McClatchy newspapers, Bakersfield Californian urge no vote on Prop 21

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California’s McClatchy newspapers — including the Sacramento, Fresno and Modesto Bees — today joined a chorus of other news outlets urging voters to reject Proposition 21, the radical rent control measure on the Nov. 3 ballot.

Earlier this week, the Bakersfield Californian also editorialized against the measure.

Financed by Michael Weinstein and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Prop 21 threatens to bring back the extreme forms of rent control that proliferated in the 1970s.

“… under the rent control being proposed, the incentive to build market-rate units could disappear. That, in turn, could lead builders to avoid such projects, worsening the housing crunch,” the McClatchy editorial says. In addition to the Bee papers, the editorial appears in McClatchy’s Merced Sun-Star and San Luis Obispo Tribune.

In this editorial published Sunday, Aug. 15, the Bakersfield newspaper notes that Prop 21 is a “watered-down” version of Proposition 10, the statewide rent control measure that Weinstein bankrolled two years ago. That proposal failed at the polls by a wide margin.

“After conducting focus groups and making some modest changes to their proposal, advocates placed it on the ballot again, hoping voters would be enticed to support it,” the editorial says. “The problem is that the economics of California’s housing shortage hasn’t changed. And this seemingly ‘simple’ solution will only aggravate it.”

McClatchy also noted that Prop 21 is Weinstein’s second attempt to pass a measure already been overwhelmingly rejected by the electorate. The Sacramento Bee supported Weinstein’s 2018 measure but isn’t going down that road again.

“Two years ago California voters soundly defeated Proposition 10, a rent-control measure backed by Weinstein. He later told the governor and Legislature that if they did not enact a law he thought would be effective, he would qualify a new measure,” the McLatchy editorial says. “That is now Prop. 21…The state’s major need is for more housing. Prop. 21’s backers say their measure is not meant to address that shortage. But if approved, it would discourage builders from creating new rental housing.”

At the heart of Proposition 21, like its predecessor Prop 10, is a crusade to dismantle the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act — the single most vital California law for rental housing providers.

If Proposition 21 passes, local governments will bring back vacancy controls, capping rents between tenancies and preventing rents from ever returning to market rates; they’ll also apply local rent control ordinances to newer apartments — as soon as they turn 15 years old — and to a greater number of condos and single-family homes.

Prop 21 also heads to the ballot despite last year’s passage of AB 1482, a statewide rent cap and “just cause” eviction law.

“Give California’s political leaders credit for approving a statewide rent-control measure that is the toughest in the country,” the McClathcy editorial reads. “The best course, for now, is to give AB 1482 a chance to work.”

The McClatchy papers and the Bakersfield Californian are among a growing number of leading state newspapers to editorialize against Proposition 21 thus far. Others include the Bay Area News Group (publishers of the San Jose Mercury News and East Bay Times) and the Southern California Newspaper Group, publishers of 11 daily newspapers including the Orange County Register, Riverside Press-Enterprise and Los Angeles Daily News.

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