Monday, June 02, 2008

Tomorrow, if nothing else, VOTE NO ON 98

Prop 98 is not the solution to the problem of eminent domain use in California. The proposition, as drafted, is just too broad. It denies the government, both local and state, the ability to regulate things including, possibly zoning, environmental regulations, and rentals. Without the ability to pass regulations as to private property, in a manner rationally related to the public good, then we are left with appealing to property owner's better natures to do the right thing in a variety of arenas including zoning and the enviroment.

A few people have left the comment to my previous postings urging the defeat of Prop 98. Some have suggested that Prop 98 will not affect rent control. Others have asked whether rent control will actually be affected by Prop 98 since there is the provision as to the effective date.

First, let's be clear: Prop 98 will end rent control. People who are in rent controlled units will not lose their rent control right away. Rather, as soon as they move, the units that they move into will not be rent-controlled and the units which they have left will also not be rent-controlled. For example, if Prop 98 were to pass on June 3, and Person A was to move in to a new apartment in San Francisco (where rent-control laws exist) on June 5, then Person A's lease would not be protected by rent control.

Now something that has bothered me about Prop 98 about the language used in the definitions. Although the people at the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association say that "Our initiative has nothing to do with regulatory takings[.]" However, according to a Daily Journal (subscription required) report published earlier today, "'a fair reading of the measure would allow a property owner to sue based on any regulation of the use of property no matter how insignificant,' said John Echeverria, executive director of Georgetown University's Environmental Law & Policy Institute and author of a recent report on the regulatory takings reforms. "

I'm undecided on Prop 99. To my mind, it does not go nearly far enough to bring the use of eminent domain powers in line with what they have traditionally been meant to be used for. On the other hand, it can be viewed as a first step. A step that if our legislators did the work to earn their salaries could finish in the next session in Sacramento. And if it passes by one more than Prop 98, then it eliminates Prop 98.

It's not just about rent control. It's not just about the environment. Its not just about the ability to set up zoning regulations that make sense. And its not just about eminent domain. Its about all of it.

What California needs is eminent domain reform. What it does not need is a constitutional amendment which will harm the enviroment, cause endless litigation over virtually any law which regulates privately owned property, and eliminate municipalities' ability to police their housing markets.

Vote No on 98.

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