U.S. Supreme Court Declines to Hear Appeal in WeHo Affordable Housing Lawsuit

The U.S. Supreme Court today announced that it will not consider an appeal from a West Hollywood property owner that could have effectively gutted the city’s requirement that developers subsidize the construction of affordable housing.

The developer, 616 Croft Ave. LLC, is a company owned by Shelah and Jonathan Lehrer-Graiwer. In the early 2000s they bought two houses on adjacent lots on Croft Avenue between Rangely Street and Clinton Avenue with plans to replace them with an 11-unit condo building. Under the city’s inclusionary housing ordinance, someone building 10 or more units is required to set aside 20% of them as affordable housing or pay a fee to the city’s affordable housing fund in lieu of that.

An illustration of the 612-618 N. Croft Ave. project.

In 2011, when the Lehrer-Graiwers finally filed for a building permit, the in lieu fee was $540,000. The Lehrer-Graiwers also were required to pay $36,000 for parks and recreation under the state Quimby Act and $4,000 for traffic mitigation. They paid the fees “under protest” and sued the city in 2012. L.A. Superior Court Judge Luis Lavin ruled in favor of the City of West Hollywood in June 2015. Lavin’s ruling later was upheld by the  Second District Court of Appeals and the state Supreme Court declined to review the case.

The Pacific Legal Foundation, which describes itself as the nation’s oldest conservative/libertarian law firm, made an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of the property owners. It urged the court to decide whether the U.S. Constitution puts limits “on a government’s authority to use the permit process to force private property to dedicate private property to a public use.”

The Supreme Court’s decision not to consider the appeal leaves the city’s inclusionary housing ordinance in place and also removes possible threats to similar ordinances in other cities.

“The city is pleased that its efforts to create housing for people at all economic levels in our community remains intact,” said City Attorney Mike Jenkins.

A number of other conservative or libertarian groups filed briefs supporting the Pacific Legal Foundation. They included the Southeastern Legal Foundation, the Citizens’ Alliance for Property Rights Legal Fund and the Cato Institute.

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5 years ago

A great win for citizens of WeHo.

5 years ago

Donald, you don’t know what you’re talking about. The “in lieu fee” is not a penalty as you suggest. It’s money the goes into the affordable housing fund. That money has contributed to building 15 affordable housing buildings throughout West Hollywood…….Nothing wrong with that.

Chris Sanger
Chris Sanger
5 years ago

Donald – that’s an incredibly skewed view of the affordable housing rule. It is one of the things that elevates West Hollywood above many cities. No, developers don’t just have to do this to get around other issues. It’s not a bribe.
This ruling is a great victory for progressive values. Trying to diminish it as a “bribe” is nonsense and not fact-based

Donald E Azars
Donald E Azars
5 years ago

So the bottom line IS “the bottom line” – If someone wants to do something that is against zoning regulations all they have to do is bribe er I mean pay a penalty fee. The city makes money but the people who live in the city are affected badly. All the protections incorporated to defining the City of West Hollywood can be ignored…all it takes is MONEY?

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