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SLO mayor changes stance on rental inspection program 

Once a leading proponent of San Luis Obispo’s controversial rental inspection program, SLO Mayor Jan Marx is apparently pulling her support for it.

Marx, who is running for a fourth term as mayor, recently changed her stance via her re-election campaign website

“After hearing from a number of residents, I have come to the conclusion that the program needs a thorough evaluation,” Marx’s campaign page read on Sept. 14. “The city needs to make sure that it is not causing unintended negative consequences.”

Marx voted in favor of the program when it was first adopted in 2015, and continued to support it after its first annual review this past May, along with councilmembers Carlyn Christianson and John Ashbaugh.

“In May 2015, I supported the program out of my concern for tenants living in unhealthy and unsafe conditions because of landlord neglect,” her campaign site states. “But since then, serious questions have arisen about the actual effect the ordinance is having on the community. We need more information in order to decide if it should continue in its present form.”

The rental inspection program was designed to hold landlords accountable for maintaining the standard of living conditions for rental properties, which make up more than half of SLO’s housing supply. It requires mandatory inspections for each rental property every three years.

But since its rollout, the program has received intense public criticism by both renters and landlords, who say it’s government overreach that’s had negative consequences including higher rents and the displacement of residents who never had issues with their living conditions.

In May, the SLO City Council voted 3-2, with councilmembers Dan Carpenter and Dan Rivoire dissenting, to continue the program with a few minor modifications.

Those who spoke with New Times questioned the timing of Marx’s change of heart, coming eight weeks before the election. Local activist and educator Heidi Harmon and welder Don Hedrick are challenging Marx for the mayor seat.

Harmon told New Times that she’s been against the rental inspection program “from the beginning.”

“It goes way beyond what the community wants,” Harmon said. “I’m in favor of working to empower tenants and landlords rather than using paternalistic city policies.”

Councilmember Carpenter, who is leaving the council and running for 3rd District Supervisor, is on a charge to repeal the program by collecting signatures from the public.

Carpenter said he “isn’t buying” that Marx has changed her mind on the ordinance and challenged her to agendize the issue at their Sept. 20 council meeting.

“It sounds like political expediency,” Carpenter told New Times. “I think she’s feeling the public pressure. We’re hearing so much support about the initiative [to repeal the ordinance]. I’m sure she’s hearing that, too.”

Marx did not return multiple requests for comment from New Times.

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