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Petition to repeal, replace SLO rental inspection policy qualifies for ballot

San Luis Obispo’s rental housing inspection ordinance has been facing scrutiny from the newly seated City Council and others who wish to re-evaluate the law and/or repeal it.
San Luis Obispo’s rental housing inspection ordinance has been facing scrutiny from the newly seated City Council and others who wish to re-evaluate the law and/or repeal it.

Even as the San Luis Obispo City Council has begun moving to undo the Rental Housing Inspection Program, a citizen petition has enough signatures to support a special election that would aim to repeal and replace the ordinance with a “nondiscrimination in housing” policy.

The petition potentially complicates the council’s ability to set housing policy by introducing a new ballot measure that’s outside of its control and could conflict with the city’s low-income housing goals.

The City Council will address the petition at its March 21 meeting. It has been certified by City Clerk Carrie Gallagher.

This morning (City Clerk Carrie Gallagher) has confirmed that the measure has sufficient signatures to qualify. (She) is working as quickly as possible to take the necessary steps to return to council with all relevant options.

Christine Dietrick, city attorney

At this point, the council has three options: repeal the inspection program and adopt the petition’s replacement ordinance as is; order a 30-day report from the City Attorney’s Office to assess potential impacts of the petitioners’ ordinance; or call a special election.

On March 7, the council took its first step to remove the inspection program policy from the books by unanimously approving a draft repeal of the ordinance, which now requires mandatory health and safety code inspections for rental housing on a three-year cycle. The council is expected to formalize the repeal March 21.

The petition — drafted by attorney Stew Jenkins, former Councilman Dan Carpenter and construction law attorney Dan Knight — aims to take the repeal a step further by adding new nondiscrimination language.

It gathered 7,111 signatures, 72 percent of which were determined valid in a random sample, well enough above the required 3,918 signatures for a special election.

“City councils are temporary,” Jenkins said Monday in a phone interview. “If the council adopts the (nondiscrimination) measure, the initiative will make sure no overreaching discriminatory measure can be adopted later on.”

City Councils are temporary. If the council adopts the (nondiscrimination) measure, the initiative will make sure no overreaching discriminatory measure can be adopted later on.

Stew Jenkins, attorney

“This morning (Gallagher) has confirmed that the measure has sufficient signatures to qualify,” City Attorney Christine Dietrick said Monday. “(She) is working as quickly as possible to take the necessary steps to return to council with all relevant options.”

The petition’s replacement policy seeks to prohibit discrimination based on race, gender, income, ownership or renter status and other classifications. It would bar “imposing any compulsory program, policy or intrusion applicable to any residential dwelling unit.”

The city’s staff may look into how the proposed “nondiscrimination” replacement policy could impact its programs. But Jenkins said he doesn’t believe any negative consequences would occur.

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