Furniture store lawsuit alleges ‘size’ discrimination

Like many small towns, the City of Hanford wanted to retain its prosperous downtown commercial area without discouraging “big box” stores such as Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Sears and Target from opening in planned commercial (PC) zones.

Hanford’s downtown has 12 furniture stores. To discourage these stores from moving out to the PC area near the big stores, the city council enacted an ordinance allowing PC zone furniture sales only in stores with at least 50,000 square feet and furniture sales areas not exceeding 2,500 square feet.

PurchaseBob Bruss reports online.

Adrian and Tracy Hernandez owned a downtown furniture store, but they decided to open a Country Hutch Home Furnishings and Mattress Gallery store in the PC zone. Their store was far less than 50,000 square feet.

When the City of Hanford issued their occupancy permit, they were warned they could not sell furniture at their modest-size new store in the PC zone. They brought this lawsuit to challenge the constitutionality of the ordinance that was designed to preserve the downtown furniture store district.

If you were the judge would you rule the city ordinance was unconstitutional by discriminating against small furniture stores?

The judge said no!

“The ordinance was intended to serve multiple purposes: to protect the economic health and viability of the city’s downtown furniture stores, but to do so in a manner that did not threaten or detract from the city’s ability to attract and retain large department stores in the PC district,” the judge explained.

This zoning ordinance is constitutional under the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution, the judge ruled, because it has a legitimate economic purpose of preserving the downtown furniture stores while limiting furniture sales of large department stores in the PC zone. Therefore, Adrian and Tracy Hernandez can be prohibited from selling furniture at their small store in the PC district, the judge concluded.

Based on the 2007 California Supreme Court decision in Hernandez v. City of Hanford, 59 Cal.Rptr.3d 442.

(For more information on Bob Bruss publications, visit his
Real Estate Center

Copyright 2007 Inman News

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