Battle lines drawn over SLO rental inspection election

May 4, 2017

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


In the coming months, attorney Stew Jenkins, former council member Dan Carpenter and others will campaign for San Luis Obispo voters to approve a non-discrimination in housing ordinance that would replace an unpopular rental inspection program. On the opposing side, San Luis Obispo city officials, purportedly working in their private capacity, will campaign for voters to shoot down the ballot measure.

The special election will take place sometime before Aug. 29. Following a council hearing on Tuesday, it is now clear the election will consist of a single ballot measure — the proposed non-discrimination in housing ordinance.

Proponents of the non-discrimination in housing ordinance want to prevent the city from adopting a new form of the recently repealed rental inspection ordinance. The inspection ordinance, which the previous city council adopted in 2015, 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. Had the ordinance stayed in place, it would have been a valuable revenue generator for the city, which is currently faced with projected budget shortfalls.

SLO city officials contend publicly they have no plans to craft a new rental inspection ordinance and that the proposed non-discrimination ordinance would jeopardize city housing programs. However, in private conversations, city officials have reportedly admitted that they intend to create a refined rental inspection program that would not involve mandatory inspections, but would require property owners to pay fees and possibly face fines.

In March, the city council repealed the mandatory rental inspection ordinance after about a third of registered voters in SLO signed a petition calling for it to be repealed and replaced with a non-discrimination in housing ordnance. The council was then given the option of adopting the non-discrimination in housing ordinance in order to stave off the special election.

But, the council opted to proceed with the special election. Then on Tuesday, the council weighed the option of placing a competing measure on the special election ballot.

Councilwoman Andy Pease and Councilman Aaron Gomez supported the idea of pursuing a competing ballot measure, which they viewed as a compromise between the city and Jenkins. The proposal was viewed as a way to avoid creating a rift in the community.

But, Councilwoman Carlyn Christianson said she wants to keep things simple and that she does not trust the individuals pushing the non-discrimination in housing measure. Councilman Dan Rivoire and Mayor Heidi Harmon sided with Christianson, and the council directed city staff not to draft a competing ballot initiative.

“The simpler we make this the better,” Christianson said Tuesday. “And the simplest way to make this simple is to have one ordinance on there and all five of us council members vehemently, consistently and always opposing it in the ballot statements and in every opportunity that we have as independent and separate citizens.”

The initiative that the council members will be opposing will ask voters to adopt an ordinance stating the city, “shall not discriminate against any person based upon age, income, disability, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual identity or inability 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.”

City staff claims the non-discrimination ordinance would put the city in a legal bind that would compromise initiatives like affordable housing programs. City staff argues, 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.

Jenkins says the city’s concerns are absolute false.

Prior to Tuesday’s meeting, Pease and Gomez negotiated with Jenkins on possibly reaching a compromise. Jenkins said city officials plan to create a new rental inspection ordinance that would operate on a complaint-based system. The planned ordinance would require property owners to pay registration fees though it would not require inspections. The new program is likely to be complaint driven with $500 fines for first offenses.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Christianson said the city will not pursue a new mandatory rental inspection ordinance, but she stopped short of denying the city would pursue a new complaint driven rental inspection program.

“Nobody in their actual, rational, reasonable mind thinks that any council is going to come forward with another mandatory internal inspection ordinance in our lifetime,” Christianson said. “That is not a realistic concern in my mind.”

When the council meets again on May 16, it will set the date for the special election.

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When is the city council gonna actually do their job instead of running the city into the shitter?!

SOOOO much debt yet they’re giving themselves raises and bonuses left and right.

WTF do they deserve a raise for? For running the city into the ground?!

Phucking ridiculous!!!

I get that revenue is an accounting term, but Can we stop referring to the confiscation of our money by governmnent as their revenue?

Revenue is the profit created by business. Referring to government receipts as revenue is like referring to a burglars take as revenue. It’s stolen not earned!

The city council is on top of a real bad Ponzi scheme ready to blow up in their faces just like Bernie Madoff. They are desperate to extort money from anyone they can especially landlords and homeowners. If this plan fails they will try a special property tax.

The government only cares about money. Not money with which they can improve our city but money for salaries, pensions and other employee benefits.

Aren’t we all just getting a little tired of these government intrusions being put on us? Christianson, Rivioire and Harmon don’t trust the individuals? But didn’t they win their law suit against them? Are they telling us that we should be trusting them? How about the unfunded benefit programs and the bonuses that they gave to management? This is just another movement to fund their pockets as stated it will be a valuable revenue generator.

There is a reason why people have locks on their front doors and it’s to prevent unwanted people access to their home. Mt front door will remain locked and the government is not welcomed into my house unless invited.

Plain and simple money grab.

Well what else do you expect from the government? They have been told of the dire financial outlook and instead of doing what needs to be done, fire, eliminate, and cut, they instead what to increase and someone has to pay for it., and they certainly don’t want it to be their own.