Noise violations in San Luis Obispo will end in costly results. Back in February, the San Luis Obispo City Council voted unanimously to pass the new Unruly Gathering and Social Host ordinances.

These ordinances can rack up to thousand dollar fines, with the Social Host Ordinance also placing a misdemeanor on a violator’s record.

As stated in the San Luis Obispo Municipal Code, the Unruly Gathering Ordinance prohibits 20 or more people from creating a substantial disturbance by serving alcohol, littering, fighting and urinating in public.

The Social Host Ordinance is punishable when minors under 21 have been provided with and/or possess alcohol. Besides a misdemeanor on the host’s record, time in jail and a steep fine are also consequences.

Most commonly enforced by San Luis Obispo police, however, is the Noise Ordinance. The first violation places the property on a no warning list for nine months and the landlord is notified. A citation can also be issued at the first offense. The second violation fines not only the violator but the property owner as well.

If a residence receives more than two warnings within 60 days, it is placed on a premise list. If there is another violation within the next six months, no warnings will be given and officers will issue a citation.

But many Cal Poly students are wondering about the fairness of these policies.

“I feel like (the ordinance) is not equal protection under the law,” President of Beta Theta Pi Andy Deal said.

Deal, whose house was recently given a noise violation, believes that while students are getting these violations every weekend, there are families having noisy barbecues and parties that should be subject to the same treatment.

Ardith Tregenza, the neighborhood services manager for the San Luis Obispo Police Department, said sometimes the noise can be the same, but with Cal Poly students making noise later at night, it affects the families living around them.

University Police Department (UPD) Chief of Police Bill Watton, said they do not just respond to complaints for college parties.

“We respond to whatever the calls for service are. It doesn’t matter if it’s college aged kids or not,” Watton said.

Despite that, the UPD and San Luis Obispo Police Department (SLOPD) have organized what Watton referred to as a “party car,” which includes one SLOPD officer and a UPD officer, to patrol on weekends.

“Their job is to just go to the parties — that includes pre-parties. If we see an area where we think a party is starting to gather, we will make contact with the group and let them know what the rules are,” Watton said.

Many Cal Poly students are enraged to see police simply cruising the streets looking for parties to bust.

“The way it usually works is it is supposed to be a complaint based system. Someone is supposed to call and complain,” Deal said.

However, Watton said if police do see parties getting out of hand, they can stop them.

“They don’t have to give warnings, and they will be cited if there are violations (even without a complaint being made),” Watton said.

Students are wondering, however — since it is a “complaint-based system” — if police are complying or crossing the line.

“I do totally feel like (police) specifically target students,” Deal said. Because a noise violation is supposed to be a noise violation regardless of whether you’re having a barbecue with a bunch of seven-year-olds in your pool or you’re having 21-year-olds over drinking beer.”

The main goal remains the same though. It is an ordinance against noise, not students.

“I don’t think it targets students, it targets noise,” Tregenza said. “But I do understand the feelings of the students, so I encourage (them) to think about ways to socialize without being in violation.”

Deal said there is a huge age discrepancy between who receives tickets in San Luis Obispo. He said if everyone was held to the code for acceptable noise levels, that many more people outside of college-aged students would be ticketed.

Tregenza said it is mostly student-dense areas which receive noise violations and despite students’ speculations, their services are complaint driven.

According to city law, it is a violation to make noise between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. that can be heard across the property line. Throughout the day, any noise that can be heard 50 feet away from the property is a violation.

“It’s supposed to be any noise. If you get five, six, seven kids under the age of 14 running around the pool screaming, 50 feet across the property line is no problem … but those aren’t the people getting tickets,” Deal said.

Tickets are meant for violations that occur during the designated late-night hours.

“Those kids that are making noise by the pool would be doing it during the day when people are out and about,” Tregenza said. “Whereas college parties are mostly after 10 p.m. when families are getting ready to sleep.” Tregenza said.

Watton said the reason why ordinances are so strict is because parties were getting bigger and bigger, and there was nothing they could do to stop it.

“The City Council wished to decrease noise complaints and calm down the neighborhoods,” Tregenza said.

And so far, Tregenza believes they have helped: noise complaints are down 25 to 35 percent since the new ordinances were enacted in March.

“The one thing that we found is that, to the student-aged (population), money talks,” Watton said.

Some students still see the ordinances as profiling in a sense, and Deal sent out a call-of-action to his peers.

“I believe students should go around calling the cops on people having a Sunday barbecue so that the citizens will understand that the noise ordinance is absolutely absurd,” Deal said.

Join the Conversation


  1. It’s real sad that it has come to this, but I don’t see any way this Nazi-like enforcement will diminish. The fine amounts are INSANE, why not require something like community service hours instead of fines, or something along those lines that is NOT monetary based and helps the community? I’m sure a “fine” of 20 community service hours would suffice to deter the loud noise, but at least something GOOD comes out of it.

  2. Most Misdemeanors Have the option of paying by “community service”. Usually is equates to $10/hr. So, $500 fine would be 50 hours of work. What’s really the cause for concern here is that the SLO PD say they enforce all calls for noise complaints whether family bbqs or student gatherings. However, they don’t specifically patrol family neighborhoods like they do the streets around campus. It’s almost like fishing. I would like to see statistics on noise violations that were called in compared to violations that were fished for by patrolling. I feel like that statistic is WAY more relevant to compare how the student community is treated against the familial community.

  3. Where were the students concerned about this when the City Council was discussing this? It passed unanimously without opposition from any of the students and now they are only caring about it only when it gets enforced?

    Now, I’m am against all kinds of profiling, if that it indeed the truth (since there were no statistics cited), but people complaining about that there being an ordinance at all should have started complaining a long time ago, to the right people, and stood in opposition to it’s passing.

  4. In 10-15 years when many of you have settled down, bought a house and started your own families, I’m sure many of your opinions will change dramatically. The noise at night is insufferable and truly impacts the quality of life many of your neighbors. The amount of trash and destruction left throughout the neighborhood is criminal. The vomit on our sidewalks, the smell of urine on the side of our houses, the odor of beer, the broken bottles, the transients that follow in your wake, collecting your garbage … it all adds up. Today, it’s about you and your desire to party. Tomorrow, it’ll be about your family, your real estate investments, your kid’s health and schooling …

    1. here’s a concept that works: don’t move into a college town and live in the areas that college students live! brilliant I know right?

      quit being such a snob and move to los osos

    2. Don’t move your family to the ONE part of town where loud noise and parties occur. The real estate prices in the 1 mile radius from campus are so jacked up any ways I don’t know why a family would want to live there in the first place.

    3. Did you attend college? What did you do when you were at college?

      And as for “trash and destruction left throughout the neighborhood”, what specific location are you speaking of? I’ve never seen a trash problem from students other than on their own property.

      You make it sound like there’s a monster roaming the streets causing mass chaos and leaving puke everywhere

    4. Though it may be a little late, this reply may serve a later inquiry (such as mine).

      For all the respondents to this post: You have quite a deluded social perspective! This person can live wherever s/he wants! Living in a “College” town (a misnomer) is NOT in violation of any law or ordinance; excessive noise, unruly behavior and civil disturbances DO violate laws and ordinances! This person may work near by, may have been there for years (before the ‘infestation’ of deviant behavior escalated) and may not be able to easily sell this house in the current economy or may have other circumstances (access to commuter services) which are, quite frankly, none of your business. Get over your attitude of entitlement! They are not the problem, your behavior is! These classic neutralization techniques are tiresome and transparent. You are responsible for this behavior – Own It! Telling someone they should move or should not live there at all because you WANT to behave the way you want is selfish, childish and a completely socially inept perspective. Why don’t you move? On-campus! Your “College” behavior should fit right in there!

  5. If they dropped the drinking age to 18, people would go downtown where everybody else is. The “forbidden fruit” factor goes away (for people 18 and over).

    Also, how many decibels of noise do you need to have in order to hear a sound over the property limit? It seems pretty arbitrary at this point. If they had to have proof that a certain decibel level has been reached, it might be a little bit fairer. However, cops carrying around decibel meters would just increase the police state.

  6. Hi my name is Andrea I live in the Wineman Hotel in San Luis Obisp,CA I was sleeping and a lot of screaming and and yelling I heard from the Black Sheep Bar on Choro St in down town San Luis Obispo, The customers of the Bar woke me up at 1:45 Am and I live on 849 Higuera St apt 330. What number would I call for noise violation.

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