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Jisser v. City of Palo Alto

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division

June 24, 2016

TOUFIC JISSER, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY OF PALO ALTO, Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS

          EDWARD J. DAVILA United States District Judge.

         Plaintiffs Toufic and Eva Jisser and the Toufic and Eva Jisser Revocable Trust (collectively "Plaintiffs") bring this action seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against the City of Palo Alto ("City"). Plaintiffs allege that the City's Mobilehome Park Conversion Ordinance ("the Ordinance") is unconstitutional as applied to them. Specifically, Plaintiffs contend that the Ordinance (1) imposes an unconstitutional condition on the their property rights; (2) violates the Public Use Clause of the Fifth Amendment; and (3) violates California's Mobilehome Residency Law. Pl. Opp. to Def. Mot. to Dismiss ("Opp.") at 1, Docket Item No. 26.

         Presently before the Court is the City's Motion to Dismiss under rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Def. Mot. to Dismiss ("Mot"), Dkt. No. 20. After carefully considering the parties' pleadings, the Court finds that Plaintiffs claims are not ripe for adjudication. Accordingly, the City's motion to dismiss is GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Regulatory Overview

         i. California's Mobilehome Residency Law

         California's Mobilehome Residency Law limits the circumstances under which a mobilehome park owner may terminate tenancies. See Cal. Civ. Code § 798.56. If a park owner seeks to close or convert the property for another use, he or she must meet certain conditions set forth under the Residency Law, including submitting a report that addresses the impact of the proposed closure on the displaced residents. Cal. Gov't Code § 65863.7. A local legislative body, or its delegated agency, may also require the park owner "to take steps to mitigate any adverse impact of the conversion" on the displaced residents. § 65863.7(e). Any mitigating steps imposed by the local entity "shall not exceed the reasonable costs of relocation." Id.

         ii. Palo Alto's Mobilehome Park Conversion Ordinance

         The City of Palo Alto adopted its Mobilehome Park Conversion Ordinance in 2001, codified at Chapter 9.76 of the Palo Alto Municipal Code ("PAMC").[1] In accordance with California's Mobilehome Residency Law, the Ordinance sets forth the procedures through which a mobilehome park owner may seek approval to close the park. Specifically, the Ordinance requires a park owner to submit an application to convert the park, supported by a "Relocation Impact Report." PAMC § 9.76.030. The Impact Report must include, inter alia, a proposal of measures to be taken by the park owner to mitigate adverse impacts of the park closure on residents. Id. Once the required application documents are submitted, the City holds a hearing to determine whether the proposed measures are sufficient. PAMC 9.76.040(g). "The hearing officer shall approve the application on the condition that the mitigation measures proposed by the park owner are adequate to mitigate the adverse impacts on the displaced residents and may condition the approval on additional conditions, " as set forth in the Ordinance, provided that the conditions do not exceed the reasonable costs of relocation. PAMC § 9.76.040(g).

         If the City approves the closure of the park, the property owner is then required to return a "Certificate of Acceptance" form, finalizing the City's decision. PAMC 9.76.050. Alternatively, if the property owner is dissatisfied with the City's decision or otherwise disputes the outcome of the hearing, he or she may appeal the ruling to the city council. PAMC § 9.76.060. ("Any aggrieved person may appeal the hearing officer's decision to the city council" pursuant to procedures set forth in the PAMC).

         B. The Buena Vista Mobilehome Park and the Jisser Family

         The Buena Vista Mobilehome Park ("Buena Vista") has been in operation since the 1950s and is presently the only mobilehome park in the City of Palo Alto. Compl. ¶¶ 20, 21. The Jisser Family has owned Buena Vista since 1986. Compl. ¶ 9. In November 2012, Plaintiffs applied to close Buena Vista, and submitted five Relocation Impact Reports between May 2013 and February 2014 pursuant to the Ordinance. Compl. ¶¶ 45, 46. The City accepted Plaintiffs' final Impact Report on February 20, 2014. Compl. ¶ 47.

         The City then held hearings on Plaintiffs' application in May 2014 and issued a decision provisionally approving the closure of Buena Vista on September 30, 2014. Compl. ¶¶ 49-50. The decision conditioned the closure on the Jissers' paying "enhanced relocation assistance benefits, " which include: (a) the purchase of each mobilehome in the park for an amount equal to 100% of the on-site value of the mobilehome; (b) rent subsidies and start-up costs in the form of a lump sum payment equal to 100% of the difference between average rents for apartments in Palo Alto and surrounding cities and the average rents for spaces in Buena Vista, for a period of 12 months; and (c) reasonable moving costs, including first and last months' rent plus a security deposit. Compl. ¶ 50. Plaintiffs estimate that compliance with these conditions will cost approximately $8 million. Compl. ¶ 54.

         Plaintiffs did not file an administrative appeal of the City's decision with the city council. See Opp. at 8-11; Mot. at 7; Compl. ¶¶ 51-53. However, the Buena Vista residents did, arguing that the compensation provided for by the decision was insufficient to mitigate the impact of the displacement. Compl. ¶ 51. The city council denied the residents' administrative appeal and issued a final decision approving the closure of Buena Vista pursuant to aforementioned conditions on May 26, 2015. Compl. ¶¶ 51, 53. The Jissers then ...


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