Hernandez v. City of Hanford, Supreme Court of California (2007)

In 1989, the City of Hanford amended its general plan to create an new commercial district, known as the Planned Commercial or PC district, intended to accommodate the location of malls, big box stores, and other retail uses. In order to protect the economic viability of Hanford’s downtown commercial district, which features regionally well-regarded furniture stores, the ordinance prohibited furniture stores and the sale of furniture in the new PC district. In the 1989 ordinance, department stores and the sale of home furnishings were permitted uses, though these uses were not specifically defined, nor was whether department stores would be permitted to sell furniture. From the outset, department stores in the PC district did sell some types of furniture. In 2002, the plaintiffs Adrian and Tracy Hernandez leased space in the PC district with the intent to establish a store selling mattresses, home accessories, and some bedroom furniture. Prior to the opening of the store, Tracy Hernandez was informed by Jim Beath, the city’s community development director, that the proposed store could not sell furniture, which was reiterated by the city-issued certificate of occupancy. In November 2002, the city adopted an amendment to its general plan and zoning ordinance, including a revision to the permitted uses in the PC district, changing the term “home furnishings” to “home furnishing accessories (not furniture).” The plaintiffs opened the store and were cited by a city inspector for violating the zoning ordinance by selling furniture, and were instructed to remove all furniture from the store. The plaintiffs thereafter sent a letter to the Hanford City Council, complaining that the zoning code was being applied in a discriminator manner, since numerous department stores within the PC district were selling furniture and had not been cited. Spurred by the letter, the city council adopted the ordinance now in question, Ordinance No. 03-03, in July 2003. The ordinance contains the following:
· Department store is defined as a retail store of at least 50,000 square feet. Department stores in the PC district may sell furniture in one location have no more than 2,500 square feet of floor space.
· The sale of furniture is prohibited in the PC district except by department stores in accordance with the definition.
Shortly after the ordinance was enacted, the plaintiffs filed the present action with the city, contending that the ordinance was invalid because it was enacted for the primary purpose of regulating economic competition and because it violated the equal protection clauses of the federal and state constitutions.
[Seeking injunction? Not clear what the “present action” is.]

The trial court rejected the constitutional challenge and upheld the validity of the ordinance, but the Court of Appeal reversed the decision.

Is the regulation by a municipality of retail establishments based on building square footage in a commercial district a constitutional use of police power or does it violate the equal protection clauses?
Other pieces that may or may not be necessary:
In order to protect or preserve the economic viability of a retail district…
In order to attract and retain a type of retailer in a given district…

The decision rendered by the Court of Appeal was reversed. The ordinance was upheld.

The zoning ordinance serves two rational and legitimate purposes:
1. The objective of protecting and preserving the economic viability of the city’s downtown commercial district by generally prohibiting the sale of furniture within the PC district
2. The objective of attracting to, and retaining within, the city’s PC district the type of large department stores (which generally carry furniture) that the city views as essential to the economic viability of the PC district.
Restricting the sale of furniture within the PC district to sales by large department stores is rationally related to the second objective.