City of SLO settles rental inspection ordinance lawsuit

April 30, 2017

Mayor Heidi Harmon, council members Dan Rivoire, Carlyn Christianson, Aaron Gomez and Andy Pease.

After rescinding its controversial rental inspection ordinance, the City of San Luis Obispo has agreed to pay the cost and fees of a suit, filed by a small group of property owners and a renter, that demanded the ordinance be repealed.

In May 2015, the city council voted 3-2 to adopt the ordinance that allowed an inspector to enter and examine rental units to determine if the properties were safe and habitable. The ordinance also required landlords to pay a fee to fund the program.

San Luis Obispo based attorney Saro Rizzo represented The San Luis Obispo Property Owners Association, Steve and Janine Barasch, Matt and Jean Kokkonen and Kevin Rice in the suit that claimed the city’s rental inspection program violated equal protection rights and the Fourth and Fifth Amendments.

The city then hired outside legal counsel who ultimately agreed to the demands of the plaintiffs rather than battle them in the court.

Leslie Halls

“This is a victory for both tenants and landlords, for their privacy, for their safety, and for the protection of their property from unwarranted government intrusion,” said Leslie Halls, president of the San Luis Obispo Property and Business Owners Association. “The primary goal was to rescind the rental inspection ordinance, and we succeeded.”

The City of San Luis Obispo also agreed to an undisclosed amount of attorney’s fees and costs in favor of the plaintiffs.

”We commend the City of San Luis Obispo for settling this case rather than engaging in costly, protracted litigation that would have had the same result; clearly the ordinance was not practical to enforce and had to be rescinded.”

In addition to the lawsuit, last year, Dan Carpenter, Stew Jenkins and Dan Knight began the process of promoting an initiative that would repeal the rental inspection program and require the city to adopt a non-discrimination in housing ordinance to help protect against the council replacing the ordinance with another rental inspection program.

Rather than adopting the non-discrimination in housing ordinance and staving off a special election, the San Luis Obispo City Council voted unanimously on April 18 to send the ongoing dispute over a rental inspection program to the voters.

Jon Tatro

The people should never fear the Government the Government must always fear the people. It’s time to make these clowns realize who they work for.


“The city then hired outside legal counsel who ultimately agreed to the demands of the plaintiffs rather than battle them in the court.”

Can someone explain what the 220K a year City Attorney does for the City? Every article is about hiring outside legal counsel to do her job.

Can my employer please hire someone else to do my job but still pay me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Ask ms harmon…


So, will the City be honest and open and do a full disclosure of the final costs of this intrusion and illegal ordinance. This is at least TWICE the City Manager and City Attorney have had to rescind their costly mistakes, hire outside attorney’s, and bow to Stew Jenkins for their erroneous direction and mistakes at a major cost to the taxpayers.

HOW MUCH DID THIS COST THE TAXPAYERS OF SLO AND WILL THEY GET RID OF THE INEPT CITY ATTORNEY. Street talk says Katie is gone in two years when she turns 55 and can retire with her bloated pension!


The city spent $40,000 on outside legal counsel. The amount awarded to the Property Owners was less than half that, for legal fees and services. Had it gone to court, their legal fees and subsequent award would have been much more. Too bad the city had to spend so much money when they should have known this was not going to fly in the first place. But when bureaucrats and politicians get away with so much for so long, they don’t expect to be challenged.

Lichtig and Dietrich should both be let go. Years ago the city had an attorney on a retainer and seemed to do much better at less cost with that arrangement.


Let this be a lesson for other obtrusive politicians. You can govern or you can dictate. The latter will cost ya.


How has this cost any of those obtrusive politicians anything?, they still have their jobs and their ridiculous salaries and benefits, they still get raises regardless of their quality of work, they still get to retire on a pension system that is broke by trillions of dollars. They only people that this will cost is the taxpayers.


Well I didn’t vote for them…


But they get re-lected or what does get elected is no better than what was, otherwise Lichtig would no longer be SLO city manager, go figure.


“The city then hired outside legal counsel who ultimately agreed to the demands of the plaintiffs rather than battle them in the court.”

Doesn’t the City already have a farrow of piglets sucking on its teat for legal advice? Why is everything farmed out while we are supposedly paying people to do these jobs?

Can we take any and all OUTSIDE legal fees OUT of the City Attorney’s budget AND salaries?


Please don’t forget that our city attorney has one job and one job only, to protect the city manager from any possible litigation, and if doing that also protects the city council, that counts as a two-fer.


And the lawyers make off like bandits! For their ‘services’


I thin the real bandits are the SLO city manager and city staff, given their salaries and this ill conceived rental inspection program


With no results from my request for a refund. I am considering Small Claims. This settlement will only help my case.


Another “mistake” by the our elected officials that we the taxpayer’s have to pay for. Would be a more fair process of these elected officials were held personally responsible for their misdeeds instead of us?


Won’t ever happen, just as Sheriff Parkinson will never be help personally responsible for the deaths by his staff, and all payouts will come from the taxpayers and never will come from his budget so as make him want to change.


So, another answer to a non-existing problem goes away with no fanfare except the loss of several hundred thousand taxpayer dollars….another job well done!


We are not sure it has totally gone away, we still have not heard about the staff hired to enforce this now defunct program, have they been fired?, are they still on the payroll just trying to reach a higher pension level? A public service job, one that keeps on giving even when not needed or the system is broke.


Naw. They’re still around. Soon to be transferred from landlord harassment department to homeowner harassment department. Just wait! Just like when the city stopped reading water meters and hired a private contractor last year. Gave all the meter readers new jobs. Net savings? “Minus cost” of private contractor.