Proposition 98 is a deceptive and very dangerous initiative that will be on the June 2008 ballot in California. Hiding behind some legitimate concerns about the potential misuse of eminent domain by local governments, this constitutional amendment if enacted would eliminate all rent control on any new unit anywhere in the state, including mobile homes. Its hidden provisions would also preclude the construction of new water supply projects, gut many environmental laws, and make most zoning laws unenforceable.
Proposition 98 was put on the ballot by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association and is bankrolled by right wing billionaire Sam Zell. These people also brought us Proposition 90, a similar measure that was rejected by the voters in 2006. They are at it again this time in coalition with large apartment owners and developers who want to eliminate any kind of rent control provisions in the state, no matter what a local jurisdiction might choose to do to protect its supply of affordable housing.
Because of its many negative consequences Proposition 98 is opposed by a large coalition representing a broad cross section of Californians. These include the Sierra Club, the Association of California Water Agencies, AARP, The Consumer Federation of America, the California Teachers Association, numerous tenant organizations, and the League of Woman Voters.
Proposition 99 on the other hand is a straightforward initiative that would reform eminent domain law so that a government could not purchase a private home using eminent domain to benefit a private party. For example, a city’s Redevelopment Agency could not buy someone’s home against their will by eminent domain to make way for a privately funded shopping center. This process was deemed constitutional per a recent Supreme Court ruling. Proposition 99 would outlaw only that use of eminent domain in California, and is supported by most of the groups that are opposing Proposition 98.
So please vote no on Proposition 98 and yes on Proposition 99, particularly since if both Props. 98 and 99 pass, the one with the most votes would become enshrined in the California Constitution.
John Katz is an East Bay resident.