PACIFIC GROVE – California’s largest city coalition is siding with Pacific Grove in an appeal case challenging the city’s short-term rental regulations.
The case is important because it could be a stepping stone to a review by the California Supreme Court and could determine the limits that Pacific Grove, or any other city in California, has in its ability to regulate vacation rentals.
The pending case involves Susan and William Hobbs, a couple from Pacific Grove who filed a lawsuit against the city in the summer of 2019 in Monterey County Superior Court, alleging that Pacific Grove denied their due process rights by refusing to renew a short-term rental license. the Hobbs owned.
The Hobbs are represented by the Goldwater Institute, a conservative Arizona think tank, which argues there was no reason for what they see as an arbitrary denial since the city uses a lottery system to choose which licenses will not be renewed in order to eliminate many of the short-term rentals in the city.
Many email requests for comment sent to Goldwater lawyers were not returned until the Herald deadline on Monday.
Both parties have completed their filings and are now awaiting a date for the start of oral argument. The case is being examined by a panel of three judges from the Court of Appeal of the Sixth District of Appeal of San José.
The Hobbs lost their case when Monterey County Superior Court Judge Lydia Villarreal in 2019 dismissed the Goldwater Institute’s claim because the short-term rental license agreement made it clear that the term of the license was 12 months and there was no guarantee of renewal. Goldwater appealed to the court of appeal.
The most recent deposits were a pair of amici curiae – Latin for “friend of the court”. An amicus brief is filed by someone who is not a party to a case but who can assist a court by offering information, expertise or insight that affects the case. The League of California Cities and Pacific Grove Neighbors United, a nonprofit group that has been instrumental in regulating short-term rentals in Pacific Grove, have both filed amicus briefs.
The Hobbs argued that Pacific Grove’s refusal to renew a short-term license violates their due process rights.
“(The League of California Cities) identified this case as of such significance, because a finding that a limited-term, short-term vacation rental license creates a vested interest subject to due process protections would have a broad and sweeping effect on cities across the state, ”says the league’s amicus brief.
The California League of Cities represents 472 cities in California. Among other things, he pleads for the maintenance of local authority over zoning and land use. The league has clarified its position in the case, arguing that if the court finds for the Hobbs, it would allow a whole new kind of property right.
“(The Hobbs) are arguing for the creation of a new acquired property right to allow the continued use of their property as a short-term vacation rental,” the amicus brief read. “This devolution will cripple the ability of local governments to regulate land use and zoning and to preserve the character and aesthetics of cities. These important and legitimate government interests are granted to cities through the policing powers granted by the California Constitution. “
Pacific Grove City Attorney David Laredo said Monday that the concept of “perpetual property rights,” which the Hobbs actually defend, would prevent cities from regulating uses with a set time frame. In the case of the Hobbs’ license to operate a short-term rental, the agreement between the Hobbs and the town stated that it was valid for a period of 12 months with no guarantee that it would be renewed afterwards, a conclusion key in the court’s decision.
“It would be like having a permit for a garage sale on Saturday and expecting it to be valid the following Saturday and the following Saturday – perpetual Saturdays,” he said. “If I presented this to a grade eight student, they would understand it. “
But the case has another element in that in the late spring the Hobbs registered the sale of the property which was the center of the arguments. This raises the legal question of whether the Hobbs still have legal status since they no longer own the property named in the lawsuit.
The Old Hobbs House, located at 1135 Ocean View Blvd., was billed $ 2,750 in land transfer tax, which, according to a formula used by the county, puts the sale price at around $ 2.5 million for the house by the sea.
Now that all of the factums have been filed, it will be a game of waiting until the court announces that it is ready for oral argument. Typically, in an appeal case, both parties will have a few minutes to make their case – brevity is needed because judges have already considered the case in detail. The remainder of the session, which usually lasts no more than an hour, allows the three judges to ask questions of the lawyers.
The judges and their staff will then hold a conference to see if they’re all on the same page – call it a straw vote. After the conference, including a decision on which the court will draft the opinion of the court, a draft of the decision will be drawn up and distributed.
If the court rules against the Hobbs, they can appeal the case to the California Supreme Court. But it should be noted that the Supreme Court receives thousands of petitions for review each year and grants less than 5%.