Proposition 13 falls short despite support in Solana Beach, Encinitas

(File photo)

Californians rejected Proposition 13, a $15 billion school bond measure, but it received a boost from voters in Solana Beach and Encinitas.

It was the first time since 1994 that a statewide school bond measure was rejected. In Encinitas, however, voters supported the proposition 12,414 to 12,019, according to the final tally from the county registrar of voters. In Solana Beach, the “yes” votes prevailed 2,721 to 2,645.

Only about 46% of San Diego County voters supported Proposition 13. North County communities rejected it by mostly wide margins, including Rancho Santa Fe, where the count was 469 to 958. In Del Mar, it fell by 13 votes.

So far, more than 4.8 million Californians voted against the ballot measure, equal to 53% of voters. Due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Gavin Newsom extended the canvassing period to count remaining ballots to April 24.

“I was surprised by the magnitude [of the margin of defeat],” said Rich Leib, a member of the UC Board of Regents and former Solana Beach School Board member.

He added that he wasn’t surprised with the local results, given the usual support for maintaining the quality of the schools; but statewide, there seemed to be an aversion to taking on another bond measure. The state would have had to pay $740 million per year for 35 years if Proposition 13 passed.

Leib also said the ballot measure’s defeat is “a big blow” for University of California schools, which would have received $2 billion for facilities improvements. Community colleges and California State University schools also would have received $2 billion each.

Public schools would have received $5.2 billion for modernization projects, such as earthquake safety improvements and removing lead from the water. Another $2.8 billion would have been allocated for new construction.

The result was surprising to many Proposition 13 proponents in part because of the lack of organized opposition. There were no campaign committees formed to oppose the ballot measure.

The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association submitted the official ballot argument against the proposition. They said with more than $19 billion of reserves in the state budget, a proposition for school improvements wasn’t necessary. But now state leaders may need to dip heavily into those reserves because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Seven campaign committees reported money raised in support of Proposition 13, including $5,000 from Leib. Locally, the Yes on 13 committees also received $25,000 from Marc Brutten, a real estate investor with offices in Solana Beach, and $1,000 from the law firm Devaney Pate Morris & Cameron. Leslie Devaney, its founding partner, is the city attorney of Del Mar and Encinitas.

Countywide, the most financial support for Proposition 13 came from the UC San Diego Foundation, which contributed $175,000 to the campaign.

“This was a great cause for replacing, refurbishing all the aging infrastructure around the state,” said Steve Hart, chair of the UC San Diego Foundation’s board of trustees.

Hart said he wasn’t surprised by the support from Encinitas and Solana Beach, since supporting the local schools is “a particular cause in the north coastal areas.” But he added that the ballot measure’s “hot-button number” probably caused confusion throughout the state that led to its demise.

In 1978, Californians approved a different Proposition 13 that reduced property taxes and limited yearly increases. Momentum to amend that Proposition 13, based on arguments that it’s depriving schools and cities of additional revenue, has grown -- although it remains popular among property owners.

Some voters, Hart said, may have mistakenly conflated this year’s Proposition 13 with an effort to change the 1978 Proposition 13, leading to more votes against it. How much of an impact is unclear. Leib, who resigned from the Solana Beach School Board earlier this year to focus on his work with the UC Board of Regents, said he didn’t think the proposition’s number was a factor.

The day after the March 3 election, Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell, D-Long Beach, announced he will introduce a bill to retire the number 13 for use on any future ballot measures “to ensure voters are not misled.” O’Donnell coauthored this year’s Proposition 13.

Hart said the Legislature needs to go “back to the drawing board” to find another way to fund school improvements, including refurbishments at UC San Diego buildings that don’t have the funding to move forward.

“They’re all things that are hard to raise money for by the foundation,” Hart said. “People want to donate for new projects and research. It’s harder to raise philanthropy for going back and fixing up an old building.”