The California Supreme Court has rejected Santa Monica's request for a court order to halt evictions by three landlords under the Ellis Act, a state law that allows owners to evict tenants and go out of business.
The court's ruling last week was the latest round in the city's battle to overturn the Ellis Act, which went into effect July 1, 1986.
The city challenged the constitutionality of the Ellis Act when it filed a suit last year in Santa Monica Superior Court against the landlords. Lawyers for the city contend that the law violates a provision in the state Constitution that gives cities the power to legislate municipal affairs, including the right to regulate evictions.
The city also had asked Superior Court Judge David M. Rothman for an injunction to prevent the eviction of tenants living in about 30 units owned by the landlords. But Rothman denied the city's request last November.
Santa Monica had asked the state Supreme Court for an order halting evictions while it appealed Rothman's ruling, but the court denied the request without issuing an opinion.
The city will continue to press for an appeal of Rothman's ruling, but there is nothing it can do to halt the evictions in progress, said Assistant City Atty. Joseph Lawrence.
Lawrence said the high court's action will not affect the city's suit, which has yet to be heard.
But Thomas A. Nitti, one of the attorneys for the landlords, said the court's rejection of the city's request demonstrates the weakness of the case against his clients. "As far as I am concerned, this is the end of the line for the city," he said.
As of mid-January, landlords in Santa Monica have filed notices of intent to take about 175 units off the market under the Ellis Act.
Before the act went into effect, a Santa Monica landlord could evict all the tenants in a building only if the Rent Control Board found that the building was uninhabitable and beyond repair.