Prop 98: A Box for Your Troubles

Thursday, May 8, 2008
Brian Leubitz
California Progressive Report

By this time, I hope you've heard about Prop 98. But that's not the case everywhere, so much attention has been paid to getting the word out about the really negative effects that Prop 98 would have upon California. A great group of people came together to talk about the Landlords' Scheme to eliminate rent control, tenant protections, and affordable housing regulations.

Several folks came with cardboard boxes to make the point that many people living in rent controlled units would be forced to the streets. Many units would be converted to luxury condo conversion projects and housing supply in San Francisco would dwindle further. Affordable housing is already tough enough to come by (just look at Craigslist if you don't believe me), the last thing we need is Prop 98 eliminating much of the affordable supply.

You can watch the entirety of the rally on YouTube, but some of the comments leapt out at me. Some people expect that these propositions won't really affect their lives, but Prop 98 is very different. From June 4, 2008, landlords will have carte blanche to do what they please to tenants. "Just Cause" eviction will be a thing of the past, and renters will have to prepare for an onslaught. As Ted Gullicksen of San Francisco Tenants Union said, "San Francisco would become a city not just for the wealthy, but for the very, very, very wealthy. ... San Francisco would lose its character and its diversity."

It is not all that surprising that landlords' would try this, really. After all, they are businesses trying to maximize their shareholder and/or owner's pocket books. Heck, this is a great investment for people like Sam Zell, who stands to make $15 Million from a Prop 98 win. The problem is that they are using deceptive means to overturn the will of the people. The people in several cities across California have determined that they favor rent control. And practically every locality has chosen to require a "just cause" for eviction (as well as some state regulations).

But the landlords weren't able to get rent control overturned at the local level, at least totally. So instead of trying to convince localities to end it or to get state legislators to overrule the localities, the landlords' go with deception. They hide under the cover of eminent domain to end tenant protections. That's why this is so important to defeat June 3. We just can't let Prop 98 sneak by us, it would be the third leg of the stool. Prop 13, the 2/3 rule, and this. But that stool is one that doesn't support all Californians, only the super-wealthy.

You can also get more photos at my flickr set.

Ted Gullicksen of San Francisco Tenants Union led off the remarks with a vision of the post-prop 98 San Francisco that I mentioned above. He also mentioned some of the many opponents of Prop 98, including the Governor, SF Mayor Gavin Newsom, both senators, and a whole lot more. It's hard to find more than a few right-wingers who have agreed with this crazy proposition.

Charles Mason of AARP noted that Prop 98 would hurt millions of seniors and all Californians. "AARP strongly believes we should enhance our neighborhoods. ... Prop 98 would jeopardize our abilities to create livable communities for seniors and other."

Some of the strongest remarks came from the folks at the St. Peters Housing Committee (Video 7/9) in both Spanish and English. They noted that carboard boxes are what San Franciscans would be left with. They pointed out that many children in San Francisco are dependent upon these housing regulations. Without protections for tenants, many Californians will be even more vulnerable than ever.

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