Since joining Public Advocates in 2007, Sam Tepperman-Gelfant has worked with grassroots groups to build community power and fight for economic and racial justice in housing, transportation, and climate issues throughout California. He is currently Managing Attorney on our Metropolitan Equity Team.
Sam’s work includes enforcement of state and federal housing and environmental laws and participation in numerous coalitions, including the 6 Wins Network, HousingNow!, and ClimatePlan. His cases and campaigns have supported power-building in low-income communities of color throughout the state, and resulted in concrete policy change including: a visionary redevelopment plan for the massive Concord Naval Weapons Station that includes 25% affordable housing and preserves 70% of the site as open space; the end to a 39-year ban on multifamily housing construction in the City of Alameda; a partnership between groups in East Palo Alto and Facebook to bring $20 million of corporate funding for affordable housing and job training into the local community; plans for a dense mixed-income development on a prime publicly-owned site on E 12th Street in Oakland, after the city was compelled to comply with the Surplus Land Act; and a social equity-focused Sustainable Communities Strategy proposal for the Bay Area – the Equity, Environment, and Jobs Scenario – that also proved to be the best for the environment, demonstrating that leading with equity and listening to community voices delivers better outcomes for everyone.
Sam’s legislative advocacy has included AB 686 (Santiago) requiring local and state agencies to Affirmatively Further Fair Housing, AB 1482 (Chiu) to provide statewide protections for tenants, and improvements in the Housing Element and Regional Housing Needs Allocation systems. He has also contributed to breakthrough litigation such as Urban Habitat v. City of Pleasanton, Peninsula Interfaith Action v. City of Menlo Park, and Williams v. City of Antioch, and is currently representing plaintiffs in Anderson v. City of San Jose, to enforce the state Surplus Land Act.
Before joining Public Advocates, Sam clerked for the Hon. John P. Fullam of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and in the Staff Attorney’s Office of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. An Oakland native, Sam plays cello in a community orchestra and is an avid bread baker.
Sam graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College in 2000 and received his J.D. cum laude from Harvard Law School in 2005. As a law student, he represented tenants in housing disputes and helped lead a coalition challenging discrimination against LGBTQ students in on-campus military recruiting.
- 2021 California Lawyer Attorneys of the Year, Daily Journal
- 2013 California Lawyer Attorneys of the Year in Land Use, California Lawyer Magazine
- 2013 Lawyers on the Fast Track, The Recorder
“Dismantling housing discrimination just got easier, thanks to new law,” San Francisco Chronicle, October 4, 2018
“Local Preferences Require Local Analysis,” The Dream Revisited, 2015
“Seizing the Power of Public Participation,” with Richard Marcantonio, Clearinghouse Community a publication of the Shriver Center on Poverty Law, 2015
“Suburbs, not just S.F., need to address housing-jobs imbalance,” San Francisco Chronicle, May 5, 2014
“Future of the Bay Area: Draft plan for region seriously flawed,” with Kit Vaq and Rev. Scott Denman, San Jose Mercury News, May 23, 2013.
“Constitutional Conscience, Constitutional Capacity: The Role of Local Governments in Protecting Individual Rights,” Harvard Civil Rights – Civil Liberties Law Review, 2006 (reprinted in translation in the Soochow Law Journal in 2009).