Originally I believed supporting Prop 90 was a no-brainer, after all it is an anti-Kelo, anti-eminent domain initiative supported by our good friend Mimi Walters and the OC GOP. However, as Election Day drew near and I actually started reading my official voter information guide, I realized Prop 90 is a poorly thought out and poorly written initiative that embodies good fundamental ideas but lacks a clear and efficient way to implement them. I believe that private property rights must be protected, but not by an initiative that creates open ended liability for local governments towards many frivolous and time consuming lawsuits, which ultimately will impede economic growth and development.
The language in Prop 90 is too vague, one specific example is how local governments will have to compensate private land owners if any “laws and rules” pertaining to property cause “substantial economic loss” to a private property owner. There is no definition for substantial loss, which means it will be defined by many lawsuits, in many court rooms and by many judges, ultimately using a tremendous number of tax payer dollars.
Additionally Prop 90 will create many loopholes at the taxpayer’s expense. A specific example that comes to mind is San Diego County's 2020 General Plan Amendment, in which many rural properties are appropriately being down zoned from inaccurate residential densities to reflect current infrastructural capabilities. Under Prop 90, these land owners could seek compensation for “paper units” that theoretically existed due to inaccurate zoning but never would have actually been constructed or approved by planning commissions. Once again, the vague language of Prop 90 fails to define a threshold or criteria for property owners to prove their development intentions for their land, thus many more lawsuits will be filed to define how one’s potential economic loss can be quantified.
Lastly, Prop 90 will probably be a moot initiative even if passed, since it clearly breaks the single subject rule for ballot initiatives, dealing with the two separate subjects of an anti-kelo eminent domain ban as well as establishing compensation for a perceived loss in property value due to “law and rules”. Private property rights must be protected, but not by a measure that will create giant loopholes in which taxpayers will pay the expense and that handicaps local government from making any land use changes or rules in fear of endless compensation claims and lawsuits. I hope that Prop 90 fails and a more defined and focused limitation on eminent domain initiative, such as Anaheim’s Measure P, will be on the ballot in two years.