Jessica Hoffmann

Save Rent Control in California (No on Prop 98!)

Filed By Jessica Hoffmann | June 02, 2008 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Politics, The Movement
Tags: California, economic justice, proposition 98, rent control, Strategic Actions for a Just Economy

Hey, California!

I know it can be hard to get out and vote on local elections--either they seem insignificant, or you're pretty convinced electoral politics will never bring real social change, let alone justice. I hear you.

The thing is, tomorrow (June 3) in California, there's a deceptive initiative on the ballot that will signal the end of rent control in the entire state and severely undermine the government's ability to meet public environmental needs on (currently) private property. If you believe individual property rights should supersede every other consideration -- other people's stable, affordable housing; an entire neighborhood's access to, say, clean water -- please go ahead and stay home tomorrow. For the rest of you: PLEASE VOTE NO ON PROP 98.

Check out a video that breaks it down here, courtesy of Strategic Actions for a Just Economy.

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Proposition 98 ultimately invalidates itself and is an attempt by landlords to have the government bail them out of bad purchases during the real estate bubble:


Thanks for bringing up this important topic. I know the Pride At Work San Francisco chapter has been one of the orgs calling for its defeat.

For folks looking for a good group of trans-friendly, crunchy, fun queers and allies to get involved with, I'd highly endorse the P@W SF chapter. They are doing amazing work, which our whole organization is highly proud of.

I wish you'd explained what was going on a little better, Jessica. I'm still not sure what's going on. All I can fathom from the video is that the big guy helps the little guy fight off City Hall's eminent domain grabs, but then forces the little guy to strip. How does it all relate to environmental law and rent control?

Bil -- Thanks for asking!

Basically, there's an initiative on the state ballot that is pretending to be about protecting individual property owners from government seizures of their land to benefit *other* private property owners. They say it's protecting, say, someone who owns her home from having that home taken by the government via eminent domain and given to a large private developer or something for economic benefit. (All this is in part a reaction to the 2005 Supreme Court Case Kelo v. City of New London -- more on that at

But what's actually going on in Prop 98 is they're exploiting the concern of homeowners over cases like Kelo to try and amend the state constitution so that private property rights will trump pretty much everything else -- Prop 98 would abolish rent control statewide, impede the government's ability to enforce environmental regulations if they interfere with an individual property owner's profit from her property, hinder the government's ability to use eminent domain to acquire land for public water projects, invalidate affordable-housing requirements for new developments in some cities, and more.

For those concerned with the simple eminent-domain issue Prop 98 pretends to be addressing, there is another measure, Prop 99, that specifically addresses a limited eminent-domain concern (99 would prohibit the gov't from "acquir[ing] by eminent domain an owner occupied residence for the purpose of conveying it to a private person") while leaving protections for renters and the planet intact.

(The SAJE video is exploring how Prop 98 pretends to be about protecting the single-home-owning property owner ["the little guy"] from the big, bad government ... but really it's exploiting the fears of that "little guy" to try and push through legislation that will only benefit private-sector "big guys.")

This initiative is scary in many ways. For most of us who rent in CA cities, where housing prices have skyrocketed in the last few years, it's scary in a very palpable, personal way. Many of us already feel a sort of constant underlying anxiety that our landlords will find some way to circumvent rent control and kick us out so they can hike the rents on the apartments we live in (I've witnessed--and tried to fight--way too many illegal evictions) -- and that's *with* rent control in place. If they could just evict or raise rents as they please? It's a truly frightening thought.

Thanks Jessica. That makes things a lot clearer! *whew*

Here in Indiana we don't have rent control, so how that and eminent domain were related was passing right over my head. I get it now.

Hope the damn thing dies. (Although Prop 99 sounds good!)

Thanks for posting this, Jessica -- voting is a nightmare, but Prop 98 is way worse!

Thanks for giving people a heads up on this, jessica!

Curtis Morton | June 3, 2008 2:03 PM

It's interesting because every piece of literature I've seen from both the Republicans and Democrats say to vote no on Prop 98. I can't believe the parties actually agree on something, especially during a presidential election year, which tells me that Prop 98 is BAD for California! I voted HELL NO! (a new category on the ballot.)