Gilroy Chamber Business Focus March 2023
March 13, 2023
Gilroy Chamber Workforce Development Initiative Inaugural Job Shadow Day
On Wednesday, March 8, the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce collaborated with Gilroy Unified and CordeValle to host 20 Advanced Culinary Arts students from Gilroy High School for the first of many job shadowing trips. The goal was to connect the students with career pathways available to them right in our backyard. Students took a behind-the-scenes tour in the kitchen, restaurants, and grill, met with the management team on property, and heard remarks from Chamber president Victoria Valencia and Gilroy Mayor Marie Blankley before beginning their tour. To learn more about the Chamber’s Workforce Development Initiative, or to be added to the list for job shadowing opportunities, please contact Victoria at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the past, workforce development consisted of training, or retraining workers for available jobs in the market. Today, post pandemic, workforce development looks a little different. While training workers is a significant aspect of workforce development, there’s much more.
Helping those who are soon to enter the job market understand the options available to them is another aspect.
Making connections between available workers and the business community is another.
Creating internships, job shadowing, and exposure to high tech jobs, the medical field and the trades is yet another.
Allowing educators to tour local and regional job sites, tech facilities, and other places of employment will help them guide students looking to enter the workforce.
The Gilroy Chamber of Commerce is focusing on a Workforce Development Initiative where we will partner with various agencies and organizations such as the City of Gilroy, Gilroy Unified School District, Gavilan College, the business community, and others, so that we create pathways for students and workers who want to advance their careers and help connect workers to industry.
FDIC Creates a Deposit Insurance National Bank of Santa Clara to Protect Insured Depositors of Silicon Valley Bank, Santa Clara, California
WASHINGTON – Silicon Valley Bank, Santa Clara, California, was closed today by the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation, which appointed the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) as receiver. To protect insured depositors, the FDIC created the Deposit Insurance National Bank of Santa Clara (DINB). At the time of closing, the FDIC as receiver immediately transferred to the DINB all insured deposits of Silicon Valley Bank.
All insured depositors will have full access to their insured deposits no later than Monday morning, March 13, 2023. The FDIC will pay uninsured depositors an advance dividend within the next week. Uninsured depositors will receive a receivership certificate for the remaining amount of their uninsured funds. As the FDIC sells the assets of Silicon Valley Bank, future dividend payments may be made to uninsured depositors.
Silicon Valley Bank had 17 branches in California and Massachusetts. The main office and all branches of Silicon Valley Bank will reopen on Monday, March 13, 2023. The DINB will maintain Silicon Valley Bank’s normal business hours. Banking activities will resume no later than Monday, March 13, including on-line banking and other services. Silicon Valley Bank’s official checks will continue to clear. Under the Federal Deposit Insurance Act, the FDIC may create a DINB to ensure that customers have continued access to their insured funds.
As of December 31, 2022, Silicon Valley Bank had approximately $209.0 billion in total assets and about $175.4 billion in total deposits. At the time of closing, the amount of deposits in excess of the insurance limits was undetermined. The amount of uninsured deposits will be determined once the FDIC obtains additional information from the bank and customers.
Customers with accounts in excess of $250,000 should contact the FDIC toll–free at 1-866-799-0959.
The FDIC as receiver will retain all the assets from Silicon Valley Bank for later disposition. Loan customers should continue to make their payments as usual.
Silicon Valley Bank is the first FDIC–insured institution to fail this year. The last FDIC–insured institution to close was Almena State Bank, Almena, Kansas, on October 23, 2020.
Failed Bank Information for Silicon Valley Bank, Santa Clara, CA
He’s filed more than 2,000 disability lawsuits in California. This case could set precedent...
By Nigel Duara, CalMatters
Lea este artículo en español.
It all started with a parking spot.
On a breezy afternoon in September 2017, Chris Langer couldn’t find one that would accommodate his van and the ramp he uses for his wheelchair behind a San Diego lobster shop.
What transpired next has been the subject of arguments before two federal courts and opened a wide door to more federal disability lawsuits in California, home to more of these lawsuits in the last litigious decade than any other state.
Four months after that fall day, Langer filed a disability access lawsuit in federal court against the lobster shop, a smoke shop in the same building and the building’s owners, Milan and Diana Kiser, claiming a violation of his rights.
Langer has filed more than 2,000 claims like those over the past decade or so. For the last two years, his case against the Kisers was headed to defeat, with a federal judge ruling against him and questioning his motivation.
But last month, Langer prevailed before a three-judge panel on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Attorneys who argue federal disability cases say that victory, which itself is being appealed, could open the floodgates to more federal disability rights lawsuits after a brief slowdown last year.
If Langer wins the next round, attorneys who represent businesses sued in disability cases worry that the case would set a precedent for a broader claim of standing to sue among plaintiffs in California disabled access lawsuits.
Typically, these cases are settled — out of tens of thousands of federal disability rights lawsuits filed nationally, only a couple dozen have ever gone to trial, according to a review of federal appellate court decisions by Texas attorney Richard Hunt, who defends businesses sued for disability rights claims.
In most other states, any awards won in federal disability rights cases can only be used to pay legal fees.
California law allows for extra compensation that can benefit plaintiffs in those cases. The Unruh Civil Rights Act provides an additional award to plaintiffs themselves, which begin at a minimum of $4,000.
And that’s a major reason why California has had more than 30,000 federal disability rights lawsuits in the last decade, far outpacing the rest of the country.
Langer declined to be interviewed, according to his attorney, who said people like Langer are forcing businesses to comply with a law they should already be following.
“There’s no three-letter agency that’s going around and enforcing these laws,” said Langer’s attorney, Dennis Price. “What my clients are doing is basic code enforcement, and that’s what California law specifically encourages.”
The Americans with Disabilities Act is one of a few federal laws that operate by turning their enforcement over to the people, with occasional interventions by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Among the courts, the academics who study this issue and the lawyers who argue the cases, there are three interpretations of the actions of Langer, who has acknowledged in court proceedings that he is a “serial litigator.”
In one, serial litigants are warriors for disability access, literally opening doors for other people by identifying obstacles and suing to fix them.
In the second, they are simply pawns of avaricious law firms who have created a cottage industry out of disability rights lawsuits. According to filings in a tax case, one serial litigant in Sacramento accumulated more than $1 million in settlements in 2014 alone. The firm representing him kept more than half of the money and he kept the rest.
The third perspective, and one evidently held by the original judge deciding Langer’s case, is the least generous, handed down when Langer attempted to exclude his history as a serial litigator from trial. Several times in his April 5, 2021, opinion, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Benitez questioned Langer’s credibility.
“The court finds it doubtful that (Langer) would frequently travel to the property to purchase lobster, as he testified,” Benitez wrote. “This is bolstered by the fact (Langer) has filed previous lawsuits in which he admits he never intended to return to the premises.
“On the day he filed this lawsuit, he also filed six other lawsuits. Yet, (Langer) was unfamiliar with those suits as well as the businesses involved.”
Thousands of disability claims every year
The Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law in 1990, but the volume of lawsuits picked up in 2013, according to Seyfarth Shaw, the law firm that tracks federal disability lawsuits. Since then, 33,100 claims were filed in federal courts in California. New York had 15,427 and Florida had 14,296 in the last decade. The next seven states barely topped 1,000 cases combined.
That initial ruling in the Langer case, coupled with high-profile moves by liberal district attorneys in San Francisco and Los Angeles against a firm known for representing serial filers appeared to chill the number of disability claims filed against California businesses last year, according to data collected by Seyfarth Shaw. Last year, 2,519 cases were filed in California.
In one of the most publicized California cases, an attorney who used a wheelchair filed 67 lawsuits against businesses in 2005 in the tiny San Diego County mountain town of Julian, home of the Apple Days Festival, alleging that he could not access them. The attorney was later disbarred, in part because he pleaded no contest to filing federal disability lawsuits on behalf of a disabled client who had no idea the cases had been filed.
But businesses in the town of Julian did indeed improve their disability access. In the words of a North County Times story from 2007: “wider doors, lower counters, repaved parking lots, more disabled parking and signs, signs, signs.”
The question in many of these cases comes down to the legal concept of “standing,” which asks whether the plaintiffs have actually suffered a consequence because of their disability, and whether they ever intended to return to the place where they encountered a problem. Benitez ruled that Langer did have standing, but his rights weren’t violated, in part because the parking spot in question wasn’t supposed to be publicly accessible.
On appeal — and this is the other big reason plaintiffs file so often in California — the standing claim was received much more warmly, as it has been in other disability cases filed in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. “The attempted use of past litigation to prevent a litigant from pursuing a valid claim in federal court warrants our most careful scrutiny,” the court, known as one of the country’s most liberal federal appeals courts, had written in a 2008 opinion cited in the Langer appellate decision.
Last month, Langer’s arguments won over two judges on a three-judge panel. They reversed the Benitez decision and found that the lobster shop’s penchant for letting customers park in the tenant space made it, effectively, a public lot.
“A business cannot offer parking to customers without disabilities while not offering that same benefit to customers with disabilities,” the two judges wrote. “That discrimination goes to the heart of the ADA.”
The Kisers have asked for a rehearing before all nine appellate court judges.
A service for disabled Californians
Serial filers are the targets of misdirected anger, said Evelyn Clark, a Washington, D.C., attorney who uses a wheelchair and authored a much-cited paper in law school on serial litigants.
“Something that’s really small for you that just looks like, oh it’s just one little step, could be a total barrier for someone like me trying to get in,” Clark said. “But nobody’s going to be 100% compliant with every tiny regulation under the ADA. So I can understand the frustration of business owners.
“But I’ve heard people in California talk about how they go out in a wheelchair and it’s almost kind of a reverse discrimination, where people just assume you’re there to sue them,” Clark said.
On the defense’s side, there’s another perception: that these lawsuits find the poorest store owners least able to defend themselves in a country where they may not speak the language or understand the legal system, with offers to settle that just so happen to be a little cheaper than mounting a defense.
Business owners on edge
Business owners with a direct interest in the Langer case are hoping the Kisers get a rehearing before the full appeals court. Late last month, they filed a friend-of-the-court brief arguing against the decision by the three-judge panel.
“Make no mistake, these ADA lawsuits are not about promoting the ideals of the ADA,” they wrote, “but rather, they are about the illegitimate transfer of wealth from historically marginalized communities and into the pockets of ADA plaintiff’s lawyers.”
It was a federal disability lawsuit that led Moji Saniefar, one of the authors of that brief, from white collar securities litigation to defending businesses from federal disability rights lawsuits. Like an action movie sequel, this time it was personal: A serial litigant sued Saniefar’s father’s restaurant.
Reza Saniefar was the owner of Zlfred’s, a well-loved Fresno cafe that closed during the coronavirus pandemic. An Iranian fleeing the revolution in 1979, Reza Saniefar operated a small, immigrant-run family business. Locals evidently miss his restaurant enough to post and share copycat recipes.
The cafe was named Zlfred’s because its former name was shared with another restaurant, called Alfred’s. When the other Alfred’s sued, Saniefar said, the previous owner simply stuck a Z where the A was. Thus, Zlfred’s.
The Saniefar family adopted the same defiant attitude when the restaurant was sued over disability access in 2014. Moji was their attorney. They won, and then went on the offensive, taking the law firm that represented the plaintiff to court, claiming they used fraud and deception to coerce small businesses into settling the cases.
The firm settled the case and shut down, but it wasn’t the only firm that represents serial litigants.
A much larger one, called Potter Handy, was accused by the liberal district attorneys in Los Angeles and San Francisco counties of “bombarding California’s small businesses with abusive boilerplate lawsuits,” and instructing serial litigants to pretend to have encountered barriers at a business they never visited. They further accused Potter Handy of having its client file fake disability claims that led to settlements.
“Each year Potter Handy uses ADA/Unruh lawsuits to shake down hundreds or even thousands of small businesses to pay it cash settlements, regardless of whether the businesses actually violate the ADA,” wrote Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon and former San Francisco City and County Attorney Chesa Boudin in an April 2022 state court filing.
They said the lawsuits not only threaten small businesses, but also “unfairly taint the reputation of other innocent disabled consumers.”
Potter Handy, which also does business as the Center for Disability Access, did not return calls seeking comment. Neither did Gascon. Boudin and Gascon wrote in their complaint that Potter Handy was particularly active in San Francisco’s Chinatown during the pandemic.
“Multiple Chinatown businesses were sued for allegedly having inaccessible outdoor dining tables during the early months of 2021,” they wrote, but “those businesses were open for takeout only during that time and had no dining tables at all—indoor or outdoor.”
Potter Handy responded in court that Boudin and Gascon were making the accusations for political reasons. San Francisco Superior Court Judge Curtis Karnow dismissed the case, and ruled that Potter Handy’s attorneys were covered by California’s “litigation privilege.”
A client who wanted to fight
In the Langer case, Moji Saniefar is representing a handful of Bay Area merchant associations, including the Chinatown Merchants United Association of San Francisco, who are panicked about the appellate court ruling in Langer’s favor.
“Serial ADA plaintiff’s lawyers recognize that the justice gap makes (small businesses) far more likely to settle cases quickly and without prolonged litigation,” according to the Feb. 16 friend-of -the-court brief.
Hunt, the Texas attorney who defends businesses in disability rights cases, said it’s unusual for his clients to take a case to court, much less all the way up to federal appeals court.
“You have to have a particularly angry, rich, stubborn client to not settle the case,” Hunt said. “I’m looking for angry, rich, stubborn clients. I would love to have some, but so far, when I tell my clients that they can get out of it by settling it for cheaper than the cost of defense, then they’re like, you know, let’s just settle it.”
The attorney for the Kisers, whom Langer is suing, said the Legislature needs to step in. He agrees that his clients may fit Hunt’s description.
“Mr Kiser’s perspective is, hey, we did nothing wrong and we don’t think we should have to pay this guy,” said Sam Henein, a San Diego lawyer. “He says if the judge tells me I did something wrong, I guess then I have to pay, but I don’t think I did.”
The solution, said Clark, the D.C. attorney, is to amend the ADA’s enforcement mechanism from its current iteration to a “notice and cure” standard, which would give businesses 60 or 90 days to fix the accessibility issue without money changing hands.
California housing crisis unchanged by political efforts – so far
By Dan Walters, CalMatters
In 2017, while running for governor, Gavin Newsom pledged in a social media post that if elected “I will lead the effort to develop the 3.5 million new housing units we need by 2025 because our solutions must be as bold as the problem is big.”
“I realize building 3.5 million new housing units is an audacious goal – but it’s achievable, Newsom continued. “There is no silver bullet to solve this crisis. We need to attack the problem on multiple fronts by generating more funding for affordable housing, implementing regulatory reform and creating new financial incentives for local jurisdictions that produce housing while penalizing those that fall short.”
Newsom deserves credit for making a greater effort on housing than any other recent governor. Dozens of new laws have been passed, and the state has leaned hard on local governments to zone more land for housing and remove bureaucratic roadblocks, even suing those that drag their feet. However, the actual impact, at least so far, has been scant.
Newsom has backed away from the unrealistic 3.5 million goal, which was generated by a consulting firm using weird methodology based on construction in New York and New Jersey. He now describes it as “aspirational” rather than a promise.
Building 3.5 million units by 2025 would have required about 500,000 a year, much more than highest rate of housing construction ever achieved in California, just over 300,000 in 1986 during a period of very high population growth. In fact, since Newsom uttered the pledge six years ago, the state has added perhaps 500,000 units in total.
The Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley developed a summary of the dozens of laws and administrative actions to boost housing production since 2016, and told the Legislature during a recent hearing that “housing unaffordability remains high and production relatively stagnant.”
“We’re coming up short,” Ben Metcalf, managing director of the Terner Center, told legislators. “But I think it’s important to say it’s also early,” noting that many of the pro-housing policies are new and still being implemented.
So, one might ask, if the 3.5 million figure is unrealistically high, what’s the right one?
Newsom’s newly proposed budget notes that “Between January 2000 and January 2022, the state gained 5.9 million new households, but only an additional 2.5 million housing units,” which implies a backlog of 3.4 million, roughly the number he originally cited in 2017.
The state’s Department of Housing and Community Development sets regional quotas for zoning residential land on an assumption that California needs to build 2.5 million units by 2030, but that’s probably unrealistic as well. It would mean more than 350,000 a year, still higher than the 1986 construction peak.
Despite the 2.5 million figure, California’s official housing goal is just 180,000 units a year, or 1.3 million by 2030.
That level of construction would be doable under the right circumstances of having enough land zoned for residential uses, streamlining costly regulatory processes, having attractive interest rates, and overcoming shortages of construction labor and rising materials costs. Two decades ago, California was building more than 200,000 units a year, according to data from the Terner Center.
However, Newsom’s budget projects that California builders will pull permits for about 122,000 units this year, and even were that level achieved, the net gain would be lower – perhaps 100,000 due to existing units being destroyed by fire or obsolescence.
Whatever the correct “aspirational” number may be, we’re still not coming anywhere close despite spending billions of dollars and making strenuous efforts to lower hurdles. Thus the housing crisis, which includes the nation’s worst homelessness crisis, continues to worsen.
March 6, 2023
Gilroy Assistance League Announces 2023 Home + Garden Tour & Boutique
Gilroy, CA, MARCH 2023 – The Gilroy Assistance League (GALs) is proud to announce their annual Home + Garden Tour & Boutique for 2023. Taking place on Friday, May 12 and Saturday, May 13 from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM, this event is the perfect outing for Mother’s Day weekend and is also the major fundraiser for the Gilroy Assistance League.
The Gilroy Assistance League is a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote the welfare and development of youth in South Santa Clara County. All proceeds from the Home + Garden Tour & Boutique fund their annual grant program. Due to generous homeowners, participants, and event sponsors, the Gilroy Assistance League has been able to grant over $350,000 to local youth organizations since 1993.
This year, a short driving tour in rural San Martin and Gilroy leads Home + Garden Tour & Boutique guests to four expansive homes, featuring unique architecture, beautiful vistas, and lovely gardens. Lee Blaettler, Home Procurement Committee, shares, “Visitors are in for a treat this year. These four country homes are very different in style, but similar in that they all feature beautiful and interesting design. Along with the amazing homes, visitors will see unique gardens and outdoor features, including a huge custom-designed wine cave and one of the last gardens designed by Gilroy’s own Michael Bonfante.”
At the conclusion of the tour, a Garden Boutique features many talented local artisans, refreshments, and a no-host wine bar. Paula Goldsmith, Boutique Committee Chair, says “Our guests always enjoy strolling through the lovely gardens as they shop the diverse collection of artists and makers at the Boutique. They can be assured that their purchases will help support our grant program, as our generous vendors donate a portion of their sales to Gilroy Assistance League. This year, along with returning ‘fan favorites’, the Boutique will offer new items that will make perfect gifts for Mother’s Day and beyond.”
The Garden Boutique also features delicious food and drink, including sweet Apricot Bars and savory Red Pepper Pesto with Crostini – two of the most popular recipes from the Gilroy Assistance League cookbook (available at the Boutique). The Garden Boutique will be open both Friday and Saturday until 5PM.
On both Friday and Saturday, check-in at the first house is from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM. Upon check-in, ticket holders will receive a program with descriptions of the homes and a map with the locations of all tour homes.
Tickets are $40 in advance and $45 at the door. For more information and to buy tickets, visit the Gilroy Assistance League website at www.gilroyassistanceleague.org
Something New is Blooming at Gilroy Gardens
Fantastical Flowers Spring Celebration Opens March 25
March 1, 2023 (Gilroy, CA): The 2023 season at Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park will get off to a colorful start in March with an exciting, all-new event: the Fantastical Flowers Spring Celebration. This two-month event will feature brightly colored blossoms, larger-than-life silk sculptures, and fun floral-themed food and family activities throughout the park.
From Opening Day on March 25 through May 29, the park’s majestic gardens will be transformed with blooms big and small in every color of the rainbow. As guests stroll through the park, they’ll encounter colorful beds full of spring flowers in bloom as well as larger-than-life silk flower sculptures created by master artisans. A human-size “birdhouse” will greet guests as they cross over the flower-festooned Sycamore Bridge—and provide the perfect backdrop for fun family photo ops.
In addition to enjoying the park’s 40+ rides and attractions, guests will also discover spring-themed family games and activity stations where they can create colorful art, plant flowers to take home, and learn more about the life cycles of flowers, birds, and insects. Live entertainment will be provided by “The Flower Buds” in an energetic, all-new interactive drumming and comedy performance. Restaurants and carts throughout the park will offer unique floral-themed food and beverages.
The Fantastical Flowers Spring Celebration at Gilroy Gardens will be open to the public on weekends and select weekdays from March 25 through May 29, 2023. An exclusive Preview Day will be held on Saturday, March 18, for 2023 Premium Members only.
The Fantastical Flowers Spring Celebration is included with regular park admission and is free to 2023 Premium and Value Members. Discount tickets and memberships can be purchased online at www.gilroygardens.org.
About Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park—Where Fun Grows on Trees
Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation and California’s only horticultural theme park. Founded by Michael Bonfante, the park offers a unique family experience centered around trees and plants with an emphasis on local history. The park’s mission is to offer safe, clean, family entertainment in natural landscapes while educating guests on the importance of horticulture, agriculture, and local history. The park features over 40 rides and attractions and more than 10,000 trees, including the world-famous Circus Trees. For more information, visit www.gilroygardens.org.
CalChamber Announces SB 592 as First 2023 Job Creator Bill
By Ashley Hoffman, CalChamber
The California Chamber of Commerce today announced that SB 592 (Newman; D-Fullerton) is the first job creator bill of the year. The bill is also sponsored by the California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the CalAsian Chamber of Commerce.
SB 592 proposes two important changes to law.
• First, the bill would require the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) to translate its website content into the most commonly spoken languages in California. Currently, website content is primarily in English. The bill would result in the addition of content made available in Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog and Vietnamese.
• Secondly, SB 592 will shield employers who rely in good faith on the written advice of the Department of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) from punishment through the assessment of civil and criminal penalties, fines and interest.
“California has complex, unique burdensome labor and employment laws,” said CalChamber Policy Advocate Ashley Hoffman. “Employers who are non-English speakers should have the benefit of access to resources that can help them be compliant with those laws. Further, small businesses who rely on DLSE’s written advice and guidance should not be punished if a court ultimately determines that advice is wrong.”
There are numerous instances where courts have interpreted statutes differently from DLSE-established guidelines, resulting in employers owing not only back wages but also penalties under the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) and other Labor Code provisions.
Troester v. Starbucks is one such example where the court invalidated part of DLSE’s enforcement manual regarding wage and hour law that employers had relied on.
Importantly, SB 592 does not protect bad actors. Employers must provide a defense that demonstrates they are entitled to any good faith determination.
“Uncertainty for employers regarding the correct application of California’s numerous labor and employment laws detrimentally impacts the state’s economy as well as employees,” said Hoffman. “Providing certainty through SB 592 will assist all employers in their efforts to comply with the law, thereby producing a better business environment, growth in the economy and an improved work environment for employees. Further, providing website information in the languages most commonly spoken in California will benefit both employers and employees and create higher levels of compliance.”
National Slam the Scam Day, March 9, 2023
On National Slam the Scam Day and throughout the year, we give you the tools to recognize Social Security-related scams and stop scammers from stealing your money and personal information. Share scam information with your loved ones. Slam the Scam!
Recognize the four basic signs of a scam:
- Scammers pretend to be from a familiar organization or agency, like the Social Security Administration. They may email attachments with official-looking logos, seals, signatures, or pictures of employee credentials.
- Scammers mention a problem or a prize. They may say your Social Security number was involved in a crime or ask for personal information to process a benefit increase.
- Scammers pressure you to act immediately. They may threaten you with arrest or legal action.
- Scammers tell you to pay using a gift card, prepaid debit card, cryptocurrency, wire or money transfer, or by mailing cash. They may also tell you to transfer your money to a “safe” account.
Ignore scammers and report criminal behavior. Report Social Security-related scams to the SSA Office of the Inspector General (OIG)