Posted by: Patricia Salkin | September 26, 2016

3rd Circuit Court of Appeals Upholds Dismissal of Equal Protection and Due Process Claims

Parker Avenue, L.P. (“Parker”) owns land in the City of Philadelphia upon which it has sought to build 48 semi-detached residential units for about 10 years. Parker obtained the necessary approvals and clearances from the City and the Commonwealth but the development has been thwarted by the City Council’s failure to pass an ordinance to pave Cinnaminson Street, which would provide the necessary ingress to and egress from the property, due to neighbor opposition.  Although Parker met with the neighbors and attempted to address concerns, nothing happened.  Parker introduced evidence that all of the other paving ordinances that had been introduced had passed, and that therefore it was treated differently from other similarly situated landowners.  Parker specifically claimed that the court below applied the wrong standard to its Equal Protection claim.  The Circuit Court noted that, “In order to maintain a “class of one” equal protection claim, a plaintiff must allege that it “has been intentionally treated differently from others similarly situated and that there is no rational basis for the difference in treatment.” Vill. of Willowbrook v. Olech, 528 U.S. 562, 564 (2000), and found that the court correctly applied the standard.  This issue was that instead of stating “others similarly situated,” the District Court stated “all others similarly situated,” and Parker claimed the word “all” suggested the imposition of an “impossible burden” of identifying every other similarly situated party and then demonstrating differential treatment. The Court found however that the reason for the dismissal was not failure to identify all other similarly situated landowners, but rather it was because Parker failed to allege it was treated differently from landowners who were “alike in all relevant aspects.”

Parker also claimed the District Court erred in dismissing its substantive due process claim because the City’s failure to authorize the paving of Cinnaminson Street was arbitrary and irrational conduct that “shocks the conscience.”  The Court noted that Parker concedes that the City has the authority to enact ordinances based on competing interests, and Parker never alleged that the City’s decision was  irrational and arbitrary.  The Circuit Court said, “Far from shocking the conscience, the amended complaint alleges local legislative judgment that appears to be rationally related to the concerns of some constituents.”

Parker Avenue, L.P. V City of Philadelphia, 2016 WL 5335023 (3rd Cir. 9/23/2016)

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