PolicyLink Legal

PolicyLink Legal uses legal strategies to accelerate equity campaigns, deepening and expanding the capacity and effectiveness of organizers and advocates. Established in 2018 by Julian Gross — the inaugural PolicyLink James O. Gibson Innovation Fellow — PolicyLink Legal provides legal representation, analysis, and strategies to community-based clients and coalitions working toward equity and justice in economic development and the criminal legal system.

Recent PolicyLink Legal victories include:

  • Winning federal court rulings against the City and County of San Francisco and individual San Francisco Police Department officers in their efforts to avoid responsibility for targeting Black people exclusively in an undercover drug law enforcement operation. Together with its co-counsel ACLU Foundation of Northern California, ACLU Foundation, and the law firm Durie Tangri LLP, PolicyLink Legal will continue to litigate the lawsuit on behalf of our clients, seven of the Black people who were targeted for their race.
  • Negotiating a community benefits agreement on behalf of South LA residents, for our client, Strategic Actions for a Just Economy (SAJE), on “The Fig” development. Among other community benefits, the agreement will create a fund to support various community needs, including assistance to displaced tenants; local hiring programs for construction and operations jobs (with goals of 30 percent local workers and 10 percent disadvantaged workers, and a commitment that all future commercial leases require hiring interviews through the local and disadvantaged referral pipeline); and efforts to lease 10 percent of commercial space in the project to local, non-chain businesses.
  • Negotiating a jobs-centered community benefits agreement for our client, the Good Jobs 4 All coalition, regarding a hotel development in the Central SOMA neighborhood of San Francisco. The agreement includes commitments to ensure that at least 70 percent of new hires are “targeted workers,” including local residents, people who were formerly incarcerated, people who are unsheltered (or were unsheltered during the past 10 years), immigrants, transgender people, people with disabilities, and veterans. The agreement also secures $300K toward job training and hiring pipelines for targeted populations.
  • Promoting transparency, public accountability, and democratic control over local law enforcement by winning a formal order against the San Francisco Police Department to make public a key document related to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.  PolicyLink Legal, together with its partner organizations AAJC-Asian Law Caucus, Council on American-Islamic Relations, and ACLU of Northern California, filed a lawsuit to force compliance with this order and ensure that the San Francisco Police Department follows state and local law and policy. In response to the appellate court’s granting of permission for the lower court to review the decision, the Police Department disclosed the requested document.
  • Advancing the Families Over Fees Act (SB 144) through Debt Free Justice California, a statewide coalition of attorneys, policy advocates, grassroots organizations, and impacted individuals dedicated to ending criminal-legal system policies that criminalize California’s low-income communities of color.  The Families Over Fees Act would eliminate criminal justice fees in California and waive millions of dollars of debt incurred as a result of the fees, providing significant relief to some of California’s most disinvested communities. The bill passed out of the Senate by a clear majority vote; advocacy will resume in 2020 in the state Assembly.

Earlier PolicyLink Legal efforts included:

  • Providing legal assistance to Strategic Actions for a Just Economy (SAJE), a community-based organization in South Central Los Angeles, to secure a legally binding commitment of over $20 million of affordable housing in a neighborhood facing immense gentrification pressures.
  • Representing community-based organizations in Silicon Valley in negotiation of a legally binding agreement with Facebook, under which the Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISC) will administer and invest a $20 million contribution from Facebook — and an additional $55 million in leveraged capital — for local affordable housing needs.
  • Providing legal and technical support to community advocates on the No Justice, No Deal campaign, which leveraged police contract negotiations to highlight police union tactics to block policies intended to expand police transparency and accountability.

PolicyLink Legal is co-directed by Julian Gross and PolicyLink Managing Director Anand Subramanian. Other team members include Staff Attorneys Novella Coleman and Ursula Lindsey, Senior Associate Lewis Brown, and Coordinator Kasandra Kachakji.