Friday, April 26, 2019

Tanimura & Antle Fresh Foods v. Salinas Union High School Dist. (Cal. Ct. App. - April 26, 2019)

I'm very sympathetic to the plaintiff in this case.  It's developing a 100-unit housing complex in the Salinas Valley that's designed to house seasonal agricultural workers during the seven-month growing season.  The thing's basically a dorm; two-bedroom units that house between two and four workers each.  Everyone agrees that the only people in the units are going to be the workers themselves; any kids of these workers basically get left at the worker's regular home with the other parent, or (if both parents work during the season) left with friends or relatives.  So basically:  No kids.  None.

But the Salinas Union High School District  nonetheless imposes a fee of $3 a square foot on new residential developments.  Of which this is definitely one.  The theory being -- and, in most cases, this makes total sense -- that new residential development brings new kids, and those kids gotta go to school, so there's "rough proportionality" between the fee and the development.  Which is what the Takings Clause (as well as California law) requires.

But the developer says:  "It's not right to make me pay that $294,000 fee, because my particular development won't have any kids."  So no impact on schools.  And there's legions of evidence that, with respect to this issue, the developer's totally right.  So you're basically making it pay a fee for reasons that fairly clearly don't apply.

And that seems unfair.

The Court of Appeal nonetheless ultimately upholds the fee.  Holding that, basically, there's still  rough proportionality because it's indisputably a residential development, and that it be too hard (and there's no requirement to) look at the particular details of each and every development to see what type of an impact each one would have.  And I get it.  There's senior housing.  There are houses with more bedrooms and fewer bedrooms.  It'd be a pain to have to say "Well, we think that X number of kids are in each one," so maybe just having a basic flat rate is fine.  Even if, in particular cases, it's pretty clear that such a rate vastly overstates the particular impact of this development.  It's evenly applied, and it balances out at the end; e.g., it may be too low for, say, apartments with 4 bedrooms, which are likely to have a lot of kids, but it's nonetheless roughly accurate for everyone.  Roughly.

But still.  I feel bad for a developer who has to pay a big fee when we know for a fact that there's absolutely zero impact of the development on the services relevant to that fee.  So part of me might even be willing to create an exception for such very, very limited set of facts.  Maybe.

But ultimately I read one line -- about thirty pages into the opinion -- that made me think, well, okay, it's not perfect, but in the end, I'm okay with the fee in this case.

The reality is that, almost certainly, there will never be actual kids in the dorms.  The Court of Appeal talks about planning restricts and deeds and regulations and the like, but in the end, I'm okay with the assumption that no kids are actually there.

But, nonetheless, this line made sense to me:  "[I]t is also possible that children accompany a parent or parents for the seven-month season, and whether placed with local friends, relatives, or elsewhere, those children enroll in school."

Yeah.  That seems possible.  I'm sure lots of the kids are left at the worker's regular home.  And, yeah, for the others, I'll assume they're not allowed in the actual dorm.  But it's seven months.  Particularly if both parents are working far from home, it might well be that the parents take the kids with them and place them locally.  Not in the dorms.  But nonetheless locally in Salinas Valley.  Which in turn would have an impact on schools.  Making imposition of the fee legitimate.

So I was worried about the stark inequity of a $300,000 fee at the beginning.  But in the end, I'm okay with it.

It's not perfect.  But it's okay.  No manifest injustice.