Analyzing the ads: Propositions 98 and 99

Prop. 98 on the June 3 ballot asks voters to decide whether the state should restrict government agencies from using powers of eminent domain to force the sale of properties for use in private development, as well as whether to phase out rent control in California.

A competing measure on the same ballot, Prop. 99, would prohibit government agencies from using eminent domain to take owner-occupied homes. It does not address rent control.

Here is an analysis of advertisements related to both measures:


Paid for by AARP

A 30-second television ad by groups opposing Prop. 98 and supporting 99 features a member of AARP, a lobby group for seniors. He notes that the group opposes Prop. 98, concerned that it “enables unfair evictions of seniors and other renters, so that rents can be raised without limits.”

The actor says that AARP calls Prop. 98 a “deceptive scheme by a few wealthy landlords to eliminate rent control.”

Analysis: The anti-98, pro-99 campaign has reported more than 3,000 donations, many of them in the amount of $100. Although most of the money came from property managers and owners, some came from donors who are not landlords but support the restrictions on eminent domain. Prop. 98 would not eliminate rent control immediately but would phase it out. A report by the independent Legislative Analyst’s Office says rent control would continue to exist for current tenants as long as they remain in their apartments or mobile home spaces. As people move out, rent controls would be removed from those units. Some current tenants might live in rent-controlled units for the rest of their lives.

‘True’ reform

A radio advertisement by opponents of Prop. 98 features a narrator saying: “Two measures on the state ballot use the words ‘eminent domain.’ But only one is true eminent domain reform. That’s Prop. 99, which protects homeowners from eminent domain abuse. The other measure is Prop. 98. Ninety-eight is a deceptive scheme financed by wealthy landlords. Ninety-eight would eliminate rent control.”

The narrator goes on to say that “98 is a landlord scheme that’s bad for renters, homeowners and taxpayers.”

Analysis: Prop. 98 would provide homeowners with eminent domain protections similar to those in Prop. 99 and would extend those protections to businesses, farms and other properties. This ad, like the other one, also neglects to explain that Prop. 98 would phase out rent control over time, instead falsely implying that it would end immediately.

Regarding the claim that the measure is bad for taxpayers, the independent Legislative Analyst’s Office concluded that “many governments would have net increased costs to acquire property, but . . . the net statewide fiscal effect probably would not be significant.”

-- Patrick McGreevy