Alert September 17, 2010

Tentative Prohibition Against Trading Permits for Votes

A Sonoma County Superior Court judge recently issued a tentative ruling in the case Building Industry Association of the Bay Area, fka Home Builders Association of Northern California, Inc., v. City of Santa Rosa, indicating that he is likely to rule against the City of Santa Rosa in the case. The plaintiff filed suit challenging the constitutionality of the City’s Ordinance No. 3902, which requires property owners to vote in favor of annexation into a Mello-Roos community facilities district, and thereby become subject to the special taxes levied in such district, before the property owners can obtain a land-use permit to construct new homes on their property.

The plaintiff argues that the City’s ordinance constitutes an unconstitutional interference with a land owner’s right to vote for or against annexation, which violates a fundamental voting right and denies the property owner equal protection under the law. In its tentative ruling, the court indicated that it would grant the plaintiff summary judgment and deny the City’s cross-motion.  The judge has requested both sides to provide additional briefs regarding certain procedural issues, and plans to issue a final ruling near the end of September.