Tremendous Prop 98/99 Victory Lays the Groundwork for Statewide Tenant Movement


The following is a statement by Tenants’ Together, a newly formed statewide tenant organization which CES is a founding member of.

Tenants Together is a nonprofit organization dedicated to defending & advancing the rights of California tenants to safe, decent and affordable housing. As California’s only statewide renters’ rights organization, Tenants Together works to improve the lives of California’s tenants through education, organizing & advocacy. Tenants Together seeks to galvanize a statewide movement for renters’ rights.

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California Voters Support Rent Control : Huge Victory for Tenants & Stinging Landlord Defeat

California voters have squarely rejected a landlord attempt to abolish rent control in California. Prop. 98 would have amended California’s constitution to ban rent control. Voters opposed the measure by a hefty 22 point margin.

Dean Preston, Executive Director of Tenants Together, California’s new statewide organization for renters’ rights, hailed this as a major victory for rent control, and predicted that the election would usher in a new era for tenant rights in California. “The landlords’ attack on rent control was squarely rejected by voters. Landlords will regret waging this campaign. This election has reinvigorated a grassroots movement for tenant rights in California.”

Ted Gullicksen of the San Francisco Tenants Union led get-out-the-vote efforts against Prop. 98 in San Francisco. Gullicksen stated: “This was a resounding victory for rent control in California. Landlords spent a fortune trying to spread misinformation about rent control. But Californians understand how important rent control is to protect California’s seniors, working families and low-income residents. After this election, there can be no doubt that Californians support rent control.”

Recent polling by the Public Policy Institute of California released before the election supported these claims. PPIC found that a majority of Californians support rent control. The polling data, which surveyed renters and homeowners alike, showed that rent control remains popular in California.

Although framed as an “eminent domain” measure, Proposition 98 quickly became a referendum on rent control because the measure sought to amend the state’s constitution to ban rent control. Prop. 98 was backed by landlord groups and opposed by tenant groups. Proponents of 98 made rent control abolition a key point in their campaign, and attracted millions of dollars from landlords in their effort to abolish rent control. Over 80% of the funding for Prop. 98 came from landlords and groups that represent them.

Larry Gross, Executive Director of the Coalition for Economic Survival, spearheaded get-out-the-vote efforts in Los Angeles. Gross declared victory for rent control: “From the beginning, this measure was about whether to abolish rent control. In this election, rent control won big.”

Gross commented: “We know that landlords will be back with some other scheme to throw people out of their homes and jack up rents. That’s why today we’re not just celebrating victory. We’re going to build on this victory and continue to organize. We will be even stronger the next time these landlords come knocking on our doors.”

Statewide Ballot Measure Results

Yes Votes % No Votes %
Prop 98 39% 61%

Prop 99 62.5% 37.5%

West Hollywood, California (Thursday June 5, 2008) – Voters went to the polls in dribbles and drabs to defeat Proposition 98, which would have un-done rent control law across the state and approved Proposition 99, limiting the use of eminent domain.

A 1984 rent control/cityhood meeting in West Hollywood’s Plummer Park. Photo courtesy Coalition for Economic Survival
In the area’s Senate and Assembly raves, former state assembly member Fran Pavely beat her rival for the democratic nomination for senate assembly member Lloyd Levine and incumbent Michael Feuer cruised to easy re-nomination.

In districts that boast of a 2-1 Democratic edge in registration, both nominees are expected to go on to victory in November’s general election.

The turnout, according to the secretary of state’s office, was 22.2 percent of registered voters.

Those voting, however, rejected abolishing the state’s local rent control laws while limiting the use of eminent domain by a 20 point margin.

Proposition 98 lost with only 39 percent of the yes vote to 61 percent no.

The competing proposition, 99, which left rent control laws alone while placing controls on the use of eminent domain, won as handily, 62.5 percent voting yes with 37.5 percent casting no votes.

Tenants’ rights groups fought hard against the anti-rent control measure.

The head of the Coalition for Economic Survival, Larry Gross, who played a large role in helping to create the City of West Hollywood and its strong rent control ordinances in 1984, sent a press release crowing about the tenants’ victory.

“California voters provided a tremendous victory for those who are committed to preserving and producing affordable housing, protecting our environment, controlling development in neighborhoods and ensuring that we have an adequate supply of clean drinking water,” it said.

Seeing another attempt to roll back renters’ gains, he promised to take the battle to the landlords. “We will build on this victory and continue to organize. We will be even stronger the next time these landlords come knocking on our doors,” Mr. Gross declared.

“But for now we rejoice in knowing that “the voters in the state, said NO to 98!”

Proposition 99 bars agencies from forcing property owners to sell their property for use by private developers, however, it does allow the use of eminent domain to take property for public uses, such as schools and roads.

The groups that place proposition 99 on the ballot said they did so in response to a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld governments’ rights to demolish homes for commercial development.