How I'm voting, Part 3: Oakland Initiatives (2018)

October 15, 2018

The third in my series giving some opinions on California's election. CA ballot initiatives: part 1, CA voter-nominated offices: part 2.

Measure V: Yes

Under Oakland's existing laws, medical cannabis companies face a 5 percent tax on their gross receipts, and those selling weed for recreation have to pay 10 percent. These tax rates are locked in by a previous ballot measure and can only be changed by voters.

Here we go again…

This seems reasonable but it's the textbook example of why the tax code shouldn't be set by ballot measure.

Measure W: Strong no

Housing shortage? Sure, let's impose a new tax of $3K-$6K when someone wants to keep their unit empty for whatever reason.

Yet another reason why we need a clean repeal of Prop 13; people paying $10K/year in property tax (which I am) don't let their place sit empty.

This is a punitive, outrageous new tax that does nothing other than punish owners unlucky enough to own rental property in Oakland. Just like CA Prop 10, stuff like this scares the hell out of those who'd otherwise invest in (aka build) new housing in Oakland.

There is no evidence this will do anything to alleviate homelessness or housing problems, but it's guaranteed to raise the cost of doing business, owning, or renting property in Oakland. There's no statutory requirement on how the estimated $200 million in new taxes will be used, which is even worse. This initiative is plainly about class warfare and punishing "the rich", without regard to whether the solution will work at all, let alone if it's fair.

Oakland already has every conceivable kind of tax, including sales, transient occupancy, real estate transfer, business gross receipts, and all kinds of parcel taxes; let's not add yet another, especially one so big that's not proven to solve anything?

Measure X: No

Leave the transfer tax alone. It's bad enough that Oakland charges 1.5% of value any time property is bought or sold; that's a $22.5K tax just for the privilege of buying or selling a $1.5 million property, on top of agent commissions, escrow fees, title insurance, and everything else. There's no need for this to be higher; advocates claim the tax should be "progressive"—it already is because smaller properties are taxed less (by virtue of the tax being pegged to value), we don't need to double it by making the rate lower on top of the lower sale amount.

Measure Y: No

It's hard enough to be a small property owner in Oakland. Don't make it harder.

Small property owners are the bread and butter of the low-end market. They are the very people who rent out the most affordable units to the lowest end of the market. Passing this measure will make it even more likely these people will exit the market entirely, adding to the problem of housing affordability.

The only solution is more supply, not more taxes, fees, and regulations.

Measure Z: Strong no

No way this belongs as a ballot measure; it's way too specific and technical.

This should be done through legislation.

Measure AA: No

Oakland's tax base is already $1.5 billion, up $500 million in the last 5 years. That's $7K/year for Caroline and I. I should be living in a country club for that kind of money.


I'll look at the remaining Alameda Country offices and everything else tomorrow.