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Rent control, affordable housing, state division set for November ballot

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California’s dozen voter measures slant toward housing

An extremely low-angle photo of the dome of the Capitol building in Sacramento. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

California voters will consider a dozen ballot measures in November, concerning everything from cages for farm animals to workbreaks for ambulance drivers.

But after last week’s final deadline to qualify for the fall election passed, the finished slate as presented by the California Secretary of State’s office is (surprise) largely concerned with housing.

Here’s a quick reference guide to the housing and transit decisions facing voters at the end of the year, including several measures that could radically alter the future of living and renting in the state.

  • Prop 10: Expands Local Governments’ Authority to Enact Rent Control on Residential Property

This is the big one for 2018, potentially the final chapter in the decades-long drive to repeal the 1995 Costa-Hawkins Act, which severely curtails California city’s ability to place rent-control restrictions on properties.

If passed, Prop 10 would add the following language to the state’s Civil Code:

“A city, county, or city and county shall have the authority to adopt a local charter provision, ordinance or regulation that governs a landlord’s right to establish and increase rental rates on a dwelling or housing unit.”

This would allow cities to place rent restrictions on newly constructed multi-family properties again. Under the present law, only older existing housing stock built before February 1995 may be subject to rent control.

  • Prop 9: Division of California Into Three States

Eccentric billionaire Tim Draper’s latest attempt to split up California would divide the Golden State into three smaller states, with San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego becoming the largest cities in each, respectively.

Bear in mind that even if Proposition 9 passes (which it won’t) and it stands up to legal scrutiny in court, the most it can do is request permission from the federal government to create new states. Congress and the Executive Branch would be the ones to actually decide whether or not such a thing happens.

Under Draper’s plan, San Francisco would become part of a proposed new state composing almost the entire northern half of the present California:

A new state, named Northern California, or a name to be chosen by the people of that state, shall include the territory represented by the boundaries of the following forty ( 40) counties:

Alameda, Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, Contra Costa, Del Norte, El Dorado, Glenn, Humboldt, Lake, Lassen, Marin, Mariposa, Mendocino, Merced, Modoc, Napa, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Siskiyou, Shasta, Tehama, Trinity, Tuolumne, Sacramento, San Joaquin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Sierra, Solano, Sonoma, Stanislaus, Sutter, Yolo and Yuba.

Rendering via Sacramento Bee
  • Prop 7: Daylight Saving Time

Bay Area Assembly Representative Kansen Chu is making another bid at doing away with the annual Daylight Saving Time timewarp in California.

Note that, if passed, Prop 7 lacks the authority to change the time change brouhaha by itself. Rather, if voters say yes on the proposition then the California Legislature will have to approve the new timetable by a two-thirds majority. Additionally. Congress would then have to approve a petition for the switch.

All of which sounds like almost as much trouble as Daylight Saving Time. But in any case, voters gets to decide whether or not to kick off the process.

  • Prop 6: Eliminates Recently Enacted Road Repair and Transportation Funding by Repealing Revenues Dedicated for those Purposes

This is the proposed repeal of the 2017 gas tax (which the state projects will raise roughly $4.9 billion annually by 2021 for highway maintenance and repair), a cause célèbre that the state’s largely marginalized Republican Party hopes will find traction with the general public.

If passed, Proposition 6 would add the following language to California State Constitution:

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Legislature shall not impose, increase or extend any tax, as defined in section 3, on the sale, storage, use or consumption of motor vehicle gasoline or diesel fuel, or on the privilege of a resident of California to operate on the public highways a vehicle, or trailer coach, unless and until that proposed tax is submitted to the electorate and approved by a majority vote.

  • Prop 5: Changes Requirements for Certain Property Owners to Transfer Their Property Tax

This opaque sounding proposal is actually a fascinating experiment with the state’s Proposition 13 tax laws.

Right now, some California homeowners are reluctant to move because that would mean giving up their plum, extra-low property tax rate. Under Proposition 5, homeowners over the age of 55 could qualify to take their existing property tax rate into a new home.

The idea is to dislodge older owners who are living in empty nest houses too big for their present needs but who might not want to move for fear of the tax man. Note that the California Association of Realtors proposed this one.

  • Prop 1: Veterans and Affordable Housing Bond

This measure, by way of San Jose Representative Jim Beall, is pretty simple: If passed, the state will take out a $4 billion housing bond, most of which will go toward creating affordable housing, with $1 billion of it dedicated to housing subsidies for veterans.