“Voters in traffic-choked, rent-strapped California gave mixed reviews to a wide array of proposed fixes that appeared on state and local ballots, from creating more affordable housing for the poor and enacting price caps on rents to paying for road repairs and transit.
Californians in virtually every county soundly rejected Proposition 10, the measure to expand rent control, despite the housing crisis gripping the state, and voters in Santa Cruz were defeating a local measure to make rent control permanent in that city. But voters refused to repeal the gas taxand the more than $5 billion it generates annually to shore up the state’s aging roads and bridges.
“Californians decided a long time ago that their transportation needs had reached crisis proportions and now they’ve come to the same conclusion about the lack of affordable housing,” said Dan Schnur, a former Republican strategist who is now a lecturer in USC’s Annenberg School of Communication.
“What they haven’t yet seen is a solution to either problem that they’re comfortable supporting.”
In San Jose, a measure to pay for affordable housing construction in one of the nation’s priciest markets, was falling short Wednesday of the two-thirds approval it needed. But Proposition 1, a statewide bond measure to raise $4 billion per year for affordable housing, including for homeless veterans, eked out a victory.
Carl Guardino, president and CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, spent months campaigning for Prop. 1 and other state measures. “I remind folks — I gave seven speeches today alone — we have 10,000 homeless United States veterans who bravely served our country and now are braving the elements every night. We’re better than that,” he said Tuesday night, long after the polls had closed. “When people understand that these are real people that need our help, it resonates.”
The idea that others should pay was an easier sell. Local voters in San Francisco and Mountain View agreed to tax businesses to pay for homeless services and to ease traffic congestion, respectively.
San Francisco’s Measure C, backed by Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and his company and opposed by the mayor, other tech billionaires and big businesses, would generate $300 million a year to help address the city’s growing homeless crisis by levying a tax on gross receipts. Meanwhile, Mountain View’s proposed “head tax” would raise about $6 million a year, more than half of that from the city’s largest employer, Google. Both measures reflected a broader phenomenon, rooted in the belief that the Bay Area’s booming technology companies should pay more taxes to help cities battle everything from the growing homelessness crisis to terrible traffic.
And in the East Bay, Oaklanders said “yes” to taxing the owners of vacant properties $6,000 a year to fund homeless services and clean up illegal dumping, a growing problem in the city.
“I think the results on housing and rent control reflect the degree to which voters were overwhelmed by contradictory messaging,” said Melissa Michelson, a professor of politics at Menlo College in Atherton. “Folks are worried about housing prices and rising rents, but they weren’t sure how voting for Prop. 10 or these other local bond measures would help.”
Even as they conceded defeat, tenants’ rights advocates quickly called upon the governor-elect, Gavin Newsom, to place a moratorium on rent increases until the Legislature repealed the state law at issue in Prop. 10, the Costa Hawkins Rental Housing Act.
Newsom opposed Prop. 10, and a bill to repeal Costa Hawkins failed in its first committee hearing earlier this year. But some legislators have expressed interest in amending the law, rather than repealing it.
Meanwhile, activists vowed to keep the issue alive.
“We go into 2019 with a much broader coalition and tens of thousands of fired-up tenants who want some relief. We’ve just begun,” said Walt Senterfitt, a founding member of the Los Angeles Tenants Union, in a statement.”