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No residency? No problem! 

San Luis Obispo has but a single issue on the ballot this November. It’s a densely worded measure that passed through city council chambers almost undetected, despite a potentially controversial article that would allow non-city residents to be appointed to city advisory bodies.

Measure E is described as intending to clarify language in the city’s charter. Most of its changes are minor. San Luis Obispo’s City Administrative Officer, for example, would become a “City Manager” under Measure E, although nothing about the job besides the name would change.

Indeed, Measure E was considered non-controversial when it passed through chambers on July 15 to be placed on the ballot, yet it clearly opens the door to non-city residents serving on such city bodies as the Jack House Committee, or even the Planning Commission.

According to the minutes, Councilwoman Christine Mulholland pushed for stronger language in the measure that would specify precisely when a person from outside the city could participate on one of these boards.

As it stands, there is no language to protect against land-use or human-relations decisions being made by a person from outside San Luis Obispo. In fact it does not even specify that a person should be in the city’s sphere of influence, or even the county.

It simply states: “Participation on city committees, commissions, boards, and authorities by non-registered voters or non-city residents may be permissible depending upon the nature and purpose of the advisory body, as determined by the city council.”

Mulholland noted in an interview that some advisory bodies already have members from outside the city. The Jack House Committee, for example, has a member who is related to the home’s original owners, but lives in another city within the county. Beyond that, she said it could be appropriate for a Cal Poly student, living on campus and not technically in San Luis Obispo, to serve on the Mass Transportation Committee. That body actually requires a student to serve.

Still, the language in Measure E is so broad that it potentially opens up any advisory body position to anyone. Mulholland said that the council is expected to address the issue further in the handbook of policies and procedures that governs advisory bodies. Whether that language would bar non-residents from serving on the Planning Commission, which makes final decisions as well as recommendations to the City Council on most types of development applications, is unknown.

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