Conniving Prop. 98 supporters are trounced by voters and tenant's movement
by Lynda Carson June 29, 2008
Oakland - On June 3, extremely wealthy landlords and realtors from across the nation and the state of California were handed the defeat of the century, by the voters and the California tenant's movement who soundly rejected a state ballot measure (Proposition 98) that would have eliminated rent control and tenant protections throughout the state of California, if passed.
The proponents of Prop. 98 have failed to convince the public that Prop. 98 was all about eminent domain reform because the public records revealed that the majority of Prop. 98 campaign contributions came from wealthy landlords, realtors and speculators who have a vested interest in seeing that renters lose their protections from unfair evictions, including the elimination of rent control laws that protect the elderly and disabled from being gouged by unscrupulous profiteers in the housing market.
Towering victory celebrations in recognition of tenant's rights laws have occurred up and down the state of California to celebrate the defeat of Prop. 98, including celebrations that occurred at the Just Cause Oakland headquarters and the statewide tenant's rights organization in San Francisco called Tenant's Together, which was founded by local attorney Dean Preston.
The June 2008 Ballot had a dangerous measure known as Proposition 98 (California Property Owners and Farmland Protection Act, or CPOFPA). If passed by the voters, Prop. 98 would have eliminated rent control, tenant protections, and would have placed homeowners at risk by allowing unscrupulous property owners to challenge existing building codes and zoning laws that would have prohibited the placing of a “pig sty” next to someone’s home, or a “porn shop” next to a church or school.
There were only two state ballot measures on the June ballot, one known as Prop. 98 and the other as Prop. 99. Both competing measures were meant to prevent government from taking private property for other private use, and both proposals were in response to a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision that allows the government to take private property and turn it over to another private interest for economic development. Housing activists across the state, claimed that Prop. 98 was a stealth measure to end rent control, and that Prop. 99 as a counter measure would save rent control while curbing government takings of land through existing eminent domain laws.
Prop. 98 was also a stealth measure that would have gutted protections for land, air, water, species and natural resources, according to a legal analysis by the environmental law firm of Shute, Mihaly and Weinberger.
A low voter turnout was expected to favor the proponents of Prop. 98, but despite this expectation several polls consistently revealed that Californians favored rent control and tenant protections. According to the head of the statewide association of elections officials, less than one-third of voters were expected to vote in person or by mail, during the June 3 election period.
"We're elated that Prop. 98 failed and are very pleased that tenants still have the right to defend themselves from unfair evictions and rent increases. We have been busy as usual defending tenants in the courts, and find that home foreclosures have added much to our casework," said Anne Omura of the Eviction Defense Center in Oakland.
If not defeated, Prop. 98 would have eliminated rent control and other renter protections, such as laws against unfair evictions, the timely return of security deposits, laws that require landlords to give 60-day notices before forcing renters out of their housing, and it would have terminated laws that prohibit renters from being evicted from home foreclosures in Oakland and other cities. Prop. 98 would also have outlawed local affordable housing and inclusionary zoning requirements if passed, and would certainly have jeopardized laws protecting the disabled and seniors from drastic rent increases or unfair evictions.
Prop. 98 was handily defeated by a wide margin across the state, including it's defeat in it's sponsors own right-wing backyard playground known as Orange County, plus it's defeat occurred in other ultra conservative areas of California such as Kern, Butte and Calaveras counties.
Across the state, Prop. 98 lost outright by a margin of around 38% of the votes that were cast in the June ballot. In Orange County, Prop. 99 defeated Prop. 98 by around 9% of the votes cast, and Prop. 99 defeated Prop. 98 by around 19% of the votes cast in Kern County. Prop. 98 was also soundly defeated by around 9% in Butte County, and lost by around 6% of the votes cast in Calaveras County.
Multi-millionaire Dan Faller (CEO and founder of the Apartment Owners Association of California) summed up Prop. 98 quite succinctly, in his 2 page written statement called, “How to end rent control now.” “Won’t you join AOA in this major battle, no I mean WAR, to win back our economic freedom?” says Faller. “You are either for us or against us in this war for your freedom. Please choose now and start taking action. The CPOFPA (Prop. 98) is our best chance to get rent control on the path to elimination. Please join AOA today in this major War for your economic freedom by contributing at least per unit.” Faller calls upon all property owners to join him in the WAR he is promoting and says, “We must all be united to win this one.”
Faller even declared that politicians are terrorists, and said, “We can wipe out these terrorists and not one drop of blood need be shed!” Faller claimed that the AOA has already spent 5,000 to finance the Prop. 98 campaign in an effort to end rent control and tenant protections.
Since Dan Faller made the above declaration of WAR while calling politicians terrorists, the AOA went on to contribute around one million dollars in total to the Prop. 98 campaign before it's trouncing, and the realtors and other wealthy landlords and speculators who saw gold in Prop. 98, united to spend millions more on their campaign to end tenant protections and eliminate rent control throughout the state of California.
During the month of May, Thomas Coates and the San Francisco real estate investment firm called Arroyo and Coates, contributed around 0,000 to the Prop. 98 campaign, and since early April 2008 the California Association of Realtors (CAR) contributed around 5,000 to fund the Prop 98 campaign. Wealthy mobile-home park owner Sam Zell also contributed around million during the past year, in support of Prop. 98.
The AOA (Dan Faller), CAR and others mentioned above were spearheading the efforts to convince many wealthy individuals and corporations around the nation to contribute around million in support of Prop. 98. Jon Coupal, the president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, was one of the main proponents of Prop. 98, and his group of associates chipped in around million to support the campaign against tenant's rights.
Around .3 million was spent by unions, environmental groups, tenant groups, the League of California Cities, the California State Association of Counties, and the California Redevelopment Association in the effort to defeat Prop. 98.
The WAR being waged against tenants by the AOA plus other big landlords, realtors and speculators from out of state and throughout California has been on-going, and the wealthy landlords are already planning their next attack against Californias' tenant's rights laws through the California state legislature, and the governor.
Even with rent control already existing in many cities throughout California, current rent control laws have been so weak and ineffective that out of the ten most expensive urban areas to reside in across the nation, five of those areas exist in California and rent control laws need to be broadened and strengthened, according to tenant activists.
In addition, non profit housing organizations are exempt from local rent control ordinances in California, while many of them are actually bringing in renters earning as much as 80% of the local Area Means Income (AMI). Many so-called non profit housing organizations in California are pushing to have legislation passed that would allow affordable housing funds to be used for developments that would allow people to earn as much as 200% of the local AMI, before moving into their projects. Low-income tenant activists' believe that it is unfair for non profit housing organizations to be exempt from local rent control ordinances, especially if they rent to people earning more than 60% of AMI in their developments.
According to Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board Member Eleanor Walden, "The failure of Prop. 98 ensures the stability of the rent stabilization programs in California. The importance of rent control for tenants cannot be overestimated. Landlords have taken every opportunity possible to erode tenant protections in California which has created a huge housing crisis of epic proportions. It is not only the elderly and the poor being affected by the shortage of low-income housing in California, but it's killing the middle class who are often only one pay check away from being homeless if they fail to pay the exorbitant rents being demanded by wealthy landlords throughout the state."
"I think that voter turnout and the overwhelming defeat of Prop. 98 reflects that the middle class understood that Prop. 98 was in opposition to their best interests," said Walden.
Indeed, Prop. 98 was carefully designed in such a way as to enrich wealthy landlords, realtors and speculators through the unbridled exploitation of the masses, if it were passed by the voters. The majority of voters believed that the California initiative process was being abused and used by the proponents of Prop. 98, as a means to exploit the masses for pecuniary gain by the ruling elite and powerful landowners who are delirious in their monstrous belief that they have the right to do anything they want, no matter how harmful it may be to the well-being of the public at large.
Dean Preston, the founder of Tenant's Together a statewide tenant's organization says, "Beating Prop. 98 is just the beginning. Landlords lost by a large margin, and theres no question that tenant groups have mobilized across the state to defeat Prop. 98. I launched Tenant's Together to create an organization to help tenants from feeling isolated when their fighting for their rights, against the rich and powerful."
"I've been reaching out to a lot of tenant groups around the state to find out what pressing issues they are facing in their area, so that we can learn what we have in common, and experience how we can unite in our struggles to broaden tenant's rights for all renters in California."
"The campaign to defeat Prop. 98 became successful by staying on message, and by focusing on the fact that Prop. 98 was all about ending rent control and tenant protections no matter how many times the proponents of Prop. 98 lied and tried to mislead the public by claiming that Prop. 98 was all about eminent domain reform."
In closing, Dean Preston said, "I would encourage every tenant across the state to get involved with tenant organizations in their area, and to hook up with Tenant's Together to become a member; http://www.tenantstogether.org/
Lynda Carson may be reached at; firstname.lastname@example.org