NOTICE OF CLASS ACTION SETTLEMENT

A court authorized this notice. This is not a solicitation from a lawyer.

If your personal belongings were unreasonably taken and later destroyed by California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) in Berkeley, Oakland, or Emeryville between December 13, 2014 and October 31, 2019, and you were homeless at the time, your rights may be affected by the settlement of a class action lawsuit. 

This lawsuit is called Sanchez, et al. v. Caltrans, et al. and is in Alameda County Superior Court (the Court).  The Court decided this lawsuit should be a class action, with Kimberlee Sanchez, James Leone, and Patricia Moore as representatives suing on behalf of a “class,” or group of people, that could include you.

The class representatives and Caltrans have agreed to settle this lawsuit.  If you are a member of the class, your legal rights will be affected.  Please read this notice carefully.  The Court will consider whether to finally approve the settlement at a hearing on July 10, 2020.

This notice summarizes your rights and options.  If you are included in the class, you must decide either to accept the settlement, or to object.

Your Legal Rights and Options in this Settlement
Submit a claim form by October 16, 2020 Submit a claim to be eligible for payment. If the settlement is approved and your claim is approved by the settlement administrator, you will receive a payment.

This is the only way to be eligible to receive a payment.

Get a Claim Form from one of the two agencies listed below or the settlement website located at www.sanchezlawsuit.com.

Submit your completed Claim Form(s) by mail or in person to: Homeless Action Center (HAC) or East Bay Community Law Center (EBCLC).

HAC is located at: 3126 Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley and 2601 San Pablo Avenue in Oakland.

EBCLC is located at: 1950 University Avenue, Suite 200 in Berkeley and 2921 Adeline Street in Berkeley.

A Claim Form will not be valid if it is submitted or postmarked after October 16, 2020.

Object to the settlement in writing by June 22, 2020 or at the hearing on July 10, 2020 Tell the Court why you believe the proposed settlement is unfair, unreasonable, or inadequate.

If you have objections to the settlement, you have two options:

  1. You may submit in writing the reason(s) you object to (do not like) the settlement and think it should not be approved.

AND/OR

  1. The Court will hold a hearing to consider whether to approve the settlement. You may raise any objections you have about the settlement at the hearing.

If the settlement is approved anyway, you can still submit a Claim Form and may be eligible to receive a payment.

 

AM I AFFECTED?

The Court defined the class as: “All persons whose personal belongings were unreasonably taken from them by [Caltrans] in the Cities of Berkeley, Oakland, or Emeryville and later destroyed, and who were homeless at the time, from December 13, 2014 through October 31, 2019."   If this describes you, you are a member of the class.

You are NOT in the class if:

  • A city, another public agency, or another entity that is not Caltrans took or discarded your belongings.
  • Your belongings were not destroyed (you got them back).
  • Your belongings were not taken by Caltrans.
  • Your belongings were taken by Caltrans before December 13, 2014 or after October 31, 2019.

WHAT IS THIS CASE ABOUT?

Plaintiffs contend that Caltrans violated rights of homeless individuals in Berkeley, Oakland, and Emeryville by unreasonably taking and later destroying their property without notice in violation of California law.  The lawsuit seeks to change Caltrans’ practices in Berkeley, Emeryville, and Oakland, and asks for recovery of monetary damages for the class.

Caltrans denies that it has violated California law or the Constitution.  Caltrans also claims that the class representatives’ and the class’s claims are procedurally defective and lack merit.

The Court has not decided whether the class or Caltrans is right. The class and Caltrans have agreed to settle this case. The settlement provides certain monetary and nonmonetary benefits.

WHAT DOES THE SETTLEMENT PROVIDE?

1.   Monetary benefits

  • Caltrans will establish a $1,300,000 Claims Payment Fund to compensate class members for lost property and significant emotional distress. Each class representative (Sanchez, Moore, and Leone) will also receive $4,000 for their service as class representatives. All funds remaining in the Claims Payment Fund, if any, after the Settlement Administrator has distributed funds necessary to pay all approved claims and the costs of claim administration, will be returned to Caltrans.

 

  • Caltrans will pay $700,000 to purchase an annuity to the Homeless Action Center (“HAC”) that will for seven years make payments for assisting homeless individuals residing in Oakland, Berkeley and Emeryville. Specifically, the payments to HAC will be used to provide outreach and supportive services for homeless individuals who are currently located on Caltrans’ land (including to access transitional ad permanent housing opportunities) or who have been or will be affected by the actions of Caltrans, and to assist in return of personal property collected during Caltrans maintenance operations.

 

  • Caltrans will pay $3,500,000 to class counsel for attorneys’ fees and costs of the lawsuit.

2.   Claims process

  • The Court will appoint a Settlement Administrator to review and evaluate each claim submitted and to make distributions from the Claims Payment Fund to class members who have submitted valid claims.

 

  • If you are a class member, to be eligible for payment, you must submit a written claim for any personal property discarded by Caltrans and any significant emotional distress you believe was caused by Caltrans.

 

  • The Settlement Administrator will evaluate your claim. If your claim is approved, it will fall into one of three levels:
    • Level 1: You lost property as a result of conduct by Caltrans, you were not present when your property was lost, your property can reasonably be replaced for $200 or less, and you did not suffer any significant emotional distress or injury as a result. If your claim is approved at this level, you will be paid $200.
    • Level 2: You suffered a more substantial property loss than Level 1, including multiple incidents of loss of personal property, or your property can reasonably be replaced for $1,000 or less, and you did not suffer any significant emotional distress or injury as a result. If your claim is approved at this level, you will be paid $1,000.  
    • Level 3: You suffered more substantial total loss and injury than Level 1 or Level 2, including significant emotional distress caused by the manner in which your property was lost or the nature and value of the property that was lost (for example, the property that was destroyed was irreplaceable or of a great personal and sentimental value), and any other factor that increases the degree of loss suffered. If your claim is approved at this level, you will be paid the value of your claim up to $5,500.
    • All approved claims: If the total amount of money awarded for approved claims exceeds the amount available in the Claims Payment Fund, the Settlement Administrator will reduce the amount paid for each claim by the same percentage.

3.   Non-monetary benefits

  • Statewide Practices. Caltrans has agreed to the following practices statewide, for five (5) years:
    • At least 48 hours before Caltrans performs a cleanup, it will post a Notice to Vacate (“Notice”) stating the specific date on which the cleanup operation will occur. Any health or safety hazard may be removed immediately.
    • Notices will provide a telephone number to arrange for the retrieval of possessions that have been collected from the site, and the length of time that Caltrans will store such possessions.
    • Personal property of apparent value that is not a health or safety hazard will be collected, labelled, and stored for at least 60 days.

 

  • Local Pilot Project. Caltrans has also agreed to the following practices in Berkeley, Oakland, and Emeryville for four (4) years:
    • At certain locations, determined at Caltrans’ discretion, Caltrans will post permanent notices stating the days of the month and times it will conduct cleanup operations.
    • At all other locations, Caltrans will post paper notices no less than 48 hours before the cleanup operation.
    • Once a month Caltrans will post a schedule of cleanup operations on Caltrans District 4’s website, for informational purposes only.
    • At least 2 hours before each cleanup operation, Caltrans or its contractors will drop off trash bags at the encampment.
    • Where permanent signs are posted, Caltrans and/or its contractors will provide up to 30 minutes from arrival for individuals to remove personal property and vacate the site.
    • Where paper signs are posted, Caltrans and/or its contractors will provide 30 minutes from arrival for individuals to remove personal property and vacate the site.
    • Caltrans will make reasonable efforts to use hazardous materials contractors at the greatest number of operations feasible.
    • Caltrans will collect and store the following items:
      • Items valued at $50 or more
        • Items of apparent personal value that are unattended and in plain sight including but not limited to:
          • eyeglasses, medications in secured containers, operational wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, other medical equipment
          • tents (habitable and uncontaminated)
          • personal papers such as photographs, albums, ID’s, bank statements
          • bicycles, scooters, strollers in good repair
          • when a Caltrans hazardous material contractor is assisting in the cleanup operation, backpacks and containers that appear to be in good condition and have been determined by a hazardous material contractor to be free of the following materials:
            • toxic sharps: needles, scissors, knives
            • chemicals: bleach, paint, oils, etc.
            • items (including bedding and clothing) soiled by infectious materials: human waste, bodily fluids
            • moldy, mildewed items
            • items that may be infested by rodents and insects: rats, mice, fleas, lice, bed bugs
            • items that pose a risk of fire or explosion
          • backpacks and closed containers may be discarded where no hazardous materials contractor is present to make a determination during the cleanup.
    • Caltrans will discard and not store the following items:
      • Items that present an immediate health or safety risk, such as:
        • toxic sharps: needles, scissors, knives
        • chemicals: bleach, paint, oils, etc.
        • items (including bedding and clothing) soiled by infectious materials: human waste, bodily fluids
        • moldy, mildewed items
        • items that may be infested by rodents and insects: rats, mice, fleas, lice, bed bugs
        • items that pose a risk of fire or explosion
      • Furniture, mattresses, sheds, rolling structures, and bulky items
      • Perishable items, perishable food
      • Contraband and illegal items
      • Trash, garbage, and/or debris.
    • Caltrans, or its contractors, will deliver bagged and tagged property collected during a cleanup operation to a Caltrans maintenance facility located nearest to the encampment, or to a facility designated by Caltrans for storage.
    • Caltrans will include a phone number on all Notices, that will be answered by a person during hours of 8 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding holidays, who will provide information about personal property that Caltrans has collected from homeless encampments, including where and how to retrieve the property collected.
    • Caltrans will establish a uniform format for storing information concerning personal property that Caltrans or its contractors collected during a cleanup operation.
    • Caltrans may modify the specific procedures required by the Pilot Project, following notice and consultation with class counsel, for the following reasons: (1) to the extent required by changes in controlling law; and (2) as needed with regard to changes in operational needs, including budget, manpower, California Highway Patrol resources, and bargaining agreements, so long as Caltrans made reasonable efforts to avoid the need for them.
  • Training.  Caltrans will implement training on the agreed statewide and Pilot Project procedures.

 

  • Reporting.
    • Caltrans will provide to class counsel annual reports on cleanup operations at encampments, property collection and retrieval, training, and any data it has collected from the Pilot Project.
      • For a period of four (4) years for the duration of the Pilot Project, Caltrans will provide a log of all cleanup operations in Berkeley, Oakland, and Emeryville (the Pilot Project Area). The log will include the dates, times, and locations of cleanup operations and whether the cleanup operation was carried out by Caltrans or any of its contractors.
      • For a period of four (4) years for the duration of the Pilot Project, Caltrans will provide a log showing all property that Caltrans and/or its contractors have collected from any encampment in the Pilot Project Area; whether any request was received from any person for the return of property; whether property was returned; and whether property was eventually discarded.
      • For a period of four (4) years for the duration of the Pilot Project, Caltrans will provide a written report with the data, if any, it has collected from the Pilot Project and what procedures, if any, it intends to implement statewide as a result of its experience with the Pilot Project.
      • For a period of five (5) years for the duration of the statewide settlement, Caltrans will verify that the contractors involved in cleanup operations have been advised of the requirements, and for a period of four (4) years for the duration of the Pilot Project, that it has informed all contractors engaged in cleanup operations in Berkeley, Oakland or Emeryville of the terms of the Pilot Project.
      • For a period of seven (7) years for the duration of the Settlement Agreement, Caltrans will provide information to show the percentage of employees involved in cleanup operations who received the training that Caltrans is required to provide.
    • For a period of seven (7) years for the duration of the Settlement Agreement, HAC will provide to Caltrans annual reports on the number of unhoused persons who have benefited by this fund and the nature of the assistance provided.

4.   Release. The class members' claims against Caltrans will be barred.

HOW MUCH WILL I GET PAID?

It depends upon the Claim Forms submitted and your individual claim. The Claims Payment Fund will be distributed as described above among those class members who submit timely, fully executed Claim Forms that are approved by the Settlement Administrator.

HOW CAN I GET A PAYMENT?

To qualify for a payment, you must submit, a completed and signed Claim Form, by mail or in person, by October 16, 2020 to any of the following addresses:

Homeless Action Center
3126 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA, 94705

Homeless Action Center
2601 San Pablo Avenue in Oakland, CA 94612

East Bay Community Law Center
1950 University Ave., Ste 200, Berkeley, CA 94704

East Bay Community Law Center
2921 Adeline St, Berkeley, CA 94703

CAN I OBJECT TO THE SETTLEMENT?

Yes. To do so, you must either appear at the hearing on July 10, 2020 at 11:00 a.m. and/or mail a signed, written statement of objection, including your full name, mailing address (or an address where you receive mail), telephone number (if available), and the reason(s) for objecting to the settlement, to the lawyers for the Class and Caltrans as follows:

Robert M. Galvin, Esq.
Laura Goodall, Esq.
WilmerHale LLP
950 Page Mill Road
Palo Alto, CA 94304

AND

Alex F. Pevzner, Esq.
Department of Transportation-Bay Area Legal Office
P.O. Box 24325
Oakland, CA 94623-1325

Your objection must be postmarked by June 22, 2020. Class counsel will submit all written objections postmarked by that date to the Court. If the settlement is approved despite your objection, you will still be eligible to submit a Claim Form and receive a payment.

WHAT HAPPENS IF I DO NOTHING?

You will receive no money from this settlement and you will be bound by the settlement.

WHEN AND WHERE WILL THE COURT DECIDE WHETHER TO APPROVE THE SETTLEMENT?

The Court has preliminarily approved the settlement and will hold a hearing to decide whether to give final approval to the settlement.  The Court will hold a final approval hearing at 11:00 a.m. on July 10, 2020. The hearing will be held before the Honorable Winifred Smith in Department 21 of the Alameda County Superior Court, County Administration Building,1221 Oak Street, Oakland, California.

At the final approval hearing the Court will consider whether the proposed settlement is fair, reasonable, and adequate and, whether it should be granted final approval.  The Court will also hear objections to the settlement, if any.  The Court may decide at that time, postpone a decision, or continue the hearing.

DO I HAVE TO ATTEND THE FINAL APPROVAL HEARING?

No.  You are not required to attend the hearing.  But you are welcome to attend the hearing at your own expense, and you may ask the Court’s permission to speak.

DO I HAVE A LAWYER IN THIS CASE?

The Court has approved the law firm of WilmerHale LLP, the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, the East Bay Community Law Center, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area to represent you as “class counsel.”  You do not have to pay class counsel, or anyone else, to participate. The settlement includes a payment of $3,500,000 from Caltrans to class counsel.

HOW DO I GET MORE INFORMATION?

If you need additional information about this lawsuit or settlement, including a copy of the agreement, visit www.sanchezlawsuit.com.  If you have questions, please leave a message at (415) 814 - 7634.

DO NOT ADDRESS ANY QUESTIONS ABOUT THE SETTLEMENT OR THE LITIGATION TO THE CLERK OF THE COURT OR THE JUDGE.

 

NOTICE OF DISMISSAL OF MALCOLM DOUGHERTY 

Malcom Dougherty, former Director of Caltrans, was a defendant in this lawsuit.  By order of the Court, Malcolm Dougherty has been dismissed as a defendant from this lawsuit because he is no longer the director of Caltrans.