Two years ago, more than 2500 voters signed a petition for referendum after the City of Morgan Hill rezoned land to provide a financial windfall to an out-of-town hotel developer. Instead of allowing the referendum to take place, the City of Morgan Hill successfully persuaded a trial court judge to remove the referendum measure from the ballot. Panwala had successfully obtained a stay of the trial court’s ruling from the Court of Appeal despite the fact that such writs are only successful less than five percent of the time.
Today in front of the Sixth District Court of Appeal, Panwala argued on behalf the voters and asserted their Constitutional right to exercise the power of referendum had been violated by the City. He argued that preventing voters from rejecting one specific zoning designation when others would equally conform general plan would render their right to referendum meaningless. He pointed out that the City could choose from eleven other commercial zoning options if the voters failed to approve of the City’s choice of zoning.
The City argued that the voters had to accept their choice of zoning because the status quo was inconsistent, and therefore invalid.
Panwala told the Court that after the trial court removed the measure, his father told him that he signed the petition, and asked, “Doesn’t that mean something?” Panwala then suggested to the Court that it had the power to say that it did.
The Court is expected to issue a decision in the next ninety days.
The Law Office of Asit Panwala is committed to social justice including our right to participate as voters.