Landlady Lena Schnuck sued Santa Monica in 1987, claiming that the rent control law prevented her from evicting a tenant from the eight-unit building that she owns and where she lives.
Schnuck had suffered a stroke and needed to move into a tenant-occupied one-story apartment, instead of the two-story unit she already lived in, her lawyers said. The law says owners cannot evict for their own occupancy if they already live in the building.
Schnuck’s lawyers argue that she has essentially lost possession of her property because she is blocked from evicting the tenant. They say that amounts to a “taking” in violation of the U.S. Constitution, which holds that private property cannot be taken for public use without just compensation.
Judge Lew last March denied Santa Monica’s motion for dismissal but at the same time threw out 10 of Schnuck’s 15 claims. Santa Monica’s attorneys on Monday will move for a summary judgment, asking that the judge rule on the case because the plaintiff has introduced irrelevant issues and nothing “genuine (or) triable.”
“There is no basis for a trial in this matter,” Santa Monica Deputy City Atty. Barry A. Rosenbaum, who will go before Lew, said last week. “When the court examines these facts, the court will clearly rule in our favor.”
If Santa Monica prevails, the city’s rent control law would have scored a victory in yet another legal fight, at a time when recent court decisions have been going against the city.
If Schnuck prevails, a trial will follow that could call into question the very nature of rent control.
Hoping to stop the summary judgment and move to a trial, Jagiello and Schnuck’s other attorneys have filed a 34-page response, claiming anew that the rent control law is invalid, irrational and unconstitutional.
They base much of their claim on a telephone survey of 189 owners of 2,226 apartments who offered statistics on the kinds of tenants who have taken up residency in the last two years. In that time, 307 vacancies were reported.
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