Though students living off campus may grumble that San Luis Obispo’s housing ordinances are too strict and unusual, city officials promote them for more than beautification reasons. Neighborhood services specialist for the city of San Luis Obispo Wyndee Galvan said safety is the motive behind most ordinances.
Having couches, recliners or other furniture on a front yard, porch or roof is a fire hazard, Galvan said.
“There was an incident in the past involving students who had a sofa on their front lawn,” Galvan said. “Someone threw their cigarette on it during a party and a whole house on Johnson (Ave.) burned down because of it. These housing ordinances got started from past problems.”
In 2012, the city became more proactive in implementing a neighborhood wellness program. Some stronger parking permits are now enforced as well as front yard maintenance rules.
Vehicles cannot be parked on the front lawn or outside of approved parking spaces and it is illegal to park diagonally in a driveway to fit more cars. Weeds should not grow taller than 12 inches and waste containers must be screened from public view by a fence, wall or landscaping that conforms to zoning and building codes.
Cassia Cocina was hired last year as code enforcement for the city of San Luis Obispo. She deals with sub-standard housing situations, such as people living in the garage and unhealthy ventilation issues with water heaters.
“Students thinking about living off campus should do as much homework as they can before they move in,” Cocina said. “Read through everything in a year-long lease to make sure of what you are getting yourself into.”
There is a general process for code enforcement that begins with a field correction notice that is issued to a property owner. The property owner is given 10 days to either correct the violation or appeal. If no action is taken within 10 days, an automatic citation starting at $50 is issued. For every 10 days after the original notice was given and no action is taken, the citation goes up by at least an additional $50 each time
“We want students to know what to look for and to be able to protect themselves from getting citations,” Galvan said.
Christine Wallace, neighborhood outreach manager for the San Luis Obispo Police Department, plans to attend the Mustang Daily Housing Fair to educate students about noise violations.
“My job is to help get educational information out to students specific to noise when they move off campus so they can be smart about gatherings,” Wallace said.
She said to keep gatherings small and manageable to avoid having Student Neighborhood Assistance Program (SNAP) members or police officers come to the door. Students should also be aware of who their neighbors are and if they are non-students. Cell phone numbers should be exchanged so that neighbors can give students a warning before calling the cops.
Noise ordinances are enforced all hours of the day; however, it is best to be especially mindful between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. A first citation for a noise violation costs $350, a second citation costs $700 and the third or any subsequent citation costs $1,000.
“A lot of the time, noise tickets are also given to landlords and it is usually in the lease that the landlord will not cover the cost of the ticket,” Wallace said. “This means that you will also have to pay the landlord’s ticket, so you are paying double whatever your fine is.”
Wallace and other city officials also present their information during the Week of Welcome in the UU Plaza, IFC Panhellenic events and the Poly Canyon Housing Fair. Wallace said she also puts advertisements in Mustang Daily and New Times around Halloween and St. Patrick’s Day since there are double fines around those holidays.