The San Luis Obispo City Council rejected much of the wording of a new historical homes ordinance that stirred outrage among many historic homeowners at its Sept. 21 meeting. The council told the staffers to rewrite many of the more controversial passages and bring them back for evaluation at its Oct. 5 and Oct. 19 meetings.
The original ordinance language contained heavy fines for owners of historical houses deemed not up to city standards—an initial $10,000 fine and up to $5,000 a day after that. These huge fines are part of what city staffers say is a necessary effort to protect the city’s 175 designated historic properties and more than 500 older—but not quite as historic—houses from “demolition by neglect.”
The staff claimed fines would only be used for the most grievous cases, but many owners worried the city would have the power to drive them out of their houses if they didn’t have the wherewithal to bring their property up to the city’s standards.
Mayor Dave Romero and Councilmember Allen Settle especially objected to the fines.
“This has to be changed,” Romero said.
All the councilmembers said heavy fines should be reserved for only the most egregious cases of house neglect.
Members of the public pointed out that the city owns some historic adobes that are run down and neglected, and the city was being hypocritical to suggest private citizens be fined for doing what the city was getting away with.
City Attorney Christine Dietrick said the city could claim “economic hardship” and therefore avoid the strict penalties called for by the ordinance. Romero said he was uncomfortable with the double standard and said the city should deal with its own property in the same way
it does with the public’s property.
John Mandeville, community development director, said the city’s historical properties would be treated in the same way as other historical properties.