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Benetatos v. City of Los Angeles

235 Cal. App. 4th 1270 (2015)

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Benetatos v. City of Los Angeles

California Court of Appeal

235 Cal. App. 4th 1270 (2015)

Facts

Jack Benetatos and Nick Benetatos (the owners) (plaintiffs) owned and operated Tam’s Burgers No. 6 (Tam’s), a 24-hour fast-food restaurant in the City of Los Angeles (defendant). In November 2011, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) informed Jack that there had been complaints of nuisance activities at Tam’s and that the LAPD had initiated a preliminary nuisance investigation. The nuisance activities included prostitution, drug activity, and loitering. In June 2012, an investigator from the city visited Tam’s and issued a report about the poor status of the property. The report included details about serious issues with crime and nuisance activities at Tam’s, including two homicides. Two weeks later, the city planning department’s zoning administrator held a hearing (an administrative nuisance-abatement proceeding) to determine whether Tam’s constituted a public nuisance and whether to impose operating conditions on Tam’s pursuant to Los Angeles Municipal Code section 12.27.1. The owners agreed to comply with several operating conditions suggested by the city, but they refused several others such as prohibiting loitering on the property, hiring a security guard, and reducing the restaurant’s hours of operation. In October 2012, the zoning administrator issued a decision regarding Tam’s, determining that Tam’s was a public nuisance and imposing 22 operating conditions on Tam’s. The conditions included hiring a security guard and barring access to the property to people involved with drugs or prostitution. The owners appealed the zoning administrator’s determination to the city council. Testimony on appeal indicated that Tam’s was an anchor of criminal activity in the area rather than merely caught in the crossfire of a troubled area. Notably, other nearby Tam’s franchises did not face the same issues with criminal activity. The city council denied the appeal. In January 2013, the owners filed a petition for writ of mandate, seeking that the city’s nuisance determination be set aside. The owners alleged that the city was improperly holding them responsible for criminal activity unrelated to the sale of food at their restaurant. The trial court denied the petition and found that there was substantial evidence supporting the city’s determination that the operation of Tam’s served as an anchor for criminal activity and constituted a public nuisance. The owners appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Mosk, J.)

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