Homeowners for Prop. 13 reform


The Chron’s headline says “most want cuts, not taxes, to fix state budget.” The story cites a new Field poll, and the Chron’s not the only paper to spin it that way. The Sacramento Bee also claims that the poll shows widespread support for cuts instead of taxes.

But the folks at Calitics drew a different, more encouraging conclusion:

The responses, of statewide registered voters:
Cuts only: 31%
Mostly cuts: 19%
Equal mix of cuts and taxes: 29%
Mostly taxes: 9%
Taxes only: 4%
No opinion: 8%
So the way this is being reported in the media strikes me as being pretty flawed. The way I read this says 61% of voters want taxes to be some element of the solution to the budget mess, and only 31% want cuts-only.

And as people take to the streets March 4th to protest cuts to education and public services, I think that message will get reinforced. I certainly hope so -- and I hope when protesters are interviewed, they don’t make the mistake of saying that “there’s plenty of waste in the budget” or that resources need to be better deployed.

The truth is that we need to raise taxes, particularly on the wealthy, to close this budget gap without destroying the state. I’m a homeowner who wants higher property taxes and better schools; anyone want to join me in Homeowners For Prop. 13 Reform?


It's certainly possible to interpret those results as saying that 61% want to see more taxes.

It is equally possible to infer that only 13% want to see more taxes than cuts. Or that the number who want "cuts only" is eight times larger than the number that want "taxes only". And so on.

Right now, all homeowners know for a fact that their property taxes are only going up next year by 2%. If Prop 13 vanished, your guess is probably much better than mine, but I'd have to figure at least 20%, maybe much more.

So I don't see many homeowners going for your campaign, at least as it applies to individuals, although your own selflessness as a homeowner is admirable.

But there might be a mandate for changing the rules for corporations, however. A corporation can create a sub-company for the purpose of owning a piece of real estate and then, by selling the company, the beneficial ownership of that property changes without triggering a re-assessment.

Individuals cannot generally pull that trick, so there might be a quorum of support for tackling that aspect of Prop 13.

A more modest aim might prove more successful than a total repeal.

Posted by Tom Foolery on Mar. 03, 2010 @ 3:51 pm

usually passes on the tax increase to the renter, leases other than those downtown are small business.

The class obsession of the "progressives" have and will portray any change on business property taxation as part of their class obsessed world view.

In reality many of the people paying the tax increases will be the people the progressives supposedly are on the side of, while they hoot and holler about big business.

This is another "progressive" disassociation with reality, raise taxes on non profit renters and then complain that the city doesn't give them enough money to get by. Raise taxes on small business and then complain that there are no jobs, so they need to create another program, which means more taxes.

Prop 13 has been the law of the land for sometime, the progressives have tried to pretend it doesn't exist, when things go bad they bitch like it just popped up, and all that free shit that Tom Ammiano promised them costs money.

Posted by glen matlock on Mar. 03, 2010 @ 5:19 pm

You and yours are getting virtually a free ride, compared to residential homeowners! I fill out tax returns for my investment properties too, pal! Still, what is fair, is fair. The ones bitching are usually those complaining about others getting a free ride at taxpayer expense..so, go look in the mirror, next time you feel that urge. Remember..you can't hop on both feet at once, unless you're prepared to fall on your..butt, in the process!

Posted by Lily on Apr. 20, 2010 @ 6:45 pm

Imagine for a moment that there was no Prop 13 and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors had the ability to set property tax rates.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 03, 2010 @ 10:15 pm

Add my name to the list of San Francisco homeowners that support Prop 13 Reform. It's the most important thing we can do.

Brian Basinger

Posted by Brian Basinger on Mar. 04, 2010 @ 11:50 am

Imagine if the San Francisco Board of Supervisors could raise property taxes.

Imagine if we could have a debate: Should everyone in SF pay 2 percent more in property taxes so no teachers have to be laid off, kindergarten classrooms could stay at 20 kids (instead of 30), and Muni didn't have to cut service and raise fares?

I know which side I'd be on. But if you're on the other side, there's a simple and elegant solution: Vote out the supervisors who raised your taxes. With district elections, you can actually have that debate, in your neigborhood.

That's called democracy. 

Posted by tim on Mar. 04, 2010 @ 1:10 pm


But it is that same democracy and debate that put Prop 13 in place in 1979. The voters have already said that they don't want Supervisors to have the power to raise property taxes like that.

So,if you don't like Prop 13, then take your own advice - there's a "simple and elegant solution". Start a voter initiative, "have the debate in your neighborhood" and the people will decide on it again, just like they did in 1979.

Anyone who thinks the Supes would raise prop taxes by only 2%, if they could, is kidding themselves. I'd guess anywhere between 20% and 100%.

Posted by Tom Foolery on Mar. 04, 2010 @ 6:37 pm

it was a sham and a scam and the special interests could get away with a lot more than they can, now. Granted, the opportunity to bamboozle is still alive and well amongst the mentally lazy and willingly ignorant..but a lot more people are far more sophisticated about being "handled" than they were, then. When I voted against this travesty, there were still tons of people who absolutely refused to believe..even five years later..that the President of the US could have authored a break-in and burglary at place called Watergate.. Yes, I agree it should be replaced with a new initiative to eliminate the inequities, along with protecting those of limited means..the folkloric "little old ladies"..from the threat of being taxed out of their homes. I'll sign up, even though my property tax would probably go up, because the damage that this rotten piece of law represents MUST be fixed.

Posted by Lily on Apr. 20, 2010 @ 6:57 pm

I think we will have that debate, and Prop. 13 will be amended. And the state will be much better for it.

Posted by tim on Mar. 04, 2010 @ 8:19 pm

The best indicator we have of how the electorate would respond to amending Prop 13 (and I'm glad you seek to amend it rather than repeal it) is the 2000 Prop 39, which lowered the voting requirement to pass a school bond measure down from 2/3 to 55%. Prop 39 passed with about a 53% approval. Close but decisive enough.

The electorate don't trust the Supervisors of many municipalities. I certainly don't trust the SF Supes to increase property taxes by only 2%. I'm sorry but I just don't and I suspect most voters at the State level feel the same.

I could get behind a modest and reasonably crafted amendment that still provide the same essential protections for individual homeowners that the current law does.

Posted by Tom Foolery on Mar. 05, 2010 @ 8:52 am

to "amend" it is to replace it entirely (probably from a legal standpoint, as well)..but that doesn't mean that the original "fear" (seniors being taxed out of their homes) can't be properly addressed within the framework of the new effort. There was so much more to this scurilous initiative than was publicized then..I remember well! Unfortunately, a well-monied support mechanism for P13 was able to out-spend those who saw what lay ahead, if it passed. I'd be hopeful that the electorate is..or at least has the tools to..be more sophisticated than they were thirty years ago. At any rate, it's a matter of that electorate becoming involved and taking responsibiity for is in the new "P13"..not abdicating that responsibility by just taking the word of others. Good advice, I think, for evaluating any political "offering", these days?

Posted by Lily on Apr. 20, 2010 @ 7:07 pm

I simply want equality so that I'm not subsidizing the rich and corporate entities. It is unjust that some people (including the artificial) are paying such an immensely different rate that is not based on income or anything substantial. Prop 13 make it like some sort of deluded hybrid between nepotism aristocracy and maybe plutocracy when a small percentage (of low to middle wage earners) pays the majority of taxes. It needs to be fixed so that property taxes are on a level playing field. It's crazy that I pay 5 to 10 times more in tax for my chicken coop size shack than the massive mansion down the street pays. It is unjust that I have to subsidize their public services on such a towering scale.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 05, 2010 @ 10:18 am

I simply want equality so that I'm not subsidizing the rich and corporate entities. It is unjust that some people (including the artificial) are paying such an immensely different rate that is not based on income or anything substantial. Prop 13 make it like some sort of deluded hybrid between nepotism aristocracy and maybe plutocracy when a small percentage (of low to middle wage earners) pays the majority of taxes. It needs to be fixed so that property taxes are on a level playing field. It's crazy that I pay 5 to 10 times more in tax for my chicken coop size shack than the massive mansion down the street pays. It is unjust that I have to subsidize their public services on such a towering scale.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 05, 2010 @ 10:19 am

I look forward to raising property taxes, thus the cost of living on everyone so that the cities board of supes can give more to non profits, to make up for the more they have to pay in property tax.

I also look forward to all the new programs that the progressive will create and all the pay raises SEIU will demand, then when that money runs out Tim and the gang will be crying again about the greedy rich not wanting to pay for schools.

Giving progressives money is like giving a child money, they will spend it all then demand more, if you don't they will be outraged, in the case of a child it is real outrage, in the case of a progressive its studied learned behavior from being a child.

Posted by glen matlock on Mar. 05, 2010 @ 10:25 am

Tim, if you're a home owner, there is nothing stopping you from sending in extra tax money to supplement your property tax bill. Are you presently doing that? And I'm not so sure you'd be so willing to succumb to property tax increases if they were set by a board elected by city wide elections.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 05, 2010 @ 10:55 pm

That's exactly the same line George W. Bush used to use; hey, the IRS isn't stopping you from paying extra. But it's nonsense; taxes don't work when they're voluntary. Taxes work when everyone pays a fair share.



Posted by tim on Mar. 06, 2010 @ 5:52 pm

The thing to do is to give a tax break to homeowners, a larger one to senior and disabled homeowners, and then to set a more reasonable and fair tax break to corporations. Corporate landholders don't have to die so they can escape paying their fair share of taxes into perpetuity.

Posted by Brian Basinger on Mar. 07, 2010 @ 8:05 am

People who purchase homes budget in the amount of property taxes they'll have to pay before deciding if they can afford to buy their home. If you change the rules and increase tax rates, that could be a real burden on people -- and could make their homes no longer affordable to them.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 07, 2010 @ 12:59 pm

All this crying about taxes by rich Americans! Even working class Americans have far more materially than most people in the world, yet people cry about paying more taxes because they have to "budget"? Budget this: if you gave up some luxuries, which is everything outside food, clothing, and shelter, you'd have enough to pay more taxes. I'd love to see the incomes and assets of every poster here who complains about repealing Prop 13. While I realize that some people were being unfairly forced out of homes due to increasing property taxes, that problem could have easily been fixed with subsidies for those who really needed it. Instead, Prop 13 gave major tax breaks to large corporate landowners and far less wealthy but nevertheless relatively rich people who didn't need the help. The result has been economic disaster for California, and it just continues to get worse.

Anyone who is opposed to paying his or her fair share of taxes should be forced to live without ANY public services: no roads, schools, etc. Let's see how long this anti-tax BS lasts after that.

Posted by Jeff Hoffman on Mar. 07, 2010 @ 2:06 pm

"While I realize that some people were being unfairly forced out of homes due to increasing property taxes, that problem could have easily been fixed with subsidies for those who really needed it."

Create more programs to solve the problems caused by government programs.

Posted by glen matlock on Mar. 08, 2010 @ 1:09 am

listening to what others offer, instead of jumping on the Diatribe Bandwagon, full of platitudes and pompous remarks. Otherwise, you just sound silly.

Posted by Lily on Apr. 20, 2010 @ 7:13 pm


"Tax the Rich" isn't a policy. it's a slogan that you'd barely see outside SF and Berkeley. And remember, this is a State issue. And in the great State of California, 2/3 of voters own their own home. All would be adversely affected by a repeal of Prop 13 and I confidently predict that all but a handful would vote against a repeal.

And since Prop 13 would require a 2/3 majority to be repealed, or even amended, you can surely see that all the 1960's era slogans in the world won't change that.

The truly rich don't care about Prop 13. They can afford homes in Incline, NV or offshore and make sure they don't spend enough time in CA to get hit with CA taxes. Moreover, there aren't nearly enough of them to make a difference.

It's the middle class that would get hit the worst. And that's ordinary folks like you and me. Don't make this about "the rich". It's about the 2/3 who own their home and fear that their property taxes might double or more overnight if Prop 13 is dismantled.

Posted by Tom Foolery on Mar. 07, 2010 @ 4:40 pm

It really depends on how gullible all those folks (and I am one of those "folks", as well) will feel when they understand how P13 has really bitten them in the butt, in the long run! It really depends on how well that message is delivered..and how diligent and involved those same people will be in crafting something new that delivers a fair share of benefit (and protection for those most vulnerable) along with a fair share of the responsibility..right? As to those who will get "hit the worst"..that's the same red herring that was swimming around during the original Prop 13 debate..and a lot of hooey it was. There is no reason why a new initiative has to penalize those who can't afford it..but going forward, there's no excuse for one segment of society to have to carry water for the rest, at a higher price. Responsibility..that's the flavor of the day in the complaint department, it seems..but too often, it seems to come the most from those who have chosen to be the least..! Not paying your fair share of this tax we're all supposedly subject to..is totally irresponsible..if not downright thievery!

Posted by Lily on Apr. 20, 2010 @ 7:26 pm

Nobody has to be driven from his or her home by increased property taxes. Jeff is right; the vast majority of homeowners, particularly those who aren't on fixed incomes, can afford more than they're paying now. Americans pay far less taxes than the residents of most other industrialized democracies. And you don't have to allow taxes to double overnight, the way they did before Prop. 13.

Bring some properties that are still getting taxed on 10 and 20-year old valuations a little closer to what others are paying. Tax commercial property at a different rate, since it changes hands less often and corporations use loopholes to avoid reassessments. You can still have limits on increases and avoid giving local supervisors the freedom to set any tax rates they want. And you can do what a lot of states do -- allow property tax increases specifically for the schools.

In New York, for example, people pay a general property tax for overall governmental functions, and a separate property tax just for public schools. My brother owns a house in a small town in upstate New York; his house is worth about half what mine is, and he pays double my property taxes. Much of that difference is school taxes. And in exchange for maybe $3000  a year more in taxes, his kids go to the equvalent of $25,000 a year private schools. Only those schools are public. He's a carpenter who doesn't make a lot of money, and the taxes kill him -- but he has never once doubted that he's getting one hell of a good deal.


Posted by tim on Mar. 07, 2010 @ 8:15 pm

Tom, you're right that the rich don't care much about property taxes, because they can afford it. That's why my first preference would be a substantial increase in the marginal income tax rate for high earners. And perhaps an annual "wealth tax" that takes into account stock holdings, offshore accounts, and anything else. Exampt the first two million in wealth and you can guarantee that no poor working soul retiring on his or her hard-earned cash will be badly hurt. Could Bill Gates pay a lot more taxes? Yes. Should he?

If you want to propose that as an alternative to amending Prop. 13, Tom, I'm right there with you.

Posted by tim on Mar. 07, 2010 @ 8:20 pm


My point wasn't so much that the rich can afford to pay more tax but rather that the rich have any number of ways of legally avoiding paying tax.

For instance, they can afford wily accountants.

And they generally can run their business and investment empires from anywhere, e.g. Bermuda.

Try and hit them too hard and, as a practical matter, they vanish taking their assets and generous spending patterns with them. We need to encourage the golden geese, not penalize them. Class warfare won't get us far.

But yes, I think there are a couple of aspects to Prop 13 that could and probably should be amended. And that's a more profitable discussion to have than mantra's like "Tax the rich" and "Prop 13 is terrible".

And given how passionate both sides of the debate are on this topic, I doubt that anyone here will change their mind. So sure, put something on the ballot and let's see how it goes, remembering of course that it needs a 2/3 majority to pass. Prop 39 did, so we know it's possible.

Posted by Tom Foolery on Mar. 08, 2010 @ 9:45 am

All the millionaire rock types from England beat it in the 70's to escape England's tax burden. They were all pretty open about it at the time, the most obvious of lessons not learned.

I think it's a pretty rotten maneuver to take advantage of California's public University educated work force and then send the money to the Caymen Islands to escape taxes. We have to all live in the real world though, soaking the rich just has them move or hide their money better.

If commercial property tax laws were changed to not allow for these transfer antics that would be a good idea, I doubt year hasn't gone by where 555 California street hasn't done something wacky to escape some taxes.

The wholesale removal of prop 13 would be a disaster for the state.

Posted by glen matlock on Mar. 08, 2010 @ 3:58 pm

To my more conservative critics:

I appreciate your perspective, and this is an open forum where all views are allowed and encouraged. But let's try to be civil to each other, okay? It doesn't do anyone any good to make personal attacks and call people names. There's been a fair degree of nastiness in the past few discussions, and I'd like to see it stop. Please: Disagree, make your case forcefully, and show some respect for the rest of us.




Posted by tim on Mar. 08, 2010 @ 11:04 am

I suggest eliminating all Prop 13 protections for all second (third, forth etc.) homes.

If you own one house, it's protected. If you own multiple houses, Prop 13 protection can be applied to your designated primary residence only.

Posted by Renger on Mar. 12, 2010 @ 12:22 pm

Why is it that folks jump to the conclusion that fixing P13 automatically entails eliminating ANY homeowner protection..immediately followed by sheer hysteria as to the reaming that must surely follow? Why is it "either" versus "or" with these people? Maybe it's just another excuse not to look at the issue clearly and honestly. I never liked P13..voted against it, even though I have been a beneficiary of a lower property tax than most of my neighbors, lo these many years since it passed. Fact is, it's unfair and has been a sham, ever since it was put on the ballot.

The concern about those of little means losing their homes was certainly valid then, as now, but that issue could have been addressed independently in any number of ways, then and now! The truth was that it was a "red herring", hiding what others have mentoned here..megacorporate collusion in getting yet another free ride, along with bringing the effectiveness of the legislature to a grinding halt..later regarded as "Norquistian governance" (''..then drag it into the bathtub and drown it..").

Fact is..as currently administered, this tax is both a "property tax" and a sales tax..double taxation..but the worst of both worlds! As it stands, my neighbor's house..effectively the same in most respects as my own but purchased long after mine..is yearly taxed at a rate more than double my own. The next guy down the street, for whatever reason, lost his home and it was eventually sold at less than half the price..also a house much like my own.

The new owner (after the bank, then intervening speculators, resold it a few times) recently bought it for something near half the price my first neighbor had paid for his home, originally. His tax rate is therefore considerably more than my own, but much less than my first neighbor's..and puhleeze..we all know that the "reappraisal" of property this last year didn't bring down the property tax anywhere NEAR what the market really reflected!.

This whole scenario is just ridiculous. If taxes pay for highways and schools, etc. (though we know that the money just goes to the state, with relatively little returned to localities, these last thirty years), then all three households are getting the same benefits..but for a wholly different price! If it's a sales tax..based on the sales price of the house..supposedly after a realistically appraised vauation..then it should be charged once..like any other sales tax! If it's an annual property tax, then it should be uniformly applied to all conforming properties within a particular area..period.

Maybe, the solution is to charge both? Ah, you say..not fair..for I'll also have to pay capital gains tax on my profit when I sell..unless, of course, you take the huge exemption you're allowed under most circumstances as a homeowner..which you undoubtedly will do. Add to that, there is even a "carry-over" available between some counties, allowing you to retain your current low rate if you move. Come on folks..where's the equity in all this? Don't even mention the corporate shell-game that is played with commercial properties to avoid "reasssessment"!

"Grandfather" in, at least up to a certain level, the tax exemptions of certain residential HOMEowners, with rates capped for all those on limited incomes, past and future. Charge a one-time sales tax on a house, like anything else purchased, then apply a reasonable annual services tax afterwards, tied to a realistic base. Let the localities have control of their tax revenues again, instead of the state stealing it all. The state can go back to "billing" the counties for state highways, etc. The greedy will object..but strangely, they're usually the same folks who seem to want to continually remind everyone else that you should "pay for what you get"..unless, I guess, they're doing the paying..hmm.

Once upon a time, this state had the best infrastructure and best public educational system in the country. Fine arts, sports, the latest technical innovations and the finest teachers..all offered as part of the regular curriculum, without having to hold bake sales and sell candy bars to supplement the costs! Once upon a time, the junior and state colleges were free to residents, with only very low fees at university level.

Now, no one can even afford a junior college education without piling up a mountain of debt..and the spiral continues downward, needlessly. I agree that there should be protections against those on limited incomes..particularly seniors and disabled individuals et al..being taxed out of house and home. There is just no reason that can't be done in a more equitable way!

Posted by Lily on Apr. 20, 2010 @ 6:37 pm

Prop 13 needs to be revised to help the rest of us. I pay $2,000 while my neighbor w/ a mush better house pays only $150. I keep waiting to hear somebody bring back what saves the people who bought homes before 1977. My small 401K is nearly depleted and my Social Security check is very small. What happens to me when I can no longer afford this unfair property tax?

Posted by Carol Slaughter on May. 10, 2010 @ 1:32 pm

What's interesting is we seem to be debating whether to get rid of Prop 13 altogether or keep it - when I tend to think we just need to change the rules a bit. Use a formula with two inputs - equity and income and produces a number. That number simply makes the property owners who aren't paying their fare share have to pony up more, but it does so based on their equity and income.

My Mom is 74, her house was bought in the early 70s, she owes nothing and pays about $500 per year in property taxes. She is on a fixed income from investments and social security - and lives on about $32,000 per year.

So for all the people that say she should be fully protected by Prop 13 and her property taxes should not go up - well, even though it's my Mom - I say this is wrong. Her next door neighbor bought their house 3 years ago and pays over $20,000 per year in property taxes. A conservative guess would be that my Mom has over $1.2 million in equity (it's closer to $1.5 million). My Mom can easily afford to pay another $2000 a year in property taxes and if she can't get it out of her fixed income there are numerous other ways (family, equity loans, etc.). Simply put - if my Mom couldn't make the payment - my sisters and brother and I would all kick in and cover her since that fat equity amount will go into our family trust eventually.

Back to the formula. My Mom might be an extreme case but I know there's numerous situations just like hers all over California. We need to produce minimums to true up the homeowners who should be paying their fair share. Example - anyone with $1,000,000 - $1,250,000 in equity making over $30,000 a year must pay $2,500. Anyone with $1,250,000-$1,500,000 equity and making over $30,000 must pay $3,000 per year. For every $10,000 yearly they make over $30,000 you add another $200 or something.

There are numerous ways to adjust the formula - it's certainly not simple...but the bottom line is we put something in place that gets these homeowners who have been paying nominal amounts but have significant equity to come up a little bit. Note in my example my Mom is still not paying anywhere close to here neighbor who pays $20,000 - but my Mom should definitely pay more.

Why can't a politician come up with something like this

Posted by Guest on Jun. 06, 2010 @ 7:40 am

Related articles

  • What $40 million buys

    If you own the megaphone, the transmitter, and the mouth, we are not equal -- especially when it came to the cigarette tax

  • Millionaires Tax merger is a risk and opportunity

  • Ammiano reviving Prop. 13 reform