SLO to hold special election as city battles to keep inspecting rentals

April 19, 2017

A stack of 1,560 pages of signed petitions.

By JOSH FRIEDMAN

Rather than adopting a non-discrimination in housing ordinance and staving off a special election, the San Luis Obispo City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to send the ongoing dispute over a rental inspection program to the voters. The move has raised questions as to whether the city, plagued by upcoming budget shortfalls, is going to undue lengths to raise revenue.

In 2015, the previous city council adopted a rental inspection 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.

Last month, the council repealed the ordinance after about a third of registered voters in SLO signed a petition calling for it to be repealed and replaced it with a non-discrimination in housing ordinance. The proposed replacement ordinance states the city, “shall not discriminate against any person based upon age, income, disability, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual identity or inability or ability to own a home, by imposing any compulsory program, policy, intrusion or inspection of any ethnicity, sexual identity or status as an owner or renter of such dwelling.”

The non-discrimination ordinance would help safeguard against the city council replacing the previous rental inspection ordinance with another discriminatory rental inspection program.

Acting on the advice of city staff, the council rejected the non-discrimination in housing ordinance at its meeting on Tuesday. A 26-page report drafted by City Attorney Christine Dietrick and Community Development Director Michael Codron argued the non-discrimination in housing ordinance would place the city in a legal bind that would compromise initiatives like affordable housing programs. City staff argued, if the council adopts the non-discrimination ordinance, individuals could sue the city claiming the affordable housing rules discriminate against mid and high-income residents.

Stew Jenkins

Prior to the meeting, attorney Stew Jenkins, one of the leaders of the petition driver, responded to the report with a letter to Mayor Heidi Harmon, stating city staff raised false concerns. By requiring developers to price certain properties for the working poor, the city’s rental inspection program does not discriminate against those otherwise able to afford a home, Jenkins wrote.

Still, during Tuesday’s meeting, council members echoed staff’s fears that the non-discrimination ordinance might prevent affordable housing or rent stabilization programs.

“Those are absolutely false concerns,” Jenkins told CalCoastNews.

San Luis Obispo staff also voiced concern the non-discrimination ordinance would prevent the city from raising $200,000 from landlords from a business tax.

Jenkins said the tax on landlords is passed onto renters, and the city will spend $200,000 anyway on a special election.

“It is all smoke and mirrors and an attempt to undercut the initiative and raise doubt,” Jenkins said. “Every one of these is a false doubt.”

To city staff, though, the loss of revenue associated with the rental inspection program appears to be a major issue. The city is currently facing a projected budget shortfall of more than $5 million in the 2021-2022 fiscal year.

Councilwoman Andy Pease has said staff is worried about losing the money and staffers say they need something in place of the repealed inspection ordinance.

On Tuesday, Pease raised the possibility of creating a competing ballot measure. None of the council members brought up specific plans for a new program, but the council agreed to discuss a possible competing ballot measure at its May 2 meeting.

Previously, Councilman Aaron Gomez said he believes the city needs to replace the controversial rental inspection ordinance with a newly crafted rental inspection program. Hence, the council may consider placing a new rental inspection program on the ballot to compete with the non-discrimination in housing initiative.







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29 Comments

  1. marc says:

    Staff says, jump, and these clowns ask, how high? We are being screwed.

    (32) 38 Total Votes - 35 up - 3 down
    • SLOBIRD says:

      You have been screwed since Marx and Likit started running the City, this is a Marx carryover!

      (6) 6 Total Votes - 6 up - 0 down
      • RonHolt says:

        I don’t disagree with your conclusions but was that high-pitched dog-whistle in the middle of your sentence really necessary?

        (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
  2. slojoey says:

    Paid my fees. Received no inspection, but still trying to get my refund.
    I can not be the ONLY one. Stew Jenkins, how about a Class Action Suit??!!!

    (37) 43 Total Votes - 40 up - 3 down
  3. taxpayer says:

    What is it that these people don’t understand about it not being constitutional
    to force people to allow the government into the taxpayer’s homes. You can’t vote to do something that’s not constitutional. Let the lawsuits begin.

    (9) 15 Total Votes - 12 up - 3 down
    • SLOBIRD says:

      You have a socialist running this City, it should be free to do the inspection! Then, after City staff do the work, there should be a fine and hence, the new revenue!

      (4) 6 Total Votes - 5 up - 1 down
  4. copperhead says:

    How about the city paying for the program with an across the board 2 percent cut in salaries…if they raise the cost to administer in fines, the workers can get their pay back. City keeps the extra dollars.

    Didn’t think so.

    (8) 12 Total Votes - 10 up - 2 down
  5. Slosum says:

    Perhaps they should put the firefighter video to a referendum too. In fact, they ought to put the entire idiotic council to a referendum and clean house. This is insanity.

    (54) 60 Total Votes - 57 up - 3 down
  6. Pete says:

    This council is perhaps worse than the last one, what a pity. After giving out undue bonuses to overpaid high level staff they can’t wait to impose more fees on us, even spending our money to do that promote that. Look at the numbers in the article, scandalous!
    This would be expected of Christenson (she is clearly against the people) but shame on the others who we thought might have brains and hearts. Over 1/3 of voters already rejected the inspection ordinance.

    By the way, if you see this in time our Mayor will be hosting the Congalton show today at 3, why not call up and give her a piece of your mind? 543 8830 on am 920. She and the others are spending your tax money like drunken sailors, how do you like that?

    (46) 54 Total Votes - 50 up - 4 down
  7. Jorge Estrada says:

    On the negative take one could say that nothing is legal until the government gets their cut. On the positive side one could say that everything is legal so long as the government gets their cut. With simple math we can cancel the negative and positive and just accept that government will get their cut. Remember we are talking about doing business under the umbrella of an incorporated city that bureaucratically survives on it’s concessions, what you claim to be your property.

    (23) 31 Total Votes - 27 up - 4 down
  8. Rich in MB says:

    More tax dollars down the drain so SLO staff don’t have to be laid off.

    T

    (41) 45 Total Votes - 43 up - 2 down
  9. SLOnative says:

    They just can’t simply abolish that law? Please cost the cost of doing this election.

    (31) 37 Total Votes - 34 up - 3 down

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