Skip to main content

California Eviction Defense: Protecting Low-Income Tenants 2013


Speaker(s): Christian Abasto, Dean Preston, Kent Qian, Laura Lane, Navneet Grewal, Phong S. Wong, S. Lynn Martinez, Stephanie Haffner
Recorded on: Mar. 13, 2013
PLI Program #: 43300


Dean Preston is the founder and Executive Director of Tenants Together, California's only statewide organization for renters' rights. Among other programs, Tenants Together provides training and technical assistance to California tenant attorneys and operates the Tenant Foreclosure Hotline serving tenants across the state.  Prior to launching Tenants Together, Dean was a staff attorney at the nonprofit Tenderloin Housing Clinic (THC) in San Francisco where he represented low-income tenants in housing matters for seven years.  His practice included defending tenants against eviction, suing landlords for wrongful eviction and substandard housing conditions, and fighting conversion of rent-controlled housing.  Dean is an update author of CEB's California Eviction Defense Manual.  Dean's experience also includes a judicial clerkship in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California; an externship at the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia; and civil rights litigation on behalf of plaintiffs in police misconduct cases. Dean received his J.D. from University of California, Hastings College of the Law, and his B.A. from Bowdoin College.  He is a member of the California Bar


Christian Abasto has been the Managing Attorney of the Civil Rights Practice Group of Disability Rights California since March 2017.  Christian has been zealously advocating for the poor and persons with disabilities for over 20 years.  Christian ran his own private practice litigating complex cases.  He was the Director of Litigation at the Public Law Center from 2011 to 2015 where he supervised 18 high-performing attorneys in complex litigation and policy advocacy matters and partnered with the Executive Director to manage the organization.  Under his leadership the organization tripled its impact advocacy matters.

Christian worked at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles from 1997 until 2011 where he rose through the ranks from Staff Attorney to Managing Attorney of the Housing and Eviction Defense Units.  He handled appeals to the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, the California Court of Appeal, and the Appellate Division of the Los Angeles Superior Court. Christian was lead counsel in the 9th Circuit published decision, Barrientos v. 1801-1825 Morton LLC, 583 F.3d 1197 (2009).  The decision established positive precedent regarding federal preemption, Section 8 vouchers, and local rent control laws.  As the Managing Attorney of the Housing and Eviction Defense Units he supervised nine high-performing attorneys, one project coordinator, five social workers, and four paralegals. Under his leadership the Housing and Eviction Defense Units obtained a $10 million grant to provide coordinated legal services, social services, and rental assistance to low income Angelinos. He also played a lead role in the development of an eviction defense representation project in the Los Angeles Superior Court, which was awarded an $8 million grant by the State Bar of California.

Christian received a B.A. from the University of California, San Diego and his J.D. from the University of California, Davis in 1997. He is a fluent Spanish speaker.


Kent Qian is an attorney in the Redevelopment, Real Estate & Rent Unit in the Advisory Division of the Oakland City Attorney's Office.

Mr. Qian previously worked as a staff attorney for the National Housing Law Project in San Francisco, where he litigated cases in state and federal courts to protect the rights of low-income tenants and homeowners and advised state and federal policymakers regarding the creation of new foreclosure protections.

Mr. Qian graduated from the University of Chicago Law School. He has a Master’s degree in physics from Ohio State University and a Bachelor of Science degree in physics from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

He is a commissioner on the San Francisco Rent Board and is a member of the State Bar’s Standing Committee on Delivery of Legal Services.


Lynn Martinez is Managing Attorney and Senior Litigator at Western Center on Law and Poverty where she specializes in multi-client impact ligation involving land use, landlord/tenant and fair housing issues.  Lynn supervises WCLP’s Foreclosure Task Force and provides legislative support, technical assistance and training on the state and national level.  She has published a number of articles and is co-editor of WCLP’s Housing Update and the Housing Practice Tip.  Prior to joining WCLP, Lynn was a staff attorney at the National Housing Law Project where she specialized in homeownership issues and Legal Services of Northern California.  Lynn has served as a visiting professor at UC Davis School of Law and core faculty for the Benchmark Institute.  She also completed eight years of service as a judge pro tem in Solano County, hearing cause for issuance of domestic violence Emergency Protective Orders during the hours when the local courts are closed.  Lynn was part of the inaugural class of HUD Community Builders, representing the San Francisco office from 1998-2000.  Prior to becoming an attorney, Lynn was an escrow and title officer for a Northern California title company.


Stephanie Haffner, a graduate of UC Berkeley Law School, began her legal career at California Rural Legal Assistance where she chaired its statewide public benefits task force and served as lead counsel in Price v. City of Stockton, which secured replacement housing and relocation benefits for hundreds of Stockton downtown hotel residents.  Stephanie taught Administrative Law and other subjects at Whittier Law School.  From 2006 to 2011, Stephanie supervised the Housing/Consumer Advocacy Group of Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County.  She joined Western Center in 2011 as a Senior Litigator, and became a Director of Litigation for Western Center in 2017.  Her practice includes administrative law, anti-discrimination law, food and cash benefits, and homelessness issues, among others. As of April 30, 2018, she will be joining Legal Aid of Marin as their Executive Director.


Phong Wong is the Pro Bono Director at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles and has devoted her legal career to helping those in need. At LAFLA, Phong oversees the pro bono program and coordinates the outreach, recruitment and hiring of all volunteers. She works closely with pro bono partners including law firms, law schools, bar associations, incubator attorneys, and community groups to develop and implement pro bono projects and trainings. These projects include technology innovations such as remote videoconferencing clinics and the online Pro Bono Training Institute as ways to expand pro bono service. Before becoming Pro Bono Director, Phong worked on slum housing litigation, subsidized housing, housing redevelopment and access to justice issues. Phong started her career as a Loyola Law School Fellow with the Western Center on Law and Poverty and LAFLA, focusing on reducing access to court barriers and supporting right to civil counsel initiatives.


Laura Lane earned her J.D. in 1996 from Berkeley Law (Boalt Hall), University of California.  She joined the East Bay Community Law Center in Berkeley as a supervising attorney in 1997 and has directed its housing practice since 2003.  She has taught housing law and policy at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law and at Golden Gate University School of Law.  Prior to joining East Bay Community Law Center, she was awarded an Echoing Green public interest fellowship and founded and directed a project to provide free legal services to persons living with HIV/AIDS in Richmond.  Recently, Laura authored a chapter on Residential Landlord-Tenant Law in the California Basic Practice Handbook published by CEB.


Navneet Grewal is a Senior Attorney at Western Center on Law and Poverty, a statewide legal services support center that fights, through litigation and legislative and policy advocacy, to secure housing, health care and a strong safety net for low-income Californians. She has successfully litigated cases in state and federal court that have, for example, expanded due process rights for voucher applicants, reimbursed thousands of public housing residents for rent overcharges, enforced state land use and zoning laws (resulting in the development of affordable housing), and that have preserved mobilehome parks. She also works with the housing team to develop and analyze statewide housing legislation that has led to significant protections for low-income Californians. Critically, she also works to support local legal services attorneys in identifying and assessing critical legal claims that their clients might avail themselves of, both through technical assistance and workshops. Navneet has also written several housing law-related publications; most recently, she was a contributing author to the Section 8 chapter of the 2017 California Rutter Group Practice Guide - Landlord-Tenant. She also previously served on the Steering Committee of the State Bar’s Fair Housing and Public Accommodations Section and on the Board of Directors of Housing California. In all facets of this work, Navneet strives to ensure that housing policies and practices work toward racial justice. Navneet is a graduate of the New York University School of Law, where she received the Vanderbilt Medal (the highest graduation honor), and the Black, Latino, and Asian Pacific American Alumni Association’s Public Service Award.