April 12th, 2008

corset & bougainvillea

Pro-tenant = terrorist.

In case you were wondering who's bankrolling Proposition 98, the June ballot initiative that would amend the California Constitution to ban rent control and make many tenant protections like the 60-day notice requirement, just cause for eviction, inclusionary zoning, and many environmental protections illegal, here's an article that highlights some choice words from Dan Faller, the founder and president of the American Owners' Association, one of the country's largest landlord trade organizations.
In the post-9/11 world, calling someone a “terrorist” is a serious accusation – but Faller refers to pro-tenant elected officials who oppose Prop 98 as “terrorists” or “suicide bombers” at least seven times. “The bombs and explosives they are throwing at us,” he writes, “are rent control, eminent domain, inspection laws, building codes, requiring 60-day notices so tenants can steal more time from you, eviction laws that allow tenants to live rent-free for several months, relocation fees, inclusionary zoning that drives up the price of housing so they have another excuse to justify even more laws. These elected officials are dangerous.”

Urging his fellow landlords to fight this “war” on the “terrorists,” Faller says the solution is to hit them with the “big bomb”: Proposition 98, which would invalidate all these existing laws and then some. “Help to permanently take away their weapons that allow unfair eminent domain and rent control,” he writes before asking for campaign contributions. “This is certainly one war that we all believe in and can hold our heads high as we fight to win! You are either for us or against us in this fight for your freedom and property rights.”

But it’s not just the “terrorist” politicians that Faller has a bone to pick with. He demeans people who can’t afford to buy California real estate as lazy and ineffectual. As he urges landlords to “join this war” to pass Prop 98, Faller says “you’ve worked hard providing housing for others who chose not to provide for themselves … You gave up a lot of weekends to make it possible – something others were not willing to do.” Apparently, it’s okay to berate the state’s 14 million tenants because they “obviously” did not work hard enough to buy property themselves. Hyperbole is one thing; personal insults are quite another.

Does the fight over Prop 98 match the battle against Nazis and fascists in World War II? Dan Faller seems to think that it does. Recalling his childhood memories in Los Angeles when he feared that “the enemy was going to land their troops in Long Beach and along our coast,” the AOA President puts the fight to pass Prop 98 on a similar plane. “There were big signs and advertisements that read ‘Uncle Sam Needs You!’ during WWII,” he writes. “There’s a big AOA sign today that says ‘Freedom Loving Americans Need You!’ We need your support to win this War to protect your property rights!”

It would be easy to laugh at these outlandish statements if Dan Faller was just your crazy uncle who makes offensive jokes that amuse only himself. But he’s the President and Founder of the American Owners Association – a national trade association of landlords that boasts more members in California than any other group. Faller is on the Board of Biopharma, the owner of a commercial brokerage firm, and used to be a Wall Street broker. The AOA’s monthly newsletter – which printed his “Yes on 98” screed – is the most widely read landlord publication in the country.
corset & bougainvillea

More on Proposition 98.

The important language in Prop. 98 is that it forbids the transfer of economic benefit from a property owner to a private party (ie, a tenant living in an apartment covered by a rent control ordinance; affordable-housing set aside requirements in new developments) AND prohibits any law that places an economic burden on a property owner. This may be interpreted to include just cause eviction requirements, environmental regulations, the return of security deposits, and living-wage ordinances. This opens the door to tens of thousands of lawsuits by landlords against governments that have just-cause eviction ordinances like SF, Oakland, and Berkeley and the state.

It's evil any way you look at it. And they're trying to get it passed under the guise of "eminent domain reform" and have it on the June ballot because they know there will be a low voter turnout. They're banking on us not voting.