While Dan Carpenter’s six-year run on the San Luis Obispo City Council will conclude at the end of this year, he’s not finished trying to influence city policy.
His primary target: the city’s controversial Rental Housing Inspection Program, which is amassing pushback from both renters and landlords as the program is rolled out. The council passed the inspection program with a 3-2 vote in May 2015. Carpenter voted against it with City Councilmember Dan Rivoire, who’s said that while he’s critical of the program and will work to improve it, he respects the will of the council’s majority.
Carpenter, however, thinks it needs to be done away with altogether.
“This goes beyond the pale of health and safety. They took it way too far,” Carpenter said. “This is by far the most egregious legislation we’ve passed during my tenure as council.”
Carpenter, who was elected in 2010, is not running for re-election this year. Instead, he’s running against incumbent 3rd District County Supervisor Adam Hill.
Carpenter joined attorney Stew Jenkins and attorney and general contractor Dan Knight in declaring their intent to gather signatures for a ballot referendum aimed at repealing the program.
The three teamed up with outspoken local activist Kevin P. Rice, who said he’d form a committee to support the effort should the group garner the necessary signatures—15 percent of the city’s registered voters.
The group, going by SLO Voice, is challenging the program for being discriminatory and in violation of First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendment constitutional rights. They say it violates renters’ privacy and unfairly targets one population because the program isn’t extended to owner-occupied homes.
The inspection program was designed to maintain the standard of living conditions for renters, who occupy more than half of all city dwellings. It requires that each rental unit be inspected for code compliance every three years. Landlords can apply for one-year amnesty period for units that need significant work to meet code. Apartment complexes are exempt because they’re already inspected by the fire department.
Critics say the program is too far-reaching and should put a priority on landlords and neighborhoods known to skirt the rules and rent out substandard dwellings. Renters and housing advocates worry that the costs to make improvements mandated by the program will be passed on to renters and will pull otherwise inhabitable dwellings off the market.
Carpenter and Rice said there wasn’t enough time to get the initiative on the November ballot. If SLO Voice gathers enough signatures, it will go to the council, which can adopt the new referendum outright or send it out to voters in a special election.
-- Melody DeMeritt - former city council member, Morro Bay