Proposition 99, the Homeowners Protection Act, is an initiative that would amend Article I, Section 19 of the California Constitution which governs eminent domain.
The Background, Proposal, and Fiscal Effects sections are from the analysis in the ballot pamphlet by the Legislative Analyst’s Office.
California state and local governments frequently acquire private property to build public facilities (such as roads, parks, and schools) or to promote public objectives (such as economic development and afordable housing).
Most of the time, government buys property from willing sellers. Sometimes, however, property owners do not want to sell their property or do not agree on a sales price. In these cases, California law allows government to take property from a private owner provided that government:
- Uses the property for a “public use” (a term that has been broadly interpreted to mean a variety of public purposes).
- Pays the property owner “just compensation” (generally, the property’s fair market value) and relocation costs (including certain business losses).
This government power to take property for a public use is called “eminent domain.” The nearby box provides additional information regarding the terms public use, just compensation, and relocation costs.
This constitutional amendment limits state and local government’s use of eminent domain in certain circumstances. 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 to:
- Protect public health and safety.
- Prevent serious, repeated criminal activity.
- Respond to an emergency.
- Remedy environmental contamination that posed a threat to public health and safety.
- Use the property for a public work, such as a toll road or airport operated by a private party.
In addition, the prohibition would not apply if the property owner did not live in the home or had lived there for less than a year.
Government’s Authority to Take Property by Eminent Domain
Government may use eminent domain to take property for a public use if it pays just compensation and relocation costs.
What Is a Public Use?
Common examples of public use include providing new schools, roads, government buildings, parks, and public utility facilities. The term public use also includes broad public objectives, such as economic development, eliminating urban blight and public nuisances, and public ownership of utility services. The following activities have been considered a public use:
- Promoting downtown redevelopment by transferring property to other owners to construct new stores, hotels and other businesses.
- Reducing urban blight and crime by transferring substandard apartments in a high-crime area to a nonprofit housing organization to renovate and manage.
- Securing public control of utility services by acquiring private water and other utility systems and placing them under government ownership.
What Are Just Compensation and Relocation Costs?
Just compensation includes:
- The fair market value of the property taken and
- Any reduction in value of the remaining property when only part of a parcel is taken.
In addition to the payment of just compensation, California law requires governments to pay property owners for certain other expenses and losses associated with the transfer of property ownership.
Related Measure on Ballot. This ballot contains two measures related to eminent domain: Proposition 99 (this measure) and Proposition 98. If this measure were approved by more votes than Proposition 98, this measure provides that the provisions of Proposition 98 would not take effect.
Under current law and practice, government seldom uses eminent domain to take single-family homes. Even when it does so, the acquisition often is for a purpose that is permitted under the measure (such as construction of a road or school). Accordingly, this measure would not significantly change current government land acquisition practices.
In a very limited number of cases, however, this measure might result in government:
- Savings—because government could not acquire a home that the owner did not wish to sell.
- Costs—because government might pay more to buy a home than would have been the case if it could have taken the home using eminent domain.
The net fiscal effect of such actions would not be significant.
LEAGUE POSITIONS AND DISCUSSION
The League of Women Voters of California, the LWVUS, and most local Leagues have numerous
positions supporting the regulation of land use, measures to protect natural resources and control
pollution, provision of affordable housing, transportation infrastructure and schools, and so forth. Please refer to the discussion of Proposition 98 for more details.
Proposition 99 provides straightforward protection for individual homeowners from eminent domain abuse and maintains the distinction in the California Constitution between the established law for eminent domain and the law for legislative and administrative action to protect the public health, safety and welfare.
This initiative is also an attempt to respect the voters’ rejection of Proposition 90 on the November 2006 ballot, and to provide additional protection for property owners without including provisions contained in Proposition 90 or Proposition 98.
Signing the ballot argument for:
Ken Willis, President, League of California Homeowners
Nan Brasmer, President, California Alliance for Retired Americans
Janis R. Hirohama, President, League of Women Voters of California
The rebuttal to the opponents’ argument was signed by Ken Willis, Janis R. Hirohama and Richard Word, President, California Police Chiefs Association.
A broad and diverse coalition of other supporters includes city, county and special district associations, key labor organizations, renter advocates/housing providers, consumer groups, environmental organizations, and many others.
Signing the ballot argument against:
Jon Coupal, President, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, Protect Prop 13 Committee
Doug Mosebar, President, California Farm Bureau
Steve L. Caughran, 2007 California Small Business Owner of the Year, National Federation of Independent Business
The rebuttal to the supporters’ argument was also signed by the opponents listed above.
Linda Craig, LWVC Advocacy Director, email@example.com
Chris Carson, LWVC Government Director, firstname.lastname@example.org
Janet Brennan, LWVC Land Use Legislative Consultant, email@example.com
Trudy Schafer, LWVC Senior Director for Program, 916-442-7215, Fax 916-442-7362, firstname.lastname@example.org
www.no98yes99.com, Californians to Stop the Prop 98 Attack on Renters and in Support of Prop 99, the Homeowners Protection Act. Be sure to read Questions and Answers about Propositions 98 and 99.
The full text of the arguments submitted by proponents and opponents and the full text of the proposition are included in the Voter Information Guide (ballot pamphlet) at http://voterguide.sos.ca.gov/.
- We need to do something to address eminent domain reforms in California, and Proposition 99 is the only real eminent domain reform on the ballot.
- Proposition 99 stops the government from taking homes to transfer to a private developer and places this vital protection into our state constitution to ensure that the government cannot remove it without a vote of the people.
- It would maintain basic laws that protect our communities, our neighborhoods and the value of our homes.
- Unlike Proposition 98, this measure has NO HIDDEN AGENDAS. Proposition 99 is a straightforward eminent domain reform that protects homeowners now.
- Proposition 99 is supported by a broad and diverse coalition of homeowners, business, labor, cities, counties and environmentalists that includes the League of California Homeowners, the League of Women Voters of California, the California Alliance for Retired Americans, the California Fire Chiefs Association, the National Coalition of Hispanic Organizations, and the California League of Conservation Voters.
Consider sending a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. Please adapt this letter to your own community and check your local paper’s word limit for published letters.
Additional sample letters are available at www.no98yes99.com.
Sample Letter to the Editor
Proposition 99 on the June ballot will provide homeowners strong new protections from eminent domain abuse. By outright prohibiting the taking of an owner-occupied home, townhome or condo to transfer to a private party, this constitutional amendment gets right to the heart of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Kelo decision by protecting people’s most valued possession.
This measure also rejects the elimination of rent control and renter protections that Proposition 98 would impose. It has none of Proposition 98’s threats to land use regulation, environmental protection, and other laws that make our communities safe, enjoyable places to live.
We are proud to be a part of a broad-based coalition of homeowners, environmental advocates, labor, public interest groups, local governments and public safety leaders in supporting this eminent domain reform.