The City of San Diego must pay $129,912 for its failed mini-dorm ordinance. A judge awarded attorneys' fees on February 16th to a group of landlords and students who sued the city over the 2017 Residential High Occupancy Permit Ordinance.
The ordinance requires landlords to pay for a permit if there are more than five occupants over the age of 18 living in a residence. A supplemental ordinance requires each tenant to have a dedicated parking space a certain distance from the home.
Superior Court judge Ronald Styne struck down the law in December in a lawsuit filed by a group called College Area Students, Tenants, and Landlords Association. In his ruling, Styne ruled that the law unfairly targeted certain people, in this case people over the age of 18.
It was the second time the city was unsuccessful in defending a law meant to address alleged proliferation of mini-dorms in the College Area.
In 1996 another group, the College Area Renters and Landlords Association, represented by the same attorney, Stephen McKinley, sued the city for targeting minority groups through the mini-dorm ordinance. A state court, and later an appellate court, agreed and struck down the ordinance.
In a June 2017 ruling, Judge Styne questioned why the city would move forward with a similar ordinance without making changes.
"I think you've been through this before," Styne said in June. "I can't believe when you wrote the ordinance, you weren't looking at this.... The previous case against the city set forth how you were supposed to do it. And then you go back and do it this way."
The city's decision to move forward with a law while ignoring the legal precedent cost taxpayers $129,912.
Writes the judge in a February 15 tentative ruling that was confirmed today, "The court finds [property owners and the students' group] establishes that a significant benefit has been conferred on the general public or a large class of persons as a result of [their] successful pursuit of this lawsuit."