California Proposition 13, Seismic Retrofitting (June 2010)

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This article is about a 2010 ballot proposition in California. For other measures with a similar title, see Proposition 13.
California Proposition 13, the Seismic Retrofitting Amendment, is on the June 8, 2010 ballot in California as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment.

Proposition 13, if approved by the state's voters, will prohibit tax assessors from re-evaluating new construction for property tax purposes when the point of the new construction is to seismically retrofit an existing building. If successful, it will amend Section 2 of Article XIII A of the California Constitution.

California state senator Roy Ashburn is the amendment's primary sponsor.

Ballot label details

Ballot title: Limits on Property Tax Assessment. Seismic retrofitting of existing buildings. Legislative Constitutional Amendment.

Official summary: Provides that construction to seismically retrofit buildings will not trigger reassessment of property tax value. Sets statewide standard for seismic retrofit improvements that qualify.

Estimated fiscal impact: Minor reduction in local property tax revenues related to the assessment of earthquake upgrades.

Constitutional changes

California Constitution
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See also: Amending the California Constitution

SCA 4 would amend Section 2 of Article XIII A of the California Constitution.

The constitution currently limits taxes on property to 1% of the full cash value of the property. "Full cash value" means the appraised value of that real property when purchased, newly constructed, or a change of ownership has occurred.

The California Constitution excludes from classification as “newly constructed” the cost of re-constructing or improving a building to comply with any local ordinances that relate to earthquake safety. The California Constitution also authorizes the Legislature to exclude from classification as “newly constructed” the construction or installation in existing buildings of certain seismic retrofitting improvements or improvements utilizing earthquake hazard mitigation technologies.

SCA 4 would change the law by excluding from the definition of “newly constructed” the portion of an existing structure that consists of the construction or reconstruction of seismic retrofitting components, as defined by the Legislature. This measure would delete the existing exclusion for structures constructed of unreinforced masonry bearing wall construction, and the existing grant of authority to the Legislature to exclude certain seismic retrofitting improvements or improvements utilizing earthquake hazard mitigation technologies.


Key supporters of Proposition 13 include Roy Ashburn, Tom Bordonaro and Barbara Alby. Bordonaro, who is the county assessor for San Luis Obispo County and Alby, who is the Chief-Deputy Board Member for District 2 of the Board of Equalization, signed the official voter's guide arguments in favor of Proposition 13, along with Senator Ashburn.

Other supporters include:


Editorial opinion

"Vote Yes"

  • The editorial board of the Contra Costa Times has encouraged its readers to vote "yes" on Proposition 13, writing, "Proposition 13 on the June 8 ballot is a technical, but important correction to assessments of properties that are retrofitted to make them more resistant to earthquakes."[4]
  • The editorial board of the San Luis Obispo Tribune endorses a "yes" vote, saying, "We wish the state could provide more financial incentives to make retrofitting less burdensome, but in this awful economy, that’s simply not possible. Proposition 13 would at least provide some long-term tax relief for property owners who are trying to do the right thing by making their buildings safer. We strongly urge a yes vote on the measure.[5]
  • The San Francisco Chronicle's editorial board is in favor, saying, "In California's divisive politics, it's a miracle to find a ballot measure that has broad support, clear benefits and no identifiable opposition. That's the case for state Proposition 13, a measure that encourages seismic upgrades to quake-prone buildings by canceling the risk of increased property taxes."[6]
  • The Los Angeles Times is in favor, saying, "With these thorny questions down the ballot, voters can feel some sense of relief that the first measure they'll be confronted with is straightforward and easy to support...It's as close as a California ballot measure comes to being a no-brainer."[7]
  • The Orange County Register is in favor, saying, "Recent earthquakes killing many people in Haiti and Chile – and that 7.2-magnitude quake in Baja on April 4 that also shook Orange County – are reminders of the need for strong buildings. It doesn't make sense to punish homeowners and businesses that want to improve their buildings' quality."[8]
  • The (Petaluma) Press Democrat: "State measure offers incentive to prepare for an earthquake".[9]
  • The Marin Independent-Journal: "If it will help encourage owners to make their properties safer, the exemption is worth it."[10]
  • The Lompoc Record: "We firmly believe property values should be evaluated on a regular basis, but if approving Prop. 13 increases the probability of getting buildings in better shape to withstand the forces of an earthquake, we are in favor of it."[11]

External links

Suggest a link


  1. Los Angeles Times, "California Democratic Party convention wrap-up", April 19, 2010
  2. CREDO Action, "June 2010 Progressive Voter Guide"
  3. California Nurses Association, "June 8, 2010, Statewide Direct Primary Election Qualified Measures"
  4. Contra Costa Times, "Contra Costa Times editorial: California voters should vote yes on Proposition 13", March 25, 2010
  5. San Luis Obispo Tribune, "Prop. 13 would ease retrofit costs", April 1, 2010
  6. San Francisco Chronicle, "Vote yes on tax break for seismic work", April 22, 2010
  7. Sacramento Bee, "Recent California newspaper editorials", April 21, 2010
  8. Orange County Register, "Prop. 13: Quake upgrades should be encouraged", April 20, 2010
  9. Press Democrat, "For Prop. 13", May 5, 2010
  10. Marin Independent-Journal, "IJ's choices for state propositions", May 10, 2010
  11. Lompoc Record, "Initiatives, confusion in primary", May 14, 2010