pacific grove stop short-term rentals sign

Civil jury trials are expensive and time consuming for everyone—those suing, the ones being sued and the court system itself. Which is part of why so many cases are settled long before they ever get to jury selection. The Law Dictionary reports that 95 percent of all suits get settled out of court. Only 1 in 20 are decided by a judge or jury.

The group Short-Term Rental Owners Neighborhood Group of Pacific Grove, called STRONGpg for short, declared recently it will be seeking its day in court before a jury, despite the cost.

The group sued the city of Pacific Grove on last April in hopes of stopping a lottery the city was getting ready to conduct to divvy up a finite number of short-term rental licenses.

A month later, Monterey County Superior Court Judge Marla O. Anderson denied the group’s request for an injunction, and even told members she doubted they had a strong legal case against the city.

The lottery was delayed by the court proceedings, but took place on May 22 after the judge’s ruling, resulting in a reduction of 51 licenses out of 256 total. Those licenses that didn't get pulled in the lottery will sunset at the end of April.

The lawsuit continued, however, despite further changes to the city's policy on short-term rentals. Last November, P.G. voters passed Measure M—a ballot measure to further limit short-term rental licenses by May 2020—and the court gave STRONGpg a chance to amend its lawsuit to reflect the new ordinance. The group declined to amend the suit, leading some observers to think the rental owners might give up the suit altogether.

Instead, STRONGpg told Judge Lydia M. Villarreal at a hearing on Feb. 19 they intends to keep going and make their case to a jury. Villarreal set trial date of Nov. 4.

“The parties agree alternative dispute resolution would be fruitless because the case is based on purely legal questions and petitioners seek injunctive relief only,” according to a joint case management conference statement dated Feb. 8, submitted to the court by both STRONGpg and the city.

Attorneys for Pacific Grove said in the statement that they do not agree any more information needs to be collected—they believe it’s all in the administrative record of what took place when public hearings were held by the Planning Commission and City Council.

But STRONGpg attorneys want to go through a full discovery process, which includes depositions of key officials and participants in the case.

The next case management conference is set for June 25.

Editor's Note: A previous post listed the next case management conference as Sept. 24. While there is one listed for that date, the next date is June 25.

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