Campos’ Ellis Act payment law invalidated by federal judge

A federal District Court judge struck down Supervisor David Campos' Tenant Relocation Ordinance on Tuesday, citing it as unconstitutional.

The ordinance requires landlords to pay tenants evicted under the Ellis Act the difference between their current rent and the cost to rent the same-sized unit at market value, as a relocation fee. The law went into effect June 1.

Under the ordinance, a tenant's relocation payout for an apartment in more expensive city neighborhoods could have reached as high as $100,000, but no restrictions exist on how to use the payment. With Tuesday's ruling, current Ellis Act payouts will again be capped at $4,500. The decision goes into effect Friday, pending further appeals.

In his decision, U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer said he needed to determine if the increased fee “passes constitutional muster,” adding, “It does not.”

“This is a great victory for every San Franciscan who owns any kind of home or property, and for everyone who values property rights as a fundamental freedom,” said Pacific Legal Foundation principal attorney J. David Breemer, lead attorney in the challenge to the relocation-

payment ordinance. “By striking down this confiscatory law … government can't force owners to pay a massive ransom in order to make use of their own property.”

Supervisor Campos, who is running this election for California Assembly to represent San Francisco, released a statement on the ruling.

“When you stand up against powerful interests, you can expect those interests to fight back,” he said. “That's what we're seeing right now. This is not a permanent setback. I urge the city attorney not to let up in his fight for our city's most valuable renters.”

The San Francisco Apartment Association and other landlord advocates filed the lawsuit against the law in July. City Attorney Dennis Herrera's office is reviewing the decision, and will soon decide whether or not to appeal.

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