Ryan Chartrand

Living in a new city can be confusing at first. But things can get even more confusing if you violate a law that you didn’t even know existed.

The city of San Luis Obispo and Cal Poly have many laws and ordinances that, to an incoming student, are handy to know.

Forgot to shower for a few days? Then skip your next trip to any of San Luis Obispo County’s 14 public libraries and bookmobiles. In 2005, the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors approved an ordinance allowing authorities to kick out “malodorous guests.” Visitors can also be asked to leave for fighting, eating, drinking, sleeping, playing games and printing or viewing illegal materials on library computers, according to a March, 2005 Associated Press article.

If you’d rather hang out downtown than at the local library, make sure to bring a watch. Another city ordinance prohibits sitting on a public bench downtown for more than an hour.

“What that law is really about is sort of a combination of people who are the transient type that take up the benches with all of their stuff and try to panhandle,” said San Luis Obispo Police Department Captain Dan Blanke. Violators are given tickets but not arrested, Blanke added.

OK, so you don’t want to sit around downtown – you’d rather be on the move. That’s fine, as long as you’re not moving on a skateboard.

“You can’t be allowed on a skateboard downtown at all,” Blanke said. The downtown area, as defined by SLOPD, is a rectangle formed by Santa Rosa, Pacific, Nipomo and Palm streets.

“The whole reason for that is all the additional foot traffic downtown,” Blanke said. “It’s for the safety of pedestrians.”

Cal Poly has its own laws concerning skateboarding. To avoid injuries, the University Police Department banned skateboarding altogether on campus.

“You cannot skateboard or use skates with any kind of wheel devices such as inline skates anywhere on campus,” University Police Chief Bill Watton said. “That has to do with safety and the number of students on campus. And we’re on kind of a hilly terrain.”

As for students who bike on campus, watch out for “walk-zones,” which include all of inner Perimeter Drive. University Police officers often ticket bikers who should be walking in those areas.

“It’s because of the concentration of pedestrians in there and we don’t want the injuries,” Watton said.

Bikes aren’t the only ones special enough to have their own zones; the university restricts on-campus cigarette use to designated smoking areas too.

“It is not lawful to smoke in any state buildings and all our buildings are state buildings,” Watton said. “Outside, you have to be 20 feet away from any entrance to a building.”

While smoking is allowed in its own zones, alcohol is completely prohibited on campus – including the dorms. Resident halls are notorious for kicking out students who dare to stash booze in their rooms. Alcohol is only allowed on campus when there is a university-sponsored event such as baseball games, and those drinking are 21 and over.

Thinking of heading off campus to drink to avoid on-campus penalties? Make sure to follow these three important rules:

1. Don’t be loud. If you’re hosting a house party, the police department can slap you with a $350 fine for the first noise violation. Curious what constitutes as noisy?

“It’s noise that can be heard 50 feet from the source across a property line,” Blanke said.

The fine escalates to $700 for the second offense in 12 months and $1,000 for the third.

2. Don’t pee in public. Blanke said that this law is violated more often than you think and can be costly. As with noise violations, the first offense is $350 and can increase to $1,000 by the third time in a 12-month period.

3. Don’t have open containers of alcohol in public. Believe it or not, you can be cited for this violation by standing on your front porch. A “public” place is considered anyplace that is open to the public, even if you’re on private property.

“People are welcome to walk up your sidewalk and knock on your front door,” Blanke said. “That catches a lot of people off guard.”

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