Oakland, CA — On June 6, 2022, the United States Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge to Oakland’s Uniform Residential Tenant Relocation Ordinance. The Court’s denial of the petition requesting review means that Oakland’s victories in the lower courts will stand—affirming a critical component of Oakland’s comprehensive tenant protections, and affirming that local governments can successfully defend progressive policies against coordinated attacks by the conservative legal movement.
This case, Ballinger v. City of Oakland, began in 2018 when local landlords evicted their tenants in order to move back in, and paid the tenants the relocation assistance required under Oakland’s local laws. Calling the relocation payment “ransom,” the plaintiffs challenged Oakland’s ordinance, claiming it was unconstitutional on several grounds, including that the City was “taking” their property and that the payment was an unlawful “seizure” of their money.
In 2019, the federal District Court for the Northern District of California agreed with the City that every one of the plaintiffs’ claims should be dismissed, as no law supports their theories. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, upholding the dismissals earlier this year in an opinion confirming that Oakland’s ordinance is constitutional, and is consistent with many other types of lawful government regulation, from requiring corporations to pay to clean up hazardous waste to monetary assessments on tobacco companies.
This challenge to Oakland’s tenant protections is not an isolated case; it is part of a longstanding, and growing, nationwide campaign against progressive policy and policymakers who seek to balance the scales by providing protections for historically and currently marginalized communities. The plaintiffs in this matter were represented by the Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF), which is funded and guided by major corporate interests such as ExxonMobil and the tobacco industry, and by conservative foundations financed by right-wing billionaires such as the Koch brothers and the Scaife family. PLF has been involved in innumerable challenges to governments’ ability to protect vulnerable tenants from eviction and discrimination, raise money via taxation, and much more.
“This is an important and just victory for the City of Oakland—and for tenants’ rights,” said City Attorney Barbara J. Parker. “By refusing to consider overturning the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court affirmed what we have said since this litigation began: the City’s Uniform Residential Tenant Relocation Ordinance is a lawful—and vital—protection for Oakland tenants against no-fault eviction. The Ordinance provides critical minimal relocation assistance to tenants who, through no fault of their own, are displaced by evictions. Many displaced tenants suddenly face unforeseen relocation expenses, lose the benefits of rent control, and face a brutal rental housing market. The reasonable assistance required by the relocation ordinance eases the hardship of an unanticipated eviction and makes it more likely that displaced tenants will obtain alternative housing and not become homeless.
We are proud that Oakland will continue to enforce our laws, protect our tenants, and stand up to the legal movement and campaign to obliterate those laws and protections.”