Buena Vista Mobile Home Park owners appeal verdict

By John Severance | Jul 20, 2016

PALO ALTO – The future of Palo Alto's sole mobile-home park remains in flux.

The Jisser family, who owns the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park, want to close the facility. But as a condition of closing, the city of Palo Alto requires the family to pay $8 million to the 400 or so residents who would be displaced.

The family filed suit against the city but the Jissers suffered a loss in federal court. A judge dismissed the suit, ruling it was “not ripe for adjudication.”

The Pacific Legal Foundation, which represents the Jissers, filed an appeal.

“The crux of the decision is that the Jissers should have litigated their case all the way through California’s state courts before bringing their federal constitutional claims to federal court,” PLF attorney Larry Salzman told the Northern California Record. “But that is a misapplication of a line of cases springing from a 1985 U.S. Supreme Court case, Williamson County Regional Planning Commission v. Hamilton Bank, 473 U.S. 172.”

Salzman explains that when property owners seek just compensation for a taking of private property, the Williamson County ruling sometimes does require them to sue in state court before bringing their compensation claims to federal court.

“This is a unique hardship for property rights plaintiffs, who are forced to litigate for years in state court with little to no expectation of relief, only to then be required to file their takings claims in federal court,” Salzman said.

Salzman said the Jissers sought no money from the city.

“They have simply asked the federal court to stop the city’s unconstitutional shakedown before the harm is done,” Salzman said in a Pacific Legal Foundation press release.

In his ruling, judge Edward J. Davila wrote: “Failure to exhaust an as-applied takings challenge in state court is grounds for dismissal in federal court."

There is a chance this case might not even reach the appeal hearing process.

Santa Clara County, the city of Santa Clara and the housing authority of Santa Clara formed a partnership that would purchase the park from the Jissers. Each entity would each pay $14.5 million and the housing authority paying the balance.

The purchase would be made under the auspices of eminent domain. According to an article on PaloAltoonline.com, there would be no relocation assistance for the residents.

Displacement of current residents "shall be avoided to the maximum extent allowed by law," according to the memorandum of understanding between the three agencies.

Salzman then addressed what would happen if the partnership takes over the park.

“If the property is taken by eminent domain, it will end our constitutional lawsuit challenging the extortionate fees imposed on the Jissers as a condition of closing their park because the government will own the park and decide for itself how to close or rebuild the park,'' Salzman said.

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