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Choose Prop. 99 over Prop 98

'LIVE' from City Hall

Posted: May 11, 2008 4:48 p.m.
Updated: July 12, 2008 5:04 a.m.
There are two propositions on your June ballot that you will probably need some background on in order to cast an informed vote. These are Propositions 98 and 99.

Proposition 98 is the California Property Owners and Farmland Protection Act, and Proposition 99 is the Homeowners Protection Act. The purpose of both ballot measures is to amend current eminent domain laws to restrict government's use of eminent domain authority.

Eminent domain is the authority that state and local governments may use to take possession of private property for the public good, under specific conditions. Typically, it is used sparingly and only as a tool of last resort. In its most common application, private landowners receive fair-market value for their property that is needed for public improvements, such as roads, utilities, parks, libraries, and other public facilities.

Kelo decision
In California, redevelopment agencies also have the ability to acquire private property to further economic development and revitalize blighted areas. The 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Kelo v. City of New London, Connecticut, reaffirmed that right.

The central issue in the Kelo decision was whether it was appropriate for a local government to acquire a private residence and then turn that property over to another private interest for economic development purposes. Eminent domain advocates and opponents alike have supported reasonable changes in law that would not allow the transference of someone's home to another private party for solely economic development reasons. Propositions 98 and 99 use two distinctly different approaches toward addressing changes in eminent domain law to clarify its use for public purposes.

While proponents of Proposition 98 argue that the initiative simply provides new restrictions on the use of eminent domain, the provisions of the actual measure go further than eminent domain issues, into areas such as phasing out local rent control ordinances. Additionally, the proposed measure utilizes three new definitions to alter the meaning of "private use" property.

Based on the definitions of this initiative, government may be prohibited from constructing public water projects, enacting land use regulations to protect the environment, stopping the approval of new economic and housing development, and invalidate regulations intended to protect the public's health, safety and welfare.

This initiative also proposes a new definition for "public use" property. The effect of this definition would be to limit the use and ownership of a property by a public agency or
regulated public utility, including public facilities, public transportation, and public utilities. This definition would effectively preclude private participation in efforts to eliminate urban decay or public/private partnerships.

More so, Proposition 98 would also shift power from locally elected legislative bodies to the courts by mandating that courts ignore the local governments' legislative deliberations in all eminent domain proceedings when a case is challenged in court.

Proposition 99, or the Homeowners Protection Act, would provide protection for homeowners by prohibiting governments from taking an owner-occupied home to transfer to a private party.

However, Proposition 99 does not have the same multiple implications of Proposition 98. Proposition 99 would not affect state or local rent control laws, or environmental laws and regulations.

Additionally, unlike Proposition 98, this initiative contains specific public health and safety exemptions to eminent domain restrictions.

The language in Proposition 99 permits the use of eminent domain to protect public health and safety. Furthermore, under Proposition 99 there would be no changes in balance of power between local governments and the courts, as suggested in Proposition 98, thus protecting locally elected authority Finally, the narrow focus of Proposition 99 addresses the core concerns of eminent domain law while protecting this "tool of last resort" for public agencies in addressing public needs issues.

The League of California Cities and the Santa Clarita City Council are opposed to Proposition 98 and support Proposition 99. You may wish to visit the League of California Cities Web site for a list of those in support and those who are opposed to these propositions. I find it interesting that those who oppose Proposition 98 and support Proposition 99 are a very diverse group of people, crossing party lines. You can visit the League's Web site at

Should you need additional information on these propositions, you may visit: and click on 2008 Ballot Measures.

Marsha McLean is a Santa Clarita city councilwoman. Her column reflects her own views, not necessarily those of The Signal.


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