Special election on SLO rental inspections still looms

March 13, 2017

A stack of 1,560 pages of signed petitions.

Though the San Luis Obispo City Council is currently in the process of repealing the city’s controversial rental inspection ordinance, it appears the council must soon choose between adopting an alternative ordinance pushed by opponents of the inspection program and calling a special election on the matter.

In May 2015, the previous city council voted 3-2 to adopt an 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.

Many city residents have opposed the program, arguing it constitutes government intrusion and a tax on rentals. Since its passage, renters have been removed from homes during repairs, and some property owners have been forced to pay the city’s high permit fees.

Supporters of the program, which included city management staff, argued there were deteriorating neighborhoods in the city where landlords do little to maintain their properties.

In recent months, former councilman Dan Carpenter, attorney Stew Jenkins and Dan Knight led a petition drive to overturn the ordinance. About a third of the city’s registered voters signed a petition to eliminate the controversial inspection program by way of a ballot measure. If passed, the ballot initiative would replace the rental inspection ordinance with a non-discrimination housing ordinance.

Faced with a looming special election, the San Luis Obispo council voted unanimously last week to repeal the rental inspection ordinance. If the council votes again to scrap the ordinance at its upcoming meeting, the rental inspection program will be formally repealed.

However, that alone will not put an end to the initiative process. In order to stop a special election from occurring, the council must also adopt a non-discrimination housing ordinance.

On Friday, a random sampling required by elections code showed the petition to repeal and replace the rental inspection ordinance contains 200 percent of the valid signatures needed to place the initiative on a ballot, according to a press release issued by Jenkins. The sampling also indicated the petition contains 138 percent of the valid signatures that would mandate a special election, Jenkins said.

In accordance with elections code, since the petition contains such a high percentage of valid signatures, the city clerk can immediately certify it, Jenkins said. Doing so would require the council to consider the initiative at its next meeting.

On Monday, backers of the initiative urged the city clerk to certify the measure for adoption at the March 21 council meeting.

If the clerk does certify the petition, the council would then be faced with the choice of adopting the measure as written or setting a special election within 108 days, Jenkins said. The council could also exercise an option to study the impact of its choice and delay its decision for no more than 30 days.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

If the rental inspection ordinance passes, everyone in the units should pull pranks on the inspectors. Make them feel awkward, question them relentlessly, tell them to pound sand. Waste their time, since they are wasting your tax dollar. If they wanna intrude on your property and your amendment rights, then you too have the right to phuck with them.

The initiative is illegal because it can only be about one thing. This one’s about two things: repealing one ordinance and enacting another. City should go to court and stop this nonsense. They’ve repealed the offending ordinance. Let it be.

You are wrong on both points: (1) The City Council has not yet repealed the unconstitutional rental inspection ordinance. Final adoption of the repeal is to be considered at the March 21 Council meeting. (2) The “Single Subject Rule” is not violated here.

The California Supreme Court wrote (Brown v. Super. Ct. of Sacramento (2016)):

We have long held that the constitutional “single subject” rule is satisfied “so long as challenged provisions meet the test of being reasonably germane to a common theme, purpose, or subject.” (Californians for an Open Primary v. McPherson (2006) 38 Cal.4th 735, 764 (McPherson), and cases cited.) This standard reflects our “`liberal interpretative tradition . . . of sustaining statutes and initiatives which fairly disclose a reasonable and common sense relationship among their various components in furtherance of a common purpose.'” (Legislature v. Eu (1991) 54 Cal.3d 492, 512, quoting Brosnahan v. Brown (1982) 32 Cal.3d 236, 253.)

The Initiative’s provisions to (1) repeal discriminatory inspections based solely on whether a person is a renter or owner, and (2) adopt a non-discrimination in housing Ordinance, are clearly germane to a common theme and purpose—prohibiting discrimination in housing policy.

The Supreme Court applies a ‘liberal interpretative tradition’ (Id.) which disfavors strict, aggressive application of the Single Subject Rule.

For these reasons, and others, your assertion fails.

Wishful thinking rukidding! I agree with you; however, did you get a chance to read the latest CCN article, “California Democrats call for boosting financial aid to students?” The new legislative proposed program is estimated to cost a cool $1.6 billion a year.

But what the heck, it’s not the legislators money, it’s yours and mine. As a senior on a fixed income, don’t know how this taxpayer is going to survive in the new California Sandernista world?

You will probably have to do like what I am being forced to do. The house is for sale and I will be moving out of state. I didn’t work hard all of my life and save for retirement just to pay taxes and fees that go towards those that do not or want to work.

Sorry to see you go, but many people and businesses will be leaving this once great state of kalifornia for just those very reasons.

My grandparents and parents relocated to california from the east coast after the great depression and WW11, because of work and because this was the land of opportunity. My family lost everything in the depression, yet came out to the golden state where the jobs were. My grandfather was an architect who built many churches all over the east, but was reduced to grave digging to feed his family during the depression and world war, which used up most of our great talent and resources nation wide.

I take offense with those who would proclaim a special code or enforcement of that code, simply to control property owners rights. As a licensed contractor, I am subject to all forms of scrutiny by appointed bureaucrats who already know accountability and the codes…

There are reams of codes and building requirements already forced on contractors and home owners and this new funding mechanism by the county or city will simply break many or raise rents out of range of normal citizens(students).

All habitable residences are already subject to code scrutiny and this misplaced ordinance places addition burdens on an already onerous process which would be paid for again by citizens….

Can’t the government please just let us alone? Let’s have another initiative that says no more fees or additional taxes until they balance their budgets. Freeze all hiring and pay/benefit increases and establish a plan to pay off all of their unfunded bills that amount to millions and millions of dollar. In other words demand that they do their job without penalizing the taxpayer any more for their incompetency.

The SLO Property Owners Association, which sued the city of SLO over the Rental Inspection Ordinance, several years ago tried to qualify for the ballot an initiative that would stop any new fees, fines, surcharges, etc., from being imposed, and limit increases in the existing ones to no more than the CPI/inflation. Had this qualified and passed, we would not be seeing double-digit water and sewer rate increases, $540 unleashed dog fines, etc. Maybe it’s time to do this again? With the looming CalPERS debt, about which the SLOPOA has been warning anyone who would listen for the past ten years, be assured everything in your wallet will be subject to new attempts at confiscation by the city of SLO.