The city of Palo Alto, California, wants a court to dismiss a lawsuit opposing its demand that the family owners of a mobile home park pay some $8 million for permission to close it down.
Lawyers for the park owners say they are just asking for the “courthouse doors [to] remain open for people, like the Jissers, to make their case when the government wrongfully takes their property.”
As WND reported, the Pacific Legal Foundation filed the case on behalf of the owners of the Buena Vista mobile home park. The owners want to close their business, but with a local median housing price of $2.46 million, the city demands that the tenants be compensated so they can find another place to live.
“No one should be forced to carry on a business that they want to close,” said PLF Attorney Larry Salzman in a statement. “The city is treating the Jissers as an ATM to solve a problem they didn’t cause – the lack of affordable housing in Palo Alto. That’s not just wrong, it’s unconstitutional.”
See an explanation of the case:
Salzman, in a blog post, explained the family’s patriarch, Tim Jisser, is retiring and so the family wants out of the business.
“The city says the money is needed so that the tenants can get expensive alternative housing in the area; in effect, the city is holding the Jissers uniquely responsible for solving the city’s severe housing affordability problem. That’s not just wrong, it’s unconstitutional.”
He said that instead of answering the Jissers’ complaint, the city “has done what governments typically do: it’s trying to avoid judgment by asking the court to toss out the case.”
“The city’s motion to dismiss doesn’t deny that the city is commanding a payment of $8 million, or that it won’t grant the Jissers a permit unless they pay it,” he said. ‘It just says the case shouldn’t be heard by a judge yet; or that it’s too late to hear it; or that it should be heard by a state judge instead of a federal judge. In short, the city has said anything and everything it can say in an attempted retreat from actually defending what it is in fact doing to the Jissers.”
When the case was filed, it alleged violations of the U.S. Constitution’s Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment limitations on taking private property for public use. It also alleges violation of a California law prohibiting conditions on the closure of mobile home parks that “exceed the reasonable costs of relocation” of a park’s tenants, the claim said.
The family moved to the U.S. from Israel in the 1970s and purchased the site in 1986.
Their son, Joe, who manages the site, said in a statement released by PLF: “My parents came here as immigrants with nothing and built a successful business. They were pursuing the American dream. But now the city is trampling on the promise of freedom that drew them to this land.”
He said his family “has worked hard for 30 years to provide safe and affordable housing here.”
“Now we’re told by the city that providing that service is not enough, that we have to pay a staggering amount of money just to close our business,” he said. “It’s not fair for the city to force us to pay our tenants millions of dollars as the price of my parents’ retirement.”
A statement emailed to WND from the city was attributed to Palo Alto Attorney Molly Stump.
“We are confident that the city followed both state law and the process that is set out in our own municipal ordinance related to the closing of the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park,” she said. “There is no merit to these claims.”