Court of Appeal Reinstates Universal Relocation Assistance for Tenants Evicted Under Ellis Act

State Court of Appeal Overturns Trial Court Decision Holding That State Law Required Relocation Payments Only to Low-Income Tenants

SAN FRANCISCO (Feb. 21, 2006) — The California Court of Appeal today reinstated a City ordinance requiring that landlords offer relocation assistance to tenants being evicted under the state Ellis Act, regardless of the tenant’s income, reversing a previous trial court decision from last April which found the City’s “universal relocation” ordinance preempted by state law.

The Court of Appeal’s as-yet unpublished ten-page ruling held that the California Legislature’s 2003 amendments to the Ellis Act were intended to allow local policymakers more flexibility in mitigating the adverse effects of Ellis Act evictions, including universal relocation programs. The appellate court further found that plaintiffs in this case had failed to demonstrate that the ordinance imposed a prohibitive barrier to a landlord’s decision to go out of business.

Responding to the changes in state law, San Francisco enacted an ordinance sponsored by Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin in January 2005 (Ordinance No. 21-05 (2005)), which replaced the City’s means-tested program with a requirement that all tenants evicted pursuant to the Ellis Act-not merely those with low-incomes-must receive $4,500 in relocation assistance, with a cap of $13,500 per household.

“Today’s ruling is an important win for San Francisco tenants, and vindication for our argument that San Francisco correctly interpreted state law in enacting its universal relocation assistance program,” said City Attorney Dennis Herrera. “It is up to San Francisco’s policymakers-not the courts-to decide how best to alleviate the plight of tenants who are being evicted under the Ellis Act. Today’s decision confirms that basic principle.”

“Our law is a reasonable step that provides a basic level of protection for tenants who are subject to the increasing epidemic of Ellis Act evictions,” said Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin. “The City Attorney’s office should be commended for their work on behalf of San Francisco tenants.”

The case is Pieri et al. v. City and County of San Francisco et al., California Court of Appeal, First Appellate District, Division Four, Case No. A110571 (San Francisco County Superior Court No. CPF 05-505059).