December 2, 2016

PLF petition seeks review of West Hollywood’s extortionate “affordable-housing” scheme

By Brian T. Hodges Senior Attorney

Earlier today, PLF attorneys filed the reply brief in 616 Croft Ave, LLC v. City of West Hollywood. As you may recall, this case arose from the City’s demand that husband and wife entrepreneurs Shelah and Jonathan Lehrer-Graiwer pay a $540,000 “affordable housing” fee in order to get the necessary permits to build new homes. The Leher-Graiwers challenged the fee, which had absolutely no relation to any impacts caused by the proposed development, which the city determined would help the affordable housing crisis add more housing.

On its face, the condition would appear to violate the doctrine of unconstitutional conditions, which prohibits the government from exacting private property from developers as a mandatory condition of permit approval unless it can show that the condition mitigates for some negative impact caused by the proposed development.

The lower courts, however, dismissed the Leher-Graiwers’ challenge under the mistaken conclusion that extortionate demands made by the legislative branch of a city are subject to the same constitutional rules as demands made by other government bodies. PLF attorneys filed a petition for review asking the California Supreme Court to overrule the lower courts’ decisions and hold legislative exactions subject to heightened scrutiny under the doctrine of unconstitutional conditions.

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616 Croft Ave., LLC v. City of West Hollywood, California

Shelah and Jonathan Lehrer-Graiwer became victims of government extortion in West Hollywood, California over new condos. A city ordinance purports to address an affordable housing problem by demanding builders either sell a percentage of new homes at below-market rates or pay hefty “affordable housing” fees. Our clients were squeezed for $500,000. Two previous PLF Supreme Court wins determined such “inclusionary zoning” policies without clear public need are unconstitutional. PLF will argue this license to steal is no exception.

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