San Remo Court Battles

The San Remo Hotel owners (the Fields) fought a controversial hotel law requiring certain smaller hotels to replace or to pay for any housing “lost” when rooms are not reserved for low-income residents. The courts rejected San Remo’s argument that a more stringent test was required to prevent an unconstitutional taking of private property and that the large fee was disproportionate to any harm that would be caused by tourist use of available rooms.

According to San Remo attorneys , “There is a nationwide split of authority in lower courts on the right test for constitutionality of local legislation. In this case, the city is forcing a few property owners to provide low-cost housing instead of spreading the cost equally among all taxpayers.” After paying the fee under protest, the Fields were permitted to continue renting rooms primarily to tourists rather than to low-income residents. The city also insisted the brothers offer lifetime leases to their long-term residential tenants, who had already been welcome indefinitely.

The Fields sued the city in state and federal court in 1993, claiming the hotel law was an unconstitutional restriction enacted long after they purchased the San Remo in 1971 and
proceeded with two decades of painstaking and expensive renovations. San Remo attorneys note the San Remo case raises other key questions with broad implications: If property owners challenge an ordinance as unconstitutional, can federal courts first tell them to seek compensation in state courts before federal courts will consider their claim? And if state courts deny compensation, can the federal courts say that federal claims are barred by the state court decision?

National organizations siding with the San Remo in amicus briefs include the Chamber of Commerce of the United States, representing three million business and professional organizations; the National Association of Realtors, representing one million members; and the National Association of Homes Builders, representing more than 215,000 members. Additional amicus supporters of the hotel include the Washington Legal Foundation and Pacific Legal Foundation.

The below links open PDFs that chronicle the related issues and results of the case.

Background Feature: “Restoring the San Remo Hotel”

News Release: U.S. Supreme Court to Hear San Remo Hotel Case

News Release: SF Hotel Responds to High Court Defeat

Selected News Coverage (links to published articles)

News Release: April 16, 2007: Historic SF Hotel Transports Guests Back to 1906

Similar 2015 Case: PLF asks Supreme Court to Rescue Landowners from procedural purgatory

Appeal in Arrigoni Enterprises argues for reversal of controversial Williamson County precedent that denies property owners full and equal access to federal courts

TOWN OF DURHAM, CONN.; November 12, 2015: Representing a Durham property owner barred from developing his land, Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) has asked the Supreme Court to reconsider a controversial precedent that denies landowners unobstructed access to federal court to defend their constitutional rights.

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