Now 40 years old, Legal Assistance to the Elderly is bigger than ever — and more necessary

Four decades into the nonprofit’s existence, it has more lawyers than it ever has, more space than it ever has, more money than it ever has — and a hell of a lot more to do than it ever has.

News Story (California)

Joe Eskenazi
Mission Local
October 23, 2019

Tags: Seniors

Organizations mentioned/involved: Legal Assistance to the Elderly (LAE) (San Francisco)


For years, the firm served around 800 or 900 clients a year. Last year, that jumped to 1,663. LAE now features a staff of 19, and wants to add two more attorneys. Its budget has nearly tripled in the course of three years, to $2.2 million, with one-third of that now coming via Proposition F of 2018, “Right to Counsel,” which guaranteed tenants legal representation in eviction matters.

And the increased caseload is exactly what you’d think it’d be. Fifteen years ago, 37 percent of the firm’s cases involved housing and 14 percent involved evictions. Now 60 percent are housing cases, and 30 percent involve evictions. Remember, that’s 60 percent of a far larger number of overall cases — and the figures only stand to grow.

“As seniors, they’ve pretty much by definition been in their units a long time,” explains Tom Drohan, the director of litigation at LAE. “So, their rent-control rate is even further out of line with today’s market rates, which are insane, as everyone knows. So, the upside for a landlord to get someone out of long-term rent control has put incredible pressure on them.”