Palo Alto, CA; June 27, 2016: Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) today filed an appeal with the Ninth Circuit in the constitutional property rights case of Jisser v. City of Palo Alto. PLF represents the Jisser family, owners of the Buena Vista Mobile Park, in challenging the city’s demand that the family pay their tenants an astronomical sum — about $8 million — as the price for permission to close their business and put their property to other uses.
PLF is appealing after the trial court, this past Friday, ruled against the Jissers on procedural grounds. “The crux of the decision is that the Jissers should have litigated all the way through California state courts before bringing their federal constitutional claims to federal court,” said PLF attorney Larry Salzman. “With due respect to the court, it has misapplied a rule that applies only to cases seeking money damages against the government for a taking of private property. The Jissers seek no money from the city. They have simply asked the federal court to stop the city’s unconstitutional shakedown before the harm is done.
“Property rights are among the most important civil rights protected by the Constitution,” Salzman said. Federal courthouse doors must remain open to people who have had their property rights violated, just like they are open to every other class of federal civil-rights plaintiffs.”
The Jisser family’s mobilehome park has provided the lowest cost housing in Palo Alto for more than 30 years, but the family has been mired in a dispute for years over their right to withdraw the property from the rental market. Last year, the city determined that the Jissers may close their business, but only on the condition that they pay millions of dollars to tenants as “relocation” costs aimed at ameliorating the city’s notorious affordable housing crisis. Presently that price tag is about $8 million, but the cost to the Jissers may rise if neighborhood rents or other costs go up between now and the date of the park’s closure.
PLF’s lawsuit on the Jissers’ behalf charges that this staggering financial demand violates the U.S. Constitution’s Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment limitations on taking private property for public use, and also violates a California state law prohibiting conditions on the closure of mobilehome parks that “exceed the reasonable costs of relocation” of a park’s tenants. The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly held that government may not force individual property owners to bear the costs of public benefits which, in fairness, should be paid for by the public as a whole.
Palo Alto is ground-zero for California’s affordable housing crisis, where the median home price is a blistering $2.46 million dollars (compared to $448,000 statewide and $180,000 in the U.S.). A May, 2015, report by California’s Legislative Analyst office blames the state’s high housing costs on overly restrictive land use policies, particularly in coastal cities like Palo Alto.
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Donor-supported Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) is the leading watchdog organization that litigates for limited government, property rights, individual rights, and free enterprise, in courts nationwide. PLF represents all clients free of charge.
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