‘Single family’ zoning restrictions lifted, Supreme Court review remains

Effective immediately, more than three unrelated people can lease a home together in a Baton Rouge residential neighborhood.

In April, state District Judge Janice Clark ruled that the city-parish’s housing ordinance restricting unrelated people from renting together in areas zoned A-1 residential is unconstitutional and unenforceable.

Following the ruling, the city-parish filed a request that the ruling be suspended until the Supreme Court is able to rule on the appeal.

On Friday, Clark denied the request.

“Her judgment goes into effect immediately,” said attorney Grant Guillot, who represented property owner Steve Myers in the case. “Now there’s no procedural mechanism in place requiring landlords to determine a familial connection.”

Guillot noted that the fall semester is about to begin for local colleges and universities and this is an ordinance that has previously targeted many college students wishing to rent a home together.

Myers, a landlord and candidate in the 2012 mayoral race, sued the city-parish last year over its zoning regulation concerning neighborhoods zoned A-1 residential, which according to the Unified Development Code, must be occupied by a “single family.”

Family is defined in the code as “an individual or two or more persons who are related by blood, marriage or legal adoption living together.”

Myers’ attorneys in January argued in court that the ordinance prevented alternative family structures including foster parenting and gay couples with children from living together.

Myers also said the law violates the constitutional rights of privacy, association and equal protection.

While Clark’s ruling is currently in effect, it could be reversed later by the Louisiana Supreme Court.

The case will bypass the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals and go directly to the state Supreme Court because the ordinance was ruled unconstitutional.

Paul Naquin, who lives on Morning Glory Avenue in the Southdowns neighborhood, said he is hopeful the Supreme Court will overturn Clark’s decision and allow the city-parish to maintain its zoning rule.

“Steve Myers cares nothing about families, he doesn’t care about neighborhoods or people,” Naquin said. “The only thing he cares about is his wallet.”

Naquin reported Myers to the city-parish for violating the ordinance by allowing unrelated people to live in a Cherrydale Avenue house.

He said Myers paved the front yard to create additional parking for his tenants.

“He cemented the whole front yard,” he said. “It looks like a commercial parking lot.”

Guillot said he expects, but cannot be certain, that the Supreme Court will hear the case by early next year.