A number of the California Apartment Association’s court cases to protect and advance private property rights are expected to see important developments as 2023 draws to a close. Here’s a quick look at where things stand and what to expect:

New! – Sheetz v. County of El Dorado: In this case before the U.S. Supreme Court, the petitioner seeks to close a court-created loophole under the Takings Clause that allows governments to avoid accountability for imposing “unconstitutional exactions” – such as requiring excessive fees or unfair conditions to have a development permit issued – simply by having those exactions imposed by legislative action rather than as part of an administrative process. Excessive fees and other elaborate conditions are a major impediment to the construction of new housing. In this case, petitioner George Sheetz was forced to pay $23,420 to help finance unrelated road improvements as a condition of being allowed to construct a single-family home for himself in El Dorado County in Northern California. CAA, together with the San Francisco Apartment Association and other groups, have now filed an amicus brief supporting Sheetz’s case. The brief highlights how the legislative loophole is ripe for abuse by legislative bodies and how such excessive fees and conditions fuel the housing crisis by making the construction of new housing more expensive. Read the CAA brief here. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hear oral argument in this case on Jan. 9, 2024.

CAA v. County of Los Angeles: In April, CAA filed this lawsuit contesting LA County’s policy to delay evictions for unpaid rent accrued during the pandemic by imposing a 30-day notice to pay rent or quit requirement. The association’s motion for judgment in October requested the court to rule in its favor without the need for a trial. The county filed its opposition to that motion earlier this month, which CAA countered with a reply brief. The hearing to decide CAA’s request for judgment will be held Dec. 6, 2023.

CAA v. City of Pasadena: In May, CAA appealed the unfavorable decision issued in its lawsuit challenging Pasadena’s rent control law, which was adopted by voters in the fall of 2022. Due to court backlogs, the case has been in a holding pattern since then while awaiting a briefing schedule from the appeal court. That is finally changing, as CAA’s opening brief is now expected to be filed in early January. From there, the city will have the opportunity to submit its own brief – likely in March or April of 2024.

CAA v. County of Alameda: This case challenges Alameda County’s onerous COVID-19 eviction moratorium – which prohibited nearly all evictions for three years – as a violation of constitutional property rights. CAA filed the case in 2022, and by the end of last year, CAA and plaintiffs in the companion Williams v. Alameda case had sought a ruling on the “facial” or baseline constitutional questions in the case. The court issued an unfavorable ruling on that request, which still left the “as-applied” claims in both lawsuits to be decided. Since that unfavorable ruling last winter, the case has been working through a number of procedural issues (read more on that here), but the case is now once again gearing up for an important fight. Earlier this month, the county filed a motion seeking to have all but one of CAA’s “as-applied” claims thrown out. In short, the county argues that the moratorium did not compel a physical invasion of rental housing owners’ property – despite it having forced such owners to provide housing for several years despite not being paid rent and having residents who otherwise violated their leases. The county further argues the moratorium “reasonably advanced the legitimate purposes of promoting housing stability and reducing virus transmission during the pandemic,” and that the court should not issue a declaration that the moratorium was unconstitutional now that it has expired. CAA will file an opposing brief to counter all the county’s arguments in late December, the court will then take up the question at a hearing on Feb. 1, 2024.  

74 Pinehurst v. New York: The U.S. Supreme Court has kept property owners in suspense as to whether it will hear the appeal of this case, which asks the court to decide a key question: do strict rent control and eviction restrictions violate the Takings Clause? CAA, together with the San Francisco Apartment Association, filed an amicus brief in June urging the high court to accept the case and overturn decades of bad precedent. A decision as to whether the court would hear the case was expected in October but has yet to materialize. Instead, the court has continued to place the case on its conference docket for discussion – indicating that there is some interest in the case. There is reason for caution, however, as the court rejected an appeal in the companion case to 74 Pinehurst, known as CHIP v. New York. The court is slated to take up the question of whether to accept the appeal of 74 Pinehurst for the eighth time on Dec. 1. CAA’s in-house court watcher has a theory as to what that’s going on behind the scenes with this case.