May 18, 2016

Hearing in San Jose next week for mobile home case

By Larry G. Salzman Senior Attorney

PLF will be in federal court in San Jose next week defending its case on behalf of the Jisser family from the city’s motion to dismiss the case. The Jissers filed their federal lawsuit last November, challenging the City of Palo Alto’s unconstitutional demand that they pay millions of dollars to their tenants before being allowed to close their mobilehome park business. They have a right to close the park under California law.

However, in exchange for the permit to close, the city demanded that the Jissers choose between two evils. Either they accept an uncompensated taking of their money by paying more than $8 million to their tenants to get new housing, or they would be denied a permit to close their park and be forced to run it forever (i.e., submit to an uncompensated taking of the right to exclude unwanted tenants from their land).

The demand for the extraordinary payment has nothing to do with reasonable costs of relocating mobile homes to a comparable mobile home park (which California law permits) or any public cost caused by the Jisser family’s withdrawal of their property from the rental market. It is simply the city’s attempt to leverage the family’s need for a permit to take money from them. This is the kind of demand that the U.S. Supreme Court has said is an “unconstitutional condition” on property rights.

The need for affordable housing in Palo Alto is obvious—rents and home prices there are sky-high. The city has all the power it needs to allow more homes to be built, of course, which would help alleviate the problem. But if the City wants instead to provide cash to tenants for alternative housing, that expense should be the responsibility of the whole public and cannot constitutionally be imposed uniquely on the Jisser family.

The hearing on the city’s motion to dismiss the case will be heard by U.S. District Judge Edward J. Davila on May 26, at 9:00 a.m., in Courtroom 4 (5th Floor), at the San Jose Division of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California (280 South 1st Street, San Jose, CA 95113).

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Jisser v. City of Palo Alto, California

The Jisser family owns the last mobile home park in super-expensive Palo Alto, California. They wanted to retire, leave the business entirely and close down the park, but the city demanded that the Jissers pay $8 million to the tenants to obtain the required permit. Representing the Jissers, PLF sued on the ground that the city’s demand was nothing more than extortion prohibited by the Fifth Amendment. A federal district court judge dismissed the case because he erroneously believed that the Jissers had to pursue state court remedies first. While the appeal was pending, the city agreed to give up the fight and purchase the mobile home park itself. The appeal is stayed pending resolution of the settlement.

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