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City Government: City Structure

City Charter  The City of San Luis Obispo is a Charter City. This means we have more “local home rule” authority than cities who incorporate under the “general laws” of the State of California. The City Charter is the City’s “Constitution,” and any changes must be approved by the voters. While the City was first incorporated in 1856, we did not become a Charter City until 1876. The City’s Charter has been amended several times since its adoption. It was last comprehensively updated in 1955, and the most recent amendments were approved by the voters in November of 1996,with amendments adopted through August 30, 2011.

Form of Government  As set forth in the City Charter, our City operates under the “Council-Mayor-Administrative Officer” form of government. The City Council has the authority to make and enforce all laws and regulations with respect to municipal affairs, subject only to the limitations of the City Charter and the State Constitution.

Elected Officers  The elected officers of the City are the Mayor and four Council Members. Council Members are elected at-large and serve overlapping, four-year terms. The Mayor is also elected at-large for a two year term, and serves as an equal member of the Council. These terms provide for three vacancies at each City election, which is held in November of even-numbered years. Terms begin on the first day in December following the election.

Appointed Officials  The Council appoints the City Manager (CM) and the City Attorney. All other department heads are appointed by the City Manager.  Click here for a Directory of City Officials, or here to see our Organization Chart.

Note: Under the City Charter, the Council also appoints the City Treasurer and the City Clerk. However, the Charter allows for these positions to be combined with other positions. The Council has authorized the City Manager to make these appointments. The Director of Finance serves as the City Treasurer, and the City Clerk’s Office is a separate City department.


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