AHF Sues San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener & City’s Board of Supervisors over Civil Rights Violations

AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s federal lawsuit asserts that the City and County of San Francisco and its Board of Supervisors, at the behest of Supervisor Scott Wiener, violated AHF’s equal protection, due process and free speech rights by punitively and selectively enacting spot-zoning laws singling out AHF in a discriminatory manner.

Wiener & the Board’s actions came after AHF sought to relocate its pharmacy and healthcare center from one location within the Castro District to a nearby location in the same neighborhood.

SAN FRANCISCO--()--AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), which has provided needed healthcare, specialty pharmacy, and prevention and testing services to underserved safety-net patients in San Francisco for approximately 12 years—including operating a specialty pharmacy serving HIV/AIDS patients in the Castro as well as a free AIDS treatment clinic since September 2009—has filed a federal lawsuit against the City and County of San Francisco, its Board of Supervisors, and Supervisor Scott Wiener. The legal action, filed Friday, August 1st in United States District Court, Northern District of California (3:14-cv-03499), seeks Injunctive Relief and Damages for Violations of Civil Rights related to official actions Wiener and the Board took against AHF which AHF asserts will impede its ability to relocate its pharmacy and healthcare center within the Castro neighborhood, and in the process, violates AHF’s equal protection, due process and free speech rights.

WHAT:

 

MEDIA AVAILABILITY: AHF Sues San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener & the

SF Board of Supervisors over Civil Rights Violations

WHEN:

MONDAY, Aug. 4th —All Day

WHO:

  • Laura Boudreau, Chief of Operations for AIDS Healthcare Foundation
  • Tom Myers, Chief of Public Affairs & General Counsel for AIDS Healthcare Foundation
  • Michael Weinstein, AIDS Healthcare Foundation President (avail. TBD)
  • Ryan Patterson, Attorney, Zacks & Friedman, P.C., San Francisco (avail. TBD)

CONTACT:

Ged Kenslea, AHF Communications Director (323) 791-5526 cell; (323) 308-1833 office

“AHF’s civil rights infringement claims here arose when, at the behest of San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener, the City rammed through, at lightning speed, an interim zoning law specifically targeting AIDS Healthcare Foundation. The clear and sole purpose of that action was to discourage the organization from relocating and opening a nonprofit safety net clinic and pharmacy in the Castro,” said Laura Boudreau, Chief of Operations for AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “Cities cannot enact spot-zoning laws to single out particular property owners. They must act neutrally, even-handedly, and not for a discriminatory purpose. We believe the City’s actions constitute a gross abuse of government power. As such, AHF has filed this lawsuit against Supervisor Wiener, the City and County and the entire Board of Supervisors for violation of AHF’s constitutional rights to equal protection, due process of law, and free speech.”

Background on Wiener & the SF Supervisors’ Civil Rights Violations against AHF

Beginning in 2013, AHF sought to move its San Francisco medical office and pharmacy a short distance within the City, from 100 Church Street to 518 Castro Street, and to consolidate them with another existing pharmacy currently located around the corner at 4071 18th Street, San Francisco. Toward that end, AHF applied for and received a Building Permit.

However, on January 23, 2014, City Zoning Administrator Scott Sanchez suspended the permit over concerns about whether either the project’s proposed square footage or its pharmacy use triggered conditional use permit requirements.

On February 7, 2014, AHF appealed the Suspension Request to the San Francisco Board of Appeals, a quasi-judicial municipal appellate body with jurisdiction over City building permits. At the March hearing, the Board of Appeals determined that the project did not need a conditional use permit because of its square footage, but upheld the portion of the Zoning Administrator’s Suspension Request regarding possible formula retail use.

Subsequent to the Board of Appeals hearing, AHF revised its proposed project to address any concerns the Planning Department had about possible formula retail use. As a result, the San Francisco Zoning Administrator determined that the proposed project was not a formula retail use, and conditional use authorization was not required

However, two neighborhood organizations and a self-proclaimed HIV/AIDS activist appealed the Zoning Administrator’s decision. The appellants were the Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Association, the Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District, and Laura Thomas.

On June 11th, the day of the second hearing before the Board of Appeals, Supervisor Wiener inserted himself into the quasi-judicial process with a letter to the Board of Appeals. His letter opposed AHF, stating, “I urge you to support the appeal . . . ”

The Board of Appeals continued the matter until August 20, 2014, ostensibly to receive additional evidence.

In the meantime, Supervisor Wiener introduced Resolution No. 238-14 to the Board of Supervisors. The Resolution created interim (temporary) zoning controls for the Castro Neighborhood Commercial District. In brief, the Resolution imposed conditional use authorization processes and requirements on projects that were previously determined to be formula retail use, but were modified to remove the formula retail features. In other words, it says that if there are two identical projects, but one was formerly found to be formula retail even though it currently is not, the two projects are treated differently. The latter may go forward speedily, while the former must be routed through a lengthy, discretionary, and political conditional use process. Wiener’s Resolution was heard by the Board of Supervisors’ Land Use and Economic Development Committee—which Wiener is Chairman of—on July 7, 2014, and was passed by the full Board of Supervisors the next day, July 8, 2014, and then signed into law by the Mayor on July 18, 2014.

According to the lawsuit, Wiener proposed the spot-zoning Resolution, quickly ushered it through his three-member Land Use committee (specifically targeting an individual project in District 8, his district) and then shepherded it through Board passage on to the Mayor’s desk in a matter of days. The hastily enacted Resolution was patently intended to result in a law that would tie the Board of Appeal’s hands before AHF’s next hearing and interfere with the Board’s processes so that the Board would have to reverse the Zoning Administrator’s decision to allow AHF’s project to go forward.

“Via a letter of June 12th, Supervisor Wiener used his position as a Supervisor and Chair of the Land Use Committee to pressure the appellate body to postpone our appeal hearing in order to rewrite the rules before our appeal hearing could actually take place,” said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “All in a punitive and discriminatory manner specifically and solely targeting AHF—and in contravention to the guidance regarding the Building Permit application process given to AHF by the City’s own Planning Department.”

In its lawsuit, AIDS Healthcare Foundation alleges that by unlawfully discriminating against AHF, Defendants Wiener and the Board of Supervisors have:

  • Deprived AHF of the equal protection of the law in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution,
  • Deprived AHF of due process, as the spot-zoning laws enacted have no legitimate public purpose and enactment of the laws are not reasonably related to furthering a legitimate public purpose, and
  • Enacted the spot-zoning laws in retaliation against AHF for its engagement in protected First Amendment activities.

AHF is seeking a declaration of the laws’ invalidity and inapplicability to AHF and its pharmacy project as well as declaratory and injunctive relief, damages and attorney’s fees.

About AIDS Healthcare Foundation

AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest global AIDS organization, currently provides medical care and/or services to more than 320,000 individuals in 33 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean, the Asia/Pacific Region and Eastern Europe. To learn more about AHF, please visit our website: www.aidshealth.org, find us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/aidshealth and follow us on Twitter: @aidshealthcare.

Contacts

AIDS Healthcare Foundation
LOS ANGELES
Laura Boudreau
Chief Counsel for Operations
+1.323.860.5202 [work]
Laura.boudreau@aidshealth.org
or
LOS ANGELES
Ged Kenslea
Communications Director
+1.323.791.5526 [cell]
+323.308.1833 [work]
gedk@aidshealth.org
or
WASHINGTON
Tom Myers
General Counsel & Chief of Public Affairs
+1.323.860.5259 [work]
tom.myers@aidshealth.org

Release Summary

AHF Sues San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener & City’s Board of Supervisors over Civil Rights Violations -Wiener, SF Supes violated AHF’s equal protection, due process and free speech rights

Contacts

AIDS Healthcare Foundation
LOS ANGELES
Laura Boudreau
Chief Counsel for Operations
+1.323.860.5202 [work]
Laura.boudreau@aidshealth.org
or
LOS ANGELES
Ged Kenslea
Communications Director
+1.323.791.5526 [cell]
+323.308.1833 [work]
gedk@aidshealth.org
or
WASHINGTON
Tom Myers
General Counsel & Chief of Public Affairs
+1.323.860.5259 [work]
tom.myers@aidshealth.org