Thursday, February 15, 2018
Court of Appeal:
Ordinance Barring Evictions During School Year of Students and Families, Teachers, Not Preempted
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The First District Court of Appeal yesterday held that a San Francisco ordinance barring “no-fault evictions” during a school year of families with school-age children and teachers is not preempted by state law.
Acting Presiding Justice Mark B. Simons wrote the opinion for Div. Five. It reverses a writ of mandate ordering city/county not to enforce it.
The ordinance was enacted by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in April 2016. It recites that “[s]tudies overwhelmingly demonstrate that moving homes in the middle of a school year can be harmful for children,” that teachers and school staff members “tend to be especially vulnerable to displacement due to salary limitations,” and that “mid-year evictions of school staff disrupt relationships that are important to children, interfere with the learning process, and burden our schools.”
Under circumstances where an eviction would normally be permissible, such as the owner moving into the unit, the ordinance provides immunity from eviction where “a child under the age of 18 or any educator resides in the unit, the child or educator is a tenant in the unit or has a custodial or family relationship with a tenant in the unit, the tenant has resided in the unit for 12 months or more, and the effective date of the notice of termination of tenancy falls during the school year.”
Two groups of property owners contended that the ordinance runs afoul of requirements of the unlawful detainer statutes.
High Court Precedent
Simons pointed to the California Supreme Court’s 1976 decision in Birkenfeld v. City of Berkeley. There, the high court limited the grounds for evicting tenants in rent-controlled units.
Chief Justice Donald R. Wright (since deceased) said:
“The purpose of the unlawful detainer statutes is procedural. The statutes implement the landlord’s property rights by permitting him to recover possession once the consensual basis for the tenant’s occupancy is at an end. In contrast the charter amendment’s elimination of particular grounds for eviction is a limitation upon the landlord’s property rights under the police power, giving rise to a substantive ground of defense in unlawful detainer proceedings. The mere fact that a city’s exercise of the police power creates such a defense does not bring it into conflict with the state’s statutory scheme.”
He added that “municipalities may by ordinance limit the substantive grounds for eviction by specifying that a landlord may gain possession of a rental unit only on certain limited grounds” but that “they may not procedurally impair the summary eviction scheme set forth in the unlawful detainer statutes....”
Distinguishing Procedural, Substantive
Simons said it can be difficult, as in the present case, to draw the line between what is substantive and what is procedural. He observed that the San Francisco ordinance “has a substantive component, effectively creating a new group protected from certain no-fault evictions: children who are or could be attending school or day care (excluding summer school or summer day care) and educators employed while children are attending school,” and also “also has an impact on procedure, restricting the timing of evictions of children and educators.”
However, the procedural aspect is merely a concomitant of the substantive feature, he said. The jurist wrote:
“The purpose of the Ordinance is to protect children from the disruptive impact of moving during the school year or losing a relationship with a school employee who moves during the school year. When tenants belong to this protected group (or have a custodial or familial relationship with a resident protected group member), they have a substantive defense to eviction; when they no longer belong to the group—because the regular school year has ended or will have ended by the effective date of the notice of termination—they no longer have a substantive defense. At this time, landlords may avail themselves of the unlawful detainer procedures, which are not altered by the Ordinance. Thus, the Ordinance is a permissible ‘limitation upon the landlord’s property rights under the police power,’ rather than an impermissible infringement on the landlord’s unlawful detainer remedy.”
The case is San Francisco Apartment Assn. v. City and County of San Francisco, A149919.
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