Police Chief Jerel Haley Recognized Before Retirement

ATASCADERO — The Atascadero City Council met Tuesday night, Oct. 13, and unanimously agreed to create a process for Atascadero residents to redact or repudiate racist language on the deeds to their properties. The item was brought before the City Council by Mayor Heather Moreno and Councilwoman Susan Funk, following a dialogue with R.A.C.E. Matters SLO, the Police Chief and the City Manager on how to be a more welcoming community.

The meeting opened with a round of goodbyes and heartfelt messages to Atascadero Police Chief Jerel Haley, who is in his last week of service before retirement, and ended with a Housing Element update.

Following a choreographed verbal commendation read by each member of the City Council, San Luis Obispo County District 5 Supervisor Debbie Arnold joined the Zoom meeting to send her well wishes to the departing Police Chief.

“I just wanted the opportunity to thank you so much. You really have — as the others have said before me — been such a wonderful addition to the community,” Arnold said. “I wish you very well in your retirement, but we are going to miss you. We were lucky to have you in Atascadero all these years.”

Haley has served as Atascadero Police Chief for the past nine years and will end a 29-year career in law enforcement on Friday, his official last day with the City.

“It has truly been an honor to serve in Atascadero, and the community of Atascadero is warm, welcoming and inviting to people from the outside,” Haley said. “I was an outsider nine years ago, and I didn’t feel like one long. To the residents and community of Atascadero, I just want to extend heartfelt gratitude and thanks for making the tail end of my career the best part of my career.”

The Council’s only actionable item on Tuesday night centered around racist deed language and how Atascadero citizens can discover if it is on their deeds and how they can redact it should they feel compelled to do so. The resolution comes in response to the death of George Floyd as the City, the Council, and the Police Chief met with R.A.C.E. (Responsibility Action Compassion Education) Matters SLO.

“In August, I had a constituent reach out to me who had researched the issue of deed restriction. That is a nationwide practice of restricting property ownership to whites only,” Moreno said. “The possibility of having that language is no longer legally enforceable but having that removed from deeds all together because it still exists in many of the deeds of older homes.”

Councilwoman Funk explained that many Atascadero parcels purchased or subdivided around 1914 still have racist covenant language on the deed.

“There is moral power in taking this action over your property in your city, as us doing this together, house by house, block by block,” Funk said in response to the language no longer being enforceable. “Saying that we have a different vision for our community, and we are willing to take this stand and put it back in the record. The process of doing that, the process of coming together and talking with our neighbors about what we are doing opens up conversations that help us acknowledge our past and find a way to move forward.”

Citizens looking to take this action have four steps to take. The City is waiving any fees involved with doing this.

Atascadero’s residents can start by completing the Covenant Modification Form, which can be found online or at City Hall. Next, applicants bring the completed form to Atascadero City Hall along with a form of photo identification, and City staff will notarize the document for free. To get notarized, applicants must call ahead and schedule an appointment at 805-461-5000.

The landowner will then need to make a copy of their deed and include a copy of the specific verbiage they want to be redacted before turning in the notarized Restrictive Covenant Modification form and the copy of the deed to the SLO County Clerk-Recorder’s Office.

For more information or to view the Atascadero City Council meetings in their entirety, go to Atascadero.org and follow the tabs at the top of the screen.

Getting through this together, Atascadero