• BREAKING NEWS ABC shows live and on-demand -- Download the WATCH ABC app!

California approves Proposition 99

June 3, 2008 5:35:26 AM PDT
A property rights initiative shielding California homeowners from government seizures won approval Tuesday while a broader property rights measure was struggling for support. Voters approved Proposition 99, one of two ballot measures intended to limit when governments can force Californians to sell their homes for private development projects, like shopping malls, hotels and housing.

That's where the similarities ended in the expensive campaign battle over property rights.

Proposition 98 also was seeking protections for businesses and farms and a phasing out of rent control in a state that has some of the highest rents in the country.

With 17 percent of precincts reporting, Proposition 99 had 65 percent of the vote. Proposition 98 was failing with a 56 percent no vote with 17 percent of precincts reporting. If both measures passed, Proposition 99 would take effect if it received the most votes.

The approval of Proposition 99 was a victory for the California League of Cities and environmentalists who placed their measure on the ballot as a narrower alternative.

"I think the enactment of Proposition 99 shows voters respond to a clean, simple message of protecting homes," said Tom Adams, board president of the California League of Conservation Voters, which backed the measure. "The voters do not like ballot initiatives that hide things in the fine print."

Proposition 98 marked the second instance in two years where California voters were asked to pass sweeping property rights initiatives as part a national backlash to a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005. The court found that a Connecticut redevelopment authority had the right to seize private property for hotels, shopping centers and other private developments.

The decision marked a departure from the traditional use of eminent domain, which is typically used when governments build roads, schools or other public projects.

Landlords and business owners supporting Proposition 98 argued that local rent control ordinances for apartments, duplexes and mobile home parks constrained their right to run a business.

It was the rent control provision that fueled most of the opposition to the measure. Groups representing senior citizens, minorities and low-income renters said the initiative would strike a host of tenant-protection laws, making it easier for landlords to evict renters.

Although rent control was at the center of the dispute, Proposition 98's radio and television advertising made no mention of it.

The narrower Proposition 99 will only slightly change existing law, prohibiting government from taking a single-family home or condominium for private redevelopment in places where an owner has lived for at least a year. It will continue to require government to pay property owners fair market value if their land is taken for roads, schools, hospitals and other public projects.

Proposition 98's architects included the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and the California Farm Bureau. Those groups said eminent domain reform also must ban government from taking businesses, farms and churches for private redevelopment.

Their measure also was written to prohibit government from taking any property for its natural resources - a provision that led Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, to oppose Proposition 98.

Schwarzenegger and Feinstein said the initiative would prevent California from expanding its network of dams or building canals to transport water at a time when there is increasing concern about the state's long-term water supply.

Supporters of both initiatives raised millions in an attempt to sway public opinion. Proposition 98 supporters - mostly landlords and property owners - reported nearly $7.6 million in contributions as of May 30.

Meanwhile, the California League of Cities reported raising $11 million against Proposition 98 and for Proposition 99. That included $1.3 million in contributions from the California League of Conservation Voters, which raised $4.8 million of its own, according to filings with the Secretary of State's office.

In 2006, Californians defeated a property rights initiative known as Proposition 90 after critics said it would gut environmental protections and strip local governments of their power to pass local land-use ordinances.

 

Click here for more headlines from ABC7 Eyewitness News


Load Comments