November ballot incentive to overturn ULA measure loses in CA Supreme Court

In a unanimous decision, the California Supreme Court has blocked a November ballot initiative that could have overturned the Los Angeles property transfer tax known as Measure ULA.
Measure ULA, which was approved by California voters in November 2022 by a 58% to 42% margin, added a 4% property transfer tax on real estate deals in Los Angeles above $5 million, with the rate increasing to 5.5% on deals above $10 million.
However, the ruling by California’s top court may not be the last word on legal challenges to Measure ULA. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has agreed to hear arguments over the legality of Measure ULA later this year.

Our take

We are not lawyers, so we can’t comment on whether the court correctly applied the law in blocking the ballot initiative. As a policy matter, however, we think Measure ULA is counterproductive and hasn’t delivered on its promise. Proponents of Measure ULA promised that the property transfer tax would generate up to $1 billion in new revenue for the House L.A. Fund to combat homelessness. However, after the measure was enacted in April 2023, transaction volume plummeted in L.A. and the new law brought in less than $200 million by the end of last year.