skip to main content









Donation Heart Ribbon

Proposition 13: A Look Back

Video unavailable. Read transcript below.

Video published February 23, 2010 | Download MP4 | View transcript

Above: In 1978 disco was king, Jerry Brown was governor and the people ruled. They voted 2 to 1 in favor of Proposition 13, rolling back property taxes.

KPBS is examining the legacy of Prop 13 -- the 1978 proposition that rolled back property taxes, capped them at 1 percent of purchase price, and limited yearly increases to 2 percent. In this video, producer Andy Trimlett describes the set of circumstances that lead up to the anti-tax movement that would forever change taxation in California. The initiative was successful at stopping rising property taxes, but was it the beginning of California's economic crisis? Find out as the series begins here on, FM 89.5, and KPBS Television. The final documentary airs Monday, March 29th at 9 pm.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.


Avatar for user 'tasaia'

tasaia | February 23, 2010 at 10:03 a.m. ― 7 years, 1 month ago

Child experts drive me crazy. Especially those without children headed for college, without investments and lacking a capitalist perspective of true wealth creation vs. "stimulus" ideas.

I will never forget the day the "Tax Assessor" entered our home to assess the value of our home furnishings! My mother was terrified.

Property taxes were skyrocketing to pay not only for education but for a government out of control, and this was in the 1950's. Imagine what property taxes would be under today's professional political demagogues!

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'emaij'

emaij | February 23, 2010 at 12:24 p.m. ― 7 years, 1 month ago

What would taxes be? They'd be ~1.2% of the current assessed value of your home - just like everyone else. Prop 13 never limited that part of property taxes.

Prop 13 is horrible policy and not just because it has destroyed the public school system and has bankrupted the state. Here are my issues with it:

1. It is EXTREMELY unfair. I am buying a house this year. I will be paying 10x what my next door neighbor pays... FOREVER. For the same services! And his house is nicer.

2. It severely hurts the marketplace for housing. No one in California ever wants to unload a house they have owned for 15 or more years because they will lose the assessment. That is one of the major impediments to a free market in housing and one reason that inventory is usually very low. Who would sell when they are basically being subsidized for owning?

3. There are many alternatives. One of the fairest is allowing for property tax deferrals for the elderly. Yes it's true that property tax sometimes increases but taxation is supposed to be FAIR.

4. Prop 13 rewards people who have already been rewarded. So your home appreciated from $30,000 to $1.1m in 35 years. Congratulations. You (or your heirs) have a $1m capital gain! Yay! Now taxpayers are supposed to subsidize you and your kids in addition? If you can't afford the taxes, take your $1m windfall, and buy something you can afford. Why should the marketplace bend because you lucked out and are now a millionaire that doesn't feel you should have to pay your fair share.

5. Prop 13 benefits the wealthy the most. The biggest landowners and the wealthiest - ie the ones that can afford never to sell - are the ones that benefit the most from P13. It's REGRESSIVE TAXATION!

I understand selfish motivation but it's one thing to be happy about a windfall. It's another to go on the radio and be indignant about how you might have to pay your fair share if P13 was reversed. P13 is a travesty. If you're benefiting from it, enjoy your windfall but please gloat in private. It's really irritating to listen to your complaints when I'm paying for your trash collection.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'metoo'

metoo | February 24, 2010 at 1:41 p.m. ― 7 years ago

Most people don't realize how many times Prop. 13 has been tweaked to extend tax benefits, add & try to close loopholes in the original poorly drafted proposal. There has hardly been an election in subsequent years in California that did not include some adjustment to it.

See the following:

Note all dates in current text:

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'philosopher3000'

philosopher3000 | February 28, 2010 at 4:20 a.m. ― 7 years ago

Why doesn't anyone ever bring up the fact that commercial investment property is protected by Prop. 13 through HOLDING Companies, SHELL Corporations that provide a tax shelter for large property owners? This tax loophole has been the reason that so much development has happened in California, while elsewhere in the US businesses have been expected to pay for their fair share of the public infrastructure.

Their are properties in downtown San Diego, owned by Banks through shell corporations that are paying only 0.1% of their current assessed value because the property hasn't changed hands since the 1970's. These are the same banks that we just bailed out at the Federal Level, the same banks that caused your home to be foreclosed upon.

It's not that the owners of these corporations are bad people, they just don't want responsibility for the schools, the hospitals, the public transportation. What would they do with a bunch of educated, healthy, mobile California citizens? There is no easy profit in that.


( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'ranchlady11369'

ranchlady11369 | March 2, 2010 at 7:38 a.m. ― 7 years ago

I don't think most of you realize that Prop 13 does for those of us that have lived in our homes for a long time. I could not live in California if it was not for Prop 13 and I would have to leave California. There goes my tax dollars, as it would for many who live under Prop 13.

emaij - You have no idea what you are talking about. Let me address each item as you stated it:

It does not hurt the school system. Those of us living under Prop 13 DO NOT HAVE KIDS IN SCHOOL. Yet we still have to pay taxes and bonds to schools where we don't have kids. It has not bankrupted the school system, out-of-control spending has.

1. You are just sounding off because "it's unfair to you" and you will have to pay more taxes than your neighbor and he has a "nicer house" (I hear a whine here). Long term residency is being rewarded with Prop 13 so we don't leave the state.

2. It doesn't hurt the marketplace. People don't have to "turnover" their home for there to be a marketplace? Long term ownership does not impede a free market housing or create low inventory. I love where I live and have no intention of selling just to create inventory.

3. Here is that FAIR thing. What is fair for you isn't fair for me. I don't feel like I have to be penalized because you think it's fair.

4. Prop 13 does not reward us with an increase in our properties. It's obvious you DO NOT OWN A HOME. I would not make money if I were to sell my home. I wouldd only have to turn it around and invest that money in another home that appreciated in value. So I'd essentially be getting value for value. There would be no money in my pocket. And recently I've lost more than $200,000 value in my home. You are not subsidizing my kids. There are none in my home and those living under Prop 13 most likely their kids are grown and out of the house. You have no idea what you are talking about. There is no $1 million windfall. I'm no millionaire. I live paycheck to paycheck. I'm just grateful I own a home I can afford to live in. My taxes would be taken out of the state and given to another state is it were not for Prop 13.

5. Prop 13 does not benefit the wealthy the most. It benefits citizens like myself that live paycheck to paycheck and can't afford the rising costs of California with out-of-control spending.

You understand NOTHING. It's not selfish to live within your means in a home you've worked hard to own. And I'm not indignant, I've been paying my fair share longer than you've been alive. Talk about fair? Then pay up for the years you've missed and catch up to me. Oh, you were not born matter it's fair so pay up. And you don't pay for my trash collection. I have Daily Disposal and pay for it each month. Get off your self-pitty wagon. Don't nag at me for having a home for more than 30 years and want me to pay for your spending spree.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'TomAmes'

TomAmes | March 4, 2010 at 12:21 a.m. ― 7 years ago

May I assume, Ranchlady, that you'll be taking out only the social security you paid into the system? That you'll turn down the Medicare (part D) prescription drug benefit. Because if not you're willing to bankrupt the children of California, while being unwilling to support their education.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'ranchlady11369'

ranchlady11369 | March 4, 2010 at 6:37 p.m. ― 7 years ago

I am not on Social Security and I'm not on Medicare. I don't take one dime from any of those. There are other ways of cutting our budget than "bankrupting" the children of California. It's a political ploy of the left to say "the children" will be hurt when that isn't the case at all. Our out-of-control spending can be curbed in other ways rather than cut school spending. Where is the lottery money that was promised to the schools? What was given in the left hand was taken out of the right hand. The lottery was the fix-all to the school system that didn't actually benefit the kids much at all. I've paid my fair share over the last 33 years into our school system. Maybe now it's your turn.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'zorst'

zorst | March 4, 2010 at 10:01 p.m. ― 7 years ago

Who says that we should have to pay taxes year after year for property. Then have the taxes go up every year. Then if a bunch of fools deceid that houses are all of a sudden a great investment and everyones home should cost 500+ thousand dollars, my taxes go up even more .

I think the real issue is controling costs. If you work for the state or city do you deserve a lifelong retierment plan that can be higher than what even your normal paycheck would have been? Should we pay underperforming teachers higher and higher wages for pumping out hardley literate kids. This country was great and strong when sales tax was 5 percent. Why are things worse with 8.75. I have never seen so many potholes anywhere in the world as we have here in San Diego. Fill my potholes, deliver water and electricty, put out my fires, and service my sewers. Do these things right, before you start with all of the charity programs out there.

Nothing is working. cut cost don't raise taxes. Get down to basics. Get people back to work, not welfare and disablity, catch the cheaters. No insurance? no medicine. Make personal medical insurance mandatory, I have to have car insurance why not medical. Last and certainly not least if your in this country illegaly and your not tending the crops then you stealing someone elses job and probably not paying taxes, registration or insurance and any child you have while here should not be considered an automatic citizen. Besides who says we should subsidize farms with so called cheap labor, have you looked at the price on fruit lately. If it takes $40 an hour to hire an american to work the fields then pay it, it's a lot cheaper than having to print everything in Eglish and Spanish. Then that person can pay for his own medical. He can contribute to taxes and his kids wont need a free lunch in school.

Well that felt good to rant.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'ranchlady11369'

ranchlady11369 | March 5, 2010 at 7:10 a.m. ― 7 years ago

Well said zorst. It's all the charity programs that need to be cut to bring our budget into line. Don't raise the property taxes on folks who bought their home for far less than today's market value and penalize them for being in California for 30+ years. Yes...well said.

( | suggest removal )