What? Prop 13 Again?
When they see Proposition 13 on their June 8, 2010, ballots, voters over a certain age may think they’re experiencing déjà vu. Indeed, this year’s Prop 13 reprises one small part of its 1978 forerunner. Knowing a little bit about the 1978 measure will help you make a wise decision in 2010.
Prop 13 of 1978 (approved by nearly 2/3 of California’s voters) established that properties are not reassessed for tax purposes until such time as they are sold, UNLESS improvements involving new construction are made. Such improvements trigger reassessment and lead to increased taxes (not on the whole property but on the part that includes the new construction):
• UNLESS that new construction is a seismic retrofit (that is, something done for the purpose of better earthquake safety);
• AND UNLESS that seismic retrofit was done to conform to local regulations requiring upgrade of unreinforced masonry (that is, bricks or concrete block without rebar);
• IN WHICH CASE the improvement is only exempt from reassessment for UP TO 15 years.
Prop 13 of 2010, if passed, would establish that NO earthquake safety improvements will trigger reassessment before a property is sold, thus closing a small loophole in Prop 13 of June 1978, as amended in the election of November 1978.
While “old” Prop 13 directly affected all California homeowners, this particular “new” Prop 13 will not affect you directly unless you own an unreinforced masonry building in a place where you have been required by law to make earthquake safety improvements. Culver City, of course, is such a place. If you made a seismic retrofit in the year 1996 and are thinking it might lead to higher taxes in 2011, you will have one less thing to worry about.
If passed, Prop 13 (2010) may result in slightly lower property tax revenue and somewhat better earthquake safety.
So, if Prop 13 (2010) would have such a minor impact, you may wonder why we have to vote on it statewide. The answer is simple: Prop 13 (1978) was a constitutional amendment, and constitutional amendments can only be changed by additional constitutional amendments, each of which requires a vote of the people.
For more on Prop 13 (2010) — including links to a wealth of additional resources at all levels of detail — please visit http://smartvoter.org/2010/06/08/ca/state/prop/13/
Frances Talbott-White has lived in Culver City since 1975. She holds various positions at state, county, and local levels of the League of Women Voters (LWV) but writes for Culver City Crossroads as an independent citizen. Nothing Frances says in this column should be construed as an official statement of LWV or a reflection of LWV policy. It’s just for us, as an example of how non-partisan politics works.