Battle against SLO’s rental inspection ordinance advances
August 31, 2016
By KAREN VELIE
Councilman Dan Carpenter and two local attorneys unveiled a plan Monday to strike San Luis Obispo’s controversial rental inspection program through the initiative process.
The proposed measure by Carpenter, Stew Jenkins and Dan Knight, says that the city’s rental inspection ordinance violates the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments. It contends the inspection ordinance is unlawful because it discriminates between renters and homeowners and dictates an unconstitutional invasion of privacy.
In May 2015, the city council voted 3-2 to adopt the ordinance that allows an inspector to enter and examine rental units to determine if the properties are safe and habitable. The ordinance also requires landlords to pay a fee to fund the program.
Mayor Jan Marx, Councilman John Ashbaugh and Councilwoman Carlyn Christianson support the program. Carpenter and Councilman Dan Rivoire voted against the rental inspection program, and have continued to ask that it be discontinued.
Many city residents have opposed the program, arguing it constitutes government intrusion and a tax on rentals. Supporters of the program contend there are deteriorating neighborhoods in the city where landlords do little to maintain their properties.
Last year, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio ruled that mandatory rental inspections were unconstitutional warrantless searches that violate the Fourth Amendment.
The three proponents of replacing the ordinance filed their proposal on Monday. City Attorney Christine Dietrick now has 15 days to name and describe the measure.
Then, proponents of the measure will have 180 days to collect the signatures of 15 percent of registered voters in the city, or roughly about 3,900 signatures. If successful, the measure will then go to the people for a vote.
Under the name SLO Voice, the proponents plan to raise funds to pay for the cost of collecting signatures and for legal expenses.
Jenkins has a long history of battling for the constitutional rights of San Luis Obispo County residents. In 2013, Jenkins and attorney Saro Rizzo filed a lawsuit accusing the city of San Luis Obispo of discrimination, harassment and the criminalization of homeless people. Following a decision by a superior court judge that the city’s treatment of the homeless was unconstitutional, the city voided its fines against the homeless.