UC Davis and private entities intend to put the innovation and research center to multiple uses, including science, technology and data research uses; continuing and professional education; co-working and convening spaces; and mixed-use residential, food education, catering, and community-serving retail. 

Senior Deputy City Attorneys Jeff Massey and Joseph Cerullo helped develop the complex financing structure to make this project possible. Construction is set to begin April 2022.

CAO Staff Volunteer Their Time to Support Women Lawyers of Sacramento

Fhanysha Clark Gaddis is Co-Chair for the Judicial Appointments Committee for 2021. Ms. Gaddis received her undergraduate degrees in Afro-American studies, Sociology, and Public Policy from the University of California: Los Angeles.  She earned her graduate degrees from Pepperdine University School of Law and School of Public Policy; respectively.

Ms. Gaddis is a California licensed attorney and public policy professional specializing in representing schools, counties and cities. Throughout her years in civil litigation, Mrs. Gaddis receives recognition for her ability to help clients mitigate costs (and maintain relationships) through a comprehensive and proactive conflict management model. Mrs. Gaddis currently advises boards, commissions and departments within the City of Sacramento as a Deputy City Attorney.

Senior Deputy City Attorney Katherine Underwood is honored to serve as the 2022 President of the Women Lawyers of Sacramento.  Founded in 1962, WLS supports and encourages every woman lawyer in their career aspirations and helps promote a society that places no limit on where a woman’s skills and talent can take them.  WLS reaches beyond the practice of law and advocates for legislative changes to benefit women and children, supports qualified candidates for judicial and other public appointments, and raises funds to support legal educational opportunities and community programs.  

Katherine began her legal career as a paralegal in 1997 and graduated from McGeorge School of Law in 2006.  After almost a decade working as a civil litigator in the private sector, Katherine joined the Sacramento City Attorney’s Office in 2015 and found her true calling as a public servant.  As a member of the Litigation Section, she handles lawsuits involving the City and/or its staff and provides pre-litigation and risk management advice.  Before COVID, Katherine served as the attorney coach for Highlands High School’s mock trial team.   

Andrea Velasquez is Co-Chair of the Publicity Committee at Women Lawyers of Sacramento and is a Supervising Deputy City Attorney at the City of Sacramento City Attorney’s Office supervising the litigation section.  She received her J.D. from McGeorge School of Law and undergraduate degree in English from U.C. Davis.   

Megan Nevin is the Membership Committee Co-Chair for the 2022 Board of Directors for Women Lawyers of Sacramento. After several years of practicing civil and criminal litigation in the private sector, Megan joined the Sacramento City Attorney’s Office in 2021. As a Deputy City Attorney II, Megan handles employment litigation and employee discipline appeals. Megan also volunteers her time with other community organizations, including Women’s Empowerment.

Sacramento Regional Diversity Career Fair

On February 26, 2022, the City Attorney’s Office joins the legal community at the Sacramento Regional Diversity Career Fair which aims to connect employers with diverse legal candidates for current and future job openings.

The fair, held at McGeorge School of Law, provides employers, law students and attorneys an opportunity to meet in person as well as maintains an online platform for legal job postings and submitting of applications.

Sponsored by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California, the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law, the UC Davis School of law and the Federal Bar Association Sacramento Chapter, the fair seeks to promote diversity in the legal profession to reflect and serve Sacramento’s diverse community.

The Sacramento City Attorney's Office is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workforce.

CAO Career Fair

City Launches Local Gift Card Program

The City of Sacramento has launched an online local gift card program, Shop916. The program is designed to keep local dollars local and to help small businesses recover from the COVID-19 Pandemic. As part of the program, the City will encourage the sale of gift cards by providing $10, $25, and $50 bonus gift cards to those who purchase gift cards. The funding for the bonus gift cards comes from the City’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.  

This is the first program to be implemented under the $8.2 million ARPA-funded Business Assistance program approved by City Council in October 2021.  

The City has contracted with a vendor to implement the program.  

Senior Deputy City Attorney Mike Sparks provided City staff with legal advice to ensure that the program and the contract with the vendor comply with ARPA requirements and state and federal gift card laws.   

To participate and purchase gift cards.

SMUD Museum of Science and Curiosity Opens its Doors

The SMUD Museum of Science and Curiosity opens its doors to the public to foster scientific interest in visitors.  The $83 million museum is a public-private partnership between the City and the Powerhouse Science Center to rehabilitate and transform the City’s historic PG&E Power Station B building and surrounding property on Jibboom Street into a state-of-the-art science center. The State of California, Sacramento County Office of Education, and SMUD are also involved in the project. 

Senior Deputy City Attorney Mike Sparks and Senior Deputy City Attorney Joe Cerullo (retired) worked on this project for a decade providing legal advice on a wide range of matters including environmental remediation, funding agreements, loan agreements, lease agreements, construction financing, and a site-ground-project lease finance transaction. 

MOSAC is an important step in revitalizing Sacramento’s riverfront and nearby downtown railyard areas.

CAO Awarded habitat for humanity's 2021 hammy award

Congratulations to Sacramento City Attorney Susana Alcala Wood and Senior Deputy City Attorney Emilio Camacho! They have been awarded the 27th Annual Hammy Award from Habitat for Humanity on behalf of the City of Sacramento for their work with the Justice for Neighbors program. Susana and Emilio assisted Habitat for Humanity in acquiring three former illegal grow houses located in Districts 6 and 8. Habitat for Humanity was able to rehabilitate the properties and turn them into affordable housing. An award ceremony will be held in April to present Ms. Wood and Mr. Camacho with this notable award.   

CANNABIS

The City Attorney’s Office continues to be an integral part of an inter-departmental team of city staff, led by the Office of Cannabis Management, to help them navigate the complex and ever-changing laws relating to the emerging medical and adult-use cannabis industry. In 2017, the office advised the City on the adoption of new land use and business regulations for commercial cultivation sites, manufacturing facilities, testing laboratories, distribution hubs, and retail dispensaries. In addition, the office has been a critical partner in the efforts to increase enforcement against illegal cannabis operations throughout the City.

 

CAO Supports Multi-year Effort to Streamline City’s Infrastructure Financing Ordinances

On February 14, 2017, the Sacramento City Council adopted seven new ordinances that restructured the City Code to facilitate administration of development impact fees and offer financial incentives to stimulate housing and job growth, particularly in economically challenged neighborhoods, near transit stations, and in the Central City. Six attorneys worked closely with four city departments to develop financing plans, nexus studies, fee credit and deferral programs, and draft ordinances and resolutions to implement the goals of the 2035 General Plan to support projected growth. In addition, the Subdivision Code was revised to further incentivize infill development by modernizing parkland dedication requirements. This effort resulted in establishing infrastructure improvement programs in three subareas of the city, a new citywide transportation impact fee, revised affordable housing fees, and new park fees for regional parks, pools, community centers, and parkways. The development community supported these changes because the overall fee burden in comparison with other jurisdictions in the region was fair and reasonable.

California WaterFix

This is the "Delta tunnels project," which proposes the construction of three new water intakes supplying two Delta tunnels to deliver water from Northern California to State and Federal Water Project contractors. The City, along with numerous other agencies and water supply interests throughout the State, filed a protest in the WaterFix change petition proceeding being conducted by the State Water Resources Control Board. The City is participating in this process out of concern for the project's potential adverse impact on regional water supplies, and to safeguard the City's long-standing water rights on the American and Sacramento Rivers. The State Water Board hearing process has been separated into two phases. To date, the City has presented evidence and testimony in the first phase of the hearing process, which has concluded. The second phase of the hearing process focused on environmental issues will begin on January 18, 2018.


Sanctuary City

The CAO has worked with the City Council to refine the City’s Sanctuary City Resolution that was adopted on May 4, 2017. The Resolution is intended to protect Sacramento City residents from federal immigration policies that may adversely impact them or the City’s local government operations.

EVGO

Our office aided staff in negotiating a contract to place up to six electric vehicle chargers on-street in partnership with a private electric vehicle charging network, EVgo. EVgo will fully construct, operate, and maintain the chargers for a ten-year period at no cost to the City, using the newest generation of 150-kilowatt high-power DC   fast-charger technology. While many cities have parking garages or facilities that include electrical vehicle charging stations, Sacramento is one of a handful of California cities that is seeking to develop “curbside” chargers on-street in the public right-of-way. These chargers will be the first curbside EV chargers available in the City, serving as a pilot for City staff to learn and develop permit guidance for future curbside charging projects. Our office is also working with staff in providing comments on proposed state legislation allowing cities to reserve parking spaces for on-street chargers.


homeless housing

Our office is providing advice on the provision of affordable housing opportunities and health care for homeless individuals in our City, including

Whole Person Care Pilot: Our office is aiding staff in the City’s participation in the statewide Whole Person Care Pilot Program, which will result in a four-year program to provide outreach, care coordination, housing support, and respite services to vulnerable individuals in the Sacramento region. The program will be funded by private grants, federal funding, and local funding. Because Sacramento is the only city in California participating in the program (the other participants are counties), the City will work in close partnership with existing subject-matter experts within the Sacramento community.

The Mayor’s Homeless Initiative: This initiative focuses on providing housing for 1,600 homeless households within the next two to three years by allocating a portion of public housing units and Housing Choice Vouchers (HCV) that become available each year due to turnover. Working with the County of Sacramento and the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency, changes to the City Housing Authority’s Admission and Continued Occupancy Policy and the County Housing Authority’s HCV Administrative Plan to add a homeless preference are needed and approval by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is required. The plan is to allocate 200 public housing units and 600 rental vouchers for homeless families, which would include households at risk of becoming homeless, as well as to provide services for these families so they can transition to permanent supportive housing.

JOB GROWTH AND EMPLOYMENT INCENTIVE STRATEGY

Recognizing that the City must adopt and implement recruitment strategies to make it more competitive in attracting businesses to Sacramento, the City Attorney’s Office assisted the City’s Economic Development Department in developing a job growth and employment incentive strategy that provides a framework to guide the City’s approach in pursuing major employment opportunities. The strategy underscores the City’s commitment to corporate recruitment efforts that bring large numbers of high-wage jobs to the City, diversify the City’s economic base, provide employment opportunities to underserved populations, and provide broad public benefits that enhance the quality of life and environment within the City.