Time Bomb

A ticking time bomb awaits the California voter this November. Proposition 90, known as the "Protect Our Homes Act," would radically change the way in which land-use regulations are used (or largely voided) in California. A coalition of wealthy real estate moguls and Libertarian activists have been funding and promoting not only this initiative, but others in western states.

To give an example of what it might mean locally, let us look at the "proposal" (hypothetical at this point) for the Rockaway Quarry. It consists of 355 residential units of varying kinds (and could well be much larger).

Let's suppose the unlikely possibility that Measure L (the rezoning of the quarry to allow residential development) passes, and that Prop. 90 passes as well. Mr. Peebles applies for his "proposal," which consists of 355 housing units plus unspecified commercial units and a large hotel.

The City of Pacifica, after consideration, says: "No, the density needs to be reduced to a third of your original proposal."

Under the terms of Prop 90, this could be construed as a "regulatory taking" of the land's highest value, and Mr. Peebles could then sue the city for the difference in value between the denied plan for 355 units and the reduced plan. The city, at risk of an adverse court decision in the amount of tens of millions of dollars, would cave and allow whatever the developer had originally proposed.

Think I'm "inaccurate and misleading?" (This is the standing joke around our house.) Two sources: S.F. Chronicle 8/20/06 "California's Stealth Initiative on Land Use" by Ray Ring, Insight Section. Prop. 90 ballot language available at www.ss.ca.gov/elections/elections.htm

Lionel Emde

The above was printed as a Letter to the Editor of the Pacifica Tribune on August 30th, 2006, and is republished here with the author's written permission.