By Carlyn Obringer
From Carlyn’s Column

Among the measures that have qualified for the June 2008 California Primary Election ballot is Proposition 98, the California Property Owners and Farmland Protection Act (CPOFPA). This eminently important ballot measure has received little attention, despite its potential to end all land-use planning within the state and eliminate rent control and important renter protections in California. Supporters present CPOFPA as a way to protect property owners from eminent domain abuses, such as the 2005 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Kelo V. New London, which condemned seven homes in favor of a Pfizer Pharmaceutical manufacturing complex in New London, Connecticut. In reality, Prop 98, or the so-called “Hidden Agendas Scheme,â€? has two much larger goals—eliminating all land-use regulations that protect the environment and limit development, and abolishing affordable housing laws.

One need only look at the havoc wreaked in Oregon since the passage of Measure 37, in November 2004, to realize that the California Property Owners and Farmland Protection Act is not the solution to California’s eminent domain issue. During the 2004 campaign season, the libertarians and property-rights advocates now crusading for passage of the California Property Owners and Farmland Protection Act played on the fears of Oregonian property owners, featuring victims of land-use regulations and eminent domain abuses in a statewide media campaign. The success of Measure 37 led to the implementation of a radical view of “regulatory takings,â€? the idea that the government should compensate a property owner for the impacts of standard regulations on real estate, even though the measure failed to explain from what monetary source the government would provide compensation. As of December 5, 2007, Oregon landowners had filed approximately 7,500 Measure 37 claims–to develop new homes, resort hotels and mines–on 750,000 acres previously zoned as forest or farmland. Only passage of Measure 49, in November 2007, was able to stem the tide of claims and save the neighbors to such properties from unwanted developments.

In addition to destroying land-use planning, Proposition 98 would harm renters and mobile homeowners by eliminating rent control and laws protecting renters against unfair evictions. By dissolving renter protections, CPOFPA would enable landlords to evict vulnerable tenants, including seniors, single mothers and veterans, for no good reason, and without providing the standard 60-day notice. Once the units were vacated, rents could be raised, thereby depriving working families of affordable housing. Furthermore, in mobile home parks, where tenants own their home but not the land beneath it, Prop 98 could cause prices for mobile homes to plummet in cases where landlords raised land rents, thereby scaring off potential buyers.

At a time when many cities in the West previously known for urban sprawl and escalating housing prices, including Denver, Salt Lake City and even Phoenix, have begun to follow California’s example of protecting open space, building an infrastructure for public transportation and focusing on smart growth and urban infill that includes affordable housing, the California Property Owners and Farmland Protection Act would completely undermine these efforts within the Golden State itself. With a population projected to reach 50 million by 2030, a strained infrastructure, an underperforming education system and rapidly rising healthcare costs, California cannot afford to tie up its limited financial resources in expensive lawsuits. Therefore, responsible Democrats should unite with the environmentalists, firefighters, home owners, law enforcement officers and others already opposing Proposition 98, or risk the future prosperity of California and the irrevocable reversal of the landmark land-use and conservation laws that have made the Golden State great.

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