Bitter crescendo for SLO piano teacher



The San Luis Obispo City Council revoked a local piano teacher’s business permit following neighbor complaints about the home business.

After hearing comments from the embattled instructor, her “tortured” neighbor, and other neighbors on both sides of the issue, the council unanimously voted to deny Debra Marcus’ appeal.

“I’m torn by this decision,” Mayor Jan Marx said before casting her vote. “This is the first time I’ve seen anything, in my seven years on this council, rise to this level. … I sympathize with Ms. Marcus’ situation.”

Marcus, who’s been in a bitter dispute with Jay Chester, a neighbor with whom she shares a common wall, over conducting piano lessons on a grand piano in her living room. In December 2011, the San Luis Obispo Planning Commission voted to revoke Marcus’ home business permit following complaints of noise and parking issues. Marcus then appealed the decision.

“For the last three years, Ms. Marcus and her students have tortured me,” Chester told the councilmembers. “My neighborhood and I have suffered.”

In a last-ditch effort to compromise, Marcus pledged to remove the grand piano and store it at a student’s home if she were allowed to continue lessons on her upright piano, which Chester previously said was not a nuisance. Other issues about the business and enforcement demands, however, were cited as reason to uphold the revocation.

Marcus has until April 30 to relocate the business elsewhere. She is now prohibited from using her grand piano for lessons in her condo, located near Laguna Middle School.

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