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Public, SLO City Council to workshop rental inspection program 

SLO city residents interested in the city’s rental housing inspection program (RHIP) can attend a workshop to discuss its future on Feb. 16 at 6 p.m. in the Veterans Hall.

Hosted by the city, the workshop’s purpose is to “exchange ideas, define problems, and propose solutions for the RHIP,” according to a city staff report. It will include small and large group discussions as well as opportunities for individuals to speak directly to the SLO City Council. Mediators Samson Blackwell and Scott Radovich will facilitate the workshop.

After receiving the public’s input, the City Council will “consider the proposals and comments and provide direction to staff on next steps.”

The workshop will be videotaped and uploaded to the web in the following days, city officials said.

Passed in 2015, the RHIP regulates more than 4,000 single-family rental homes and duplexes in the city by mandating a property inspection every three years. The intent of the RHIP is to improve substandard rentals that aren’t in compliance with minimum health and safety codes. Triplexes and larger apartment complexes are exempt from the program.

Last September, amid mounting public opposition to the law, the City Council agreed to re-evaluate the program in 2017. In January, with three new councilmembers, the council requested the city expedite that review, starting with a public workshop.

SLO is currently facing a lawsuit challenging the program’s legality and an initiative led by former SLO City Councilman Dan Carpenter and local attorneys Daniel Knight and Stewart Jenkins to repeal and replace the ordinance.

Jenkins told New Times he planned to submit a petition with more than 7,000 signatures to City Hall on the morning of Feb. 16. Per election law, if the petition garners 15 percent of the city’s registered voters, or roughly 4,000 residents, the City Council must either adopt it or set a special election. City officials told New Times on Feb. 15 that the SLO County Elections Office would review the petition and make a ruling on its validity within 30 business days.

The initiative calls for not only the ordinance’s repeal, but also for a replacement clause that would make any future rental inspection ordinance illegal.

“We’ve got an intrusive program that treats every landlord like a criminal,” Jenkins said. “It’s a tremendous intrusion into people’s homes.”

The RHIP repeal effort received more than $32,000 in donations, according to the website of SLO Voice, the committee that financed the petition’s distribution.

Assistant City Manager Derek Johnson said he didn’t anticipate the initiative’s submittal having a “direct impact” on the Feb. 16 public workshop but added he “suspects it will be part of the conversation.”

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