California Proposition 98, Eminent Domain and Rent Control (June 2008)

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This page is about a 2008 California proposition labeled Proposition 98. If you are looking for the page about the 1998 proposition, go to Proposition 98 (1988).

California Proposition 98 was on the June 3, 2008 ballot in California as an initiated constitutional amendment, where it was defeated.

38.4% of voters in the low-turnout election approved of Proposition 98, while 62% endorsed a rival measure, Proposition 99.

Had Proposition 98 passed and earned more affirmative votes than 99, it would have placed constitutional constraints on the ability of local governments to take property from one private owner through the process of eminent domain in California and give it to another private owner. Proposition 98 also would have phased out rent control.[1][2]

See also California Proposition 98 versus California Proposition 99 (2008)

Election results

See also: June 3, 2008 California election results
California Proposition 98
Defeatedd No2,677,45661.6%
Yes 1,675,213 38.4%


In the wake of the 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Kelo v. City of New London, a number of states enacted legislation to rein in what many voters in those states saw as a potential for eminent domain abuse.

Proposition 90, an eminent domain reform measure that also would have significantly restricted the extent to which the government could engage in regulatory takings and would also have repealed rent control, lost 52-48% in 2006. In June 2008, the eminent domain ballot battle was re-joined again.

Constitutional changes

If Proposition 98 had been approved, it would have amended Section 19 of Article I of the California Constitution.

Text of measure


The ballot title was:

Eminent Domain. Limits on Government Authority. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.


The official summary provided to describe Proposition 98 said:

  • Bars state and local governments from taking or damaging private property for private uses.
  • Prohibits rent control and similar measures.
  • Prohibits deference to government in takings cases.
  • Defines "just compensation."
  • Requires an award of attorneys fees and costs if a property owner obtains a judgment for more than the amount offered by the government.
  • Requires government to offer to original owner of condemned property the right to repurchase property at condemned price when property is put to substantially different use than was publicly stated.

Fiscal impact

See also: Fiscal impact statement

The fiscal estimate provided by the California Legislative Analyst's Office said:

"Increased costs to many governments due to the measure's restrictions. The net statewide fiscal effect, however, probably would not be significant."[3]


Both opponents and proponents of Proposition 98 filed lawsuits against the California Attorney General's office in February 2008 regarding the ballot language. The proponents argued that rent control repeal should not have been mentioned in the description. Proponents argued that the measure's ballot title, set by that office, was misleading because it said nothing about Proposition 98's stance toward rent control. Both lawsuits were unsuccessful.

The California Attorney General agreed that rent control repeal is a chief purpose of Proposition 98, and Judge Frawley concurred, commenting that he might have written it differently had it been his task. However, Judge Frawley concluded that the Attorney General had not gone beyond his discretion in writing the title and description, taken together. In the lawsuit by proponents, the judge rejected the argument that the rent control provisions should not be characterized as "repeal."[4] [5]



The official voter guide arguments in favor of Proposition 93 were signed by:

  • Jon Coupal, president, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association
  • Doug Mosebar, president, California Farm Bureau
  • Steve L. Caughran, 2007 California Small Business Owner of the Year, National Federation of Independent Business
  • Cruz Baca Sembello
  • John Revelli
  • Joel Ayala, president, California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce[6]

The official campaign committee supporting Proposition 98 was Californians for Property Rights Protection, which was a project of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. Named sponsors on the official filing were Doug Mosebar, Jon Coupal and Jim Nielsen. Other notable supporters included the California Farm Bureau Federation, the California Alliance to Protect Private Property Rights Committee, the California Republican Party, and the California Association of Realtors.[7][8]

Other supporters of Proposition 98 included:

  • California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce (CHCC)[9]
  • Federation of Independent Business, Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council
  • Institute for Justice[10]
See also: List of California Proposition 98 supporters

Arguments in favor

As described by the supporters of Proposition 98, what the measure was intended to do was place additional restrictions on eminent domain seizures. These included:[11]

  • Private property may not be taken by eminent domain for private use under any circumstances (e.g., to build a shopping center, auto mall or industrial park).
  • Property may be taken by eminent domain only for public use (e.g., freeway construction, parks, schools).
  • Property may not be taken by government and then used for the same purpose that it was used for prior to seizure. For example, if residential housing is taken, the government cannot then use it for residential housing.
  • Family farms and open space are protected from seizures by government for the purpose of selling the natural resources.
  • If a public agency takes property under false pretenses, or abandons its plans, the property must be offered for sale to the original owner at the original price and the property tax would be assessed at the value of the property when it was originally condemned.
  • If farmers or business owners are evicted by eminent domain, they would be entitled to compensation for temporary business losses, relocation expenses, business reestablishment costs and other reasonable expenses.
  • Government may not set the price at which property owners sell or lease their property.

Sacramento property owner Moe Mohanna travelled the state speaking on behalf of Proposition 98. He said, "I'll be going to different cities, and talking about private property rights, and the taking of private property for private use. Today it is my buildings, tomorrow it is your home."[12][13]


$6,992,782 was contributed to the campaign in favor of a "yes" vote on Proposition 98.[14]

Donors of $100,000 or more were:

Donor Amount
California Association of Realtors $711,250
Apartment Owners Association $568,218
California Farm Bureau Federation $406,957
Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association $389,424
Western Manufactured Housing Communities Association $205,677
Thomas Coates $200,000
Vedder Community Management $171,825
Thomas Tatum $125,000
Orange County Property Rights PAC $125,000
Hometown America LLC $123,680
California Tropics Investors $100,000
Equity Lifestyle Properties $100,000
Friedkin Realty Management Group $100,000



The official voter guide arguments opposing Proposition 98 were signed by:

  • Jeannine English, California State President, AARP
  • Janis R. Hirohama, president, League of Women Voters of California
  • Richard Word, president, California Police Chiefs Association
  • Dean Preston, co-chair, Coalition to Protect California Renters
  • Ken Willis, president, League of California Homeowners

Opponents of Proposition 98 largely overlapped with supporters of Proposition 99.[15] The coalition of groups opposing Proposition 98 included lobbying associations that represent California municipalities, tenant groups, environmental groups, and unions. Public finance firms&emdash;broker/dealers and other for-profit firms that do bond-writing and debt management business with local governments&emdash;also opposed 98. A PAC representing these interests and eight individual broker-dealer, financial advisory and bond counsel companies donated to the campaign to defeat Proposition 98.[16]

Notable groups and individuals opposing 98 included Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Senator Dianne Feinstein, former Governor Pete Wilson, AARP, the League of California Cities, California League of Conservation Voters, the California Teachers Association, SEIU, and the California Chamber of Commerce.

Arguments against

2008 propositions
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February 5
Proposition 91Proposition 92
Proposition 93Proposition 94
Proposition 95Proposition 96
Proposition 97
June 3
Proposition 98Proposition 99
November 4
Proposition 1AProposition 2
Proposition 3Proposition 4
Proposition 5Proposition 6
Proposition 7Proposition 8
Proposition 9Proposition 10
Proposition 11Proposition 12
Local measures

Opponents of Proposition 98 believed that 98 could affect:

  1. Environmental laws. Opponents believe that it is possible that under the provisions of Prop 98, it would be harder for state agencies to enforce environmental regulations, if those regulations "transfer an economic benefit" from a property owner to another party.
  2. Public safety;
  3. Water projects;
  4. Land use approval processes;
  5. Zoning restrictions, such as limits on density and the types of uses allowed in particular areas;
  6. Tenant protections. Rent control clearly would be eliminated for all new tenancies. In addition, other tenant protections such as the return of security deposits, the right to get 60-days notice before eviction, and requirements that landlords have just cause to evict tenants would also be threatened.


$15,608,527 was contributed to the campaign in favor of a "no" vote on Proposition 98 by nine different campaign committees.[17]

Donors of $100,000 and over were:

Donor Amount
League of California Cities $5,761,347
California League of Conservation Voters $2,900,000
California State Association of Counties $1,196,935
California State Council of Service Employees $900,000
California Redevelopment Association $506,758
Nature Conservancy $500,000
California Teachers Association $350,000
State Building & Construction Trades Council $275,000
California Public Securities Association $275,000
California Alliance for Jobs $250,000
Peninsula Open Space Trust $250,000
National Audubon Society $250,000
SEIU Local 1000 $200,000
California Conservation Campaign $100,000
California State Association of Electrical Workers $100,000
California State Pipe Trades Council $100,000
Environmental Defense Action Fund $100,000
Forest City Residential West $100,000
Natural Resources Defense Council $100,000
Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters $100,000
See also: Complete list of groups opposing Proposition 98

Editorial opinion

"Yes on 98"

"No on 98"

  • Los Angeles Times: "With the ill-considered Proposition 98, property rights advocates once again have undermined themselves and poorly served homeowners, businesspeople and real estate investors by overreaching."[19]
  • San Francisco Chronicle: "Proposition 98 is disingenuous and dangerous."[20]

The official web site opposing Proposition 98 listed 70 newspapers that opposed Proposition 98.[21]

Public opinion polls

See also Polls, 2008 ballot measures

The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) released a poll in May 2008 that suggested that while Californians were concerned about property rights, they were not convinced that Proposition 98 addressed their concerns.[22] PPIC's March poll showed higher support for 98 than the May poll.[23][24]

Month of Poll In favor Opposed Undecided
May 2008 30% 48% 22%
March 2008 37% 41% 22%

Path to the ballot

See also: California signature requirements

As an initiated constitutional amendment, 694,354 signatures were required to qualify Proposition 98 for the ballot.

Arno Political Consultants conducted the petition drive to qualify Proposition 98 for the ballot, charging the campaign $1,583,000.[25] Competing ballot measure, Proposition 99 paid Progressive Campaigns, Inc. $3,559,970 to qualify that measure for the ballot.[26]

See also: California ballot initiative petition signature costs

See also

External links

Suggest a link


  1. Competing eminent domain measures set for June ballot (dead link) Capital Press, February 8, 2008
  2. Real Eminent Domain Reform Ballot Measure Qualifies for California's June Ballot, PRNewswire, Jan. 16, 2008
  3. Fiscal Impact Statement for Proposition 98
  4. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Judge approves description of eminent domain initiative on ballot" March 7, 2008
  5. Beyond Chron March 10, 2008
  6. California Voter Guide, "Arguments for and against Proposition 98"
  7. List of supporters of Proposition 98
  8. C.A.R. Supports Yes Vote on Proposition 98 to Protect Homeowners from Unjust Eminent Domain Takings, May 13, 2008
  9. Largest Statewide Hispanic Business Organization in the Nation Supports Eminent Domain Reform, California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce endorses June Ballot Measure, PR Newswire, Oct. 25, 2007
  10. Victimizing the Vulnerable, Institute for Justice
  11. Californians for Property Rights, Initiative Language
  12. K Street Fight Will Resonate On State Ballot San Jose Mercury News, December 30, 2007
  13. Earth Times, Reports Eminent Domain Reform Ballot Measures Debated in Sacramento, March 7, 2008
  14. Follow the Money, "Donors to Yes on 98"
  15. Supporters of Proposition 99 (dead link)
  16. The Bond Buyer, Betting against Proposition 98, May 23, 2008
  17. Follow the Money, "Donors to No on 98"
  18. [ Orange County Register, "Editorial: Ballot measure seeks to rein in cities' land grabs," November 27, 2007
  19. Los Angeles Times, "No on 98, Yes on 99," May 12, 2008
  20. San Francisco Chronicle, "Defend our cities; vote no on Proposition 98," May 4, 2008
  21. 70 “No on 98” editorials
  22. Contra Costa Times, "PPIC poll shows big property rights concern but indecision on Props 98, 99," May 21, 2008
  23. Public Policy Institute of California, "Californians and their Government"
  24. California Progress Report, "California Prop 98 Heading for Rejection by Voters—Rival Prop 99 Has Narrow 8 Point Lead," May 22, 2008 (dead link)
  25. Proposition 98 campaign expenditure details
  26. Expenditures of the Eminent Domain Reform Now committee

Additional reading