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SLO Council ends rental inspections, begins work on housing nondiscrimination ordinance

The San Luis Obispo City Council addresses the Rental Housing Inspection Program at a community forum on Feb. 16, 2017.
The San Luis Obispo City Council addresses the Rental Housing Inspection Program at a community forum on Feb. 16, 2017. nwilson@thetribunenews.com

The San Luis Obispo City Council officially repealed the city’s Rental Housing Inspection Program on Tuesday, and then called for a report, due in 30 days, to analyze the potential consequences if a proposed “nondiscrimination in housing” ordinance is made into law.

The proposed ordinance was part of a petition presented to the city by attorneys Stew Jenkins and Dan Knight, and former Councilman Dan Carpenter to repeal and replace the inspection program.

The petition, with significantly more than the required 3,918 signatures, forces the council to either call for a special election on the proposed ordinance or adopt it outright. The council had the option of doing a 30-day report to analyze the proposal before making that choice. That’s the route it took Tuesday night.

The estimated cost to the city for a special election would be between $119,000 and $158,000, according to City Clerk Carrie Gallagher.

Our role is to provide as much information as we can to make informed decisions.

Christine Dietrick, city attorney

The petition’s replacement ordinance specifies 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 applicable to any residential dwelling unit.”

The city staff report on potential impacts will address how the general language could affect city housing programs such as affordable housing and mobile home rent control (designed to help people with lower incomes) and work within the context of existing state and federal law, City Attorney Christine Dietrick said.

“The benefit of doing it this way is that it gets us to the point where we’re taking a close look,” Dietrick said. “With a public discussion like this, it helps proponents and opponents understand and to become educated about the facts.”

City staff expects to have the report for the council’s April 18 meeting. After hearing the analysis, the council must then decide whether to adopt the ordinance or call a special election for Aug. 29.

Jenkins contends programs such as affordable housing projects “categorically” will not be impacted and that the ordinance serves to protect residents.

“This ordinance would prevent the treatment of one class of people badly, or worse than the rest of us,” Jenkins said.

This ordinance would prevent the treatment of one class of people badly, or worse than the rest of us.

Stew Jenkins, petitioner

Dietrick said the city doesn’t have a conclusion in mind about how the “nondiscrimination in housing” ordinance could potentially impact city programs, but a deeper examination will provide the council with a better idea of how to proceed.

“This won’t just be my office diving into this,” Dietrick said. “This also will be in the purview of the Community Development Department to consider potential consequences for housing programs, looking at land-use impacts and how state and federal law guides some of these issues. Our role is to provide as much information as we can to make informed decisions.”

Dietrick said that ordinances also can be expanded to clarify how they would be implemented, which the council also may consider.

“To the extent that there are ambiguities or gaps (in the original ordinance), you can regulate in those areas for clarity,” Dietrick said. “But not everything is resolvable that way.”

Jenkins said that he’s open to working with the city to develop any legislation that clarifies the intent of the proposed ordinance. However, he urges the council to adopt the proposed ordinance to save the city the cost of a special election.

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