In the small but affluent city of Piedmont, California (pop. 10K,) a critical test was being played out on the November 3, 2020 ballot: if passed, a bid by the city to increase real property transfer taxes would make Piedmont’s rate the highest in the state. As Piedmont sometimes serves as the center of a ripple effect where local policy is concerned, the potential precedent posed a risk across the San Francisco Bay region. The Bridge Association of REALTORS® recognized the danger, and with help from the REALTOR® Party, convinced residents to vote it down.
Government Affairs Director Kiran Shenoy notes that the region already has high transfer tax rates, and the proposal to increase Piedmont’s from $13 to $17.50 per $1,000 value of property transferred was an example of local government going after low-hanging fruit to increase revenue. He explains, “There’s so much confusion regarding transfer taxes, and housing turnover in Piedmont is so low that it doesn’t really register with the average voter in a meaningful way. So, the city was emboldened to propose the increase, stating that it would be used for facilities and infrastructure.” There were just two problems with that, he adds: the tax revenue would actually have gone to the general fund, and 60% of Piedmont residents had indicated in a recent poll that they were happy with the condition of facilities as they were.
Finding support for traditional REALTOR® issues in the San Francisco Bay region is an uphill battle at times, Shenoy says, but this was an instance where the association felt compelled to engage in a forceful campaign opposing the tax hike. “We felt it was important that our association should not only take a stance, but front the effort, as defenders of property rights. We worked closely with community leaders, including a former City Councilmember, who understood why the proposed tax increase was not appropriate. Our association president wrote and signed the rebuttal argument that appeared on the official voter pamphlet, and we turned to the REALTOR® Party for help with the campaign.” The four direct mail pieces and online advertising funded by the Issues Mobilization Grant made an impact, he says, noting that for the first time in his tenure at the association, he received emails from random Piedmont residents, thanking him for the REALTORS®’ efforts on their behalf. “That was satisfying, of course, but more importantly, it showed us that we were elevating the profile of REALTORS® as community benefactors. Homeowners were grateful that we were paying attention and on their side.”
On Election Day, the measure was defeated 52%-48%, which Shenoy characterizes as a rare public legislative victory. “We keep a close eye on our issues in all our communities, but the wins are usually the result of compromise and outside of public view. We were so happy to be able to show our members the value of our advocacy!” He can’t recommend the REALTOR® Party’s Issues Mobilization program highly enough. “The staff is there every step of the way for you, providing what I would best describe as ‘concierge service. They’re responsive and easy to work with, and help with everything from getting the grant, to putting together a budget, to connecting you with great vendors. They make the whole process really seamless.”
To learn more about how the Bridge Association of REALTORS® is protecting property rights in Piedmont, California and beyond with help from the REALTOR® Party, contact Government Affairs Director Kiran Shenoy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 510.848.2659.