In Era of Polarized Politics and Runaway Campaign Spending, Citizens’ Initiative Review Finds Reasons to Oppose & Support California’s Prop 10

SACRAMENTO, Calif.--()--Last weekend a group of 20 California voters from across the state participated in a Citizens’ Initiative Review (CIR), a non-partisan public evaluation of ballot measures, learning about and deliberating one of the more complex and contentious issues on the November statewide ballot: Proposition 10, the local rent control initiative.

Hosted by the Pepperdine School of Public Policy and Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership in partnership with Healthy Democracy, the citizen panel considered official voter materials and the full text of Prop 10. Over the course of four days, they heard arguments from the campaigns for and against the proposition and asked questions of both campaigns as well as of two panels of independent experts.

The panel identified and prioritized key findings they thought voters should know, and top arguments for and against the measure. They even developed style and typo committees in order to craft a statement that would be clear and accessible to voters across the state. Here is what they developed:

The citizen panel ranked their key findings, starting with the most important for voters to know:

  • Prop 10 would repeal the Costa-Hawkins Act. This Act currently provides exemptions for rent control on single-family dwellings and housing units built after 1995, and allows rent increases upon vacancy for a unit already rent-controlled.
  • Prop 10 does not create rent control policies or rent control boards. Instead, it provides communities the option to create such policies and organizations.
  • Prop 10 allows local communities to determine which types of housing are subject to rent control. Communities could potentially change the number of rent-controlled units available.
  • Prop 10 does not generate restrictions on the construction of new housing units.
  • Prop 10 does not take away rental property owners' guarantee of a fair rate of return.
  • The rent-controlled housing inventory may be increased by the repeal of the Costa-Hawkins Act, the existing state regulation which now exempts single-family homes and housing built after 1995.
  • A 2017 Stanford University study showed that San Francisco experienced higher rental costs and insufficient supply of affordable housing under existing rent control policies.
  • Prop 10 has no direct impact on homeowners who are not landlords, but does provide the opportunity for safeguarding property values and neighborhoods through stronger local rent control policies.

"What happened here this weekend is such a contrast to what's been coming out of Washington, lately,” said Ashley Trim, executive director of the Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership. “These men and women have shown that even on controversial issues, everyday citizens are hungry for good information and good deliberation and willing to commit to working together to accomplish that."

Panelists also identified the following top arguments for and against Proposition 10 and summarized the YES and NO on Prop 10.

Panelist Summary Statement in Support of Proposition 10: “The affordable housing supply in California is not sufficient to meet the demands of our growing state. This drives up rental prices, putting renters of all income levels at risk for displacement, eviction, and/or homelessness. Local governments would be allowed to set rent control policies that meet the needs of their communities.”

Panelist Summary Statement in Opposition to Proposition 10: “Repealing the Costa-Hawkins Act may create more government agencies, adding administrative costs that could be passed on to renters and taxpayers. Rent control has been associated with a slowing of new construction, a reduced supply of rental units, and rent increases.”

Together, the panelists crafted a Citizens’ Statement, sharing their key findings, as well as what they determined to be the strongest arguments for and against the initiative with their fellow voters. Working together they demonstrated the potential benefits of residents with diverse viewpoints and priorities to working together to evaluate arguments and information. Ultimately the CIR demonstrated how the democratic process can be applied to help fellow voters become more informed and engaged.


Citizens’ Initiative Review (CIR) is an innovative way of publicly evaluating ballot measures so voters have clear, useful, and trustworthy information at election time. In the weeks leading up to the event, 15,000 letters were sent to a random sample of California voters. 20 citizen panelists were selected from among respondents to reflect the larger voting population of California in a number of demographic areas including age, race, gender, geography, political party affiliation, and homeownership, among others. The CIR has been used in Oregon, Arizona, Colorado and Massachusetts. This was the first full-scale CIR to take place in California. Participants from this first citizen panel are preparing a statement that they plan to circulate to California legislators petitioning for this type of a process to become a regular part of the elections process in California.


Davenport Institute for Public Engagement
Ashley Trim, 310-506-6878


Davenport Institute for Public Engagement
Ashley Trim, 310-506-6878