Eminently Logical

Don't be too concerned with the originators of Proposition 98. instead, look at what they might deliver.

"We're going to have to spend time and money to disprove the importance of these old buildings to a historic district that doesn't exist yet," Lightner says. "It's irrational. What does it mean? Discontiguous in time? In space? Does it relate to Van Ness Avenue? To Market Street? What it does is provide another arrow in the quiver of those who don't want to see development because it offends them."

Proposition 98 would remove that entire quiver with a single swipe. The results would be largely unpredictable. It's reasonable to surmise, however, that downtown apartment construction would accelerate. Rents would stabilize or decline. Hotel and office construction would take off. Businesses would flock to San Francisco, which would have ample new office space and more, cheaper homes for their employees. The city's tax base would expand accordingly, making it possible to fortify our local public transportation, parks, and social services.

Proposition 98's backers might find they haven't sufficiently thought through their initiative's possible effects. California Farm Bureau members would, ironically, find themselves with fewer opportunities to cash out to developers. Some landlords wouldn't be able to charge as much rent. Property-rights ideologues would see cities, those fomenters of liberal thinking, expand at the expense of more conservative suburbs.

Are these benefits worth endorsing right-wing zealots' misbegotten dream?

They just might be.

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