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CALIFORNIA ELECTIONS

Prop. 98 backers seek eminent domain limits

June 05, 2008|Patrick McGreevy | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — Backers of the defeated Proposition 98, which would have phased out rent control and broadly limited government's ability to take private property, vowed Wednesday to take the eminent domain issue to the state Capitol, in hopes of persuading legislators to do what voters would not.

At the same time, Tuesday's voter approval of Proposition 99, a more limited measure that protects owner-occupied residences from eminent domain, is forcing Baldwin Park officials to consider scaling back a 125-acre commercial development to exclude land now occupied by 81 homes.

"It may have to be smaller, but the rest of the project will not be affected," Baldwin Park Mayor Manuel Lozano said Wednesday.

He added that the city's attorneys will be reviewing the effect of Proposition 99 on the San Gabriel Valley development project. The project would have been jeopardized if Proposition 98 had passed, Lozano said.

In an election that saw a dismal 22.2% turnout, a record low according to preliminary figures from the California secretary of state, Proposition 99, a measure that did not change rent control, won with 62.5% of the vote.

Some provisional ballots had not yet been counted.

The uncounted ballots could boost the turnout figure to about 27%, still well below the previous record low, said Stephen Weir, the Contra Costa County clerk-recorder who heads the statewide association of elections officials.

Nicole Winger, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Debra Bowen, said the previous low was 33.6%, in 2006.

One factor in Tuesday's turnout may have been the decision to hold the presidential primary in February, rather than combine it with the legislative primary, Winger said.

Los Angeles County had the lowest turnout in the state, at 16.3%, another possible record. The largest turnout, 63.7%, was in Alpine County.

Only 39% of voters statewide favored Proposition 98, a measure by landlord groups that would have phased out rent control and barred government agencies from using eminent domain to force the sale of homes, businesses and farmland for private development.

Proposition 98 carried 20 of the 58 counties, all of them rural areas with low numbers of voters. The largest margins of defeat were in urban areas with large numbers of voters, such as Los Angeles and San Francisco counties.

"They had a narrow base of support and ours was broad," said Tom Adams, president of the California League of Conservation Voters, who noted that the California Chamber of Commerce and California Building Industry Assn. joined with environmental groups and progressive organizations to oppose Proposition 98.

Backers of Proposition 98 said Wednesday that they would now ask legislators to expand restrictions on eminent domain powers.

"Those issues are not dead," said Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn. "We will work in any forum we can to get enhanced property rights in California."

Last year, the Legislature took up a measure that would have restricted local governments from acquiring homes, farmland and churches through eminent domain for the purpose of conveying the property to a private party. But it failed.

"I think people in the Legislature are going to feel that the voters have settled this issue," Adams said.

Barbara Gonzalez hopes that includes rent control. She woke up Wednesday in her Echo Park apartment with a great sense of relief that California voters had spurned a rollback of the rent-control law that she is certain stands between her and the street.

Gonzalez, 49, lives with her grown daughter and her daughter's husband in a two-bedroom apartment that costs $750 per month under rent control. Her son-in-law and daughter, who is expecting, would like to move out, but they cannot afford apartments suitable for the young family, Gonzalez said.

"It's a huge relief," she said of the defeat of Proposition 98. "I was very, very scared. I was scared because of my family. I'm a low-income person. I don't know what I would do without rent control."

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patrick.mcgreevy@latimes.com

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More election coverage

* B8-B11: Coverage of the runoff for L.A. County supervisor, a rare upset ousts a veteran legislator, complete election tables and more.

* A24: California Democrats look to November.

* On the Web: Full coverage of the California races, including additional stories on Orange County results. latimes.com/california

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