City and County of San Francisco
ffice of the City Attorney
March 14, 2007
TO: Amiee Albertson
Mayor's Office of Legislative Affairs
FROM: Mary Jane Winslow
RE: SB 376(Migden) unfair competition: actions by city attorneys
Summary: SB 376 amends existing law to expressly provide standing to any city attorney to bring an unfair competition action with permission of the district atttorney under Section 17200 of the Business and Professions Code.
Background and Impact on San Francisco: Currently, Section 17204 provides standing to the City Attorney to bring actions of unfair competition on behalf of the City and County. This standing is conditioned on San Francisco's population being in excess of 750,000.
The San Francisco City Attorney's Office repeatedly faces attacks on San Francisco's claim that it has 750,000 persons and the City Attorney's standing under Section 17204. The defense bar has introduced U.S. Census estimates stating that San Francisco's current population has dipped below 750,000 persons and "experts" that claim that San Francisco's population has dropped dramatically, because of the "dotcom bust."
Also, the California Supreme Court has held that a plaintiff must demonstrate standing during all phases of a proceeding (Californians For Disability Rights v. Meryvn's, LLC (2006) 39 Cal. 4th 223.)
The California Department of Finance has documented the population of San Francisco to be more than 750,000 each year over the last ten years. Two trial courts have upheld the City Attorney's standing on the basis of this data. However, no appellate court has addressed the issue whether the U.S. Census data or California Department of Finance data, or some other data source, controls. SB 376 resolves these issues by eliminating the requirement of a population in excess of 750,000 as a condition for standing of a city attorney to prosecute unfair competition actions. Passage of SB 376 would also eliminate the need for resources to be used to defend the San Francisco City Attorney's standing.
Unfair competition is often a cause of action in code enforcement cases that involve businesses. For example, property owners who maintain substandard housing, owners of nightclubs that are nuisances, and owners of residential hotels that fail to comply with local fire sprinkler requirements. The strong injunctive provisions of Section 17200 cases are particularly effective in these types of cases that effect the life and safety of people who live in San Francisco.