Votes are still being counted in the special election for San Luis Obispo's B-17 "non-discrimination in housing" measure, but early totals appear to show voters handily rejecting the local ballot initiative.
- File Photo By Jayson Mellom
- VOTERS SAY 'NO' ON B-17 Early returns show that a 'non discrimination in housing' ballot measure put before SLO voters will likely fail. The push to get the measure passed was led by local attorney Stew Jenkins, contractor Dan Knight, as well as former SLO City Councilman Dan Carpenter.
Preliminary vote returns from the SLO County Clerk's Office showed that about 70 percent of the votes counted thus far were against the measure. Speaking to New Times Aug. 23, County Clerk Recorder Tommy Gong said his office did not expect to have a total count completed and verified until sometime the following week.
A citizen-led drive to get the measure on the ballot came in response to the city passing a rental housing inspection program in 2015, which drew the ire of many residents, landlords, and renters. Members of the SLO City Council repealed the program in April.
If passed, the measure would redundantly repeal the inspection ordinance, and replace it with one that would prohibit the city from passing housing policies that discriminate against any person based upon their age, income, disability, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual identity, or inability or ability to own a home. It would also prohibit the city from imposing a "compulsory program, policy, intrusion, or inspection" on any residential dwelling units in the city. The push to put the measure on the ballot was led by local attorney Stew Jenkins, contractor Dan Knight, as well as former SLO City Councilman Dan Carpenter.
Opponents included local housing nonprofit organizations like People's Self-Help Housing; the SLO Chamber of Commerce; and members of the SLO City Council, who were concerned that the measure's language could conflict with existing city policies like the inclusionary housing program.
The early totals were heartening for those who spent the run-up to the Aug. 22 election calling for residents to reject the measure. Those included SLO Mayor Heidi Harmon, who said she was grateful to see the community "do the right thing." Harmon also chided those who pushed for the measure's passage.
"It was pretty disappointing to see a small segment of the community push this through when they knew it would be overturned and would cost taxpayers a significant amount of money," Harmon told New Times. The cost of the special election was estimated at about $150,000.
Even with the defeat of the measure imminent, Jenkins characterized the overall campaign as a victory of sorts.
"Proponents of B-17 are pleased that the collection and submission of 7,111 voter signatures is what finally motivated the city administration to repeal the invasive and unconstitutional rental inspection ordinance in the face of that public outcry," Jenkins wrote in statement to New Times. "All advances in civil rights take time, and the fact that so many San Luis Obispo citizens support equal treatment of homeowners and renters was an important step forward."
However, there are already indications that the city isn't going to forget about the issue of addressing rental housing conditions.
"We still have an obligation to ensure the basic health and safety of tenants," Harmon said. "What we are trying to do is find a way to address it without overstepping." Δ