IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
November 4, 2011
CMR D.N. CORP. AND MARINA TOWERS LTD. T/AWATERFRONT RENAISSANCE ASSOCIATES, PLAINTIFFS
CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Stengel, J.
This case involves a private real estate developer's efforts to build a World Trade Center along the Delaware River in Philadelphia. The developer, Waterfront Renaissance Association ("WRA"), contends the City thwarted the project by changing its zoning laws and by imposing certain unfair requirements through its Planning Commission. Several claims have already been dismissed. The parties filed cross motions for summary judgment on Count XVI, which alleges the City's Central Delaware Riverfront Overlay District and plan of development regulations are unconstitutional. The City also seeks summary judgment on WRA's promissory estoppel and detrimental reliance claims (Count III and IV) and WRA's claim for Unjust Enrichment (Count VIII). For the reasons discussed in this memorandum opinion, I will grant the City's motions and deny the Plaintiff's.
Waterfront Renaissance Associates is a Pennsylvania limited partnership seeking to develop a "major World Trade Center" located at 400-456 North Columbus Boulevard, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. From 1987 through 1989, Waterfront Renaissance negotiated with the City of Philadelphia Planning Commission to re-zone the site to C-4 zoning. In 1989, WRA met with three civic associations, which led to an agreement whereby the Civic Associations would support re-zoning the site to C-4 to enable the development of the WRA project in return for a twenty-year Zoning Covenant from WRA. Under the Zoning Covenant, WRA agreed to certain design specifications to address concerns raised by the Civic Associations. In return, the Civic Association Defendants agreed to "support and assist the Covenanter [WRA] in obtaining any and all permits and variances that may be necessary to use and/or develop said premises in accordance with the below listed restrictions and conditions." (Doc. #211*fn1 at ¶ 48).
In March 2001, after a series of cooperative efforts involving the Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA), WRA and the City, the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development granted Keystone Opportunity Zone ("KOZ") status to WRA's site, and eleven and a half (11.5) acres of City-owned property around it. KOZ status confers tax abatements at the state and local levels for qualified businesses that lease real property in the KOZ. The KOZ distinction made the property more valuable and would, presumably, attract new businesses to the site. WRA expended resources to obtain the application, including hiring a lobbyist, Steven Wojcik and Associates, to promote the granting of KOZ status. (Oral Argument Transcript Doc. #239 at 34 ¶¶ 17-25).
On March 5, 2009, Philadelphia City Councilman Frank DiCicco introduced Bill 090170-A, which the City Council approved, to create a zoning overlay ("CRO") for the Central Delaware Riverfront Overlay District.*fn2 WRA's site is within this overlay district and the requirements of the overlay district complicated the RA project. On April 20, 2010, the Planning Commission adopted regulations to implement the Plan of Development process (the "POD Regulations"). (Doc. #211 at ¶ 180e). The POD is submitted in order that the Planning Commission can ensure accordance with the overall planning strategy for the Central Delaware Riverfront.
On September 16, 2010, the Planning Commission filed the revised POD Regulations with the Philadelphia Department of Records. The revised POD Regulations became effective at midnight on September 27, 2010 pursuant to Section 8-407 of the Philadelphia City Charter. (Doc. #211 at ¶ 304). Subsection 13 of the CRO states that the Planning Commission shall approve a POD "only if the Commission has determined, in its discretion, that the Plan of Development provides for development appropriate in scale, density, character and use for the surrounding community." (Doc. #211 at ¶ 311; Exhibit J at 5-6). The parties' main contention is whether the CRO and POD Regulations are overly vague or result in arbitrary and capricious application.
WRA commenced this civil action in February 2007 by filing a fourteen-count complaint in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County against the City of Philadelphia, the Civic Associations for the surrounding neighborhoods, and a number of individual defendants. The defendants removed the case to this court on March 15, 2007. The original Complaint challenged a March 2006 ordinance that extended a 65 foot height restriction to the area north of Old City, which included property owned by Waterfront Renaissance.
The individual defendants were dismissed on 12(b)(6) motions, which left only the claims against the Civic Association and the City. Waterfront Renaissance Assocs. v. City of Philadelphia, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 25868 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 31, 2008). In 2011, the Civic Associations' Motion for Summary Judgment was granted. CMR D.N. Corp. v. City of Phila., 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 25392 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 10, 2011). Additionally, in 2011, the constitutional challenge to the March 2006 ordinance was dismissed as moot. CMR D.N. Corp. v. City of Phila., 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 25387 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 10, 2011).
WRA has since filed an amended complaint solely against the City of Philadelphia challenging the new ordinance and the POD and maintaining claims for promissory estoppel and unjust enrichment. (Doc. #211). The City then filed a motion for summary judgment on July 29, 2011 (Doc. #223*fn3 ). That same day WRA filed a partial motion for summary judgment on Count XVI (Doc. #224*fn4 ). The motions are well and fully briefed and I had the benefit of hearing oral argument on the motions from counsel.
Summary judgment is appropriate "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a). A dispute is "genuine" when "a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party" based on the evidence in the record. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A factual dispute is "material" when it "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Id.
A party seeking summary judgment initially bears responsibility for informing the court of the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the record that "it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Where the non-moving party bears the burden of proof on a particular issue at trial, the moving party's initial Celotex burden can be met simply by demonstrating to the district court that "there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325. After the moving party has met its initial burden, the adverse party's response "must -- by affidavits or as otherwise provided in this rule -- set out specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(e)(2). Summary judgment is therefore appropriate when the non-moving party fails to rebut by making a factual showing that is "sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322.
Under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the court must draw "all justifiable inferences" in favor of the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. The court must decide "not whether . . . the evidence unmistakably favors one side or the other but whether a fair-minded jury could return a verdict for the plaintiff on the evidence presented." Id. at 252. If the non-moving party has produced more than a "mere scintilla of evidence" demonstrating a genuine issue of material fact, then the court may not credit the moving party's "version of events against the opponent, even if the quantity of the [moving party's] evidence far outweighs that of its opponent." Big Apple BMW, Inc. v. BMW of N. Am., Inc., 974 F.2d 1358, 1363 (3d Cir. 1992).
A. Constitutional Claims
The plaintiff contends the Central Riverfront Overlay District ("CRO") regulations and the Planning Commission's Plan of Development ("POD") provisions are unconstitutional. Specifically, WRA alleges the CRO and the POD regulations violate the principles of substantive due process and equal protection. The City contends that these claims are not ripe and have no merit.
The ripeness doctrine "serves to determine whether a party has brought an action prematurely[.]" Khodara Envtl. Inc. v. Blakey, 376 F.3d 187, 196 (3d Cir. 2004). In land-use cases, a property owner's constitutional claim will not be ripe until the zoning authorities have had an opportunity to arrive at a final, definitive position regarding the application of the regulations at issue. See Sameric Corp. of DE v. City of Philadelphia, 142 F.3d 582 (3d Cir. 1998); Acierno v. Mitchell, 6 F.3d 970, 975 (3d Cir. 1993); Hoehne v. Cnty of San Benito, 870 F.2d 529, 533 (9th Cir.1989). Under this "finality rule," a plaintiff property owner must prove that a "final decision has been reached by the agency before it may seek compensatory or injunctive relief in federal court on federal constitutional grounds." Acierno, 6 F.3d at 975. The finality rule, however, does not apply to facial challenges because a facial challenge argues "any application of the regulation is unconstitutional."*fn5 Cnty Concrete Corp., 442 F.3d at 164; See also Cornell Cos. v. Borough of New Morgan, 512 F. Supp. 2d 238, 256 (E.D. Pa. 2007) (stating that "[f]acial attacks on a zoning ordinance[s] . do not implicate ripeness concerns"). Additionally, in Cnty Concrete, the Third Circuit held that when a plaintiff facially attacks an ordinance the cause of action is ripe, even if the plaintiff did not seek a variance from the zoning ordinance. Cnty Concrete, 442 F.3d at 256.
WRA asserts a claim against a provision of the ordinance, which requires developers to submit a POD to the Planning Commission for approval.*fn6 WRA alleges that the language in the ordinance results in ad hoc application and that the approval process acts as a bar to development. (Doc. #211 at ¶ 334). Plaintiffs also challenge the ordinance facially, i.e., they allege that, in all of its possible applications the ordinance is arbitrary, capricious, and not rationally related to any legitimate government interest. The City argues that the finality rule should apply in this case because "unlike the ordinances in Cornell and Cnty Concrete, there is nothing on the face of the CRO that prohibits WRA from proceeding with its development." *fn7 (Doc #223 at 8).
The fact that WRA asserts a facial challenge to the ordinance meets the basic test to withstand summary judgment on this issue because the Third Circuit has held that facial challenges to ordinances ripen at the time of enactment. See County Concrete Corp., 442 F.3d at 164. Even if WRA did not seek a variance from the zoning ordinance, the Third Circuit has maintained that this type of facial attack is ripe for adjudication. See Id. at 256. Accordingly, the finality rule does not apply to plaintiff's substantive due process challenge to the zoning ordinance asserted on the theory that the law as a whole is arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable, and Count XV is ripe for federal court review.
1. Substantive Due Process
The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits
deprivations "of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." U.S. Const. amend. XIV, § 1. To prevail on a substantive due process claim, a Plaintiff must demonstrate that an arbitrary and capricious act deprived him of a protected property interest. *fn8 Cnty Concrete Corp., 442 F.3d at 165 (citing Taylor Inv., Ltd. v. Upper Darby Twp, 983 F.2d 1285, 1292 (3d Cir. 1993)). Additionally, the Plaintiff must show that the law is not rationally related to a legitimate state interest. Pace Resources, Inc. v. Shrewsbury Twp, 808 F.2d 1023, 1034 (3d Cir. 1987). In the context of constitutional challenges to land use laws, the Third Circuit has held that "unless defendants' actions were 'completely unrelated in any way to a rational land use goal' there is no [substantive due process] violation." Corneal v. Jackson Township, 94 Fed. Appx. 76, 2004 WL 790315 (3d Cir. 2004) (citing Cnty of Sacramento v. Lewis, 523 U.S. 833, 846 (1998)).
A second way to prevail on a claim that an ordinance is unconstitutional requires a plaintiff to demonstrate that that an enactment is void for vagueness. It is a basic principle of due process that an enactment is void for vagueness if its prohibitions are not clearly defined.*fn9 Grayned v. City of Rockford, 408 U.S. 104, 108-09 (1972). However, the Supreme Court has held that regulations are not unconstitutionally vague where one "may have the ability to clarify the meaning of a regulation by [his] own inquiry, or by resort to administrative process." Hoffman Estates v. Flip-side, Hoffman Estates, 455 U.S. 489, 497-99 (1982). See also Price v. Smith, 416 Pa. 560, 566 (1965) (the phrase "the character of the neighborhood" was "not so vague and indefinite that uniform application could not be assured.").
WRA alleges that the CRO and POD regulations violate the principle of
substantive due process because the review is impermissibly vague, is
arbitrary and capricious, and is unrelated to any legitimate planning
purpose.*fn10 (Doc. #233 at 9-10).*fn11
WRA argues that the CRO fails to explain how the scale,
density, character, and use that are appropriate for the surrounding
community differ from the scale, density, character, and use that are
permitted by a property's base zoning. Additionally, WRA alleges that,
although the City states it does not add additional restrictions
outside of the existing zoning, the CRO includes regulations, such as
the terms "appropriateness" *fn12 for the "surrounding community," which it fails to define using any objective
#229 at 3).*fn14
The City alleges that WRA has no vested property interest and, therefore, cannot allege a substantive due process violation.*fn15 Moreover, the City argues that even if WRA could allege a substantive due process claim, it would fail on the merits because the ordinance did not deprive WRA of all economically viable use of its property. See Hodel v. Virginia Surface Mining & Reclamation Assn., Inc., 452 U.S. 264, 297 (1981). The City argues that the Civic Vision*fn16 read in conjunction with the zoning ordinance, the
POD standards, and the legislative findings and definitions*fn17 is not vague and that those documents provide constitutionally valid guidance to property owners. *fn18 (Doc. #228 at 10).*fn19 An approved POD is one that is consistent with the site's underlying zoning and its surrounding community within the CRO boundaries, and does not conflict with the goals and purposes of the Civic Vision. (Doc. #228 at 35). Finally, the City argues that "it is patently rational for the City to require developers to submit their plans to the Planning Commission to ensure the integrity and consistency of the pending Plan."*fn20
(Doc. #223 at 8).
The City's ordinance appears to be rationally related to the goal of the integrity and consistency of appropriate development. WRA has failed to produce any evidence to the contrary. Its only argument is that the structure of the CRO would allow for nothing other than arbitrary and subjective approval because the ordinance does not define its terms using objective criteria. There is simply no merit to the "impermissible discretion" argument. It would be impossible for a zoning ordinance to identify specifically each and every permitted use. A degree of discretion is necessary and is entirely consistent with the long history of land use law in Pennsylvania. Such discretion does not render the zoning ordinance unconstitutionally vague. *fn21
WRA had fair notice that the property was subject to a zoning ordinance. The ordinance in question contains standards and uses which are appropriately delineated in commonplace terms and categories. The POD also references specific legislative findings that further clarify those standards. WRA has not alleged actions taken by the City for reasons unrelated to land use planning, nor have they provided evidence of any bad motives that suggest the City's actions were unrelated to land use. Further, the CRO does not place any restrictions on WRA as to the use of its property outside of its zoning ordinance. (Doc. #223 at 10). While WRA's use of the property is limited by the zoning code, it certainly is not deprived of all economically viable use for its property.
i. Delegation to Planning Commission
Generally, the Fourteenth Amendment protects individuals only against
government action, unless the state has delegated authority to a private party, thereby making the actor a "state actor" and implicating the Due Process Clause. See Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass'n v. Tarkanian, 488 U.S. 179, 195 (1988). The Due Process Clause limits the manner and extent to which a state legislature may delegate legislative authority to a private party acting as a state actor. See, e.g., Yick Wo v. Hopkins, 118 U.S. 356, 373-74 (1886); West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 56 (1988). Only if the state legislature imposes sufficient limitations is the exercise of authority by the private party constitutional. See, e.g., Seattle Title Trust Co. v. Roberge, 278 U.S. 116, 121-22 (1928) (concluding that the delegation of zoning power to individual landowners violated the due process clause because the ordinance allowed no opportunity for review and left the private parties free to withhold consent for selfish or arbitrary reasons based on will or caprice), but see Gilligan v. Pa. Horse Racing Comm'n, 422 A.2d 487, 489 (Pa. 1980) (quoting Belovsky v. Redevelopment Authority, 54 A.2d 277, 284 (Pa. 1947) (stating the legislative body "may establish primary standards and impose upon others the duty to carry out the declared legislative policy in accordance with the general provisions of the act.").
Such delegated authority includes the ability to disseminate regulations so long as "(1) the basic policy choices [are] made by the Legislature; and (2) the 'legislation [contains] adequate standards which will guide and restrain the exercise of the delegated administrative functions.'" Gilligan, 422 A.2d 489 (quoting Chartiers Valley Joint School Dist. v. Cnty Board of School Dirs., 211 A.2d 487, 493 (Pa. 1965)).
WRA argues that nothing in the City Charter authorizes the Planning Commission to make zoning decisions. (Doc. #229 at 10). It argues that the CRO requires the Planning Commission to "second-guess" the zoning established by the City Council based on vague and undefined criteria. Id. at 12-13. The City argues the improper delegation claim fails because the POD standard was set by City Council and the ordinance at issue expresses only basic policy decisions and provides eight "Legislative Findings" that address the specific objectives of the overlay. (Doc. #228 at 36). (Doc. #223 at 15); Section 14-1638(1)(a)-(1)(h). Furthermore, the City argues that the ordinance provides standards because the Plan must "provide for development appropriate in scale, density, character and use for the surrounding community." Id.; Section 14-1638(12)(a).
WRA fails to supply evidence demonstrating that the Planning Commission was delegated impermissible power or that the statute is void of ascertainable standards against which a court may measure the Commission's exercise of discretion. The limitations on a legislative body's ability to delegate do not mean that each and every detail must be enumerated. See Hospital Ass'n of Pennsylvania v. MacLeod, 410 A.2d 731 (Pa. 1980). The ordinance sets forth eight findings that address the purpose of the overlay area. The stated objectives and purpose of the overlay area, including maintaining the City's vision, encouraging a variety of uses, and driving economic growth, are set forth in detail in the ordinance. See Philadelphia Code, § 14-1638(1)(a)-(1)(h). Accordingly, there is no evidence that the Planning Commission is creating zoning legislation.
2. Equal Protection
The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment provides that "[n]o state . . . shall deny any person within its jurisdiction equal protection of the laws." U.S. Const. amend. XIV. "To bring a successful claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for a denial of equal protection, plaintiffs must prove the existence of purposeful discrimination. To the extent Plaintiffs allege discrimination by Defendants solely by treating similarly situated individuals more favorably, they must demonstrate that they 'received different treatment from that received by other individuals similarly situated.'" Keenan v. City of Phila., 983 F.2d 459, 465 (3d Cir. 1992) (citing Andrews v. City of Phila., 895 F.2d 1469, 1478 (3d Cir. 1990)); and Cnty Concrete, 442 F.3d at 167 (stating the test for a facial equal protection challenge to land-use regulations is the arbitrary differential treatment of similarly situated property owners).
Thus, the "first inquiry a court must make in an equal protection challenge to a zoning ordinance is to examine whether the complaining party is similarly situated" to other uses that are permitted. Congregation Kol Ami v. Abington Twp., 309 F.3d 120, 137 (3d Cir. 2002). If the entities are similarly situated, then the City must justify its different treatment of the two under the rational basis test. Rogin v. Bensalem Twp., 616 F.2d 680, 6898 (3d Cir. 1980). Under rational basis, the burden is on the party challenging the validity of the ordinance to establish that the statute is unconstitutional. FCC v. Beach Communs, Inc., 508 U.S. 307, 314-15 (1993). The party defending the constitutionality of the action need only demonstrate some legitimate justification that motivated the action. Id. at 315.*fn22
WRA alleges that the CRO and POD regulations violate equal protection
because the standards are impermissibly vague and indefinite and
invite ad hoc regulation and impermissible discrimination.*fn23
WRA claims that the City sought to deprive them of the use of
their property, by arbitrarily and selectively extending the Overlay
to target their development, but not other similarly situated
properties.*fn24 (Doc #211 at ¶ 15).
There is simply no evidence that Defendants targeted WRA for disparate enforcement of the ordinance. Additionally, WRA has not met the burden to establish there is no rational basis for the City's actions. The City contends that the ordinance "is established to protect the existing characteristics of the built and natural environment that are essential to achieving the working guidelines of the Civic Vision, adopted by the Philadelphia City Planning Commission on April 21, 2009, while a Master Plan for the area is developed." Additionally, the City articulated that "The purpose of the Central Delaware Riverfront Overlay is to provide development guidance and controls during the period in which a public policy master plan is prepared for the Central Delaware Riverfront."*fn25 These reasons are certainly rationally related to a legitimate state interest.
B. Promissory Estoppel and Detrimental Reliance "The doctrine of promissory estoppel allows a party, under certain circumstances,
to enforce a promise even though that promise is not supported by consideration." Shoemaker v. Commonwealth Bank, 700 A.2d 1003, 1006 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1997). In Pennsylvania, the doctrine of promissory estoppel involves three elements: (1) the promisor made a promise that he should have reasonably expected to induce action or forbearance on the part of the promisee; (2) the promisee actually took action or refrained from taking action in reliance on the promise; and (3) injustice can be avoided only by enforcing the promise. Jodek Charitable Trust, R.A. v. Vertical Net Inc., 412 F. Supp. 2d 469, 478 (E.D. Pa. 2006).
Under Pennsylvania law, plaintiff need not allege the exact, express "promise" in order to state a cause of action for promissory estoppel. See, e.g., Cornell Cos, Inc. v. Borough of New Morgan, 512 F. Supp. 2d 238, 266 (E.D. Pa. 2007); Straup v. Times Herald, 283 Pa. Super. 58, 423 A.2d 713, 720 (Pa. Super. 1980) (describing promissory estoppel as "a flexible doctrine, to be applied . . . as the equities between the parties preponderate"). However, a broad and vague implied promise is not enough to satisfy the first element. Ankerstjerne v. Schlumberger Ltd., 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 9927, *14 (E.D. Pa. 2004) (citing C & K Petroleum Prods., Inc. v. Equibank, 839 F.2d 188, 192 (3d Cir. 1988)).
WRA claims that over a period of almost 20 years, the City encouraged and materially supported WRA's Project, by brokering the Zoning Covenant,*fn26 re-zoning the Site to C-4 without height restrictions, applying to the Commonwealth alongside WRA to include the Site in a KOZ, and promoting a public/private partnership between WRA and DRPA.*fn27 (Doc #229 at 17-20). WRA further alleges that it incurred substantial expenses in reliance on the City's representations, including designing, engineering, and promoting the project and transferring its exclusive World Trade Center license. Id. at 19. These actions were well known to and often in conjunction with the City, in an effort to advance development of the Site.
The City contends that its "mere encouragement" is not sufficient to support a promissory estoppel claim.*fn28 It alleges there are no genuine issues of material fact that the City "clearly expressed an intention to be bound" by its actions. (Doc. # 223 at 21). The City also notes that WRA's reliance on the City's support was not justified because
WRA had notice of required procedures for development approval and WRA made no effort to inquire. Id. at 23-24.
The Plaintiff has been unable to articulate a valid and enforceable promise.*fn29 I
find there is insufficient evidence in the record of a promise to support a promissory estoppel claim. WRA insists that it never alleged the actionable promise was to enforce C-4 zoning in perpetuity, as the City argues. Certainly the City could not promise, and WRA could not expect a promise, to maintain a specific zoning classification "in perpetuity." WRA characterizes the City's "promise" as a broad, amorphous commitment to "not enact an unconstitutional law." We can assume the converse of that also to be true: that the City will consider itself obligated to pass only constitutional laws. For the plaintiff to suggest the City would intentionally pass a law that it knows will be held unconstitutional is unrealistic. As the plaintiff well knows, the constitutionality of a law is for the courts and it is sometimes difficult for a legislative body, say for example the Philadelphia City Council, to always predict whether a particular ordinance will pass constitutional muster. A promise to always pass constitutional laws is at worst unreliable and at best unreasonable and unenforceable. No such promise could be made and no such promise was made in this case. I find that the CRO and POD regulations in this case are, in fact, constitutional and thus the City did not "break a promise" by enacting unconstitutional laws. The City's "promise" to support WRA's site development, cannot constitute a promise that a court is capable of enforcing. Therefore, I will grant the City's Motion for Summary Judgment as to Counts III and IV of Plaintiffs' Complaint.
C. Unjust Enrichment
Under Pennsylvania law, a claim of unjust enrichment must allege the following elements: (1) plaintiff conferred a benefit on the defendant; (2) the defendant appreciated the benefit; and (3) acceptance and retention by the defendant of the benefits, under the circumstances, would make it inequitable for the defendant to retain the benefit without paying for the value of the benefit. Com. ex. rel. Pappert v. TAP Pharm. Prods., Inc., 885 A.2d 1127 (Pa. Commw. 2005). See also Torchia v. Torchia, 499 A.2d 581, 582 (Pa. Super. 1985) ("[T]o sustain a claim of unjust enrichment, a claimant must show that the party against whom recovery is sought either wrongfully secured or passively received a benefit that it would be unconscionable for her to retain."). However, Pittsburgh Baseball v. Stadium Auth., 630 A.2d 505, 510 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 1993) narrows the application of an unjust enrichment claim, holding that a party who bestows an indirect benefit on another is not entitled to a quasi-contract remedy.*fn30
WRA alleges that the City combined eleven and a half (11.5) acres of City-owned property with WRA's Site to establish the minimum fifteen (15) acres required for a KOZ, a status which the City would not otherwise have obtained. (Doc. #211 at ¶¶ 69-78). WRA alleges that it bore the expense of hiring a lobbyist, Steven Wojcik and Associates, without whom the KOZ status would not have been granted. (Doc. #239 at 34 ¶¶ 17-25). Specifically, WRA alleged that it paid the Wojcik firm "approximately one-hundred and fifty thousand dollars to achieve this result[,]" and the City benefitted from WRA's efforts, which resulted in the KOZ status. Id. at 34-35 ¶¶ 24-25, 1-5. There is an element of cynicism inherent in this argument. For sure, WRA hired the lobbyist and the lobbyist likely assisted the effort by advocating for the parties' joint request for KOZ status. But to say the hiring of the lobbyist secured the result totally diminishes the parties' integrity in the application process. The "my lobbyist created your result" position completely dismisses the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's independent review of the application and the ultimate granting of the KOZ designation through the analysis of objective criteria, precedent and standards. Plaintiff's pompous pronouncement that it conferred a benefit on the City by obtaining the KOZ status ignores the City's cooperative effort, the Commonwealth's exercise of discretion, and the fact that WRA's portion of the property, which is substantial, is more valuable today than it was before it was designated for the KOZ.
The City is correct that the KOZ status was an indirect benefit bestowed upon the City by the Commonwealth and was not due to entirely to WRA's actions. (Doc. #223 at 29). Even if the City did receive a benefit from WRA, it would not be unjust because WRA also received a benefit from the transaction. Id. at 28. WRA has failed to produce evidence that it conferred a direct benefit upon the City. Much like the Pittsburgh Baseball case, WRA did not bestow the benefit of KOZ status on the City. The status was granted by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and, therefore, WRA makes no showing that it is entitled to a quasi-contract remedy where it conveyed no benefit upon the City.
For the reasons set forth in this memorandum, I will grant the City of Philadelphia's motion for summary judgment, any deny the plaintiff's motion.
An appropriate order follows.