By Marshall Smith
Proposition 72, on the June ballot as a constitutional amendment, proposes to exclude rain-water capture systems added after Jan. 1, 2019, from property-tax assessments as new construction. The California Constitution permits the Legislature to exempt some construction on existing property from property tax reassessment requirements.
California voters have a history of approving comparable property-tax exclusions for purposes such as:
• 1980 — Prop 7 exclusion for active solar energy systems;
• 1984 — Prop 23 exclusion for reconstruction of unreinforced masonry bearing walls to comply with local earthquake safety ordinances;
• 1984 — Prop 31 excluded fire detection, extinguishing and sprinkler systems;
• 1990 — Prop 110 excluded changes made to single or multi-family dwellings to make them more accessible to severely disabled persons;
• 1990 — Prop 127 excluded earthquake hazard mitigation technologies installed in existing buildings; and
• 1994 — Prop 177 excluded changes made to buildings to make them more accessible to [other] buildings to make them more accessible to severely disabled persons.
These exclusions have been added to the state Constitution in Article XIIIC, section 2.
In September 2012, the California Legislature enacted the Rainwater Capture Act that received unanimous votes in both chambers of the state Legislature. The act allowed landowners to install capture systems to capture and store water from rooftops. Prior to enactment of the measure, collection and storing rainwater required a permit from the State Water Resources Control Board.
Prop 72 follows previous property-tax exclusion measures that authorized exclusions for meritorious purposes. Given the measure would exclude rainwater-capture systems from the definition of new construction, the taxable value of a property would not increase because the property owner added a rainwater-capture system.
Legislation associated with the proposition defines the capture systems as those designed to capture, retain and store rainwater flowing from rooftops or other manmade, above-ground hard surfaces for onsite use. If voters approve Prop 72, verbiage regarding rainwater-capture systems also would be added to the state Constitution.
Given precedents for similar exemptions, there is no recorded opposition to this measure. Supporters include the California Democratic Party, the League of California Cities, and the Planning and Conservation League.
Amendment sponsor state Sen. Steve Glazer, D-7, representing most of Contra Costa County, said, “The reality in California is that we live in a constant state of extremes. Historical weather patterns have shown that we go back and forth between times of heavy precipitation followed by times of intense drought. Californians need to expect this and do all we can to conserve water during times of heavy precipitation. Rainwater-capture systems are a great way to accomplish this goal of water conservation.”
Editorial support throughout the state is generally favorable with the Los Angeles Times weighing in, “Proposition 72 is an important part of [a] historic change in attitude and governance. It has no official opponents. Californians should put it on the books as law. And then, if they haven’t already, get themselves a rain barrel or maybe even a cistern.”