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CES In The News

The Tidings
The Tidings is the weekly newspaper of the Los Angeles Archdiocese
Friday May 30, 2008
Prop. 98's Agenda: No More Rent Control, Say Opponents
By R. W. Dellinger

This Picture Does Not Appear With the Original Article
Two state-wide measures on the June 3 ballot --- both proposed constitutional amendments --- are in sharp contrast with one another, say opponents of the one (Proposition 98) that they say would phase out rent control.

Proposition 98 is subtitled, "Government Acquisition, Regulation of Private Property." According to the state Legislative Analyst's Office: "This measure amends the State Constitution to (1) constrain state and local governments' authority to take private property and (2) phase out rent control. The measure also might constrain government's authority to implement certain other programs and laws, such as mandatory inclusionary housing programs and tenant relocation benefits. The measure's provisions apply to all governmental agencies."

Proposition 99 --- "Eminent Domain: Acquisition of Owner-Occupied Residence" --- "limits state and local government's use of eminent domain in certain circumstances," says the Analyst's Office. "Specifically, the measure prohibits government from using eminent domain to take a single-family home (including a condominium) for the purpose of transferring it to another private party (such as a person, business or association). This prohibition, however, would not apply if government was taking the home under certain specified circumstances."

More than 100 major organizations --- representing senior citizens, teachers, public safety business leaders, organized labor, religious groups, farmers and environmentalists --- have opposed what they call the "hidden agenda" of Proposition 98, with many favoring Proposition 99.

The organizations include AARP, California Alliance for Retried Americans, California Chamber of Commerce, California Teachers Association, California Police Chiefs Association, League of Women Voters of California, Western Center on Law and Poverty, Mobile Home Owners Coalition, Housing California, California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, National Wildlife Federation, League of California Cities, League of California Homeowners and Coalition for Economic Survival.

Opponents say Proposition 98, while purporting to protect property owners from government grabbing land through eminent domain, would also do away with rent control ordinances in 100 California cities, including Los Angeles, Santa Monica and West Hollywood.

The consequence for the Southland could be huge. Of the 1 million rent-controlled units in California, 627,000 are in L.A., where 61 percent of residents rent. There are 46,000 more such dwellings in West Hollywood and Santa Monica.

"This city will be the hardest hit, as well as this entire region," Larry Gross, executive director of the Coalition for Economic Survival, told the Daily News. "Renters will wake up one day in June if 98 passes, and they will wake up defenseless, and their landlords could put them out on the street."

Los Angeles City Council President Eric Garcetti told the Los Angeles Downtown News, "If this were to pass, we would see more people on the street, we would see redevelopment grind to a halt and we would see the ability to preserve affordable housing go out the door.

"We're facing the largest housing crisis since the Great Depression, and the last thing we need to do is something that would be the largest step backward that we've seen in a generation."

Los Angeles' rent control laws, which limit how much a landlord can raise the rent every year, take in units built before Oct. 1, 1978. Apartments, mobile homes and residential hotels are covered, with the ordinances kicking in after a tenant occupies a residence for more than 30 days. When a tenant moves out of a rent-controlled apartment, under Proposition 98 that unit would no longer be subject to rent-control laws.

Many individuals and organizations fighting the ballot measure favor Proposition 99. Sponsored by the League of California Cities, the other anti-eminent domain measure would help to protect homeowners from having their property taken for private use - but it has no hidden clauses eliminating rent control. In a recent editorial, a Los Angeles Times headline declared: "Voters should not be fooled by Prop. 98; choose Prop. 99 instead."

Gov. Schwarzenegger, who joined U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, former Gov. Pete Wilson and U.S. Rep. George Radanovich in opposing the controversial ballot measure, had a different reason for not backing it.

"Eminent domain is an issue worth addressing; however Proposition 98 would undermine California's ability to improve our infrastructure, including our water delivery and storage," he stated. "California voters strongly support rebuilding our transportation, housing, education and water infrastructure, so it would be irresponsible to support a measure that would prevent the state from accomplishing our goals."

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