The Santa Monica City Council joined Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, among others, and passed a resolution at its April 29th meeting opposing Proposition 98, a measure set to be on the ballot June 3rd that would eliminate rent control and some renter protections, among other things.

Additionally, the council endorsed Proposition 98’s counter measure, Proposition 99, which will also be on the June ballot and is an eminent domain reform measure that will constitutionally protect homeowners without the adverse consequences of Proposition 98, said Kate Vernez, assistant to the city manager for community and government relations.

Proposition 98, which has been called a “deceptive initiative,” would deprive local government of the authority to protect local health and welfare through a wide range of regulatory programs like local rent controls and tenant protections, according to city documents.

The ballot initiative was put forth by the Sacramento-based Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, an organization that works to promote taxpayers’ rights.

The association says the initiative would ensure that private property cannot be taken or damaged for private use.

Jon Coupal, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association president, says the initiative would also prohibit the government from taking private property to give to a private developer or private entity for development.

But if passed, Proposition 98 would eliminate rent control and renter protections, threaten land use planning and jeopardize laws that protect the environment including efforts to ensure a reliable water supply of clean, safe drinking water and preserve coastal resources.

“It would have extremely serious consequences for Santa Monica and all other California cities,” said city attorney Marsha Moutrie. “It would be a dramatic erosion of local control.”

Moutrie pointed out that the wording of Proposition 98 is very general, but “I think the intent to give much, much stronger protection to what’s viewed as private property rights is very, very clear,” she said.

The measure would curtail local power to control land use and would prohibit mitigation requirements that local public agencies require to ensure that development projects don’t degrade local quality of life by harming the environment, Vernez said.

Also, the impact on city laws and regulations would be “enormous” and a long list of city activities would be put at risk, Vernez said.

“Proposition 98 will seriously undermine state and local government ability to protect our environment, increase our water supply and improve our crumbling infrastructure,” Feinstein has said. “It is reckless and would tie the state’s hands in dealing with a wide range of critical issues.”

In opposing Proposition 98, the City of Santa Monica joins groups such as the California Police Chiefs Association, California Fire Chiefs Association, AARP (American Association of Retired Persons), the California Chamber of Commerce, California Teachers Association, Sierra Club California, Housing California, the League of California Homeowners and the California Transportation Commission.

“This is really a diverse range of people who are opposing [Proposition] 98,” said Santa Monica City Councilman Ken Genser. “[Proposition] 98 is also opposed by virtually every major environmental organization in this state.

“I think a growing number of cities will be opposing it, and we’re part of that movement tonight. I think 98 is clearly dangerous and the important thing is to vote both no on 98 and yes on 99.”

In opposing Proposition 98, the city supports Proposition 99, an eminent domain reform measure that will prevent the government from taking a home through eminent domain to be transferred to a private developer, Vernez said.

It would leave intact the vital local police powers, which are necessary to preserve public health, safety and welfare, and it would not eliminate rent control and renter protections, Vernez said.

“Proposition 99 is a better alternative,” says Feinstein. “It is targeted at eminent domain reform. It protects private homes without making it more difficult for government to do its job to improve our infrastructure and protect public health and safety.

“So on Election Day, I’m urging all California voters to join with me in opposing Proposition 98 and in support of Proposition 99, which is reasonable and responsible eminent domain reform.”

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