12 months ago

Palo Alto Mobile Home Case Appealed

By Larry G. Salzman Senior Attorney

This week PLF filed its opening brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals on behalf of the Jisser family, who are fighting an extortionate demand that they pay approximately $8 million in “affordable housing” assistance as a condition of getting a permit to close their mobile home park in Palo Alto, Calif.

Their case was dismissed on procedural grounds by the district court back in June. We argued that the city’s monetary demand was an unconstitutional condition on the Jissers’ right to use their land, or a taking of their money. But the lower court said that the family should have litigated their case all the way through California’s state courts before seeking relief in federal court—a waste potentially of years and substantial financial resources.

As our brief demonstrates, the lower court misapplied a line of cases that requires some takings claimants seeking compensation to try to get it from state courts before filing a case in federal court—precedent that often slams federal courthouse doors shut on aggrieved property owners. But the Jissers don’t want compensation: they just want to close their business without having first to pay an extortionate fee. They didn’t ask for money; they only asked the court to strike down the offensive permit condition.

The U.S. Supreme Court has often said that individual property owners shouldn’t be forced to bear the cost of social programs (like the “affordable housing” subsidies, here) that, in fairness, should be borne by the public as a whole. That is the principle we’re seeking to reaffirm—and why we’ve appealed. The case now rests with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which has the power to overturn the dismissal and send the case back to the trial court where we can make our argument in full.

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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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