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San Francisco Appeals|Rent-Control Ruling

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera is appealing a federal judge's ruling that strikes down a rent ordinance requiring landlords who want to get out of the rental business to retroactively pay massive amounts to evict tenants.

U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer on Tuesday found the ordinance to be an unconstitutional taking, and gave the city until the end of the week to appeal to the 9th Circuit.

The city had argued at a one-day bench trial this month that the ordinance serves a legitimate public purpose: to compensate tenants who were losing their rent-controlled apartments.

The law requires that property owners pay evicted tenants the difference between their rent and two years rent at a comparable unit in San Francisco.

Breyer agreed that the ordinance is rationally related to a legitimate public purpose, but said did not pass constitutional muster because "it seeks to force the property owner to pay for a broad public problem not of the owner's making."

Breyer added: "Against the infinitesimally small impact of the withdrawal on the rent differential gap to which a tenant might now be exposed, the ordinance requires an enormous payout untethered in both nature and amount to the social harm actually caused by the property owner's action."

Herrera, in explaining his appeal, said: "If this decision stands, the consequences could be dire for many laws that protect land use and our environment. My hope is that the Ninth Circuit will recognize the potentially far-reaching consequences here and decline to upend takings law in this way."

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