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Anti-rental inspection petitioners seek compromise with SLO city 

The leaders of an initiative to replace San Luis Obispo’s rental housing inspection ordinance with a “non-discrimination in housing” ordinance are now lobbying the city to work collaboratively with them to avoid an “all-out battle.”

In March, the City Council repealed the rental housing inspection program. But a petition launched last August by former City Councilman Dan Carpenter and attorneys Stew Jenkins and Dan Knight aimed to repeal and replace it with a new ordinance to block any future inspection program. When the petition landed in front of the City Council on April 18 with some 5,400 signatures, the council had two choices: adopt the ordinance as written or send it to a special election.

SLO council members unanimously opted for an election, saying the language in the replacement ordinance was too broad and exposed current city housing policies (like an affordable housing program) to legal challenges. The predicament drew ire and frustration from community members, since an all-mail special election is likely to cost the city around $150,000.

“We got painted into a corner,” City Councilman Aaron Gomez said on April 18.

But proponents of the initiative say they don’t want their ballot measure to end in turmoil and negativity. According to Carpenter, their goal is simple: to prevent any future SLO City Council from being able to enact a new rental inspection program without the vote of the people.

“We don’t want to go through a battle,” Carpenter told New Times. “Our main focus is to get this rental housing inspection program in a lockbox. … so this council and no future council can bring it back. It has to go back to the people.”

Carpenter and the initiative’s other proponents are scheduling meetings with members of the City Council in an attempt to convince them to agendize a discussion about adding a “complementary” measure to the special election that could accomplish their goal and alleviate the city’s concerns.

That discussion would need to take place at the City Council’s next meeting on May 2, said City Attorney Christine Dietrick. Time is of the essence because planning for the special election must move forward right away to comply with the law.

“The council could certainly direct us to agendize the issue,” Dietrick told New Times on April 25. “A [complementary] measure that focused on [the petitioners’] objective would be far clearer and straightforward.”

As of press time, the discussion is not on the council’s May 2 meeting agenda.

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