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Reason supports yes on B-17 

Opponents' arguments against the measure are sensational

When San Luis Obispo City Councilwoman Carlyn Christianson turned to name-calling and personal attacks in her Aug. 3 commentary ("Big bad lawyering"), you could be sure she had neither facts nor law on her side. The last thing any resident wants is a city official at their front door saying, "I'm here to inspect your house; and if you don't let me in you will be prosecuted." Vote yes so it never happens again.

Reason and actual facts support your yes vote for Measure B-17. Sensational claims that B-17 will end affordable housing, inclusionary housing, or mobile home space rent control circulated by B-17's opponents are false. That's why they never explain how and why that would happen.

As lifelong residents, we're shocked our City Council is generating false talking points grasping onto the power, of all things, to discriminate.

Here are the facts:

It is not true that the City Council listened to the public.

Only after thousands of voter signatures hit City Hall demanding repeal of the invasive rental inspection law, did they listen. The reason for the original rental inspection ordinance was not safety or neighborhood wellness. It was a disguised tax on tenants, through registration, inspection, and permit fees and fines passed on to tenants in higher rents. Voter adoption of B-17 prevents the council from readopting the fees and fines that will raise rents.

Affordable Housing: The city does not manage, control, or own any of the affordable housing units in town. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) gives block grants to the county and the city of SLO. Developers of subdivisions, apartments, and commercial buildings pay money into the inclusionary housing fund if they decide not to build any "inclusionary" units restricted to a low price. The city's only role is to select what nonprofit organizations will get the money for building and selling or renting homes to low income folks. The City Council issues grants from those funds. The nonprofits build, sell, or rent based on HUD standards. Initiative B-17 forbids discrimination against people in housing. Nothing in B-17 forbids giving general fund or federal HUD money to nonprofits, like Habitat for Humanity, that build or rent affordable housing. Affordable housing is not threatened by Measure B-17.

But ballot arguments against B-17 are signed by nonprofit officials. Why? Consider political code words everyone understands. If a council member tells a nonprofit director that passage of "B-17" must be defeated, or the organization may not get next year's grant money. That translates into: "You better fall in line if you want my vote to give your nonprofit money next year." Don't fall for this mischief.

Inclusionary Housing: The city has little to do with it. It does not own it and does not rent it. To meet state housing element requirements to plan for all income levels, the city encourages developers of subdivisions and apartments to include affordable units. The developers get credits that let them out by paying into the fund that the city will use for grants to nonprofits that provide affordable units. And developers get to build more units than the zoning would allow. It is the developers who sell or rent affordable units and record their own deed restrictions on those units, in accord with state and federally set standards for income qualification. The city has no role in deciding who gets into those affordable homes.

Again, B-17 does not prevent the city from helping people. The city is not discriminating for or against any homeowner, renter, or income level when a developer takes advantage of inclusionary housing elements. A yes vote preserves inclusionary housing.

Mobile home rent stabilization: Opponents' claim that B-17 would end "discrimination" favoring mobile home owners assumes that voters don't know how this works.

Mobile home rent control works like this. It applies to the mobile home park owner, and limits the "space rent" he/she charges the mobile home owner. It does not depend on whether the mobile home resident is the owner of the unit, or a renter. Adopting B-17's prohibition against the city discriminating between renters and homeowners in housing has no effect because it was carefully drafted so that it would not make any change to the current mobile home rent law.

Vote yes on B-17 to permanently end warrantless forced inspections in homes. Vote yes to hold back increasing rents and give every resident equal dignity in San Luis Obispo. Δ

Former Mayor Allen K. Settle served is a professor at Cal Poly who has authored many university textbooks used in city and local government classes. Stew Jenkins is a local attorney whose 38-year practice includes municipal law, estate planning, and family law. Send comments through the editor at [email protected].

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