Thursday, April 24, 2008

Pasadena Star News
Advocacy groups denounce Proposition 98

By Fred Ortega, Staff Writer

PASADENA - A coalition of advocacy groups is denouncing a ballot measure it claims would eradicate rent control and throw thousands of low-income Californians onto the streets.

Members of the League of Women Voters, the Western Center of Law & Poverty and housing attorneys joined fixed-income renters at the AARP's Pasadena headquarters Wednesday to issue a "fraud alert" against advertisements promoting Proposition 98.

The proposition, which is being championed by a coalition led by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, is billed as an effort to keep government from handing property to private developers using eminent domain.

But opponents say that hidden within the language of the June 3 ballot initiative are provisions that would eliminate rent control in apartments and mobile home parks across the state, including for the more than 627,000 rent-controlled households in Los Angeles alone.

"The eminent domain argument is a Trojan horse," said Kathy Fairbanks, a spokeswoman for the AARP-led coalition. "About 80 percent of the funding for the `Yes on 98 Campaign' comes from landlords, and all they care about is eliminating rent control."

Much of the support the proposition has received has indeed come from landlord groups, said Kris Vosburgh, executive director of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

But he accused opponents in government of exaggerating the proposition's effects on rent control in order to secure their own ability to seize private property for redevelopment purposes.
"Parts of our measure would phase out rent control in a way that if a person under rent control leaves a unit, the controls on that unit would be eliminated," said Vosburgh, noting that the League of California Cities has gone on record opposing the measure. "So I would imagine in 40 or 50 years it might be eliminated, but it would not impact anyone currently on rent control."
Vosburgh added that the proposition would ban cities from using eminent domain to take land from a private owner and turning it over to another private entity.

"They would still be able to take it for public schools, roads and other legitimate purposes," he said. "But you can't take it because, say, a strip mall might bring more revenue than Ms. Jones' business, or Mr. Sanchez's house."

But rent control is not the only thing that would be jeopardized by Proposition 98, AARP Executive Council member Marvin Schachter said.

"We have inclusionary zoning here in Pasadena, where new developers are required to set aside a portion of construction for affordable housing, and that would be invalidated by this proposition," said Schachter, adding that the Pasadena City Council has gone on the record against Proposition 98.

An analysis of the proposition shows its provisions would end rent control for 1million Californians, said Greg Spiegel, a housing attorney for the Western Center on Law & Poverty.
"This would have a devastating effect on renters and undo centuries of landlord-tenant law," said Spiegel, adding that Proposition 98 would also do away with other renter-protection measures, such as notices for no-fault evictions and caps on what landlords can charge for credit checks.

"This is a doomsday measure backed by wealthy landlords and mobile-home park owners," added Larry Gross, executive director of the Coalition for Economic Survival, noting that condo-conversion protection and tenant relocation programs would also be affected by the proposition. "It is nothing but lies, lies, lies motivated by greed, greed, greed."

Schachter said his group wanted to alert people to the proposition early, especially those seniors who cast their votes via absentee ballot.

"There will probably be tremendously low turnout this election and that is part of the (Proposition 98) proponents' strategy," said Schachter, whose group is urging voters to support Proposition 99, a rival measure they say includes safeguards for renters.

"They will likely send out slate mailers supporting unchallenged candidates and incumbents like Adam Schiff and Carol Liu, and also urging a yes on 98 vote. It is morally indefensible, but it happens all the time."

Vosburgh countered by accusing the anti-Proposition 98 folks of using underhanded tactics.
"They are looking to inflame tenants by saying they are going to lose rent control, but a lot of the lying that goes on in politics is what you leave out," said Vosburgh. "They are not personally going to lose rent control. But at the same time, there are currently no significant restrictions on eminent domain in the state, and all you have to do is look at Baldwin Park, where they are pushing people out of their homes for redevelopment."
Los Angeles Daily News 4.24.08

Tenants fear loss of rent control

By Dana Bartholomew, Staff Writer

He's a disabled Vietnam veteran. She's a retired teacher who spends most of her pension on health insurance.

Arnie and Marilyn Bernstein are among an estimated 1million Angelenos with a rent-controlled apartment.

But if voters kill rent control in a June ballot measure, the Bernsteins say, their monthly payment would jump from $876 to $1,300 - a 48 percent increase.

"We couldn't afford another apartment," said Marilyn Bernstein, 62, of Canoga Park, who has lived in the one-bedroom unit for 21 years. "We'd be living under a bridge - like `Tent City, here we come.' The possibility of lifting rent control would be devastating."

Critics of Proposition 98 say it is billed as stopping government from seizing property for private use, but really aims to abolish tenant protections statewide because it also contains language to phase out rent control and gut laws that protect renters from unfair evictions.
Safeguards for mobile-home residents also would be imperiled, they say.

"Proposition 98 is a wolf in sheep's clothing that would roll back key environmental and tenant protections," Los Angeles City Council President Eric Garcetti said. He authored a city resolution against the measure last week.

He supports a rival ballot measure, Proposition 99, "which would protect Californians from government taking property that should remain in private hands, but wouldn't negatively impact other important environmental and tenant laws," he said.

Jarvis group's measure

Proposition 98 is a statewide ballot measure sponsored by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association that would limit the ability of governments to seize private commercial property and homes and turn them over to private developers.

Proposition 99 is supported by the League of California Cities and would protect only homeowners from having their property seized for private use.

Big money has already streamed in to support both campaigns.

Of the $3.9 million for Proposition 98, critics say 80 percent has come from interests connected to owners of mobile-home parks and apartment buildings.

Most of the $7.1 million funneled in for Proposition 99 has come from a coalition of government associations, environmental groups, businesses and labor unions.

Supporters of Proposition 98 say it would prevent governments from taking homes and businesses through eminent domain and transferring it to a private owner, possibly to build a shopping mall or a business park.

The measure would also restrict government's ability to seize private property for water projects and would grant new compensation to owners when their property is taken.
They say it would also put a stop to government's power to set the price for which owners could sell or lease their properties.

Jon Coupal, president of the Jarvis association, has maintained that the measure was ultimately designed to give the strongest protections to property owners, including landlords.
But he also has said the initiative would continue to protect tenants living within the state's dozen rent-controlled cities.

"It doesn't make it easier to evict anybody," Coupal said. "All the protections under existing law remain in effect. Only when that unit is vacated can anybody raise rents.
"We actually take the existing protections against evictions and make them part of the California Constitution."

Naysayers insist, however, that the landlord-backed measure would essentially end rent control in California.

Evictions feared

While rent ceilings for tenants of a housing unit would stay in place until they moved, the initiative jeopardizes restrictions against evictions, critics say. Easy evictions mean easy vacancies. New vacancies allow higher rents.

And once a tenant living under old rent-control laws moves out, rents can be hiked at any time for succeeding tenants.

That could have huge consequences for Los Angeles, where 61 percent of residents rent. Of the 1 million rent-controlled units in California, 627,000 are in Los Angeles, with 46,000 more of them in West Hollywood and Santa Monica, according to the Coalition for Economic Survival, a pro-tenants group.

"This city will be the hardest hit, as well as this entire region," said Larry Gross, executive director of the coalition and a Southern California leader of the campaign against Proposition 98 and for Proposition 99.

"Renters will wake up one day in June, if (98) passes, and they will wake up defenseless, and their landlords could put them out on the street," he said.

Opponents of the initiative include AARP, the League of Women Voters of California, the Western Center on Law & Poverty and former Gov. Pete Wilson.

AARP and the League of Women Voters held a news conference Wednesday in Pasadena to bring awareness to what they say are "deceptive and shameful" radio ads supporting Proposition 98.

Supporters include the California Association of Realtors, Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles and numerous taxpayer associations and farm bureaus.

Abida Sheikh, who owns a Northridge apartment building with six units, said she could charge tenants hundreds more a month without rent control. But she said insurance and property taxes, which suck up four months worth of rents, are harder to take.

"I'm with rent control," she said. "It's not hurting us. It's the property taxes and insurance that is killing us - and bad tenants. They don't want to pay the rent, and they say, `Come back tomorrow."'

Arnie Bernstein said his landlord has been trying to drive him and his wife out for years to jack up rents. Without rent control, they'd be forced to leave the state.

"All these landlords think they are getting shortchanged because they can't get market value," said Bernstein, 64, who lives on Social Security. "But many of them aren't worth market value.
"Where I live, you can hear people fornicating next door. The plumbing is bad. If I first came to L.A. and they offered me this place for $1,300, I would about-face and walk away." 818-713-3730
Stop the Landlords’ Attack on Renters
Prop. 98 Is an Attack on Real People - Meet Helen Gourley

Helen Gourley is 85 years old and spending her retirement years living in the Contempo Marin mobile home park in San Rafael, where she has lived for the past 34 years. Helen has seen her rent increased from $150 a month to $800 a month, and is fearful it might be raised soon to $1925 a month. Helen barely survives on a fixed income and has been forced to sell many of her valuables. Helen is afraid her park owner is trying to squeeze out residents by raising rents dramatically so they can convert the park into privately-owned condo spaces. Park owners know very well that mobile homes are not truly “mobile” and seniors like Helen cannot afford to move their units, nor buy the lots they sit on. Park owners hope seniors like Helen will abandon their units because they can no longer afford the rent. The owner of Contempo Marin is a contributor to Prop. 98 who has been fighting to overturn the local rent control ordinance for years. With her two children living out of state, Helen is concerned that if Prop. 98 passes she will have no place to go. This fear of being homeless has Helen actively working to inform anybody who will listen to vote ‘no’ on Proposition 98.

“My kids live far away from me and I’m having a hard time paying $800 a month. When I needed some money, fortunately I had my crystal to sell. There are people that live here that aren’t as fortunate. Some of these people only eat one meal a day. Can you imagine only eating one meal a day? How can you be so rotten? I can’t even begin to think about what I will do if my rent is increased to $1925. I will do what ever I can to make sure Proposition 98 does not pass. It’s my life I’m fighting for…It’s my life.”
- Helen Gourley, San Rafael, 85

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Stop the Landlords' Attack on Renters - Meet Juanita Bradbury

Stop the Landlords’ Attack on Renters!!!
Profiles of the types of people who will be harmed by Proposition 98 - the landlords’ deceptive attack on renters, rent control, and renter protections.

Juanita Bradbury (66) retired from her job at the San Diego Wild Animal Park and is living in the Rancho San Marcos mobile home park in San Marcos. Mobile home owners own their homes, but rent the space on which they sit. Currently, Juanita and her neighbors are facing intense pressure and intimidation from the management of her park to sign a 15 year lease. Many people in the park are seniors who may need to change their living situation sooner than 15 years. If Prop 98 passes, Juanita and other residents are in significant jeopardy of losing important renter protections provided under current law, making it easier for landlords to force people to sign lengthy leases, or simply kick them out of the park if they don’t agree to the terms. Additionally, Prop. 98 prevents laws that would prohibit or slow down condo conversions whereby park owners can force residents to leave, or to buy the space under their units for hundreds of thousands of dollars per unit. This is a serious concern of Juanita. She believes she could be left without options, without a voice, and without a home. This fear has inspired Juanita to walk door to door in her community to encourage others to vote no on 98.

“I have been here ten years and I love this community. I don’t want to see anything happen to the people who live here. The abusive strong-arm tactics of the park owner and manager have created a great deal of stress and anxiety that has taken a toll on the health and well-being of myself and others. People have actually been threatened to be thrown out onto the streets if they don’t cooperate and sign the lease. That’s no way to treat residents, especially veterans and the elderly. If Prop. 98 passes it will jeopardize my financial security, my home value and my peace of mind.”
- Juanita Bradbury 66, San Marcos

Friday, April 4, 2008

Voters Start Voting In One Month – Get the Word Out Today!!

While the June 3rd election is two months away, "vote-by-mail" voters begin receiving their ballots – and could start voting – the first week in May. We need your help to make sure people know that Prop. 98 is a deceptive scheme full of hidden agendas, funded by wealthy landlords that attacks renters, our environment, and jeopardizes water quality and supply, and our economy. And, that Prop. 99 is powerful, honest reform that would protect our homes from eminent domain abuse. It contains no hidden agendas and no adverse consequences. Get the word out today!

Link to our web site – the more people who link to us, the more chance we have of coming up in internet search engines.

Send an e-mail to all registered California voters in your address book.

Put a newsletter article (PDF) in your organization’s newsletter so everyone in your organization knows how to vote on 98/99.

* Write a Letter-to-the-Editor to your local paper. Sample Letters (PDF files):
Yes on 99
No on 98: Renters
No on 98: Water
No on 98: Environment

* If you rent, put this letter under the door of every apartment in your complex.

* Forward this email to a friend.

* Make a plan to handout literature the weekend right before absentee ballots hit – handouts available here.

* Volunteer to get involved in activities in your region, including press conferences, precinct walking, and more. E-mail

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Prop. 98 is an attack on Real People! Meet Robert Potter!

Prop. 98 Is an Attack on Real People
Stop the Landlords’ Attack on Renters

Profiles of the types of people who will be harmed by Proposition 98 - the landlords’ deceptive attack on renters, rent control, and renter protections.

Robert Potter is an 80 year-old retired U.S. Army veteran proud to be born and raised in San Francisco. Potter is a third-generation San Franciscan who has lived in the same rent controlled studio apartment for 30 years. Rent control is the only reason Robert and thousands of seniors like him can even afford to live in the city. Proposition 98 would strike a devastating one-two punch for all San Francisco renters, including Robert. First, 98 immediately eliminates important renter protections like laws protecting renters against unfair evictions. Second, Prop. 98 eliminates rent control. Since the renter protections will be outlawed, landlords can kick out tenants like Robert for no good reason and eliminate rent control on that unit forever. Robert is an outspoken critic of Prop. 98, participating in No on 98 rallies and urging his friends, neighbors and anyone who will listen to turn out to vote on June 3 and defeat Prop. 98.

“I hope we vote 98 down so we can keep rent control because the rent in this city is too high. People who will suffer most are seniors, the youth and veterans that live on fixed incomes. I tell people that we all need to come out and vote. The landlords are so greedy, we stand to lose everything.”

- Robert C. Potter, U.S. Veteran, 80, San Francisco