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Historic preservation ordinance hits home 

San Luis Obispo homeowners expressed their displeasure to city officials over a proposed ordinance that would apply stricter guidelines to homes and buildings considered historic, and exact fees and penalties from homeowners.

The city argues that by putting the ordinance in place, it would become eligible for state grants, but the roughly 20 or so homeowners who attended an Aug. 26 public workshop criticized the ordinance for imposing new fees and code violations and potentially diminishing property values. Residents question the need for more guidelines, given existing city housing codes.

Roughly 175 properties are included on a list of historic buildings—those deemed the most important historic properties in the city. According to the city, the fines—which include up to $5,000 a day or even a one-time fine of $10,000—are aimed at deterring owners from letting properties deteriorate to the point of being unsafe
to inhabit—what they call “demolition
by neglect.”

Others dubbed fining property owners for violations hypocritical, given the number of city-owned properties that have fallen into disrepair.

“This is a tax in disguise and a hypocritical double standard,” former SLO mayor and county supervisor Peg Pinard said. “If you take a look at the city’s properties, like the Butron Adobe on Dana Street, you’ll see how the city takes care of its own resources—and yet they want to arbitrarily fine property owners.”

Pinard went on, “All the rules the city needs for health and safety are already in place. They don’t need this additional power over people to fine them and have it go as a lien against their house.”

Deputy Director of Long-Range Planning Kim Murry said at the workshop that fines for such violations as cracked foundations and buckled roofs would only be levied on the most flagrant offenders. She added that owners would have plenty of opportunity to comply before being issued a fine.

The draft proposal for the ordinance is expected to go before the SLO City Council on Sept. 21.

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