Weekly litigation report — December 31, 2016

December 31, 2016 | By JAMES BURLING

Affordable housing mandates on their way up

Unsurprisingly, the California Supreme Court denied our petition for review in 616 Croft Avenue v. City of West Hollywood. This is the case where the City is demanding a half-million dollars in affordable housing subsidies from a couple who want to build more housing — 11 condominiums where two homes once stood. There’s no rhyme or reason for this, other than political opportunism. We think this is precisely the sort of extortion by exaction that the Supreme Court of the United States will be very interested in. For more background, visit our case page here.

Tax shenanigans upheld

The California Supreme Court also denied review of Building Industry Association of the Bay Area v. San Ramon. Here, San Ramon has put all undeveloped lots into a special taxing district so they can be taxed for the same existing level of municipal services that already developed lots enjoy — but at a lower tax rate. For more, see our blog post here.

Adverse decision in Washington State property case

We had a loss from the Washington Supreme Court in Snohomish County v. Pollution Control Hearings Board. Washington has a vested rights doctrine that protects development projects from “land use control ordinances” that come into effect after the developer files a permit application. This prevents government from changing the rules mid-game. But the Department of Ecology, which administers Washington’s clean water act permits, requires certain developers to apply federal water regulations to their developments even if the regulations came into effect after the developer got permit approval. The plaintiffs argued this violated the vested rights doctrine. The Supreme Court said “land use control ordinances” subject to the vesting rule do not include environmental regulations, even if they impose restraints on development. We had filed this friend of the court brief.

PLF supports school choice in California

PLF filed this friend of the court brief in Anderson Union High School District v. Shasta Secondary Home School, encouraging the California Supreme Court to review a public school’s attempt to protect itself from charter school competition. Such competition can solve many of our educational ailments. Charter schools enjoy relative freedom from tenure laws, teachers unions, and many other barriers that have restrained traditional public schools. They tend to innovate and offer programs unavailable in their traditional counterparts. And they inspire competition, thus driving the traditional public schools to improve. For more, see our blog post here.

Appeal dismissed in timber harvesting case

After the Forest Service proposed to allow some timber harvesting to salvage logs from a burned out forest, environmental group sued in Idaho Rivers United v. Probert. When the timber harvesters attempted to intervene, the district  court said, “no.” Because the companies allegedly had only an “economic” interest, rather than an environmental interest, they supposedly have no right to intervene in the lawsuit that will have a direct impact on their businesses. The timber companies appealed.  PLF filed an amicus brief in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in support of the timber companies’ right to intervene. For more, see our blog post here. Now that the Ninth Circuit dismissed the appeal, the decision below will stand.