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SLO to revamp appeals process 

Much to the annoyance of plenty of San Luis Obispo residents, city leaders have encouraged code enforcers to be more proactive. That has led to an increase in administrative citations.

Now, however, the city has to figure out how to deal with all these extra citations that residents actually fight.

Since the City Council implemented the Neighborhood Wellness Program, it’s moved from a complaint-driven code enforcement model to a “proactive” one that involved the hiring of two “Neighborhood Services Specialists” in June 2012 to scour the streets for violations. Since then, there’s been a 25-percent uptick in the number of code violation cases, from 605 in 2011 to 759 in 2012. The number for 2013 is expected to be even larger.

That jump has forced the city attorney’s office to come up with options for the council to determine how the city will handle those cases when an alleged violator appeals a citation.

On Jan. 7, the council members heard the first of three presentations to help them draft the best appeals process. The first hearing was, according to City Attorney Christine Dietrick, to take “a 30,000-foot view” of what a new process would look like before refining it over the next few months.

After an hour or so of discussion, the council agreed to pursue a two-tiered approach, the first level of which would ideally be mediated by at least two trained third-party volunteers who would work for a stipend of roughly $50 or so, as planning commissioners are compensated for their time. The second level is an actual appeals board to handle both technical and non-technical violations.

The sole dissenter was Councilman Dan Carpenter, who said the final level of appeal should go before the City Council.

“I find it interesting that those of you who want to impose these [rules] on people want to insulate yourselves from them,” he told the rest of the council before losing the vote.

Should the appeals not be resolved in the hearing process, alleged violators could take their beef with the city to the County Superior Court.

The council will resume discussion of the process—namely how to pay for it and to straighten out who will review the second level of appeals—later this month.

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