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Voters declare victory for Proposition 99 and rent control
Californians decided to keep rent control by voting no on Proposition 98

Date: 06/12/2008

It was a bitter battle to the end for the only two propositions on the ballot this past election. In one corner was Proposition 98, also known as "eminent domain, limits on government authority." In the opposite corner was Proposition 99, "eminent domain, limits on government acquisition of owner-occupied residence."

For as much as they sounded alike, the propositions attracted fiercely divided supporters and detractors, but at the end of election night there was only one clear winner: Proposition 99. Sixty-nine percent of state voters said yes to 99, while 62 percent said no to 98.

"I was elated," said Hank Hoysak, president of the Central Coast Mobile Home Owners Association.

While there are many details that differentiated the two propositions, they can be boiled down to two major points: rent control and who would be protected from eminent domain. Proposition 98 called for a phase out of rent control and also protected businesses, farmers, and other landowners from having their lands seized by eminent domain.

Proposition 99 was created as an opposition and preserved rent control while protecting single-family residences from seizure by eminent domain.

"There's many, many people who can't afford to have their rent go up dramatically," Hoysak said.

Hoysak's organization opposed Proposition 98 because of the rent control issue. He said that manufactured or mobile homes are the last bastion of affordable housing on the Central Coast, and to get rid of rent control on these residences would have lasting effects.

If it had passed, Proposition 98 would have phased out rent control in California. People who were currently living under rent control wouldn't have been kicked out, but when they moved, their landlords would have been able to raise the rent for the next tenants.

Joyce Lippman, director of the Area Agency on Aging, said that her organization also opposed Proposition 98.

"I'm absolutely delighted to see the voters recognize the potential serious implications of Prop. 98," she said.

The issue of eminent domain was less important to her than that of rent control, as it was to most of the people she talked to at the Area Agency on Aging, she said.

"We couldn't get past rent control," she said.

While local opponents of Proposition 98 wanted to talk of nothing but rent control, rent control, rent control, one major proponent of the proposition said that the rent control issue wasn't the reason it lost.

Kris Vosburgh, executive director of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer's Association, blamed the similarities between the two propositions and confusion caused by the backers of Proposition 99.

"A confused voter tends to vote no," he said, "and I think that's why we lost."

The Howard Jarvis Taxpayer's Association was part of a coalition of organizations that worked together to put Proposition 98 on the ballot, Vosburgh said. The Santa Barbara County Farm Bureau

and the Alliance to Protect Private Property Rights, as well as many landowners and farmers, also supported Proposition 98.

Santa Barbara County Farm Bureau Executive Director Teri Bontrager was waiting to hear back from Sacramento before commenting for this story, but she previously told the Sun that she supported Proposition 98 because it protects farmland and other open spaces from being condemned for other mitigation purposes.

"We're very aware of the need for affordable housing ... but this is the only measure that protects all private property," she said.

Proposition 99 had the support of environmental groups, such as the National Wildlife Federation, the Sierra Club, and the California Coastal Commission.

Vosburgh said that he wasn't too disappointed by the results, because, as election night grew closer, his organization hadn't been expecting Proposition 98 to pass.

"If we did anything wrong, we underestimated the amount of money that developers would be willing to spend to support 99," Vosburgh said.

He said that developers backed Proposition 99 because it was less specific concerning which properties were exempt from eminent domain.

"Our effort was to establish additional protections for property owners of all kinds across the state," Vosburgh said.

He explained that the eminent domain issue isn't over, and will most likely show up again on a future ballot--with help from his organization or another.

"Those that didn't read the ballot measures closely may believe that there is now a solution," Vosburgh said. "I think people will quickly realize that Prop. 99 did nothing."

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