San Francisco landlords cannot fight a voter initiative that makes it illegal to force out tenants with cash and threats, the 9th Circuit ruled Tuesday.
The Small Property Owners of San Francisco Institute (SPOSFI) and others sued the city and county of San Francisco in 2009, seeking an injunction to stop Proposition M, an ordinance approved by voters the previous year prohibiting “residential landlords and their agents from attempting, ‘in bad faith’ to ‘coerce the tenant to vacate with offers of payments to vacate which are accompanied with threats or intimidation,” according to the ruling.
The group, composed of about 1,500 local landlords, argued that the ordinance violated the free-speech and petition clauses of the First Amendment.
U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup dismissed the group’s claims, finding that it had no standing to challenge the statute and that the city had a valid interest in regulating their actions. A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit affirmed unanimously. The judges said the landlords had not shown that they would be harmed by the law.
“There is no allegation on which to base an inference that any of SPOSFI’s members intend to engage in conduct even arguably proscribed by Proposition M,” wrote Senior U.S. District Judge Frederic Block, sitting on the three-judge appellate panel by designation from the Eastern District of New York. “As a matter of common sense, an allegation that a plaintiff is ‘subject to’ the challenged ordinance cannot suffice.”