By PATRICK HOGE Thursday, November 09, 2006

Proponents of Proposition 90, an eminent domain reform initiative that California voters narrowly rejected Tuesday, plan to try again with a similar measure, possibly in June 2008.      The failed initiative, which opponents said would hobble urban planning as well as efforts to revitalize blighted areas, got 47.5 percent of the vote compared with 52.5 percent against.

Given that opponents raised $12.45 million compared with $3.77 million for proponents, Kevin Spillane, manager of the “yes” campaign, said the prospects for success next time around are bright.    “If I was a developer who profits from eminent domain, I would be deeply concerned and upset about the narrowness of victory,” Spillane said.

Prop. 90 would have limited government powers of eminent domain, preventing agencies from forcibly buying property and later allowing a private developer to build on the land.  A Sacramento group called the California Alliance to Protect Private Property Rights also said Wednesday that efforts are under way to get an eminent domain measure on the ballot in 2008. Executive director Marko Mlikotin said it is not clear what form that measure would take.

During the campaign, critics targeted language in Prop. 90 that would have required public agencies to compensate property owners for “regulatory takings” _ times when a government decision prevents a property owner from developing or using land. The measure would have amended the state Constitution to   require the government to pay for any “substantial” loss in property value caused by new laws or rules,  except ones dealing with public health and safety.

The nonpartisan state Legislative Analyst’s Office said that could affect more than land, potentially requiring compensation for rules governing such things as pollution, employment conditions, consumer protection and rent control. Supporters, however, said that was not true.  Chris McKenzie, executive director of the League of California Cities, which spent heavily to defeat Prop. 90, said his group is willing to work on some version of eminent domain reform.

“We have said throughout the campaign that we are ready at any moment to work with the Legislature and other parties to enact real eminent domain reform, not the type of bait-and-switch measure that the        proponents of Prop. 90 put on the ballot,” McKenzie said.  Spillane said New York real estate investor Howie Rich, who leads or is connected with groups that gave most of the money to the “yes” campaign, supports another attempt.

In addition to Prop. 90, Rich helped steer millions of dollars to similar property rights measures in Arizona and Nevada, which won Tuesday, and in Idaho, where it lost.  Six other initiatives, each more limited in scope than Prop. 90, won Tuesday. Measures in South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, North Dakota and Michigan were all put to voters by state legislatures, while the one in Oregon was initiated by citizens.

A Washington measure that addressed regulatory takings, but not eminent domain, lost.  Timothy Sandefur, a staff attorney with the Pacific Legal Foundation in Sacramento, which supported Prop. 90, said voters nationwide  overwhelmingly supported prohibitions on the use of eminent domain to promote private development. “Last night’s election represented a massive landslide for private property rights in this country,” he said.