No on SLO’s B-17: Don’t be fooled by bogus claims

Opponents of Measure B-17 fear the future of affordable housing projects, like this one on Humbert Avenue, could be in jeopardy if the initiative passes.
Opponents of Measure B-17 fear the future of affordable housing projects, like this one on Humbert Avenue, could be in jeopardy if the initiative passes. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

If you’re registered to vote in the city of San Luis Obispo, Tuesday is your last chance to cast a ballot on the so-called “non-discrimination in housing” measure.

The Tribune strongly urges a no vote on Measure B-17, which made it to the ballot through the citizen initiative process. As we’ve said before, the measure is not just unnecessary, it’s also dangerous and it deserves to be soundly defeated.

This is ostensibly a measure to repeal the city’s rental housing inspection ordinance that proved to be wildly unpopular. That’s overkill; the City Council already repealed the ordinance in April on a 5-0 vote.

Measure B’s backers claim devious players inside City Hall are plotting to bring back rental inspections if Measure B passes, for the sole purpose of fattening city coffers. That’s nonsense. To revive a program as hated as rental inspections would be political suicide. Every member of the council knows that.

Yet we might not be so concerned about the outcome of this special election—which, by the way, will cost taxpayers as much as $160,000—were it simply about rental inspections. It’s not. The measure includes language barring discrimination on the basis of factors such as age, race and sexual identity. That sounds admirable. However, it goes beyond federal and state anti-discrimination in housing law to also forbid discrimination based on “inability or ability to buy a home.”

That could jeopardize city affordable housing programs—such as inclusionary housing—based on income and “inability or ability to buy a home.”

Supporters say it will do no such thing; they inaccurately claim the city has “little to do” with the inclusionary housing program that requires developers to either “include” affordable units in their developments or pay fees used to build affordable units elsewhere.

The city has everything to do with the program—it passed the ordinance that created it.

It doesn’t take a wild stretch of the imagination to foresee some disgruntled, would-be homebuyers filing a reverse discrimination case after being denied an affordable home based on income requirements.

But don’t just take our word for it.

A Los Angeles-based government and land-use lawyer who reviewed the ballot measure at the request of The Tribune—and who has no stake in the outcome of the election—said he believes Measure B “will most likely create more legal problems for the city than it solves” if it passes.

“In the immediate term, it’s hard to tell if it will have any impact on the city at all,” Daniel F. Freedman said via email. “But I could certainly see a scenario where the measure could complicate the city’s ability to enforce and implement various housing-related regulations concerning rent control, affordable housing and transient occupancy/short-term rentals (AirBNB).”

Bottom line: State and federal laws already forbid discrimination in housing. Voters don’t need to tack on additional “protections” that could wind up interfering with valuable housing programs meant to assist some of the most vulnerable among us, such as frail seniors, homeless veterans and disabled people. Nor do they need to re-repeal a rental inspection ordinance that’s already dead.

The Tribune strongly urges a no vote on Measure B-17.

Where to drop off your ballot

Voters can turn in their ballots Tuesday, between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m., at Laguna Lake Mobile Estates,1801 Prefumo Canyon Road; Unity Christ Church of San Luis Obispo, 1130 Orcutt Road; and Zion Lutheran Fellowship Hall, 1010 Foothill Blvd. Ballots also can be hand delivered to the county Government Center, 1055 Monterey St., or dropped in a drive-by dropoff box on the Monterey Street side of the San Luis Obispo elections office.

Completed ballots that are mailed and postmarked Tuesday and received by the clerk-recorder no later than three days after Election Day are still eligible to be counted. Be sure to sign the identification envelope and request a circle date stamp at the Post Office counter if sending your ballot today.

Electioneering, including wearing anything with a campaign slogan on it, is prohibited within 100 feet ballot drop-off centers on election day.

For more information, contact the Elections Division at 781-5228.