JMBM Client Prevails: West Hollywood Moratorium on Multi-Family Development Struck Down by Court of Appeal

West Hollywood Moratorium on Multi-Family Development Struck Down by Court of Appeal
Los Angeles land use lawyer Ben Reznik leads successful fight for property owner’s rights

LOS ANGELES – November 25, 2009 – Land use lawyer Benjamin M. Reznik, Chair of the Jeffer Mangels Butler & Marmaro LLP (JMBM) Land Use Department, announced that the Second District Court of Appeal of California has determined that the City of West Hollywood’s moratorium on multi-family development projects adopted in 2007 is in violation of state law. Petitioners Hoffman Street LLC and Harper Project LLC are now entitled to a full trial regarding their damage claims against the City of West Hollywood for delaying applications to demolish existing apartment buildings and construct new condominium projects.

"We have seen the projects of numerous property owners stopped in their tracks by last-minute ordinances against multi-family development," said Reznik. "Suing city hall is never an easy choice for clients, so we are very pleased to have succeeded in protecting our clients’ property rights."

JMBM client Hoffman Street LLC submitted an application to the City of West Hollywood in January 2006 to demolish its existing 16-unit apartment building and build a 17-unit condominium complex in an area zoned for multifamily residential uses. Approval of the application was delayed as the city considered whether the existing property should be designated as a historical resource. Although the city’s Historical Preservation Committee rejected the historical designation in October 2006, the City Council delayed a decision on Hoffman Street’s application until June 4, 2007, the very same day it adopted an "urgency" moratorium on all multi-family housing development, citing "… a current and immediate threat to the public health, safety and welfare."

Now, more than two years later, the California Court of Appeal has held in Hoffman Street, LLC et. al. v. City of West Hollywood et. al. that the West Hollywood moratorium against multi-family housing development violated the state law that regulates such urgency ordinances by failing to adopt findings specified in the code.

In a published opinion, the Court wrote: “We believe that to satisfy the requirements of [Government Code section 65858 (c)(1)] a written finding by the legislative body must identify both (i) a specific, ‘significant, quantifiable, direct, and unavoidable impact’ upon the public health or safety that would result from continued development approvals, and (ii) objective, ‘written public health or safety standards, policies, or conditions’ on which that impact is based.”

"In other words," said Reznik, "There is no longer a free pass for those cities seeking to create barriers to the development of multi-family housing through urgency measures that claim unsubstantiated threats to the public health, safety, or welfare."

The appellate court’s decision instructs the trial court to take into consideration the conclusion that the moratorium was “invalid as a matter of law” when considering the damage claims made against the City of West Hollywood. This now paves the way for the damage portion of the case to proceed.

About JMBM
Jeffer Mangels Butler & Marmaro LLP is a full-service law firm committed to providing clients with outstanding results. From our offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Orange County, we serve our clients’ needs worldwide. JMBM’s government and land use lawyers handle permitting, entitlement and compliance issues for businesses seeking to locate and develop new sites, redevelop existing sites, or relocate or expand operations. Vigorous advocates for their clients’ interests, JMBM’s land use lawyers challenge adverse administrative actions and defend clients’ rights through litigation. For more information visit www.JMBM.com.