Take control of SLO’s housing policies, vote yes on Measure B

June 2, 2017

Stew Jenkins

OPINION by STEW JENKINS

On February 16, a small group of San Luis Obispo city residents turned in 1,502 pages of signature in an initiative measure asking that the city’s unconstitutional and discriminatory rental housing inspection ordinance be repealed and replaced with a non-discrimination in housing ordinance. The city clerk found 7,111 folks had signed, and the initiative was soon qualified for either adoption by the city council or presentation to the voters for adoption.

When this small group of residents took on city hall by starting the initiative, it galvanized that queasy feeling most people had about a city deciding to force its way into people’s bedrooms, kitchens, and living areas without probable cause or a warrant.

The ordinance had been trotted out as a way to quell problems in parts of town where students team up to rent homes, so they can afford to live here while attending Cal Poly. But as enforcement ramped up, it did not matter if you were a neighbor of a renter, a tenant, or a landlord.

Citizens, except the out-of-touch city management, and their accessories on council, Christianson, Ashbaugh, and Marx, knew as soon as they saw the program in action that it was wrong, un-American and an invasion of privacy.

Tenants and landlords immediately saw that it was a money grab. Every rented home had to be registered with the city. And for the service of issuing the required registration, the city collected a fee.

Every rented home was forced to be inspected. And for the service of doing the compelled inspection the city charged a fee. In fact, the city collected a double inspection fee based on the assumption that few rented homes would pass the first time.

The reports of the managers pushing the inspection ordinance and fee schedule through the 2015 city council estimated that half-a-million dollars could be raised for the hiring of new city employees from the services forced on tenants and landlords.

Clearly this out-of-touch city management did not think voters had the eyes to see, or the ears to hear, the plain fact that the “rental home inspection” ordinance would accelerate ever higher rents in this, America’s most unaffordable city.

When city management faced up in February to the fact that voters were about to slap down their inspection ordinance, management circled the wagons against the one thing that protects voters the most.

When voters adopt an initiative repealing an ordinance, the repealed provisions can not be substantially readopted except by a vote of the people. The voters’ repeal of the rental inspection ordinance, puts the repealed ordinance in a “lock-box” to which only the voters have a key.

If city management couldn’t keep the warrantless inspections, maybe they could protect the money grab.

Hence, the sudden push by the new and old members of the city council to try to repeal the rental inspection ordinance before it went to a vote, and use that repeal to argue no vote was needed. This effort by city management to try to ride out the election is motivated by hopes of bringing back the registration fees, inspection fees, and $500 plus daily fines following a modified program for inspections tentatively scheduled to be discussed just a few months after the August 22 special election.

That cynical goal also explains the city management’s drive to manufacture a purely false 26 page “impact report” arguing that discrimination is needed. The city attorney, author of the rental inspection ordinance that generated the initiative, echoes in her “neutral analysis” the false claims that the mobile home rent stabilization program and inclusionary housing program might be discriminatory (a strange admission, if it were true, which it is not).

Embarrassed by voter recognition of the constitutional rights violated by their ordinance, city management deceptively trots out fear of city liability.

It is surprising, in a city as enlightened as San Luis Obispo, that no ordinance preventing discrimination in housing based on age, income, disability, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual identity, or inability or ability to own a home exists.

Our town has taken a leadership role to prevent smoking in restaurants, bars, and commercial buildings that has swept the world. But city management has failed to generate equal opportunity to own or rent residential property.

In fact, depending on whose survey you look at, we are now the most unaffordable, or close behind the most unaffordable city in the United States for the income levels of the people who live here. The very few subsidized affordable rentals and homeowner units generated by the inclusionary housing program have failed to meet our residents’ needs.

You can help San Luis Obispo be a livable, affordable, and welcoming city with your Yes vote for Measure B-17. Thousands of your neighbors signed the initiative petition to give you this opportunity to guarantee residents’ sacred rights of privacy and foreclose discrimination in city housing policies.

By voting Yes, we all can secure the “Rental Housing Inspection” ordinance in an enduring repeal-lock-box, so that it cannot be re-imposed without the voters’ say so. And, if any city council puts a similar invasive ordinance on a future ballot, San Luis Obispo voters will never again allow unconstitutional searches of private homes, without probable cause.

By voting yes, we will decree for the first time that San Luis Obispo housing policies must not discriminate between people based on age, income, disability, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual identity, or status as a renter or homeowner. Your yes vote assures that every person in San Luis Obispo is treated with equal dignity, regardless of status.

By voting yes, we can keep our city from stumbling into costly and embarrassing lawsuits for violating residents’ Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights.

By voting yes, we can reduce skyrocketing rent increases. The “rental housing inspection” ordinance’s expensive registration and inspection fees would otherwise be passed by landlords on to tenants.

False fears peddling the “dangers” of treating all people with equal dignity collapse under the weight of the opponents’ own tortured reasoning.

The city’s desire to raise revenue never justifies unconstitutional ordinances. Strike a blow for equal dignity, more affordable housing, security, and privacy by Voting yes on Measure B-17.

Here is the text of Measure B-17 set for special election:

“INITIATIVE MEASURE TO BE SUBMITTED DIRECTLY TO THE VOTERS ABOLISHING CHAPTER 15.10 OF THE SAN LUIS OBISPO MUNICIPAL CODE AND ADOPTING A NON-DISCRIMINATION IN HOUSING ORDINANCE.

“WHEREAS, the People of San Luis Obispo seek to protect the privacy of all residents from discriminatory inspections invading residents’ privacy that violate the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution; and

“WHEREAS, Chapter 15.10 requires mandatory intrusive inspections inside homes in San Luis Obispo violating the privacy of City residents under the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments; and

“WHEREAS, Chapter 15.10 is so vague that City Officials are authorized to silently discriminate in determining whose home to target based on age, income, political activity, or status as a renter or an owner; and

“WHEREAS, Chapter 15.10 must be abolished and replaced with a Non-Discrimination in Housing Ordinance to protect residents’ privacy in San Luis Obispo;

“NOW, THEREFORE,

“THE PEOPLE OF THE CITY OF SAN LUIS OBISPO DO ORDAIN AS FOLLOWS:

SECTION 1. This ordinance shall be known as the “Non-Discrimination in Housing Ordinance.”

“SECTION 2. Chapter 15.10, “Rental Housing Inspection”, of the San Luis Obispo Municipal Code is hereby repealed and new Chapter 15.10 is adopted to read as follows:

“CHAPTER 15.10. NON-DISCRIMINATION IN HOUSING

“SECTION 15.10.010 The City of San Luis Obispo 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 applicable to any residential dwelling unit.  No determination to conduct an inspection of any dwelling shall be based substantially on any occupant’s age, income, disability, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual identity or status as an owner or renter of such dwelling.”

As one of the proponents of city Measure B-17, I hope you will vote yes to prevent further overreaches by our city’s management; and take into your own hands the city’s housing policies.

Stew Jenkins is a San Luis Obispo County Liberal Democrat who supports the rights of working people to organize unions, growing the local economy through project labor agreements, the right of all people to health care and equal dignity.

He is an attorney practicing in San Luis Obispo since 1978. Jenkins’ handles tax payer suits, municipal law, estate planning and family law.







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6 Comments

  1. 1965buick says:

    Ah here come the measures again. Where neighbors start wars.

    (-1) 3 Total Votes - 1 up - 2 down
  2. Slosum says:

    RU. Of course if we charge them…. it will still come out of our pocket! Government doesn’t create revenue… they take it from us.

    (5) 5 Total Votes - 5 up - 0 down
  3. womanwhohasbeenthere says:

    SLO city is going to spend over $110,000 in printing and mailing costs for this mail-in election. The initiative overwhelmingly qualified for the ballot and a successful lawsuit brought by the SLO Property Owners also overturned this horrible unneeded ordinance, but our city council can’t admit when it’s made a terrible mistake and now will spend thousands of dollars of staff time campaigning against the measure. That’s illegal – but hey they need the money for those pensions!

    I just hope not only that the measure passes, but that the Fair Political Practices Commission will “inspect” this, just as the FPPC is looking into the violations of SLOCOG in its $300,000 unsuccessful campaign to raise the sales tax. These bureaucrats assume the voters are so stupid. It makes me sick.

    (14) 16 Total Votes - 15 up - 1 down
    • rukidding says:

      I agree with you fully. FPPC will do nothing and SLOCOG will spend a fortune in a legal defense of their guilt. You say that the bureaucrats assume the voters are stupid. On that point I would have to agree with them because the voters keep electing them.
      They have kept the unfunded liability issue hidden for years but now as they keep getting more and more into the black and still keep assessing our pocket books for their country club lifestyle we the people are getting more and more interested in the failures that they have done.
      How in the world can any city council, ie: SLO, keep praising their city manager with additional pay raises and benefits when they have slowly ran up a $121,000,000 credit account and now have no way to pay for it unless they legally rob us some more.
      Goodbye California.

      (6) 6 Total Votes - 6 up - 0 down
  4. Boldguy says:

    My understanding is that most, if not every rental house was in violation of some code or another, mainly that they lacked a permit for their hot water heater, of course if they looked at permit data, they would know that few if anybody gets a permit for replacing a broken down hot water heater!!!
    This is what seemed to really upset rental owners, being in violation of superfluous codes, as well as being a captive cash cow:(
    But why did Stu and his cohorts have to ad this non-discrimination in housing ordinance to the initiatives repeal?
    Housing discrimination is already illegal, but not demonstrative enough for the ordinances authors !!!
    Just like all slimy political bills, adding some pork to the ordinance to extend their own political agenda, as bad as the staff that he’s railing about:(

    (-3) 19 Total Votes - 8 up - 11 down
  5. rukidding says:

    I think that we should just flip this around. When we want a permit, permission to do something, from the city we are charged enormous fees. Well the the city wants something from us, an inspection, why not charge the city an enormous fee to give them permission to do something with our properties? After all it will require a significant cost to us as related to their “staff time” costs.

    (23) 27 Total Votes - 25 up - 2 down

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