Proposition 98 versus Proposition 99 - Eminent Domain

The two state-wide ballot initiatives this June are Propositions 98 and 99, both dealing with eminent domain.

Eminent domain refers to the practice of governments seizing our private property for some kind of greater good. Eminent domain is generally permitted when goverment needs our land for a public project, such as a highway or storm drain.

But lately local governments are getting into the practice seizing our land and then selling it to another private entity, namely for building housing developments and shopping centers. This came to a boil several years ago in the town of New London, CT, when the US Supreme Court ruled that existing laws permit governments to seize people's homes for the purpose of giving it to developers.

This caused states all across the country to examine their own laws on eminent domain.

In 2006, California Voters defeated Proposition 90, which tried to address eminent domain, but also attached a host of other unrelated matters, which resulted in its demise.

Props 98 and 99 address this matter again, but each compete against each other.

Prop 98 is considered to be the more friendly towards property owners. It basically shuts the door on any kind of eminent domain action for the benefit of private developers. Prop 99 does something similar, except it keeps the door open just a bit.

Prop 98 makes it pretty clear that eminent domain can only happen if it's to create a public works project, where the project is owned by a government entity, or public utility. It totally denies eminent domain for the gain of a private developer.

Prop 99 is similar, except that it only applies when the property owner actually lives on the property, and only applies to single family homes. If the owner doesn't live on the property, the government can still take it away for private use. It also allows government to give your property to private hands if there is any kind illegal activity taking place on your property.

Prop 98 appears to be more geared towards protecting the rights of property owners, whereas Prop 99 appears to more geared towards allowing cities and counties to eliminate blight.

Prop 98 will also eliminate rent controls, allowing property owners to overcome attempts to keep rents low, and return to a market-based system. I don't know of any rent controls here in the unincorporated areas of Riverside County. It may be a non-issue for us. Rent control is not the same as "Section 8" by the way. Section 8 is something a landlord agrees to do, as opposed to being forced to do.

By contrast, Prop 99 leaves existing rent control legislation intact. However, it's largely useless as a law against eminent domain, mainly it because it only applies to single family homes. Eminent domain is rarely ever used against single family homes.

Prop 98 protects all property owners.

People against Prop 98 argue that eminent domain is a minor issue, something that doesn't happen much here in California. But the fact is that the Supreme Court's ruling on New London, CT created a new tool that cities and counties can use to deal with blighted areas. Every state needs to take a look at their eminent domain laws, and make amendments to prevent property seizure for someone else's profit.

If Prop 99 fails, will it mean that that cities and counties become incapable of dealing with blight? Not at all. They can still do it the old fashioned way, have a developer offer a really attractive price.

What happens if both initiatives pass? The one that gets the most votes cancels out the other.

I'm voting Yes on Prop 98, No on Prop 99.

I'd like to hear your thoughts.

For further reading...


  1. Candidate Jason Roth wrote a great comment about this issue under the Bill Gould makes his picks post. I encourage others to read it.

    I saw a report on this issue on KTLA a few weeks ago and immediately felt Prop 98 was fishy. Its goal is to get rid of rent control and the writers and backers are using eminent domain as a scare tactic. Who cares if the government takes a house where illegal activity is going on and sells it to a developer who puts in nicer homes that attract non criminals??? And if I don't live on the property is it really the end of the world if it is taken?
    I would bet money that one of these passes and I hope it is not Prop 98.

    We should also remember that we should be concerned with issues facing our state as well as our community. We don't live in a Riverside County bubble where nothing outside of the county line affects us.

    NO ON 98! Rent control is important!

  2. Scott A. Mann - Candidate of City CouncilMay 28, 2008 9:40 PM

    City Council Candidate Scott Mann - Positions on Prop 98 and Prop 99:

    Prop 98 - NO! I am a traditionalist when it comes to local governments having control over the issues within their own municipalities, counties, parishes, etc. It is the very foundation of our Democracy. To that end, I do not want the State of California, by Constitutional Amendment, to tell the new city of Menifee what to do with rent control. That is our decision...not Sacramento's!

    Prop 99 - NO! I do not like the way the proposition is written. It is confusing and it misleads the voters (in my view). The 5th Amendment of the U.S. Constitutions states..."No private property shall be taken for public use without just compensation." Therefore, why do we need a State Constitutional Amendment (under Prop 99) to implement a common law principle that has been in place around the globe since the day of the Cesaers?

    'Eminent Domain' first appeared in early Roman Law. Later on it was incorporated into the Magna Carta and, ultimately, the U.S. Constitution under the 5th Amendment. Why do we need a California Proposition to presumably restrict a millenium's old (not century's old) practice of common law?

    I remain unconvinced! I am voting 'No' on both Props 98 and 99!

    //s// Scott A. Mann

  3. Thanks for your assessment Scott. I was leaning towards 98 over 99 for eminent domain, but also not liking the rent control thrown into 98... NO on both sounds about right.

  4. I try to take my lead from leaders... and with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger opposing 98, and Tom McClintock showing support... I think I'll have vote to protect all property owners rights.

  5. ...which means you're voting how? No on both? Or are you split?

  6. All:

    In my humble opinion, It is a long time coming that the goverment be
    restrained in emminent domain cases, that often times are driven by local goverment revenue grabs (ie redevelopment into shopping centers etc) and political contributions.

    It appears that Prop 98 has more teeth than Prop 99, in that it will
    protect farms, church buildings and ALL private property, not just
    homes. Prop 99 is "nice" but not nearly as comprehensive as Prop 98.

    Prop 98 will also end NEW enactments of rent controls that some of the semi-communist communities such as Santa Monica, Berkeley and San Francisco have pushed thru the years. Current rent control would still apply, but new buidings would be free of such restraints.

    Your Friend,
    Bill Lussenheide , Menifee, CA USA

    Bill is a candidate for US Congress CA District 45 for the American Independent/Constitutional Party in 2010

  7. Most of you are probably unaware of the simple economics:

    Price controls of anything only EVER create shortages. They also end up creating "alternative markets" aka "Black Markets" and help create a criminal class.

    Prices being allowed to rise will bring in more competition, which will set a true and fair market price. Socialism and Communism believe that they are "smarter" than a free economy, and the allocation of prices and capital.

    Reading Prop 98 arguments in the voter guide you will find the classic "class warfare" words against the prop , which are "enriching wealthy landlords". Wealthy? How do they know? Define "wealthy"?

    Co-ops, just like collective bargaining are fine. This is a legitimate possible answer to those who are renters. Why not use general market loans from market place lenders or limited partnerships and have renters create co-ops?

    In the end, even if this is done, the mobile home folks will discover something. It will cost more than rent control to be the actual owners than it costs them under rent control. If they control the amount of dues they pay each month, as the new owners, they will LOSE money on the value of the property they bought, for the property is and can be worth only as much as a multiple of income. Lower or freeze the income and you will lower the value.

    Your Friend,
    Bill Lussenheide, Menifee, CA USA

    Bill is a candidate for US Congressional CA District 45 for the American Independent/Constitutional Party in 2010.

    Learn more here:

  8. Dear Bill Lussenheide,

    As a candidate for US Congressional CA District 45 for the American Independent/Constitutional Party in 2010, please tell the readers what your position is on 'rent control in senior mobile home parks'? Your senior citizen voters in the new City of Menifee will want to know.

    Rent Control for Seniors - 'yes' or 'no'?

  9. Vote no on both!!

  10. Bill, you sound like a typical politician... A lot of words with no real meaning.

  11. Having an already overrun of landlords feeding off renters and the investors and builders waiting to pounce, I'd like to know how they're going to vote; I will then know to vote just the opposite. Bill's rhetoric has lots of words, but just as confusing as the words of the propositions. WHICH and WHAT will protect the seniors, low-income, farmland etc the better of the two?? Anyone with insight and honesty saying??


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