Lawsuit Challenges Measure L, San Leandro's 'Split Roll' School Parcel Tax

Lawsuit seeks to invalidate the $2.4 million voter-approved measure because it would impose different taxes on homes, apartment buildings and commercial properties.


The San Leandro Unified School District is headed to court in a case that will have a $2.4 million impact on local students and teachers and ripple effects throughout the state.

The case revolves around Measure L, the parcel tax that two-thirds of the voters in the District approved in a cliff-hanger election in November.

Measure L is designed to raise $2.4 million for local public schools through a five-year increase in property taxes. 

But a lawsuit filed in Alameda County Superior Court earlier this month challenges the measure's taxing formula.

The lawsuit's rationale is that Measure L would impose different charges on single family homes, apartment complexes and commercial properties.

Measure L would assess homes up to four units $39 per parcel; apartments with 5 units or more would be assessed $19 per unit; and commercial properties would be required to pay an additional 2 cents per square foot of land.

The lawsuit against the San Leandro school board was filed on behalf of Williams Properties, a partnership that owns an industrial property that runs from 2055 to 2066 Williams Street.

School District Superintent Cindy Cathey said she and the board were studying the lawsuit and planning how to defend the measure that was put over the top by an extraordinary effort by students, teachers and community members.

The legal issue is splitting the roll

When a different formula is used to asses different types of property lawyers call this a "split roll" tax.

California courts have been debating whether split roll taxes were allowable since 2008 when Alameda voters approved a similar split roll tax.

It was challenged in Alameda County Superior Court.

School authorities in Alameda won the first round when a trial judge upheld the validity of the tax.

But the challenger won a California Court of Appeals decision that said splitting the rolls was forbidden under state law.

Earlier this month the Court of Appeal decided to review its own decision, leaving the legality of split roll parcel taxes up in the air for now.

What happens now?

The San Leandro lawsuit is likely to remain on the back burner until the Appeals Court completes its review of the Alameda decision and tells trial courts -- like the one that will hear the local case -- whether or not it's okay to split the rolls.

Depending on what the Appeals Court decides the pending case could have big ramifications for San Leandro schools.

The lawsuit seeks to invalidate Measure L in its entirety. It asks the courts to rule that the increases should be "deemed invalid as to all taxpayers" -- effectively subtracting $2.4 million from future district budgets.

Justin Agrella January 28, 2013 at 04:58 PM
Illegally written, illegally passed and now doomed to legally fail. Good!


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