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Pros and cons of June propositions

Democratic Voices

Posted: May 6, 2008 1:29 a.m.
Updated: July 7, 2008 5:01 a.m.
 
There are two ballot propositions in the upcoming June 3 election that involve state constitutional amendments:

• Proposition 98: Government Acquisition, Regulation of Private Property (includes rent control laws)
• Proposition 99: Eminent Domain. Acquisition of Owner-Occupied Residence

The major issues for consideration include whether or not the California Constitution should be amended to restrict state and local governments' authority to take private property through eminent domain, and should programs to promote affordable housing (including rent control) be phased out?

Both issues are hot-button items for citizens throughout California - including Santa Clarita Valley.

Old Town Newhall Revitalization Project
Revitalization of downtown Newhall is still fresh on the minds of many Santa Claritans. Residents were strongly divided on the issue. This project exemplified the process of eminent domain in action.

And who can forget last year's local public outcries (from residents taking opposing sides on the issue) over the possibility of homeless people from Los Angeles being bused into Santa Clarita?

How California voters decide on Props. 98 and 99 may greatly impact our local community (directly and indirectly) with regards to how further downtown redevelopment, real estate and housing growth, and the homeless (both in SCV and in Los Angeles) are handled here in the future.

Power of Eminent Domain
Power of eminent domain allows local, state, or federal governments to take private property for public use, even from an unwilling seller, as long as the government pays a fair price for it. Typical public uses include the building of parks, roads, and schools. The government may also include, for example, the accomplishment of broad public objectives such as downtown redevelopment, public ownership of utility services, affordable housing, elimination of urban blight and public nuisances or crime reduction.

The concept of rent control involves state law allowing local governments to place limits on how much a landlord may increase a tenant's rent each year. According to the office of the Legislative Analyst, California's nonpartisan fiscal and policy adviser, over a dozen California cities, including Los Angeles, currently have some form of rent control for apartments, and about 100 cities and counties limit the rent that mobile home park owners may charge for space in their park. The Legislative Analyst estimates that about one million California households live in rent-controlled apartments or mobile home parks.

When a property owner takes government to court to stop his or her land from being taken, the court is supposed to give a lot of weight to the government's point of view.

According to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times, as of April 2008 supporters of Prop. 98 had raised $3.5 million, and opponents had raised $6.4 million, to conduct their campaigns.

Effects of the Measures
If Proposition 98 passes:
• Government authority to take private property such as homes, farms or businesses and transfer it to another private person or organization would be greatly reduced.
• Rent control laws could no longer be passed, and the door is opened for other affordable housing programs to be eliminated.
• If a property owner takes government to court to stop his or her property from being taken, the court would not have to give special weight to the government's point of view.
Passage of Prop. 98 would not stop state and local governments from continuing to own and take private property for public uses, including to protect public health and safety.

If Prop 99 passes:
• Governments will not be able to take the single-family home (including condominium) of an owner who has lived there for at least one year, then turn that property over to a private person or organization for private use or development.
• As allowed by the state Constitution, Prop. 99 contains language that says it alone will become law if it passes and receives more votes than Proposition 98, even if the latter measure is also approved.

Passage of Prop. 99 would not stop state and local governments from continuing to own and take private property for public uses including the following: to protect public health and safety; prevent serious, repeated criminal activity; to respond to an emergency; to remedy environmental contamination that posed a threat to public health and safety; to use the property for a public work, such as a toll road or airport operated by a private party.

Santa Clarita Valley
The Santa Clarita City Council went on the record during a recent meeting as opposing Proposition 98 and supporting Proposition 99.

I support the council's position; however, I do so for different reasons from those cited by the council.

I oppose Prop. 98 for several reasons, including its impact on the homeless situation in our state. I will vote against it because it will gut laws (including rent control, inclusionary zoning requirements, condo conversions on mobile home park lands) that protect renters and mobile home owners throughout California - including seniors and low-income families, many of whom may be just one paycheck away from homelessness.

I support Proposition 99 for several reasons. Even though the possibility of the government trying to take my home here in the SCV to sell it to a private company is slim, I recognize the fact that this possibility may exist for Californians throughout the state. All the government would have to do is categorize the homeowner's place of residence as blighted property and then this property can be condemned for economic development and taken over by the government.

The main reason however, that I support Prop. 99 is to make sure that Prop. 98 does not become law in the event that both propositions are approved by a majority of the constituents.

For more information, visit the League of Women Voters of California's Web site: www.smartvoter.org/2008/06/03/ca/state/prop/; or the Legislative Analyst's Office Web site:
www.lao.ca.gov/laoapp/ballot_source/Propositions.aspx.

Note that many Web sites are dedicated in support of, or opposition to, these propositions. I recommend reviewing those listed above. The League of Women Voters and Legislative Analyst's Office are considered thorough and objective and clear in their presentation of facts. In addition, these two sites provide links to more sources for further research on these topics.

If you have more questions about Prop. 98 or 99, you are invited to attend a community meeting sponsored by several local clubs at 7 p.m. on May 22 at Vincent's Pizza, 24504 Lyons Avenue, Newhall. Also featured at this public meeting will be many judges running on the June 3 ballot.

Cal Planakis is an independent civic journalist who lives in Santa Clarita and a member of the Democratic Alliance for Action. Her column reflects her own views, not necessarily those of The Signal.

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