Proposition 98 an attack on tenants

Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Dean Preston
Palo Alto Daily

Not satisfied with record profits in recent years, California's biggest
landlords are scheming to deny basic protections for renters, seniors
and working families. Landlords are backing one of the most deceptive
and mean-spirited ballot measures to come along in years - Proposition
98 on the June 3 ballot. Proposition 98 would prohibit rent control in

98 is the worst kind of ballot measure - it says it's about one thing
when it's really about another. Proponents claim the measure is about
eminent domain reform, but hidden provisions of the measure would
abolish rent control and jeopardize many other tenant protections,
including laws against unfair evictions.

A grass-roots effort
is under way to educate voters about this dangerous measure. Groups
like the East Palo Alto Council of Tenants (EPACT), Youth United for
Community Action (YUCA), Association of Community Organizations for
Reform Now (ACORN) are getting the word out to make sure voters know
that Proposition 98 would prohibit rent control.

At first
glance, Proposition 98 looks like an eminent domain reform measure,
prohibiting the government from "taking" property for "private use."
But the devil is in the details. Proposition 98 defines "taking" in an
unprecedented way. Under Proposition 98, any limit on the price at
which property can be rented or sold is defined as a prohibited
"taking." Proposition 98 therefore prohibits rent control and other
affordable housing laws. "Private use" has an even broader definition
under Proposition 98, prohibiting regulations that "transfer economic
benefit to one or more private persons at the expense of the property
owner." Most tenant protection laws (such as the 60-day notice for
no-fault eviction and fair return of security deposits) transfer
economic benefit and would likely be struck down if Proposition 98 were
to pass.

Proposition 98 does not stop at eliminating renter
protections. The measure would jeopardize a broad range of
environmental and land use regulations that protect communities across
California. Every major environmental organization in California
opposes Proposition 98.

Proposition 98 would also stand in
the way of the construction of water infrastructure projects, prompting
the Association of California Water Agencies, the Western Growers
Association and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California
to oppose the measure.

Proposition 98 is a special interest
ballot initiative funded by landlords. Over 80 percent of the funds
supporting this bogus "eminent domain" measure come from landlord

One such group is the Apartment Owners Association
of California. The landlord zealots at AOA have contributed hundreds of
thousands of dollars to pass this measure. Their rhetoric is
particularly offensive.

The AOA calls people who believe in
protecting renters from exorbitant rent hikes and evictions
"terrorists." According to the AOA's Web site, these "suicide bombers"
are terrorizing landlords all over the state by throwing "bombs and
explosives" such as rent control, building codes, 60-day notice
requirements and eviction laws. AOA warns "we are at WAR and there is
only one way to stop these terrorists. Hit them with the big 'bomb' -
pass this California state constitutional amendment that will prohibit
them from having their 'explosives' that they use to destroy housing
and housing providers." If nothing else, these statements reveal that
Proposition 98 is backed by the lunatic fringe.

the more that people learn about Proposition 98, the less they like it.
But the landlords put this measure on the June ballot because they know
voter turnout will be low. Proposition 98 could pass, unless people get
out and vote on June 3 to defeat it.

Voters who want real
eminent domain reform should vote for Proposition 99, another measure
on the June ballot. Proposition 99 offers eminent domain reform without
the hidden provisions of Proposition 98. Proposition 99 simply
prohibits the government from taking owner-occupied homes for private
development. Proposition 99 is a straightforward measure that protects
homeowners without attacking renters and the environment.

Vote "no" on the landlords' hidden agenda (Proposition 98) and "yes" on real eminent domain reform (Proposition 99).

Preston is the director of Tenants Together, California's only
statewide organization for renters' rights. For more information, visit

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