If Prop 10 passes, activists may circumvent elected officials to impose radical rent control

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The passage of Proposition 10 could invite radical activists to circumvent elected leaders and pursue extreme rent control measures through the initiative process.

That’s the takeaway from a news release issued this week by the No on Prop 10 campaign.

Proponents of Prop 10, a measure on the Nov. 6 statewide ballot that would repeal the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, argue the measure would simply give city and county officials more freedom to pass rent control policies.

In reality, it would transfer power to local activists seeking to restrict new development, even if it hurts tenants and homeowners, say local officials. The California League of Cities voted to take no position on Proposition 10, while a bipartisan group of more than 40 local officials recently voiced their opposition.

“In Richmond, we’ve seen what happens when tenants rights groups make an end-run around local leaders and push forward radical rent control,” said the city’s mayor, Tom Butt. “Proposition 10 will enable these groups to further limit the voice of elected officials, and put power in the hands of unaccountable boards and bureaucracies, while creating rules that hurt homeowners, renters and taxpayers alike.”

Without Costa-Hawkins, California cities and counties could once again adopt extreme forms of rent control, but to say this amounts to local control for elected officials ignores the realities of the initiative process. If councils or county boards refuse to adopt radical rent control, tenant groups will simply circulate a petition and take their case to voters.

Mountain View provides a case in point. When the City Council there rejected rent control, tenant activists began circulating a petition to qualify a rent control measure for the 2016 ballot. Despite fierce opposition from the California Apartment Association and its allies, that rent control measure is now the law.

The No on Prop 10 campaign says the issue of “local control” is being used as a stalking horse for tenants rights groups eager to enact strict controls on single-family homes and all rental property. These proposals limit rents homeowners could charge even after a tenant moves out. That, in turn, could drive down property values statewide, hurting millions of California homeowners.

In other campaign-related news this week, the No on Prop 10 campaign launched a Spanish-language television and digital campaign urging Californians to vote against Proposition 10. Moreover, the campaign announced that two of California’s leading African-American newspapers — the Los Angeles Sentinel and the Los Angeles Watts Times — are opposing the proposition.

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